Sifting through the hidden motives in Ma-Su TV debate
By Katherine Wei, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- As the date for the proposed debate between President Ma Ying-jeou and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has been set, eyebrows have been raised over both political leaders' suspected motives.
August 29, 2013, 12:22 am TWN
The debate will be based on the contents of the cross-strait service trade pact signed in June, and is an excellent opportunity for Ma to get his point — how the pact is beneficial to the Taiwanese industries — across to the public, hopefully boosting his sad 13-percent public approval. Su, however, gave his consent to debate as a way to stake out his position as the DPP's main man, according to several local newspapers.
The Tsai-Su Conflict
Media outlets have also been quick to point out that Su was favored largely over Tsai on the issue of cross-party debates, especially since Tsai herself had proposed a national affairs conference to President Ma barely two weeks ago, and had been slapped in the face by Ma's quick rejection of the need for such a forum.
Both leaders in the DPP, Su and Tsai, have not exactly been passive about their discord, with both avoiding to attend the same party events or simply steering clear of each other's path when they meet. Ma's differing attitude unintentionally deepened the rift between them.
National affairs conferences are held between the ruling party, the opposition parties and selected civilians to talk about recent controversial issues, and have only been held twice in the history of the R.O.C. — both under the rule of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
“I think we don't need to hold it,” was Ma's plaintive response after Tsai brought up the meeting earlier this month, besides noting that the meeting would be pointless if it was to be held with preconditions after Tsai urged Ma to halt the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as a gesture of his good will.
Rift within the Party
The Ma-Su debate — the next big thing for both parties — will be held on Sept. 15, and compared by the local media with the Ma-Tsai meeting three years ago, when Ma and Tsai, as presidential candidates, debated the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Although the DPP had seemingly stood behind Tsai following Ma's reaction, with spokesman Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) saying that Ma had set the prerequisites for the conference himself, the party is very much torn when forced to choose between Tsai and her successor.
Tsai's sympathizers, including Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) and former Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), have opposed the debate but fully supported the national affairs conference; while Su's intraparty rooters like Yu Shyi-kun have been on the other side of the coin.