The Jan. 14 presidential election is about two weeks away, but neither of the two main candidates yet holds a clear advantage.
China, meanwhile, says it will not interfere, but has made little attempt to hide its desire to see President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) re-elected. That should mean a continuation of policies that Beijing hopes one day will lead to its long-held aim of unification. It deeply distrusts Ma’s main rival, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), seeing her as seeking independence from Beijing, despite the party’s shift away from that stance.
“Promoting cross-strait peace and development and completing the great task of unification of the motherland are the common aspirations of all the sons and daughters of China, including Taiwan compatriots,” Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member He Guoqiang (賀國強) said this week.
On Wednesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned that the DPP threatened the two sides’ hard-won peaceful coexistence and that a victory for them would almost certainly stop further talks on trade and economic deals.
The campaigns have moved into high gear, with the candidates traveling the nation to make their pitches. Canvassers hand out leaflets at public places and TV channels convene panels of experts for discussion programs. Taiwan’s partisan and idiosyncratic opinion polls give a slight edge to Ma, a former Taipei mayor who has struggled of late with an image of being aloof and out of touch.
However, that may be blunted by the third candidate, James Soong (宋楚瑜) of the People First Party, which has close ties with the KMT and could cut into its votes.
In the latest poll by TVBS, which leans toward the pan-blue camp, Ma’s support stood at 44 percent. Tsai, a former academic who has revitalized her party, had 38 percent, while Soong stood on 6 percent, with 12 percent undecided.
A separate poll by DPP-leaning research body Taiwan Think Tank, released on Monday, put support for Ma at 39.5 percent and Tsai at 39.1 percent, with Soong at 11.1 percent. The rest were undecided or did not reply.
“Both Tsai and Ma are taking a centrist, moderate road,” said Liao Da-chi (廖達琪), professor at National Sun Yat-sen University. “This is a good thing for Taiwan’s democracy. The two of them are quite similar and this shows the current style of Taiwan.”
And because of this, Taiwan’s fifth presidential election since its transition from a martial law dictatorship is also shedding much of its earlier emotional nature in favor of rational debate.
“Elections in recent years have shed some of the passion that was seen in the early years of democratization in the 1990s and 2000s,” said Wang Yeh-lih, (王業立), head of the political science department at National Taiwan University.
“This is a sign of the gradual maturing of [Taiwan’s] democracy. Passionate emotional confrontations are easing: the two main candidates are both moderate politicians, not populist instigators,” he added.
While the parties have found plenty of mud to sling, the often fiery populist rhetoric of previous campaigns has been overtaken by informed debate and policy on relations with China and domestic issues, such as employment and living costs.
“Tsai and Ma are similar in some characteristics of their personalities: rational, middle of the road,” said Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), associate research fellow at think tank Academia Sinica. “So how they can attract the majority of floating voters is the key point that will decide victory or defeat.”
THE CHINA CONNECTION: As Beijing’s aggression increases, so does Taiwanese consciousness, making a new constitution imperative, Hsu Wei-chun said If the nation is to ratify a new constitution, it must first end any illusions about the current document’s relevance to Taiwan, an academic told a forum in Taipei yesterday. For the constitutional revisionist movement to succeed, it needs public enthusiasm, the right timing and a clear plan of action, Chung Yuan Christian University associate professor Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) told attendees at the event titled “Imagining a New Constitution for a New Era,” which was organized by the National Taiwan University Graduate Student Association. The Constitution exists under the “one China” framework and has little relevance to Taiwan, Hsu said, adding that
IDENTITY: The time is right to press on with a referendum, as the nation has heightened visibility and support in the global community, the Taiwan United Nations Alliance said The Taiwan United Nations Alliance yesterday said that it is considering launching a petition for a referendum proposal to have the nation join the UN under the name “Taiwan.” Alliance chairman Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) was joined at a news conference in Taipei by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Hsiu-fang (黃秀芳) and leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and civic organizations. They said that it is the right time for a petition because Taiwan’s visibility on the world stage has increased, as it has been praised for its success in containing its COVID-19 outbreak and for helping other countries by sharing
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday urged Beijing to respect the median line of the Taiwan Strait by immediately stopping its military intimidation of Taiwan, as such actions would only hurt the feelings of Taiwanese. Beijing should immediately stop making military provocations against Taiwan, Ma wrote on Facebook after Chinese warplanes in the past week have made numerous forays across the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait. Although it has never officially acknowledged the median line, Beijing used to respect it, Ma said in response to comments on Monday by Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌), who said
An advertisement displayed in the corridor of the underground Taipei City Mall has caused contention online with social media users saying that it depicts Taiwanese bears as servants of Chinese pandas. The advertisement — which imitates the style of an ancient Chinese painting, but replaces people with bears — shows a scene in imperial China, with Formosan black bears laboring, while pandas relax and enjoy beverages. “The development of the tourism industry is important, but this type of targeted advertising is extremely disrespectful — and it makes people uncomfortable,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Chen E-jun (陳怡君) said. The advertisement, under