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May 27, 2017

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Tsai seen as fortifying hold on Greater Taipei

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Recent openings of constituency service offices for opposition lawmakers with close ties to Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) are giving rise to rumors that the former opposition party chairwoman is seeking a firmer grasp on the Taipei and New Taipei electoral districts.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) yesterday established an office to serve her constituency in New Taipei's Banqiao District, following precedents set by fellow lawmakers-at-large also considered political proteges of Tsai.

However, current DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) did not attend the opening of Hsiao's office, citing previous commitments.

Su's absence was scrutinized by political observers, as he was reported to have attended another lawmaker's office opening in Taichung earlier this year. Some commentators said this could mark a departure in leadership strategies between the two DPP heavyweights.

Tsai's effort to position DPP forces loyal to her in Northern Taiwan reportedly began in 2010 when she ran for mayor of New Taipei. In 2012, she located her presidential election campaign headquarters in Taipei.

Competition is rising within the DPP, according to insiders, as electoral districts for lawmaker and city council positions overlap among political figures separately aligned to Su and Tsai. In addition, lawmakers known to be aligned to Tsai have recently established constituency service offices in Banqiao, and in Taipei's Wanhua District.

DPP lawmaker Yao Wen-chih (姚文智), however, stated that the purpose of the recent positioning of lawmakers is to wrest control of New Taipei and Taipei from the ruling party, adding that all competent DPP members are welcome in this endeavor to better serve the regions' voters.

Hsiao said that her office in Banqiao is also a means of sharing government administrative resources with a fellow DPP lawmaker working in the same district, following the cancellation of funding for it by the Legislative Yuan.

Meanwhile, Tsai called for reforms to the DPP's electoral system, citing the need to curb the excessive influence of political factions.

Taiwan's unique political circumstances must be considered when drawing up electoral reforms, said Tsai.

It would not be optimal to simply adopt the standards of other developed nations, she said, referring to suggested clauses requiring membership duration of two years before a party member is allowed the privilege of voting in the party's internal decision-making processes.

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