There is a general consensus among Taiwan watchers that next month’s presidential election will be pivotal for the country’s future.
Consequently, hopes have been high for presidential campaigns that provide substance on topics such as relations with China, the economy and a number of environmental issues.
Sadly for all involved, the party that from the onset had insisted it would run a “clean” and “responsible” campaign has failed to abide by its commitment and has chosen instead to turn to the past — the distant past, in some cases — as it attempts to tarnish the image of its resurgent opponent.
It is little wonder that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would say over the weekend that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), having no accomplishments to show for in its nearly four years in office, had chosen instead to launch an all-out attack on her and her party.
Whether the KMT has anything to boast about is a matter of opinion, but one thing that is beyond debate is the fact that the party seems to be panicking amid signs that the DPP could very well win next month’s elections, something that had seemed impossible only a few years ago.
How else could we explain a presidential campaign that, rather than look to the future, would launch into what can only be described as an infantile attack on DPP vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan’s (蘇嘉全) wife, Hung Heng-chu (洪恆珠), for attending a party where male strippers and cross-dressers provided entertainment — nearly a decade ago?
KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅), who masterminded the attack on Hung, is running for a legislative seat in Greater Kaohsiung. The self-proclaimed “king of lawsuits” never shies from shooting from the hip to undermine his opponents, but it is difficult to see how such a strategy could possibly help him get elected. Rather than make proposals on how to improve the lives of his would-be constituents, Chiu went on the offensive, using the media as a pulpit by which to tarnish the DPP’s image at every opportunity.
This begs the question whether Chiu is a rogue KMT candidate or has been unleashed with his party’s — and ultimately Ma’s — blessing. Either way, this reflects badly on Ma’s re-election campaign, highlighting desperation or the president’s inability to control his foot soldiers.
As if what adults do behind closed doors were not enough for the KMT, it has now rehashed an old controversy over Tsai’s role in the creation of Yu Chang Biologics Co. Why it waited so long before going public with accusations that Tsai profited illegally from the company — barely one month before the elections — can only mean one thing: The KMT is growing desperate and will grasp at anything to achieve its ends. Realizing that its repeated attempts to drag Tsai down because of her associations with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were paying few dividends, the KMT had to find something else.
Farmhouses, strippers and now Tsai’s role in Yu Chang are the result of that desperation, each of which failed utterly to address the issues and challenges facing the nation. Such levels of baseness have not gone unnoticed, with even media that are characteristically inclined toward the KMT, such as the China Post, crying foul over what is turning into a risible, if not scandalous, campaign.
And of course, Chiu has acted as the attack dog in all three instances. With such clowns involving themselves in the electoral campaign, who could blame those in China who have shown interest in the election’s proceedings for being cynical about the virtues of democracy?
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During my twenty-two years in the US Senate, I became a student of Taiwan and its history. I was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy, and have made at least 25 trips to Taiwan and have been invited as an observer to two of the nation’s presidential elections. Taiwan’s continuous economic miracle has seen the nation transition from a mixed agricultural-industrial society at the end of Japan’s 50 years of jurisdiction to today’s economic powerhouse, unmatched by most nations of the world. Just as outstanding has been Taiwan’s decades of resistance and