by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The three presidential candidates engaged in heated exchanges at their final live televised debate Saturday afternoon.
According to most opinion polls, Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen is set to win the January 16 election, defeating both Kuomintang Chairman Eric Liluan Chu and People First Party Chairman James Soong.
Chu opened with an attack on the reliability of his main opponent, Tsai, accusing her of not having explained her plans clearly. He said the past eight years of KMT rule had their achievements, but also their failures.
He challenged Tsai to answer six questions which he said explained the differences between the two main candidates.
He accused Tsai of seeing the “1992 Consensus” as only one of the possible choices, so he asked her what her choice was for relations with China.
Chu compared President Ma Ying-jeou’s realistic foreign policy realistic with the brash dollar diplomacy of the DPP government from 2000 to 2008.
In the defense field, he emphasized voluntary military service.
As to the Trans Pacific Partnership and Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership, the KMT wondered why Tsai only mentioned the first but never showed interest in joining the second.
In the energy field, Chu said he favored the gradual abolition of nuclear energy as opposed to Tsai’s deadline of 2025 to phase out nuclear energy altogether.
He also challenged Tsai to provide a clear stance on the eventual opening of the import of ractopamine pork from the United States.
Tsai, who came third in the debate, accused Chu of continuing the KMT campaign of making unreasonable claims about her policies. He never mentioned whether the people of Taiwan enjoyed the past eight years or not, she said.
“Your distance from the people is too large,” she said, mentioning several incidents where the government went against the will of the people.
Tsai named generational justice as an important issue for her government, which also needed to rebuild the economy to solve young people’s housing and employment problems.
The opposition leader also promised to end the problem of illegal party assets and to open up secret files about past injustice, while praising the past efforts of protesters taking to the street each time their rights were trampled upon by the government.
In his opening remarks, Soong emphasized the efficiency of government and making the right choices in presidential appointments. He promised to turn Taiwan into “three Singapores” in his Trident plan, with the island divided into three main areas from north to south.
The government needed to help small and medium enterprises with effective advice on how to improve their standards, Soong said.
While Saturday’s event was to be the final debate, the candidates will still hold a straightforward policy presentation broadcast on January 8, with the vice presidential candidates receiving their opportunity on January 4.