Three presidential candidates show mixed performance in debate: polls

The China Post news staff

President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) took an unexpected offensive approach in the first presidential debate held yesterday; presidential candidate James Soong of the People First Party failed to show his expected power of attack; and the performance of presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was rated not as good as expected, according to political commentators.

“President Ma’s strong stance in the debate is quite impressive,” said You Tze-hsiang, a speech communication expert invited by TVBS to serve as a debate commentator.

“Ma’s powerful attack against Tsai makes Soong somewhat marginalized in the debate,” said Cheng Feng-hsin, a political commentator.

Soong was originally expected to shower violent attacks on the administrative deficiencies of President Ma, but he unexpectedly became quite conservative in the debate. According to a survey conducted by the TVBS, 30 percent of the respondents thought that Ma performed the best among the trio, followed by 27 percent for Tsai and 20 percent for Soong.

The same survey also showed that 38 percent of the polled would vote for Ma in the presidential race to be held on Jan. 14, 2012, compared to 32 percent for Tsai and 12 percent for Soong. Another survey carried out by Now News, a website news service, indicated that 37 percent of respondents regarded Soong as the best performer in the debate, followed by Tsai with 33 percent and Ma with 28 percent.

During the debate, Ma criticized Tsai’s flip-flopping stance on cross-strait ties, highlighted Tsai’s problematic campaign team whose members are mostly core strategists of former President Chen Shui-bian of the DPP, and blasted the DPP’s repeated malicious election tactics.

Tsai counter-attacked by questioning the justification of the so-called “1992 Consensus” adopted by Ma’s administration in developing ties with mainland China, and highlighting that there were quite a few lawmakers of the KMT involved in vote-buying sandals that were finally ruled by the court to forfeit their lawmaker status. While exchanging attacks against each other, both Ma and Tsai took the same tactic of “respecting” Soong in the debate, forcing Soong to stay in the “truce” area.

Ma and Soong were even friendly to each other. For instance, Soong said, “We should recognize the great efforts President Ma has done in promoting the signing of the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) since he took office in 2008.” In response, Ma said, “Thanks to Chairman Soong for his affirmation of our signing the ECFA. This is quite an accurate view.” Ma also noted that “I quite support Chairman Soong’s view that Internet competitiveness can represent a national competitiveness.” Meanwhile, Tsai also said in the debate that “I quite agree with Chairman Soong’s saying that judicial reform is quite a pressing matter in society.” At a press conference held after the debate, Tsai said she did a good job in the debate. She added that it’s a glory and pride of Taiwan’s democracy that the three presidential candidates can engage in the same debate. Meanwhile, Soong said that he has done his best in the debate, adding that the other two presidential candidates have both performed very well. He called for the public to vote for the People First Party.