The three contenders in the Jan. 14 presidential election faced off in a televised debate yesterday, crossing swords on issues ranging from cross-strait policy, the economy and social justice to matters of livelihood and national development.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), seeking re-election, touted himself as a competent and experienced helmsman who can lead the country to surmount the challenges of reviving the economy, implementing social justice and maintaining cross-strait peace.
Ma also tried to link Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the DPP, who is serving a lengthy prison term for corruption.
“Do we want to go back to the eight bad years of the DPP?’’ Ma asked, describing the period as a time of rampant corruption and elevated tension with China.
Tsai said that she was running for president next year, not in 2008, and went on to accuse Ma of pursuing policies that had deepened Taiwan’s economic inequality and opened the door for China to achieve its long-standing goal of bringing democratic Taiwan under its sway.
She said that if elected she would reach out to all parties to form a “Taiwan consensus” to deal with China on a unified basis.
People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) ridiculed Ma’s claim of his administration’s achievements over the past three-plus years as “self-exaggeration” and “complacency,” while rebutting Tsai’s claim that the financial stability the Ma administration enjoyed amid the 2008-2009 global credit crunch was based on banking reforms put in place by the previous DPP administration.
Yesterday’s 2.5-hour debate opened with the three presidential candidates each giving an eight-minute introduction of their respective campaign platforms before taking questions posted by the representatives of the five media outlets, namely the Central News Agency (CNA), the China Times, the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), the United Daily News and Apple Daily.
In the third part of the debate, the candidates posed questions to one another before ending the debate with concluding remarks of five minutes each.
In response to question posed by Apple Daily and United Daily News on cross-strait relations and the DPP’s rejection of the so-called “1992 consensus,” Tsai reiterated that while the 1992 meeting between the two sides of the Strait did take place, the consensus never existed, and even if it did, it was “a consensus reached between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) without going through a democratic process.”
“President Ma Ying-jeou has hurt Taiwan’s democracy by turning an inter-party consensus into a national consensus without transparency,” she said.
She added she was confident that the people of Taiwan understand very well what they have to insist on and what they could be flexible on in Taiwan’s dealings with China.
Contrary to what Ma has been telling the public, Tsai said, Beijing has never publicly said that the “1992 consensus” includes “one China, with different interpretations.”
Ma, on the other hand, reiterated that the “1992 consensus” would be the best basis to create win-win situations for both Taiwan and China.
He added that his initiative of “no unification, no independence and no use of force” has successfully stabilized cross-strait relations.