Taiwan Premier, Cabinet to quit today

Taiwan Premier William Lai's departure was widely expected, as it is standard practice in Taiwan for leaders to go when their party loses a major election.
Taiwan Premier William Lai's departure was widely expected, as it is standard practice in Taiwan for leaders to go when their party loses a major election.PHOTO: REUTERS

Move comes after pro-independence DPP's major defeat in local elections two months ago

TAIPEI • Taiwan Premier William Lai yesterday said he was resigning, along with the self-ruled island's entire Cabinet, nearly two months after the defeat of his ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in local elections.

The election losses present a major challenge to President Tsai Ing-wen who has come under mounting domestic criticism over her reform agenda while facing renewed threats from China, which considers the island its own.

Mr Lai's departure was widely expected. It is standard practice in Taiwan for leaders to go when their party loses a major election. The DPP suffered a significant defeat last November to the China-friendly opposition Kuomintang.

It is also customary for the Cabinet to step down when the premier resigns.

"The time is up. I will call a special Cabinet meeting tomorrow and resign along with the entire Cabinet," Mr Lai told reporters in Parliament yesterday, adding that Ms Tsai had approved his resignation.

Ms Tsai, who is also from the DPP, was expected to announce a new premier, Mr Lai said, and ministerial appointments would follow.

Taiwan's elected president appoints the premier, who forms the Cabinet and runs the government on a day-to-day basis.

 
 

Analysts said Ms Tsai, who faces a presidential election in about a year, must shore up public support for her policy on relations with Beijing and boost the island's export-reliant economy in a challenging year amid the China-US trade dispute.

Chinese President Xi Jinping this month threatened to use force to bring democratic Taiwan under Beijing's rule, and urged "reunification" with the island.

Mr Xi has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since Ms Tsai became President in 2016.

Ms Tsai has said her administration would reflect upon on the election defeat but would stand firm to defend Taiwan's democracy in the face of renewed Chinese threats.

Some from within the embattled leader's party have urged Ms Tsai not to seek re-election. She has not explicitly said whether she would run for president in 2020.

Ms Tsai resigned as her party's chairman in November but has stayed on as the island's President.

The DPP last Sunday announced that it had chosen Mr Cho Jung-tai, a moderate who comfortably defeated a bid from an openly pro-independence rival, to replace Ms Tsai as chairman.

The latest tension with China is credit negative for Taiwan and would hurt the island's economy, Moody's said in a report this week.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline 'Taiwan Premier, Cabinet to quit today'. Print Edition | Subscribe