Underestimate Undeclared Voters at Your Own Peril
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 22, 2014
Executive Summary: The nine in one elections are less than 40 days away. The most widely
anticipated political debate of the elections should already have taKon
place. But the word is Taipei City mayoral candidates Sean Lien and
Wen-Je Ko could not reach an agreement on the debate format, therefore
it has been cancelled. Taipei citizens will probably not be able to
evaluate the two political camps' campaign platforms until November.
Taipei citizens may have to wait to see the two candidates engage in
open political dialogue. If so, it would be a first in Taipei's mayoral
Full Text below:
The nine in one elections are less than 40 days away. The most widely anticipated political debate of the elections should already have taKon place. But the word is Taipei City mayoral candidates Sean Lien and Wen-Je Ko could not reach an agreement on the debate format, therefore it has been cancelled. Taipei citizens will probably not be able to evaluate the two political camps' campaign platforms until November. Taipei citizens may have to wait to see the two candidates engage in open political dialogue. If so, it would be a first in Taipei's mayoral election history.
We are deeply disappointed with this development. After all, the capital city election is the highlight of the nine in one elections. It has the highest priority. Most significantly of all, both the ruling and opposition camp candidates are "virgins." Neither has any political record that voters can refer to. What's worse, both candidates have waged negative campaigns since the campaign began. Spittle wars to the other candidate have overshadowed positive agendas. Just what kind of government can these two candidates offer citizens of Taipei? That has never been clearly explained, A political debate is just such an opportunity. Unfortunately the two candidates have made such a debate impossible.
One thing is particularly unacceptable. According to news reports, the main reason the debate is not going ahead is technical. Apparently the two sides' schedules conflict. The Ko camp demands a town hall forum style debate. Sean Lien demands a one on one policy debate, an interactive policy debate with cross-examinations. As a result, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement. Both camps have dug in their heels. Onlookers are confused. What possible advantages or disadvantages can there be for the two candidates? They cannot tell.
For example, Wen-Je Ko has a modicum of eloquence. Why is he so afraid of a cross-examination? If the two cross-examine each other, Sean Lien would not necessarily get the better of him. By the same token, why should Sean Lien be afraid to field questions from the public during a comprehensive town hall forum style debate over municipal planning? Would Wen-Je Ko necessarily hold sway? That is hard to say. The two sides' demands regarding format and technical details led to its cancellation. Frankly this is laughable.
Could it be that neither the Lien nor Ko camp actually wants a debate? If they really wanted a debate. they would not quibble over such petty details. To meet the demands of both camps, why not hold one interactive, cross-examination style debate, then follow it up by holding one town hall forum style debate? What would be wrong with that? In fact the Taipei mayoral elections adopted these two forms of debate long ago. During past election seasons, the candidates were willing to accept the challenges posed by the two formats. It was doable then, why why not today?
The debate between the Lien and Ko camps has been cancelled. One can be sure there were political calculations behind the cancellation. Just exactly what calculations? No one knows. According to current polls, Wen-Je Ko is leading Sean Lien. Theoretically Wen-Je Ko would want a debate, in order to widen the gap between him and Lien. Since Sean Lien is lagging behind, he should want a debate in order to reverse his fortunes. How have the two tacitly ensured that the debates would be cancelled? Where is the clever political calculus amidst all this? One really has to wonder.
Do the Lien and Ko camps really have no reason to look forward to a debate? Do they really have no desire to use this opportunity to present their municipal government policy programs to the public? Do they really not want the public to have an opportunity to compare their campaign platforms? Do they really want to keep talking past each other? Do they really want to continue the current spittle war? Do they really want to conduct negative campaigns? If so, then they are both irresponsible, and owe the citizens of Taipei an apology.
Taipei is the nation's capital. Its voters have undergone countless electoral "baptisms by fire." Two Taipei mayoral candidates later became President of the Republic of China. Two served as Premier, then ran unsuccessful mayoral campaigns. Taipei citizens know all about shrewd, even cunning candidates. Attempting to deceive Taipei voters is a stupid idea. Few Taipei voters will cast their votes for Lien or Ko merely because they dug in their heels over the format of the debate.
We appeal to two candidates. Open the door and walk through it. Do not fear any debate format. Seize every opportunity to express your policy prescriptions to Taipei citizens. That is what a candidate truly qualified to serve as mayor would do. Taipei voters will never support a candidate who uses petty pretexts to avoid debate. The percentage of Taipei City voters unwilling to share which candidate they will vote for remains high. Neither the Lien nor Ko camp should overlook the power of these undeclared voters. Letting them understand you through debate is the key to campaign success.