Sun, Nov 12, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Integrity becomes debate focus

MAYORAL ROW The first ever televised debate of the five Taipei candidates ranged from campaign promises to questions of integrity and party loyalty

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The candidates in the Taipei mayoral election race -- (from left) James Soong, independent, Frank Hsieh, Democratic Progressive Party, Clara Chou, recently expelled from the Taiwan Solidarity Union, Li Ao, independent, and Hau Lung-bin, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- shake hands before a televised debate yesterday.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei's five mayoral candidates clashed in a televised debate yesterday as they touted their platform for transforming the capital into an internationally competitive city.

However, the debate rapidly turned into questions about integrity with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayoral candidate Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) drawing a lot of the heat.

The four other candidates took turns in questioning Hau, who has been leading the pack in polls, over his political loyalty and integrity in dealing with the utility bill issue.

Taiwan Solidarity Union candidate Clara Chou (周玉蔻), who was expelled by her party on Thursday for refusing to toe the party line in opposing the pan-blue initiated third recall motion against the president, grilled Hau over the utility bill issue during the cross-questioning session in the debate.

"Aside from the utility bill issue, you have admitted that your telephone bills have been paid for by the government and you promised to return the money. Where is the money now?" Chou asked.

Hau has been accused of taking advantage of his father's privileges as a former premier to have the government pay his utility bills.

Independent candidate Li Ao (李敖) used his cross-question time with independent candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) to ask the latter to comment on Hau's political loyalty.

"He was a New Party member, a DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] government official, and is now representing the KMT in the election. It's quite contradictory," said Soong, who asked for "time-off" from his People First Party chairmanship to run as an independent in the race.

Hau, a former Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head, shrugged off the attacks, and lashed out at DPP candidate candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) for his alleged involvement in the Kaohsiung mass rapid transit (MRT) system corruption scandal.

"The prosecutors listed you as one of the defendants in the corruption case ... We don't need a corrupt mayor in Taipei," Hau said.

Turning on Hsieh, Li blamed him for the DPP's decision to support the president even after the recent indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen on corruption charges.

"If you don't separate yourself from the corrupt president, how can you persuade residents that you would be a good mayor with integrity?" Li said.

While saying that he respected his party's consensus on the issue, Hsieh sought to switch the debate back to his campaign platform, which includes cleaning up the Tamsui River, renovating old communities and bringing hope to Taipei residents by applying to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Hau also put the Tamsui River cleanup project as his main campaign platform, while vowing to promote integrity among the city government's staff.

Soong said that as the next mayor, he would fight the central government to win more budget and power for the city government.

As the lone female candidate, Chou promised to establish a female-friendly city and urged voters to eliminate "male politics" by voting for her.

While the four candidates outlined their government program, Li lashed out at both the president and incumbent Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for their incompetence, and urged voters not to believe any promises made by the candidates.

"I can't promise you that I will solve the vendor issue or traffic problems in Taipei ... Don't believe those candidates' platforms. They never fulfill their promises," Li said when responding to a questioned raised by a resident, who asked Li to offer solutions to the city's illegal vendor issue.

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