• Directory of Taiwan

Tsai could do more to edge Hung

Tsai could do more to edge Hung

Now that the Kuomintang has completed its opinion poll following Sunday’s announcement, could the fate of Taiwan remain in the hands of either Hung Hsiu-chu or Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen as they fight it out for the seat in the presidency?

Although Hung is the only qualified KMT hopeful after winning 46.203 percent support rating, it still remains to be seen whether she will ultimately secure the party's nomination as the decision lies with the party chairman and KMT's Central Standing Committee (CSC).

Assuming Hung does come out as the nominee in July, it would be the first presidential race between two female candidates in Taiwan. Who will emerge as “the last one standing” beckons to be seen.

People following the political landscape in Taiwan know Hung is deeply rooted in the Chinese nationalist ideology as oftentimes she would refer herself as being “married to the KMT.” Hung has vowed eternal loyalty to the party and her supporters. But observers and netizens believe her policy on an eventual reunification with China will throw her off the map once she leaves the comfort zones of the pan-Blue north.

However, these assumptions are hard to tell. For one, Hung’s popularity on the Internet is rapidly rising. According to an online activity comparison conducted by Google Trends beginning May 8, support for Hung was pretty non-existent before May 14, which Tsai led most of the time. But after the 18th, Hung jumped to number one ahead of her counterpart. The activity chart also showed that between May 17 and June 6, Hung Hsiu-chu and Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly exchanged leads.

So, while people say one should not overlook their opponent, the tug-of-war comparison goes to show that Hung is Tsai’s most powerful contender, yet.

Looking back, the recent wrap-up of Tsai’s visit to the United States is evident enough that she was playing it safe. Her reiteration of the “status quo” puts her in a position no better than President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy on China, who has been scrutinized for his failure to improve people’s livelihood. His “black box” trade agreement with China was such a hard sell that it led to the Sunflower student movement last year. Some pundits have even mocked Tsai as "Ma Ying-jeou 2.0". They are not far off.

In the U.S., Tsai also pledged to uphold the “constitutional framework of the Republic of China,” but the details were as vague as it could get. However, her neutral stance was welcomed by the U.S., who didn’t have to coax the Chinese if Tsai had said anything to displease the PLA.

The chairperson’s rhetoric may be seen as pragmatic, but it was far from enriching because she didn’t differentiate herself enough from the nationalist counterparts.

As an election strategy, Tsai managed to play it safe. While it may minimize her exposure to criticism, her refusal to state her policy stance puts Taiwan in a quandary because it sets the two sides (KMT and DPP) at odds with each other. Ma even jeered Tsai over her policy on China as it was the same with his.

Given to KMT’s major defeat in the nine-in-one elections last year and Ma’s low-slung rating (15.4 percent according to Survey Research,) it’s a no brainer that the party’s popularity is dwindling. But does it mean the DPP will easily prevail next year?

Nationalist patriot like Eric Chu has openly vowed to bring reform within the KMT, and has asked Legislative Speaker Wang Jyn-ping to join in on the bandwagon, both of whom are popular party heavyweights. However, since the two wouldn’t be running for next year’s election, the only hopeful is Hung. And should she choose to follow Chu’s path to distant themselves from Ma’s policies (internally and externally), Hung could give Tsai a run for her money.

In short, it would be foolish to take Hung too lightly as some observers and pan-Green supporters firmly believe Tsai could easily take the realm.

Tsai needs to break away from the overlapping blue-green twilight zone and come up with something substantial of her own. Even though she had denounced the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) as a candy trick stashed out by the Chinese, she never came up with a more enticing replacement.

All the public wants is a clean, efficient leader with strong governance to help improve the economy and their quality of life. It might be a bit too early to come down with any conclusions, but the DPP and Tsai still have a long way to go.

Updated : 2021-09-19 23:05 GMT+08:00