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Hung needs to stand for something new

Hung needs to stand for something new

If opinion polls are to be believed, Taiwan could end this week with clarity at last about who both top presidential candidates on the ballot will be next January 16.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen has not only been a candidate for some time, but is also cementing her position as the absolute frontrunner against all the candidates, non-candidates and contenders which the ruling Kuomintang might or might not nominate or draft.
Former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh has launched a bid, but even the most enthusiastic observers do not expect him to finish any higher than third. The same counts for People First Party Chairman James Soong, another authoritative voice in Taiwan politics whose appeal might have waned some time ago.
If we don’t know yet who will be the KMT candidate, that is only because the ruling party’s selection process has shown more hairpin turns than a Hollywood action movie.
At the outset, a primary system seemed like the most open and democratic solution to pick a presidential candidate. The problem was that the leaders identified by the media as the top contenders never came out to indicate they would join the process. KMT Chairman Eric Liluan Chu kept repeating he would not run for president, despite polls indicating he would be the best chance of beating Tsai. Vice President Wu Den-yih also denied any interest while Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng took the most ambiguous approach.
Former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang, who had never remotely been mentioned as a candidate, wanted to join the process but failed to collect the required number of signatories, unexpectedly leaving Legislative Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu as the only KMT candidate officially in the running. She had initially described her ambition to join the primaries as a strategy to push the real candidates into the open.
As if low public opinion ratings and last November’s regional election results were not enough to tell the KMT it was standing on the edge of a precipice, the party then went on to tinker with the methods with which to continue the selection process.
The two most obvious elements were the way in which the candidates – in this case, Hung – were supposed to get their message across to the public and how the opinion polls determining the fate of the candidates would be arranged.
Like a driver trying to fix a car in the middle of the highway, the KMT cut down the number of hearings Hung wanted to one appearance at the Central Standing Committee last Wednesday. The tinkering with the opinion polls was even more blatant. The party leadership initially wanted polls comparing Hung to Tsai and to other KMT leaders to dominate the procedure, but those would put the candidate in a potentially untenable position, since she needs at least 30 percent to be considered a winner.
After several back-and-forths, she finally obtained the concession that only half the poll results would be based on comparisons, and the other half on support levels for her own bid.
She would need at least 37 percent of those polled to say they supported her and receive 24 percent in a comparison with Tsai, media reported.
Just days before the June 12-13 primary polls, KMT officials reportedly close to non-candidate Wang Jin-pyng, coincidentally Hung’s immediate superior at the Legislative Yuan, still tried to derail the agreement and upgrade the comparative poll, therefore paving the way for a Hung defeat and for the drafting of another candidate, most likely Wang.
The strategy flopped, and it now looks more certain than ever that Hung could become the official presidential candidate for the KMT.
As a result, her ideas, plans and policies need to come under public scrutiny if the people of Taiwan are to make a correct decision about who will rule them from next May until 2020.
At a news conference Wednesday, Hung presented an impressive team of foreign policy and defense advisers, including two former foreign ministers, a retired secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation and, maybe surprisingly, a former chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
The common denominator is that all of those officials retired some time ago, indirectly illustrating the need for the KMT to reconnect with younger people. Hung needs to gather representatives of younger generations who should not just to serve as pretty faces for campaign ads, but who should tell the candidate and the KMT about the issues living among the younger voters in this country. Otherwise, Hung will project the image of being just another out-of-touch elitist politician who relies on past government officials remote from the public’s present-day concerns.
We need to hear what Hung really stands for beyond the usual talk about the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People and the Constitution.
If she wants to stand a chance of surviving against Tsai, Hung needs to stay away from the group in the KMT which has been picturing closer interaction with China as being only beneficial for Taiwan, its international position and its economy.
Hung cannot afford to neglect last year’s Sunflower Movement, which was partly an expression at anger over President Ma Ying-jeou’s denial of concerns over the rapid rapprochement with the communist country.
Unfortunately for Hung and for the KMT, the first indications of her China policies do not look positive. During her presentation at the Central Standing Committee Wednesday, she mentioned her support for a peace accord with China.
When President Ma voiced such an idea during the campaign for his 2012 re-election, he experienced a fall in his poll numbers, indicating the public’s reluctance in the face of the KMT and the Communist Party of China brokering such a deal.
Peace accords are usually signed between governments, between nations, or between governments and rebel organizations. As clear to anyone, China will never accept Taiwan as an equal nation, while Taiwan can never accept being treated as anything less than a nation. In other words, Hung’s support for a peace accord does not look realistic. She sounds unaware of the pitfalls negotiations for a peace treaty could pose.
On domestic issues, Hung needs to take a stance in favor of the less privileged and the environment against the interests of major corporations, present solutions to close the gap between rich and poor, and address the concerns of young citizens on issues such as lowering the voting age to 18, helping them find jobs at wages above the symbolic “22K” or NT$22,000 per month, and the generational issue of gay marriage, to name but a few.
At her KMT event, Hung presented something packaged as “4G” or “the four gives,” promising she would give people confidence, happiness, hope and convenience, vague notions which any electoral candidate could support.
Her criticisms of the DPP’s consistent anti-nuclear opinions also give little optimism that Hung will move away from and beyond the tenets of past KMT administrations, even when public opinion clearly points in the opposite direction.
Hung’s emphasis on the fact that her father spent three years in detention as a victim of the KMT’s own martial law and White Terror policies will not be enough to convert today’s DPP sympathizers.
Hung cannot continue to reach into the KMT’s grab-bag of the past but needs to set herself apart from unpopular government policies while presenting credible alternatives.
She needs to provide clarity of purpose, a clear image and acceptable policies which persuades voters she can bring a new wind to the century-old KMT and to Taiwan in general.
Anything less will result in the outcome many people have been predicting for months, a victory for Tsai in the presidential election and possibly a first-ever absolute majority for the DPP in the legislative election on the same day.


Updated : 2021-09-19 17:03 GMT+08:00