The three Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayor hopefuls took part in a televised debate yesterday, clashing over their ability to transform Taipei into an internationally competitive city -- and to bring the KMT closer to victory in the 2008 presidential election by winning this crucial skirmish.
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) preferred successor, former deputy mayor Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川), former Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) took the opportunity to flesh out their respective campaign platforms and attack each other's policies, but all pledged to build the capital into a better place as a boost for the KMT in its bid to regain power in 2008.
It was the first time the three party rivals had laid out their campaign platforms in a debate setting.
"The central government's poor policies have held back many of our municipal development plans. We all want the city to maintain a cooperative relationship with the central government. As Taipei mayor, I would be a great help for [the KMT's] bid to win the 2008 presidential election," Yeh said.
Hau criticized the pan-green camp for selecting its candidate through "secret negotiations," rather than through a primary like the KMT, but warned his party not to lower its guard with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) both looking like they may join the election.
"I've earned the highest support rate in almost every poll. Who can attract the swing votes with so many rivals around and win the election? Of course it's me," he said.
Ting blasted Hau's integrity because of his decision to leave the New Party and join the KMT, questioned whether Yeh had taken advantage of the city government's resources and promised to improve the city's traffic situation and launch direct flights across the Taiwan Strait from Songshan Airport.
Hau and Yeh, the two key players in the KMT's primary election, focused on each other during the cross examination session.
While Hau blamed Yeh for failing to present any new visions for the city while continuing Ma's municipal policies, the former deputy mayor lashed out at his rival for his failed plastic bag restriction policy, after the EPA recently decided to allow restaurants to use plastic bags again.
The KMT invited 27 city residents, randomly selected by computer to watch the debate and ask questions of the hopefuls.
Hau dismissed Yeh and Ting's accusation that he lacked sincerity after working under the Democratic Progressive Party as EPA head several years ago, and promised to turn Taipei into an international city like Shanghai or New York.
The KMT will hold its primary on May 27.