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Politics

Tsai brings few fresh faces into Taiwan's new cabinet

Policies benefiting poorer voters expected as DPP seeks rebound

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, center, hopes to revive her popularity through a cabinet shuffle in which Su Tseng-chang, right, replaced Lai Ching-te, left, as premier. (Photo by Kensaku Ihara)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, center, hopes to revive her popularity through a cabinet shuffle in which Su Tseng-chang, right, replaced Lai Ching-te, left, as premier. (Photo by Kensaku Ihara)

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's new cabinet was inaugurated Monday with most core ministers remaining in their posts, infusing little fresh blood as President Tsai Ing-wen seeks to rebuild support ahead of next year's presidential election.

The cabinet will "rapidly advance policy to respond to the will of the public and produce results," Premier Su Tseng-chang said at the swearing-in ceremony.

Tsai expressed confidence in Su's "experience, vigor and ability to get things done." The new premier, a heavyweight in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, also held the position in the 2000s under President Chen Shui-bian.

The previous cabinet resigned en masse Friday to take responsibility for the DPP's battering in November local elections, and the reshuffle was intended to reignite support for Tsai's administration as she eyes re-election in January 2020. But how much improvement the change will bring is unclear.

The ministers in charge of the economy, foreign affairs and defense are among those continuing from the previous cabinet.

Notable new faces include former parliamentarian Chen Chi-mai as vice premier, plus new transportation minister Lin Chia-lung, formerly mayor of Taichung.

But Chen, Lin and Su had suffered defeats in November's vote. Major regional news outlet United Daily News, which favors leading opposition party Kuomintang, branded the new cabinet a "losers' alliance."

As Su presides over the cabinet, he is expected to make policy moves popular with the electorate, such as more distribution of wealth to lower-income people. Tsai's administration had set its sights on medium- to long-term goals such as industrial reform and forging economic ties with Southeast Asia. But the building dissatisfaction among voters over a lack of improvement in their lifestyle was a key factor in the DPP's November losses.

Taiwanese media at Monday's ceremony focused on the next move for Su's predecessor Lai Ching-te, also known as William Lai.

The former premier is known as a more vocal advocate for independence from mainland China than the relatively moderate Tsai, and he enjoys support among the pro-independence voters who form the DPP's traditional base. Many view his resignation as laying the groundwork to seek the presidency next year.

If the cabinet reshuffle fails to lift Tsai's popularity, it could boost Lai's chances of winning the party's nomination.

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