Civic groups slam debate ‘all hype, no substance’


TAIPEI–Many civic groups complained Sunday that the first televised presidential debate among President Ma Ying-jeou of the ruling Kuomintang, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen and James Soong of the People First Party held a day earlier was all hype and no substance.

The I Want a Good President Alliance, formed by several civic groups, held a press conference at the legislature earlier in the day in which they accused the candidates of simply dodging the questions and failing to let the public know more about their respective platforms.

Chien Hsi-chieh, convener of the Anti-Poverty Alliance of Taiwan, said the debate failed to touch on the core issues and problems. For example, when discussing agriculture issues, the candidates continued their petty rhetoric over fruit pricing and failed to touch on real subjects such as Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency rate or government policies for helping farmers grow high-demand fruit.

He suggested that future debates should be held on a single subject each time, such as separate debates on cross-Taiwan Strait policy, education and judicial reform, to let the public truly understand the presidential candidates’ proposed policies.

Wu Tsung-sheng, an assistant professor of sociology at Fu Jen Catholic University, disparaged Saturday’s debate as nothing more than a fireworks show gone bad. None of the candidates truly answered any questions, he said.

Lin Tzu-hui, a representative of the Taiwan Public Association, said the country’s youth is not interested in knowing which presidential candidates will add more subsidies for the elderly or which party should apologize for certain issues. The public, he said, is interested in knowing about the government’s long-term agriculture policy.

How will the government help farmers avoid risks? How will it solve the ageing population problem in farming villages? How will the government tax the rich on their capital gains? These are the questions the public were interested in hearing answered in the debate. None of those issues were raised, he said.

Yang Cheng-yu, a commissioner of Youthhoya, which literally translates to “Youth wants to be rich,” said young people in this country are interested in knowing how the government plans to help solve the low-wage, short-term contract worker problems that are all-too-familiar among youths in Taiwan today.

None of the candidates mentioned any of those issues during the debate, he noted.

On the issue of the wealth gap, Yang went on, Ma overlooked the fact that the burden on today’s debts will fall on the youth, who will have to pay back the debts in the future, while Tsai did not even dare to say whether the country needs a tax policy overhaul.