Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 3 News List

January Elections: Presidential race becoming polarized as election nears

By Flor Wang, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Yu Hsiang  /  CNA

With fewer than 100 days until the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11, the race is shaping up to be a polarized contest with contrasting opinions, including on China, between a clear front-runner and a challenger party that is trying to stage a comeback.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has a solid lead in most polls over her opponent, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidate.

According to the latest survey released by TVBS News on Monday last week, Tsai is leading with 50 percent support against Han’s 38 percent, after having trailed him 48-44 on July 17 and 48-45 on Aug. 7.

A survey released on Sept. 23 by the Chinese-language Apple Daily showed Tsai leading at 44.4 percent against Han’s 32.9 percent, the eighth consecutive defeat for Han in polls conducted by the newspaper.

Tsai’s campaign is likely to focus on defending Taiwan’s sovereignty against Chinese pressure, a theme she has played up since the beginning of the year, with the protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s encroachment bolstering what had been sagging approval ratings.

On the other hand, Han and the KMT, which has generally been more conciliatory toward China, are likely to focus on what they see as the DPP’s weakness on domestic issues, but they will have to rebound from what has been a few bad months for them politically.

DPP presidential election campaign spokesman Ruan Jhao-syong (阮昭雄) said that another way for Tsai to maintain her lead would be to strengthen her grassroots support base.

To achieve that goal, DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) has ordered party officials to trumpet Tsai’s economic record over the past three years.

That includes the lowest unemployment rate Taiwan has seen in 18 years, higher starting salaries for university graduates and a record number of Taiwanese businesspeople from abroad, especially from China, investing at home to avoid US tariffs, he said.

Even though the race focuses on domestic issues, China would still be front and center in an election pitting the pro-independence DPP against the more pro-China KMT.

Han and the KMT insist on the so-called “1992 consensus” as a basis for maintaining relations with China, which was used to underpin better relations with Beijing when then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT was in power from 2008 to 2016.

The DPP rejected the consensus when Tsai took office in May 2016, saying that it never existed, and it opposes the idea that Taiwan is a part of China.

Tsai and the DPP have also accused the KMT and Han of trying to move Taiwan toward Beijing’s “one country, two systems” framework through their recognition of the consensus.

DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said that he is concerned about possible uncertainty ahead.

He said he fears that China might put greater pressure on Taiwan and meddle in the elections by using a more diverse and sophisticated approach to erode Tsai’s chances.

Such a scenario could pose a severe challenge for Taiwan in terms of national sovereignty and democracy, he said.

However, the protests in Hong Kong and Beijing’s heavy-handed response, along with China’s recent poaching of two of Taiwan’s allies in the Pacific — the Solomon Islands and Kiribati — have seemed to help Tsai, convincing some voters that closer ties with China might not be in Taiwan’s best interest.

This story has been viewed 2383 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top