Taipei, June 13 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is to represent the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2020 presidential election after beating by 8.2 percentage points her sole challenger, former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), in the party's primary, the result of which was released Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference in Taipei, DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said Tsai received an average support rate of 35.67 percent from five different polls conducted in a three-way manner, while Lai garnered 27.48 percent.
The poll compared the popularity of Lai and Tsai against the popularity of both independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).
Tsai's rating was higher than that of Ko and Han in the polls, who received support rates of 22.7 percent and 24.51 percent, respectively.
When compared with Lai in another of the poll questions, Ko and Han garnered support ratings of 27.38 percent and 23.47 percent on average.
The polls were conducted by five different polling companies, which collected a combined total of 16,051 valid samples through cellphone and landline-based interviews, accounting for 7,995 and 8,056 samples, respectively.
The time period for the conduct of the primary polls was originally set from Monday to Friday, but the polling firms managed to collect the required number of samples by Wednesday evening.
The DPP's presidential primary has been conflict-laden, mostly because of the party's Central Executive Committee's decision in late May to include for the first time cellphone-based interviews in its primary polls.
It was believed by some in the party that the new rule would tilt the competition in Tsai's favor because many young people, among whom the president enjoys a relatively high support rating, only use cellphones.
It was also the first time in the DPP's history that a sitting president seeking re-election had faced a challenge from within their own party.
In the meantime, Former Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) urged members and supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Thursday to throw their support behind President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) after his defeat in the party's presidential primary.
Speaking to reporters in Tainan after learning of the result of the DPP's primary polls, which were released earlier that day, Lai apologized to his supporters for failing to be the one to lead the DPP to fight the upcoming election.
"But history will remember that when Taiwan is facing grave challenges and when the DPP is at its most difficult moment, we did not back down and instead courageously shouldered the burden," Lai said.
The primary not only represented a new page in Taiwan's democratic history, but has also boosted the DPP's morale, he said.
Lai said he had phoned Tsai personally upon learning of the poll results.
"I am a DPP member. I deeply love this party and am willing to dedicate myself to the party," Lai said.
"I was born, raised and educated in Taiwan. Taiwan is our shared mother that I also deeply love. So I must again urge every one of you to support President Tsai and give her your blessings."
Lai returns to Tainan after learning of the result of the DPP's primary polls
According to the results of the DPP's five primary polls, Tsai received an average support rate of 35.67 percent, defeating independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je's (柯文哲) 22.7 percent and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the opposition Kuomintang's (KMT) 24.51 percent.
On the other hand, Lai garnered an average support rate of 27.48 percent, which allowed him to beat both Ko (27.38 percent) and Han (23.47 percent) by a narrow margin.
The polls compared the popularity of Lai and Tsai against that of Ko and Han in a three-way manner because the latter two politicians are considered to be the two strongest potential presidential candidates if they enter the race.
Tsai is expected to be officially nominated by the DPP's Central Executive Committee at its next meeting June 19.
Meanwhile, Tsai thanked Lai on Facebook for letting her see her problems and blind spots and spurring her team to step up its efforts.
"During this time (the primary), I have admired the perseverance Lai has demonstrated, as well as the graciousness he displays today," Tsai said.
She also expressed her gratitude to DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), other party members and supporters for being the "key strength" in safeguarding Taiwan.
Tsai listed several goals for the future, including uniting the DPP, helping the party channel the power of society, and defending her reform results to ensure the nation's economic prosperity is felt by the people.
She also pledged to defend the country's sovereignty, protect its people's right to decide their own future, and join hands with allies around the world that have embraced freedom, democracy and human rights to make Taiwan more integrated with the world.
"Now, we must unite. For the sake of Taiwan, we must secure victory in the 2020 elections," she said. "We must win and we will win."
Asked about the possibility of a Tsai-Lai ticket at an afternoon press conference, Tsai said her oft-stated principle that "one plus one equals more than two" remains unchanged and that she will sit down with the former premier to work out what is best for the DPP.
Cho told an earlier press conference in Taipei that while there is always a winner and a loser in a poll, "the ultimate winner in a democratic primary mechanism is the people" and that competition will only make the DPP stronger and more united.
As the 2020 elections, which are scheduled for January 11, are just a few months away, Cho said the DPP will immediately launch two missions -- party integration and the presidential campaign.
"Integration is a huge but important mission. I believe all DPP members, supporters and those who have fought for Taiwan will want to see us embark on the road of integration and unity as soon as possible," he said.
He said the DPP will also go into campaign mode at once because it needs to employ every possible means to ensure it will leave more concrete achievements for the country.