May 26, 2014 12:58 pm JST

China moderate Tsai elected head of Taiwan opposition, vows to restore public trust

DEBBY WU, Nikkei staff writer

TAIPEI -- The newly elected leader of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party said she will do her utmost to help her party regain public trust, return to power and find a new direction for the island.

     Tsai Ing-wen issued a statement Sunday after defeating her opponent by a comfortable margin in the election for DPP chairperson earlier in the day. Tsai's party has been widely criticized as being ineffective in blocking a services trade deal with China that many say hurts Taiwan's small- and midsize businesses and gives Beijing more control of the island's economy.

     The DPP was largely marginalized during the height of a mass rally initiated by local students to protest President Ma Ying-jeou's China-friendly approach and the trade deal earlier this year. Students stormed the legislature and occupied the legislative floor for weeks in March and April.

     "We need to begin to win back public trust immediately," Tsai said. "I'll do my best to lead the party back to power."

      Tsai, 57, said she aims to install younger officials in the party leadership and give them a larger role in the decision-making process. The planned move is a response to claims by critics that the DPP has been suffering from infighting among its veterans who are in their late 60s and disconnected from young voters.

     Tsai is slated to take over from incumbent party leader Su Tseng-chang on Wednesday.

     She is now considered the most likely member of her party to be tapped as a presidential candidate. However, whether she can secure her nomination will depend on how the DPP performs at the year-end elections for mayoral seats.

     A China moderate, Tsai favors more exchanges with Beijing to improve bilateral ties. She dispatched a delegation made up of her senior advisers to visit China in January.  Although she lost the 2012 presidential election to Ma, Tsai still maintains a high standing within the party due to her willingness to work with different factions to reach a consensus.