While the pan-green and pan-blue camps are again busy trading insults during the legislative election campaign, the space for debate on public policy -- especially minority issues -- has been neglected.
Many legislators and candidates, especially those from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have said in private that this election was one without any real public policy appeal, but rather a battle of vote allocation.
Indeed, the issues highlighted by the leaders from the both camps mostly stem from shallow political squabbles, be it "soft coup" allegations or party emblems, are all issues public care little about, especially voters in the south.
So in an election where the party leaders are only interested in creating disputes, there is a serious lack of public policy debate, not to mention policies regarding the interests of minority groups.
But while the parties are not particularly elaborate on issues such as women's rights in the run-up to the election, the women's groups have tried to raise the public awareness last week by publishing a list of 30 candidates who have contributed to bills related to women's rights.
The list includes legislative candidates from both camps, both male and female. The recommended candidates range from DPP legislator Lai Ching-te (
"When we made the recommendations, we did not consider a candidate's party affiliation. We focused only on their efforts on the gender-related issues and bills," said Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), the secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation. "We did not take their record on other issues into consideration."
The Awakening Foundation was in charge of integrating opinions and recommendations from different women's groups and generating the final list. Yet only 24 out of the 225 incumbent legislators were chosen and the remaining six have yet to be elected.
Tseng said that since only 13 percent of incumbents openly promoted women's issues, the majority of the incumbents had not put much effort into the bills related to women's rights or gender issues. The foundation was also dissatisfied with the number of female legislative candidates running in the legislative election.
Tseng also pointed out that while all parties had promised that female candidates would take up at least one-third of all party nominations, every party fell far behind the goal: the DPP set aside only 20 percent for female candidates; the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) 26 percent; PFP 23 percent; and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) only 10 percent.
But the foundation also reckoned that number of female candidates had grown since to the last election, and DPP and KMT made some attempts to fulfill the goal of female candidates making up one-third in their legislator-at-large list.
Huang Chang-ling (
"Basically, we still approve of the fifth legislature's performances on gender issues. Gender issues are enjoying a steady progress in Taiwan, although we hope the progress can accelerate," Huang said.
"But at the same time, the gender issues are encountering a backlash, with public figures, especially politicians, often abusing women verbally," she added.
Wang Fang-ping (王芳萍), the secretary-general of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS), was one among the 30 recommended legislative candidates.
This is the second election Wang has been involved in. She also ran in the Taipei City Councilor elections two years ago in order to raise awareness on sex-workers' rights.
When asked whether the collective was again trying to seek support for sex-workers' rights, Wang said it was still part of their appeal, but the collective was now pursuing issues of a wider scope: Direct connection with the voters and direct democracy.
Wang pointed out that during the presidential election, the collective participated in the million spoiled ballots movement to protest both the pan-green and pan-blue camps, but in the legislative election, the collective was instead trying to get the voters participate in politics directly.
"I alone cannot change things. So this time I am getting my supporters to show up at our activities first, and then participate in my campaign directly to influence more people," she said.
"So I am really only a representative [of sex workers], and I am acting on their opinions and ideas. I am not campaigning on my own ... it is more like these supporters are campaigning on their own for their own beliefs," she added.
Another legislative candidate, KMT legislator Hsu Chong-hsiung (徐中雄), was one of the nine males recommended for his concerns and efforts on the welfare of the foreign spouses. Hsu recently noted that Southeast Asian immigrant women are openly sold for marriage in Penghu County, and once again raised public awareness about the rights of foreign women.
Hsu also said that he had been a member of the legislative Yuan's Social Welfare Committee ever since he became a lawmaker, and during his 12-years in politics, he has always been concerned with minority groups' welfare.
"I have tried to play the role of a guide but of course these results have been a collective effort of the committee members," Hsu said of the passing of the several gender-related bills.
A most interesting conflict on gender issues in the election stems from the TSU's platform.
The TSU has been promoting the restriction of the rights of Chinese spouses even though the action has been criticized heavily by women's groups. But the TSU is also the only party that manages to deliver solid women's policies as part of its platform.
The policies include raising the number of working women, and building a social security network to provide women in need of daycare service for their children, the elderly, and the disabled.
Although these policies do not receive much media coverage, women's groups have noticed the party's efforts and is approving of its policies. But there is internal conflict within the TSU about its policies on women's rights, embodied by the party's only female lawmaker, Chien Lin Hui-chien (錢林慧君).
Chien Lin is one of the 30 candidates recommended by the women's groups for her support of related laws on women's security, but she is also very vocal about limiting the rights of Chinese spouses.
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