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June 29, 2017

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Resolution of differences still a far-off goal in Taiwan politics

There have been cynical assessments that business will go on as usual in Taiwanese politics post-Sunflower Movement. The reshuffling of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership on Monday quickly discredited such views.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang and party heavyweight Frank Hsieh both announced their withdrawal from the looming chairman elections, basically leaving the position to former Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

While there had been rumors of Su and Hsieh's plans to take themselves out of the running due to their poor showings in internal polls even before the Sunflower Movement, that eventuality was not inevitable. Su and Tsai were seen as such hot contenders for the DPP leadership position to the point that they were dubbed "the two suns" of the DPP. Despite the fact that Tsai is more popular among young and independent voters, Su had been expecting a boost after leading the party to its expected victory in the year-end mayoral elections. "Being a winner makes a leader" has long been a core ideology of the DPP; Su would not have easily given up the opportunity for his best shot at the 2016 presidential ticket.

Su's (and subsequently Hsieh's) decision to step aside is the final recognition by the old guard of the DPP that — at least for now — their time is over; that while the Sunflower Movement is mainly against the KMT's pro-China policies, it is also targeting the entrenched two-party politics Su and his generation of politicians came to represent. Su and Hsieh realized that things have changed in Taiwanese politics after the turbulent the-week Legislature occupation.

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