By Alan Fong, The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan–With the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen holding a comfortable (some would say commandeering) lead in the 2016 election, the televised presidential debates have been about the other two candidates — the Kuomintang’s (KMT) Eric Chu and the People First Party’s James Soong, trying to stop Tsai’s momentum.
The debate on Sunday, Dec. 27, which was focused on Taiwan’s cross-strait and diplomatic relations, the DPP’s weaker topics, provided the best chance for the two pro-China candidates to catch Tsai off guard. The candidates did not pull any punches. When asked how they will work toward rational bipartisan dialogues in Taiwan’s notoriously divided political environment, both Chu and Tsai replied by engaging in a war of words.
Tsai came out swinging at the debate. Anticipating attacks on her lack of substance (the blue camp nicknamed her the “hollow” Tsai) and experience, Tsai emphasized her role in Taiwan’s political and economic development in the past 20 years in her opening statement. She portrayed her tenure in the unpopular Chen Shui-bian administration and her leadership of the DPP after its devastating defeat in 2008 in an inspirational hue of an underdog’s comeback.
Cross-strait and diplomatic issues remained a weakness for Tsai, who lost the presidential election in 2012 against Ma in no small part because of her lack of a clear direction in Taiwan’s diplomatic future. Tsai tried to be more specific this time, emphasizing her rational and open attitudes toward cross-strait talks while differentiating herself from the KMT’s pro-China positions. yet she was still squaring the circle in a dance of words that were sometimes too complicated for her own good.