Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Election Campaign Dominated by Women

An Election Campaign Dominated by Women
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 22, 2015

Executive Summary: The first female vs. female presidential election shows that the Republic of China is already an advanced democracy. No matter who is elected, history has already been written. These two exceptional women stand on an historic watershed. Together they can overturn the election culture by waging fresh, clean, substantive election campaigns. They can enable Taiwan and themselves to make history.

Full Text Below:

The 2016 Republic of China presidential election has, to everyone's surprise, turned into a showdown between two women. This once dull campaign has suddenly become exciting. Actually many women on Taiwan have taken part in presidential campaigns, mostly as vice presidential candidates to appeal to women voters. This time it is different. No matter whom one votes for, the president will be a woman.

Tsai Ing-wen, upon seeing Hung Hsiu-chu become the KMT candidate, said "This is not a battle between two women. Expect the creation of a new election culture." Hung Hsiu-chu said "I look forward to this battle between two women. This will give the public a new perspective, create a true model for democracy." The two female candidates hope that as women they can change the election culture. They hope they can overturn the tradition of personal attacks, disinformation, and smears. This corrupt election culture has already undermined social harmony and mutual trust, We hope these two women can bring about change.

Unfortunately, over the past two days the media and cyber armies have launched mud-slinging campaigns against rival candidates. Their conduct is indistinguishable from campaigns of the past, perhaps even worse, and include the following dirty tricks.

Aspersions upon the candidate's family origins. The candidates kin may not be running for office, but unfortunately they are collateral damage. The corpses of the candidates' ancestors may even be "exhumed for whipping". The Tsai family's wealth has been exaggerated. The family has been accused of profiting from its connections with the Mainland authorities. Hung Hsiu-chu's family is a victim of the white terror. Yet her father has been accused of being a informant, a phony victim. The presidential campaign has already sunk to the level of attacking the candidates' ancestors. Can we still call ourselves a civilized society?

Red-baiting. Hung Hsiu-chu is a so-called "second-generation Mainlander" McCarthyite attacks against her are a simple matter. They are also highly effective. The green camp is attacking Hung Hsiu-chu's declaration about winning the approval of 1.3 billion Chinese. It is spinning the campaign as one between a "president of Taiwan" and an "Agent of China". The blue camp has also resorted to scare tactics. It has revealed that the Hai Pa Wang seafood restaurant chain has invested a fortune in mainland China over the past 19 years. The immensely powerful Hai Pa Wang is a Tsai family business. Tsai Ing-wen "excoriates others for pandering to China and selling out Taiwan, even as she enriches herself from business dealings with the Chinese authorities". An angry Tsai has sued for slander. Red-baiting is like the Flying Guillotine. Every election it reappears and mows down everyone in its path. Red-baiting is essentially the incitement of so-called "ethnic" hatred. If effective, Ma Ying-jeou would never have been elected even once. Yet he was elected mayor twice and president twice. Clearly Taiwan has long ago transcended "ethnic" hatred. Yet politicians who lack confidence cling to it with a death grip.

Incitement of class warfare. Last year's Taipei mayoral election was a battle between wealthy political elites on one side, and the common man on the other. As a result, Sean Lien was humiliated. Now however, we have come full circle. The blue camp has set the tone for the presidential campaign: Rich girl vs. poor girl. The wealthiest candidate in history, vs. the poorest candidate in history. The green camp is wondering how it will cope. Calls to draft miner's son Lai Ching-teh are growing louder.

This election on Taiwan is about provincial origin, gender, class, and financial status. The poorer the candidate the better. This is truly unheard of.

Scandal mongering. Both female candidates are single and never married. Needless to say, the scandal sheets and cyber armies are licking their lips and rubbing their hands. The candidates' old classmates, friends, and neighbors have all emerged from the woodwork, each with their own story to tell. The media pieces it all together. Gossip mongers on evening talk shows parade past one another, full of innuendo. If they can find nothing good to say, they make a fuss over the candidate's sexual orientation. Even Ma Ying-jeou could not escape such rumor-mongering. How can the media and the cyber armies possibly spare these two women?

With every election, the candidates invariably promise clean campaigns. But elections on Taiwan have yet to undergo the slightest change. Since both candidates have pledged to wage lady-like campaigns, they must make a sincere effort. They must restrain their supporters. They must enjoin them not to cross the above four red lines. If they do, the candidates must immediately declare "I disagree with this approach." They must reprimand their supporters and apologize. They must not do one thing in public and another thing in private. They must not "beat their dogs in public, but praise them in private". The voters will see through such ploys.

The key to election reform on Taiwan is the media. The media has the freedom to report the facts. But it does not have the freedom to fabricate them. The media has the right to take positions. But it does not have the right to ignore the truth. To prevent he media from sowing chaos throughout the campaign, voters have two means. The most effective is to deny them one's vote. If a media organization slings mud, engages in smear campaigns, disinformation, or intimidation, then voters must reject that media organization's candidate. The second most effective means voters have is to withhold their financial support. If a media organization or political talk show crosses any of the above-mentioned four red lines, then voters must boycott products advertised in that media organization. Voters must vote with their dollars. They must let advertisers know that advertising in these media channels will be counterproductive.

The first female vs. female presidential election shows that the Republic of China is already an advanced democracy. No matter who is elected, history has already been written.

These two exceptional women stand on an historic watershed. Together they can overturn the election culture by waging fresh, clean, substantive election campaigns. They can enable Taiwan and themselves to make history.

20150622 中國時報













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