When former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced his candidacy for the Taipei mayoral election in March, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) asked whether Su would run for president in 2012. After Hau announced his intention to seek re-election last month, he questioned Su’s position on the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing. In opening his campaign office yesterday, Hau attacked Su’s campaign slogan, saying that “Taipei Will Surpass Taipei” is redundant, as all mayors seek to exceed their predecessors. His slogan was much better, in that “Taipei Fly High” refers to the direct flights recently begun between Shanghai Hongqiao and Taipei Songshan airports, Hau said.
One hopes that the new Shanghai route is more successful than the Wenshan-Neihu MRT line, which has been plagued by technical problems since opening last year. Indeed, one wonders why, with so many pressing municipal issues, Hau dwells on slogans and national politics. Other topics that Taipei residents would like to see addressed include the Maokong Gondola fiasco, the massive debt to the National Health Insurance Program, bus lanes on city streets, Jiencheng Circle, the soaring cost of housing, property tax reform and pollution of the Tamsui and Keelung rivers.
Of course, it is no mystery why Hau avoids such issues. All are a direct result of either his poor performance in office over the last four years or that of his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) predecessor, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Given that Hau’s job approval ratings hover at about 40 percent, it is no wonder he remains firmly focused on the irrelevant.
Hau’s opponent seems no more eager to deliver. While Su offers a steady stream of promises and platitudes, he is too distracted by his party’s national agenda to be specific.
This too is unsurprising. Pro-independence groups threatened not to support Su if he didn’t oppose the ECFA. In addition, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) and the KMT’s habit of running party heavyweights in local elections is bound to raise questions about their loyalties and credentials.
To give Hau credit, questioning Su’s commitment to Taipei is entirely justified. The same is true of the DPP candidate for Sinbei City, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is being groomed as a presidential candidate. Aside from her lack of municipal experience and the fact that she and Su both aspire to national office, they play crucial leadership roles in the DPP. Running Taipei and Sinbei will require a major commitment of time and expertise.
It is just such a commitment that voters should demand in municipal elections, rather than looking to the ECFA or the sloganeering of celebrity politicians. Taipei residents are particularly inclined to the seductions of national politics and capital city vanity.
As with other large municipalities in Taiwan, Taipei’s problems are largely practical and candidates for office, including that of mayor, should be held accountable before and after being elected. Doing so would help ensure passengers on the Wenshan-Neihu MRT line might actually reach their destinations in future. It would also encourage both parties to develop stronger candidates who are familiar with local issues and able to address them in public debate.
Tsai and Su have made it clear that they do not plan to abandon their positions if elected. If they — or any other candidate — fails to deliver, they should be held accountable.
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