Nov 17, 2011

Taiwan: First Female Presidential Candidate

Ms. Tsai Ing-wen, Chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has become Taiwan’s first female presidential candidate and has been touted as a strong candidate to win the election, according to a recent poll. 

Below is an article published by Channel News Agency:

 Ms Tsai has a razor-thin lead over President Ma Ying-jeou, who is seeking a second term.

Ms Tsai is soft spoken and moderate and these characteristics have salvaged the DPP's image, once marred by Mr Chen Shui-bian's corruption scandal. 

Under her leadership, the pro-independence DPP scored two out of five municipalities in 2010, and its overall votes exceeded those of its rival Kuomintang by five percentage points. 

Today, she is riding on that popularity to compete head on with President Ma for the presidency. 

Recent surveys indicate the two rivals are only a few percentage points apart in terms of support.

National Taiwan University's Professor Wang Yeh Lih said: "She has softened her pro-independence stance to win over the neutral voters while addressing cross-strait relations and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. 

"This may have appealed to some neutral voters."

But like all her predecessors, cross-strait ties remain the party's Achilles' heel. 

So far, Ms Tsai has yet to come up with a workable China policy for her campaign. 

Soochow University's Professor Liu Bih Rong said: "She doesn't dare to declare independence nor reunification. 

"So the best way is to stay ambiguous on cross-strait issues. 

"She is well aware that foreign policy and cross-strait relations are not the DPP's strong point. So she purposely avoids talking about these issues."

Instead, Ms Tsai taps into public discontent over domestic problems like low wages, high unemployment and housing prices, which Ma's administration has failed to resolve. 

She also accuses Mr Ma of selling Taiwan to the mainland with his proposal of a peace accord with Beijing. 

Professor Liu said: "When President Ma talks about rice wine, she calls it trivial. When Mr Ma brings up peace agreement with China, she accuses him of selling Taiwan out. 

"She knows how use public discontent to her advantage by attacking Mr Ma's policies."

Despite Ms Tsai's popularity, there is growing concern that cross-strait relations could backtrack if the pro-independence forces regain power. 

So the biggest challenge for Ms Tsai now is to come up with a feasible mainland policy, which can assure the public of future peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.