Accusations by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members against New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) show that Taiwan’s democracy still has a lot of room for improvement.
The referendums were widely regarded as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration’s “midterm exam.” However, Hou on Monday wrote on Facebook that everyone should be able to do independent thinking without clarifying his choices, spurring supporters of his own party to accuse him of being a turncoat and evading responsibility.
High schools in France, for example, hold such mandatory exams in philosophy. Students are required to elaborate on their views on given questions. In contrast, Taiwanese students are mostly trained to answer “yes” or “no,” and to select items in multiple-choice tests, Hou wrote on Facebook.
Opinion leaders are obligated to clarify the pros and cons of policies, and those representing the ruling party should shoulder more responsibility to solve problems, rather than just telling people to vote “yes” or “no,” he wrote.
Puzzled by Hou’s post, many people tried to read it as a statement revealing his own position on the referendums.
KMT members were divided; some said Hou basically agrees with his party’s position — “yes” on all four items — while others said Hou should have explicitly stated his stance.
It is lamentable that Taiwanese society — after more than three decades of democratization — still expects politicians to tell people how to vote in a referendum. Policy debates in Taiwan are usually reduced to siding with the KMT or the DPP. It is an environment that is unlikely to allow for an independent third force to emerge.
An opinion article in the United Daily News on Friday said that Hou’s predicament is reminiscent of the situation of former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平). The article asked whether the KMT has space for neutral positions or less polarizing leaders.
The comparison between Hou and Wang is thought-provoking, as both embody a type of politician that values cooperation more than competition. Some describe such politicians as hypocrites, but they are necessary to bridge the gap between the pan-green and pan-blue camps, between Mainlanders and ethnic Taiwanese.
Since he was elected in 2018, Hou has been working constantly to distance himself from the most controversial issues and polarizing figures, even when KMT supporters were crazy about former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), who from entering office in 2018 to his recall in June last year posed a major threat to the DPP.
Hou’s sensitivity and practicality has increasingly won him support from neutral voters, and he might be the KMT’s most promising candidate for the 2024 presidential election.
News Web site ETtoday on Monday published a survey on people’s opinions of 32 politicians in Taiwan. Hou topped the list, with 76.1 percent of respondents holding positive views.
He was followed by Vice President William Lai (賴清德) of the DPP, who was supported by 64.9 percent, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of the Taiwan People’s Party with 61.2 percent, Hon Hai founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) with 57.7 percent and KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) with 55.7 percent.
While other surveys might show slightly different results, the DPP — having governed the nation for more than five years — should be worried, as it only had one member in the top five.
Whoever Taiwanese favor, they should seek to vote politicians into office who enrich the nation’s policy debates, as more political struggles are on the horizon ahead of the next presidential election.
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