Major Kaohsiung mayoral candidates face off in televised debate

Taipei, Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Chen Chi-mai (???) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang's (KMT) Han Kuo-yu (???) squared off Monday night in their only head-to-head debate ahead of the Nov. 24 election.

In Chen's opening remarks, he criticized Han and the KMT for using derogatory and foul language to describe Kaohsiung and its former mayor Chen Chu (??) during the campaign, which he said reflected the KMT's long-term disregard for the city.

If elected, Chen Chi-mai said, he would establish a one-stop windows for investors to facilitate clusters for semiconductors and smart industries, promote agricultural products in overseas markets, and expand the MRT network to Lujhu and Linyuan districts to close the gap between urban and rural areas in the city.

In turn, Han distanced himself from KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (???), who on Saturday indirectly referred to Chen Chu as "a fat sow" but later apologized for the gaffe, which could have a negative impact on Han's election.

"I hereby reaffirm that anyone who campaigns for me should refrain from abusive words. They should respect Han Kuo-yu," he said.

Han defended his description of Kaohsiung as an "old and poor city" after the DPP's two decades of leadership in the former Kaohsiung City and three decades of leadership in the former Kaohsiung County before they were merged in 2010. He reiterated his plan to tap into the oil reserves of Taiping Island in the South China Sea as a way to improve the fiscal position of the Kaohsiung city government.

The race was originally considered a slam dunk for the 54-year-old Chen because Kaohsiung, the largest city in the south, is a traditional DPP stronghold where the KMT has lost every mayoral election since 1998, but this time the race is rated as a toss-up.

Unlike Chen, who has a long resume in politics, including serving five terms as a lawmaker representing Kaohsiung until his recent resignation, Han has largely disappeared from the political scene since his nine-year stint as a lawmaker in now New Taipei from 1993 to 2002.

Over the past few months, the 61-year-old Han has been surprisingly successful at whipping up voter enthusiasm that not only placed Kaohsiung into the national spotlight but raised the profile of other KMT candidates in this year's local elections.

The debate held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday night was broadcast live on Sanlih E-Television and the Public Television Service.

Independents Chu Mei-feng (???) and Su Ying-kuei (???) are also vying for Kaohsiung mayor but did not participate in the debate because they were not invited.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel