As per the People First Party’s prediction, the party’s presidential candidate, James Soong (宋楚瑜), was able to avoid being swept into a pan-green, pan-blue struggle during Saturday’s presidential debate, but along the way he ended up stuck in the position of being “the third wheel.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) seemed dead set on attacking each other throughout the debate, leaving Soong in the slightly awkward position of trying to launch his own offensives amid the barrage of words between Tsai and Ma.
Although Soong’s strategy was to highlight his policy solutions, his attempts to stay above the fray also left him marginalized.
Throughout the event, Ma and Tsai constantly focused their fire on each other, relegating the three-person debate to a two-person standoff.
However, it was also interesting to watch the interaction between the three.
On many occasions, both Ma and Tsai said they “agreed with Chairman Soong” and even tried to strategically maneuver Soong into a position that benefited their own ideology.
In the third segment of the debate, when the candidates posed direct questions to each other, Soong even said with a small laugh: “It seems that this question isn’t for me,” in response to a question from Ma directed squarely at Tsai.
However, despite being the third wheel, Soong’s performance in the debate was solid, with his only minor fault being that he often read from his notes, perhaps giving people the feeling that he might have been slightly under-prepared or lacked confidence.
Overshadowed by the firepower of Ma and Tsai, Soong attempted to identify himself as the successor of former president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) political path and a staunch supporter of the “three intermediates” — the middle class, the midsized and small corporations, and the votes of the people in southern and central parts of the country.
Political observers said Soong was attempting to show how out of touch the two big parties — the DPP and KMT — were with the common people.
Soong also masterfully turned what was portrayed as a weakness into a strength during the second segment of the debate in which representatives from five media outlets posed questions to the candidates.
In response to a question about his seemingly oft-changing alliance with different political parties, Soong said he worked with the different parties not for his own personal benefit, but rather for the sake of the nation and its people.
The debate also showed that Soong’s main election thrust is rising above the fray of pan-blue and pan-green divisions, political observers said.
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer