The Central Election Commission officially sets Jan. 16 as the date for next year’s presidential and legislative elections; a U.S. expert accuses a media outlet of distorting her remarks for its political agenda; the KMT rushes to push through legislative amendments to solicit votes; Tsai Ing-wen appears to be increasing her lead in the polls; support for the cross-strait “status-quo” at a record high. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
CEC ANNOUNCES ELECTION DATE: The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Wednesday officially set Jan. 16 as the date of next year’s presidential and legislative elections. A total of 18.81 million people will be eligible to vote — 1.29 million of them for the first time.
GLASER CLARIFIES REMARKS, DEMANDS APOLOGY: Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has accused the Chinese-language United Daily News of deliberately misleading readers in a report published last Thursday into believing that she was urging Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to accept the so-called “1992 consensus” and the “one China” policy. Glaser said this was not the first time that Taiwanese media distorted her statements to “support their political agenda.” Glaser demanded that UDN clarify its mistake in a public statement, which the media outlet did two days later in its newspaper.
KMT presidential hopeful Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), who denied that she is seeking “immediate unification with China,” has continued to push Tsai to declare her stance on the consensus, and has accused Tsai of “avoiding an issue that involves nothing but common sense.”
KMT LEGISLATIVE MISSION FOR ELECTIONS: With the presidential and legislative elections approaching, the KMT made an all-out-effort to push through draft bills in the legislature on Tuesday in an apparent attempt to lure voters and generate media attention. Hung Hsiu-chu, who has retained her position as deputy speaker of the legislature, sought solidarity with her party’s legislative caucus to push forward her policy calling for reform of the securities transaction and capital gains taxes. While it was expected that related legislative amendments would be put at the top of the legislative agenda without committee review, the resolution of Tuesday’s inter-caucus negotiations also referred the bills to further negotiations before a floor vote could take place, and thus blocked their immediate passage despite Hung’s eager anticipation.
A bill that increased the rewards and benefits for military volunteers to help fulfill President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pledge to replace the conscription system with an all-volunteer military was passed, though the legislature put off a majority of the draft bills listed on its agenda for further cross-caucus negotiations. The KMT also voted for a clause in the bill to support the benefits intended only the family members of retired and decommissioned soldiers and not other civil servants.
Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) identified the passage of bills on an all-volunteer military, the budget and government restructuring, in addition to a cross-strait agreement on double taxation avoidance as the government’s top priority in the fall legislative session.
SHIH MING-TEH ENDS PRESIDENTIAL BID: Veteran activist Shih Ming-teh (施明德) on Tuesday dropped out of the presidential race after announcing that he was unable to secure required signatures and pass the petition threshold to ensure his candidacy as an independent contender.
TSAI INCREASES LEAD: DPP presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen, who plans to publish a new book next month detailing her journey after losing the 2012 presidential election, has increased her lead against her rivals James Soong (宋楚瑜) of the People First Party (PFP) and Hung Hsiu-chu of the KMT, with opinion polls released this week giving her 44 percent of the vote.
With roughly 14 percent support, Soong seemed to be losing momentum, while Hung came in second place. After finishing second in most previous polls, Soong dropped to third place in two surveys this week. Observers attributed the drop to his mismanagement of the PFP’s participation in the recent Chinese military parade.
The warm reception by a farmers’ association for Tsai during a visit on Wednesday was regarded as a sign that farmer and fishermen’s associations, both traditionally staunch KMT supporters, could turn to the pan-green camp in next year’s elections.
|Taiwan Indicators Survey Research
TSAI RELEASES CAMPAIGN FINANCES: Tsai’s campaign office on Thursday publicized its financial status, vowing to keep all sources of its contributions transparent and reject big corporate donors. Tsai’s campaign chief executive officer Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) said the campaign does not accept contributions from conglomerates. So far, Tsai’s campaign has received NT$75 million (US$2.3 million) in donations, of which NT$48 million came from small contributions, Lin said.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
CHINA’S NEW AIR STRIP: Just as the U.S. is expected to express its concern over Beijing’s increasingly assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) Washington visit next week, satellite photographs taken last week indicated that China has carried out preparatory work for a third airstrip on one of the seven artificial islands it has created in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), where Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines have overlapping claims.
TAIWAN THE US’ LARGEST FOREIGN POLICY CHALLENGE? Michael Green, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, said this week that Taiwan could become the largest foreign policy challenge for the U.S. over the next decade in its relationship with China. Washington should therefore place “great importance” on getting its Taiwan policy “right,” the Taipei Times reported him as saying.
TAIWAN ON XI-OBAMA AGENDA: China’s Taiwan Affairs Office confirmed on Wednesday that President Xi will raise the issue of Taiwan in his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama as Taiwan is the most important and sensitive matter in Sino-U.S. relations.
In related news, cross-strait stability might be put at risk once China feels that time is no longer on its side for winning Taiwanese people’s support for unification, and when Xi identifies himself with the need to highlight nationalism for his solid leadership in Beijing, Shelley Rigger, a professor of East Asian politics at Davidson College in North Carolina, said on Monday. David Brown, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, said the same day that Beijing could abandon its policy seeking Taiwan’s “peaceful” unification with China and replace it with a coercive and military-based approach if the new government in Taipei does not accept the “1992 consensus.”
STRONG SUPPORT FOR ‘STATUS QUO’: Support for a “permanent status quo” in cross-strait relations climbed 8 percent to 55 percent from last year, the highest on record since 2000, while support for “independence as soon as possible” and “reunification as soon as possible” both dropped by 3 percentage points during the same period, according to a poll released by UDN on Wednesday. Over half of respondents said they do not have a good impression of China, although 59 percent said they believe that China will become the world’s strongest nation.
HEAVYWEIGHTS FIGHTING FOR KMT CHAIRMANSHIP? Amid speculation that the expected poor performance of the KMT in next year’s presidential and legislative elections could cost KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) his leadership in the party, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) was the most widely respected representative of the party’s pro-localization faction. Lee said that if Wang assumed chairmanship of the party, which currently is under the influence of those with a “Mainlander background,” the party would “naturally become the Taiwanese Nationalist Party.”
Lee made the remarks in response to speculation that the KMT might seek to revise rules barring a legislator-at-large from being re-nominated twice so that Wang, who has not yet offered any insights as to his future intentions, could remain in the legislature. KMT presidential candidate Hung said on Wednesday that the party’s leadership is “not for Lee to decide.”
The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Wednesday that Wang and Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) could compete for the KMT chairmanship “once Chu steps down over the KMT’s failure in next year’s presidential and legislative elections.” Chu reportedly expressed discontent on Tuesday over President Ma’s “inability” to meet public expectation, which “risks making all campaign efforts by the party to win votes an exercise in futility.”
US-TAIWAN TRADE RELATIONS: U.S.-Taiwan business relations are picking up again, says U.S.-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers, adding that Taiwan’s positioning for second-round accession to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal has paved the way for its “economic equities outside of its China interests.”
TAIWAN-VATICAN TIES: Taiwan’s diplomatic relations with the Holy See, its sole diplomatic ally in Europe, remain unchanged, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last Friday, denying reports predicting that the Vatican could sever its ties with Taipei by the end of the year to embrace diplomatic relations with Beijing.
TAIWAN’S UN BID: A resolution promoting United Nations (UN) membership for Taiwan, which has been excluded from the UN since 1971, was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. As Taiwan is not a UN member state, Rhéal LeBlanc of the UN’s Information Service confirmed Thursday that the UN’s office in Geneva would reject Taiwanese passport holders’ entry to its building unless additional identification documents are presented. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it has protested to the UN for its recent denial of a Taiwanese (Republic of China) passport holder’s access to its Geneva building “unless the Taiwanese visitor would present a Chinese passport.”
POLICE PROMOTION ‘POLITICAL’? Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧), the former chief of Taipei’s Zhongzheng First Police Precinct who was in charge of the removal of protesters during the Sunflower crisis last year, has been appointed head of the Pingtung County Police Bureau as part of the latest personnel transfer of law-enforcement officials. His promotion was regarded by some as a reward for his “faithful service in carrying out orders from above.”
CHINESE ‘ORDER’ TO TAIWANESE POLICE: The Kaohsiung City Police Chief has instructed a local police unit to disregard an official letter directly issued by police in China’s Guangdong Province demanding cooperation in contacting a suspect’s family, on account that the “order” had arrived with a supervisory manner as if China ruled over Taiwan, breaching a cross-strait deal that requires similar requests to be made through appropriate channels of both sides across the Taiwan Strait at a higher-level.
NPP ANNOUNCES LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE: The New Power Party (NPP), a Third Force party formed in January and which counts as its members the renowned Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), announced its new leadership lineup on Sunday and pledged to obtain 10 percent of the vote in next year’s legislative elections.
TAIWAN DEMOCRACY PROVIDES EXAMPLE: Myanmar can learn from Taiwan’s extensive experience in democratic elections, said Daniel Russel, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs last Friday, while reiterating that the U.S. maintains its stance of respecting democratic processes in any country.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
AIR FORCE TO JOIN DRILL IN EUROPE: Taiwan’s air force will participate in a drill with “a European country” next year, marking a major a breakthrough in the nation’s military cooperation with Europe, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Tuesday. Responding to the report, the Ministry of National Defense said Taiwan would welcome any move that can help increase military exchanges with foreign nations, but refused to comment on any related details.
TAIWAN INVESTS IN SOMALI ANTI-PIRACY PROJECT: The Taiwanese government contracted US maritime security solutions provider Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) to help the European Union establish the first Somali coastal radar surveillance network to help secure the Indian Ocean waters off the coast of the war-ravaged Horn of Africa country, Defense News reported.
DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK: A KMT lawmaker lashed out at the Cabinet’s establishment of a central command center on Monday to combat a dengue fever outbreak, describing its crisis response as “having arrived way too late.” The number of cases has more than doubled nationwide in just two weeks and sharply risen to 10,384 in four months, with the death toll climbing to 18 and over 98 percent of the cases concentrated in three southern cities.
FOREIGN WORKERS PROTEST: Rights advocates and foreign workers protested on Wednesday in front of the legislature against a proposed legislative amendment that eventually left out the removal of requirements forcing foreign workers to leave the nation every three years, accusing the current rules of “profiting labor agencies at the expense of the workers.”
NEW AIRPORT TERMINAL: A small terminal will be built by 2018 to help Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport cope with the rapid increase in the number of travelers before construction of a third terminal is completed in 2020.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang, and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at email@example.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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