Describing Saturday’s election as the only — and perhaps the last — chance to end the nation’s bitter political divide, People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday appealed to voters to choose the “third option” to deal with the critical challenges facing the country.
“This is the only chance that Taiwan has. It’s highly unlikely that there will be hundreds of thousands of people endorsing [an independent] presidential candidacy in the future,” said the PFP chairman, who collected more than 463,000 signatures — far above the required threshold of about 257,000 — to launch his presidential bid.
Despite that round of support, Soong has been struggling to keep his campaign above water amid fears that voters might abandon his camp and vote for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to prevent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) from winning the poll.
Asked to comment on a possible strategic vote in favor of Ma at an international press conference yesterday, Soong expressed his concern over the ever-growing division between the blue and green camps.
“Sharp political divisions have long festered in Taiwanese society, where politics has long been polarized. The green camp is worried that Ma is leaning too heavily toward China at the expense of Taiwanese interests. The blue camp is concerned that a DPP victory will hamper cross-strait peace and thus pose a disadvantage to Taiwan’s economy,” Soong said.
Soong said he is the only choice that supporters of both blue and green camps, as well as China, can rest assured with.
“I know better than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) how to safeguard the Republic of China [ROC] and I know better than the DPP how to protect Taiwan’s core interests,” he said.
Voters will eventually turn their back on an “incompetent” Ma and “inexperienced” Tsai, whose cross-strait policies are both based on “fantasy” and “legend,” and vote for him as he offers a more pragmatic approach, Soong said.
The DPP’s pursuit of independence and the KMT’s presumption that the ROC represents the whole of China are both “blind spots,” Soong said.
Soong said he had spearheaded a push for cross-strait reconciliation after he initiated a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in 2005 and he believed that the cordial relations he has established with China would continue to develop if he were elected president.
“However, I would like to call on the mainland to reconsider cross-strait relations. Cross-strait relations are not just relations between the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] and the KMT. It [China] cannot just deal with the KMT,” he said.
Asked about speculation that the PFP would cooperate with the DPP if Tsai were elected, Soong said he “totally rejected” the idea because the two parties “have very serious differences” on critical issues.
“If we want to form a coalition, then we must have a joint stance on very crucial and vital issues relating to national identity and cross-strait relations,” he said.
Soong said that if elected, he would send PFP Vice Chairman Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄) as his personal representative to China next month to express his goodwill and invite the DPP and the KMT to join the trip, but that his administration would not start negotiations with China on substantial issues before a consensus is built among concerned parties in Taiwan.