Taiwan appoints new premier following election loss

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen appointed a close political ally as premier during a Cabinet reshuffle Friday following the ruling party’s heavy election losses and growing pressure from rival China.

The opposition Nationalist Party, which favours closer ties with Beijing, won 15 of 22 major seats in the November 24 local elections, including in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s southern stronghold of Kaohsiung. Soon after, Tsai resigned as chair of the DPP, which rejects China’s demands for unification with the mainland.

Tsai appointed Su Tseng-chang, a two-term former chairman of her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), saying Taiwan faced challenges amid rising Chinese threats and trade tension between key backer the United States and China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since Tsai became president, threatened this month to use force to bring the island under Beijing’s rule and urged “reunification”.

Su, 71, was a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the DPP during the former martial law era under the Nationalists, who shifted their government from China to Taiwan after defeat by the communists on the mainland in 1949.

He previously served as premier in 2006-07, as well as party chairman, legislator, and county magistrate.

Su vowed to lead the administration amid the challenges and learn from earlier mistakes.

“The situation is difficult and the task is tough,” he said.

Su’s appointment followed the widely expected resignation of William Lai, the second premier to quit since Tsai took office in 2016, in line with a practice of leaders quitting when their party loses a major election.

“I must resign to take responsibility for the election defeat,” Lai told a cabinet meeting earlier on Friday.

Taiwan’s premier forms the cabinet and runs the government on a day-to-day basis. New ministerial appointments are expected soon.

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