Abolishment of the death penalty, gay rights and marriage equality have become the “mud” slung at candidates with progressive ideas in this election campaign, as some candidates in their traditional party strongholds are facing serious challenges and have chosen to make desperate moves. It might be pathetic that candidates regard the topics as useful electoral tools, but what is more depressing is that society’s mood has allowed them to believe that such tactics will work and that the mud might actually be dirt that opposition party leaders want to — and do — shun.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative candidate Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) disparaged his New Power Party (NPP) rival, Freddy Lim (林昶佐), as having “hair that is longer than a woman’s,” and later denied that the description was judgemental.
Lin also said that what is “mentally abnormal” about Lim was his criticism against a prosecutor who scolded a socialite charged with rape and invasion of privacy — for filming sexual acts with women without their consent — as being “a pervert, childish and in need of treatment.”
Lin conveniently omitted the reason behind Lim’s condemnation, which was that he believed the prosecutor had vented her own personal feelings when she was required to objectively fulfill her duties.
The “pervert” was not the only target of public anger that Lin turned into a campaign tool. Lin often evoked the name of Cheng Chieh (鄭捷), who was found guilty of four murders and 22 counts of attempted manslaughter for a knifing spree in the Taipei MRT system, when telling his supporters that Lim supports the abolishment of the death penalty.
“[Lim] has held news conferences demanding a halt to executions. He thinks it is reasonable to keep feeding murderers like Cheng with our taxes,” Lin said at a campaign rally. “A person who does not respect life does not deserve to live.”
Just as some thought that the death penalty issue was a one-off incidental issue raised by a district candidate, the KMT legislative caucus yesterday called a news conference in the Legislative Yuan to question Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) if she supports the NPP candidates’ call for the abolishment of capital punishment.
No explanation or argument was given during the news conference as to why capital punishment cannot be abolished, which, regrettably, indicates that abolishment has become an issue that is in itself deprecating enough for politicians to employ it as an effective “negative” campaign tool.
In Hualien, where KMT candidate Wang Ting-son (王廷升) is facing a tough battle against the DPP’s Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), photographs of a gay pride parade, in which scantily clad participants used bawdy language for their banners and called for marriage equality and diverse family composition, have been used to attack Hsiao’s endorsement of marriage equality and related legislation. The KMT’s Hualien chapter has been distributing campaign leaflets and digital media calling Hsiao’s proposals “family-breaking,” “erosive to family ethics” and “morally degrading.”
“Please save our society, families and the next generation,” the campaign materials read.
In 2009, the Legislative Yuan, in which the KMT then had an overwhelming majority, agreed to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obliges signatories to abolish capital punishment or prepare to if incapable of immediately abolishing it. After the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June last year, the KMT posted on its Facebook page that “diversity needs to be respected and the rainbow allowed to be seen.”
Nothing can stop politicians from capitalizing on public anger or social prejudices for their own benefit until the public allows for rational deliberation when it encounters relevant issues.
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