Taiwan appoints new premier to drive reform efforts

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan has appointed as premier William Lai, the mayor of its southern city of Tainan, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, as she moved to shore up declining public support.

A reshuffle to replace the premier had been anticipated for months as Tsai’s approval ratings dropped below 30 percent by August, a private foundation survey showed, from nearly 70 percent soon after her 2016 inauguration.

“We have a clear direction for our reforms,” Tsai told a news briefing. “Premier Lai will lead the administrative team, iron out any problems, and take us forward.”

Lai’s appointment comes a day after the resignation of Lin Chuan, the premier since Tsai took office in May 2016.

Frozen ties with China, a massive power outage in the tech hub for Apple Inc and other global firms, a backlash over pension reforms and a revised labor rule, are among the controversies that put pressure on Tsai to replace Lin, as she prepares for her 2020 re-election campaign.

Lai, a Harvard graduate, was a lawmaker for four consecutive terms and a whip of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus before becoming in 2010 the mayor of Tainan, home to the plants of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and other technology firms.

“I’ll redouble our efforts to reform and transform, for the benefit of the people of Taiwan,” Lai said.

However, Lai’s premiership would not necessarily help the president improve her ratings, some analysts have said.

Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Clarence Fernandez