President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday led the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee (CSC) in a meeting and in campaigning in Yunlin County, promising to address agricultural issues amid efforts to expand support in the pan-green stronghold.
Meeting with local politicians and legislators, Ma acknowledged his party’s lack of support in the county, a predominately agricultural area where the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has long enjoyed popularity.
He also took shots at his main rival, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), for trying to manipulate the fruit prices for her campaign and damaging the rights of farmers for election purposes.
“The DPP either fabricated the truth or exaggerated the situation in using the price of persimmons as a campaign tool … The party used farmers for its own political gain, hurting the farmers, something the KMT would never do,” Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, said at the regional campaign headquarters in Douliu City.
In the committee meeting, KMT legislators Hsu Shu-po (許舒博) and Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), as well as local politicians, expressed concerns about the party’s performance in the Jan. 14 presidential and legislative elections, and urged Ma and the government to pay more attention to agricultural problems and to clearly explaining government policies.
“Yunlin is an agricultural county where about 50 percent of residents are farmers. They care about the price of their vegetables or fruits, and whether they can receive government subsidies. The government should explain government policies in a way that they can understand,” Hsu said.
Outside the campaign headquarters, a dozen local residents protested against the government, calling on officials to make more of an effort to push the development of the agricultural and fishing industries.
Ma promised to tell the Council of Agriculture to address related issues, and defended the government’s efforts to boost the sale of agricultural products through exports and group sales.
The ministry also gave subsidies or made large-scale purchases immediately after the price of certain fruits dropped, he said, saying the KMT has responded to the issue faster than the DPP.
In defending the government’s emphasis on the development of central and southern areas, Ma said his administration has always sought to balance development of all cities and counties, and would not only prefer KMT-governed areas.
“The KMT has served the people, and we will not damage the rights of the people and confront the DPP in terms of promoting local development,” he said.
Tsai and People First Party presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) also campaigned in Yunlin yesterday.
KMT spokesperson Lai Su-ju (賴素如) dismissed concerns about the three candidates’ appearance in the county, saying Ma’s schedule had been planned well in advance, as part of the party’s schedule of out-of-Taipei CSC weekly meetings launched last month.
Ma also defended his cross-strait policy and said last Saturday’s presidential debate had had a positive impact in China.
“Some Chinese netizens, after watching the debate, said maybe Chinese Communist Party leaders should also hold a debate. Such influence will go a long way, and Taiwan and the mainland can expand the areas in which there are cross-strait exchanges,” he said.