Frozen Garlic: The party list debate

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Today, Citizens’ Congress Watch held a debate for the party list ballot. There are 19 parties registered for the party list section, but only eight were invited to participate in this debate. The debate lasted nearly three hours and each party only had five scheduled two-minute slots, so it’s hard to blame CCW for limiting participation to the eight leading contenders.

What follow are my general impressions of each party’s overall performance. I did not take notes and I’m writing this from memory several hours later, so it’s possible I am remembering something incorrectly or overlooking something. That said, here are my impressions, party by party.

DPP

This was a pretty forgettable performance by the DPP, and that counts as a success. Each party had two representatives, and while the small parties sent their best people, the big guns from the two major parties were all out on the campaign trail. The DPP had a party spokesperson and the #28 person on the party list (that is, an anonymous person with no hope of getting into the legislature this time). They did a fairly competent/bland job of presenting party positions and rebutting various attacks.

Let’s be honest, this was not an important forum for the DPP. They get lots of media attention, and they have lots of opportunities to define their party positions. Today, they just needed to avoid any major errors. Mission accomplished.

Grade: B-

KMT

The KMT was roughly in the same position as the DPP, though it did not handle the challenge as well. They also sent two relatively obscure people, Chen Yi-hsin (#10 on the party list) and former legislator Chang Hsien-yao. Chen did fine. The problem was that Chang spoke about two-thirds of the time, and he was terrible. He was very shouty, shrill, and complainy. He was also unprepared. Some of the other parties prepared visual aids; Chang scribbled some unintelligible diagram on a blank sheet of paper and screamed about some conspiracy theory. He also got off topic repeatedly. And he complained about “being labeled” as pro-China. (Recall that four years ago, it was President Ma who accused Chang of being a Chinese agent.) Basically, every time Chang appeared on the screen, I spent the next two minutes cringing.

One thing the KMT has repeatedly failed to do in this campaign (and again in this debate) is to present an alternative vision of how they would govern. It is the biggest opposition party and the only one with a plausible chance of replacing the DPP in power. However, its campaign has been entirely devoted to attacking the DPP’s record. The KMT has not explained at all what it would do in office. I guess that is (barely) defensible in the presidential race, but the party list is exactly the place where that argument is insufficient. If you don’t like the DPP, you have 18 other options, including several other blue and/or viable options. The KMT didn’t give anti-DPP voters any positive reason at all today to vote for them.

Grade: D+

TPP

The TPP had an ok performance. I think we learned two things about them.

First, they explained their position on cross-straits issues. The USA will not permit unification with China or Taiwan independence, so it is useless to spend any time on sovereignty questions. [Note: It’s worth reading that sentence again and thinking about its assumptions and implications.]

They stuck to this position in other answers. The TPP representative refused to endorse anyone in the presidential race, saying that was up to each individual voter. However, he did say that, just speaking for himself personally, if elected to the legislature he would not vote to make Wu Si-huai a committee convener.

Second, if they don’t have any opinions on cross-straits issues, what do they stand for? They believe in budgeting. Apparently, the most important thing a party can do is to spend money carefully and repay outstanding public debt.

[Note: That doesn’t help. What is worth spending money on? Anything?]

Grade: C

NPP

I think the NPP might have had the worst performance of all today. They tried to talk about detailed public policy today, but you simply cannot do that in this format. You only have a few speaking slots, so you really don’t have time to develop any detailed ideas. Moreover, if you try to talk about public housing, you don’t have any time to talk about any of the other public policies you stand for. You get lost in details, and you look like you don’t have any broad vision.

Unfortunately, the NPP is in the middle of a vision crisis. Half the party has defected, not because they think there is a problem with the details of the party’s public housing platform, but because they think there is a problem with the party’s grand vision. What does the NPP stand for? What position does it occupy within Taiwan’s political space? We didn’t get any answers to those big questions.

Grade: D+

Read full article here (with 4 other parties and analysis):

The party list debate

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