Hopefuls engage in a little cut and thrust

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am


When Taiwanese voters go to the polls on Saturday, they will have the chance to endorse - or reject - some of the most colourful and outspoken politicians on the face of the planet.

On an island where the battle lines are sharply drawn - particularly on cross-strait issues - passionate exchanges in the Legislative Yuan can descend into mass brawls, so it's little wonder the battle for the 113-member legislature is hotly contested.

Temperatures rose in mid-December during a televised debate between two controversial figures, Kuomintang legislator Chiu Yi and Chen Chih-chung, the son of disgraced former president Chen Shui-bian.

Both men are fighting for seats in the city of Kaohsiung and it was Chiu who broke the news of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president's graft scandal, which ultimately led to the latter's conviction in 2009. The younger Chen is standing on an independent ticket vowing to clear his father's name - despite having spent time in a labour camp last summer on a perjury conviction connected to the trial.

The debate saw Chiu label his opponent an adulterer, based on a failed libel action Chen had taken against a tabloid magazine that alleged he had paid for sex.

Chiu has been a regular thorn in the side of the opposition DPP, but he is not the only person in his party with a reputation for colourful language.

His colleague Alex Tsai drew the DPP's ire just days later when he called a renowned Aids researcher a sanqizai - a Taiwanese term for a pimp - over his role in the founding of a pharmaceuticals company in 2007 which the then-DPP presidential hopeful Dr Tsai Ing-went on to chair.

Last week, DPP legislature candidate Ho Po-wen cried foul when he found himself and a political commentator indicted on charges of public defamation on the eve of the election for describing a Miaoli county official as a 'bully' who lacked 'moral principles'. The comments had been made on a television talk show, and related to the treatment of farmers in an alleged land grab .

Another of the more colourful characters seeking election is outspoken writer and political veteran Li Ao. The former dissident - who was jailed twice in the 1970s and '80s and is standing under the PFP (People First Party) banner - is a vocal critic of both main parties, and has a record of making wild claims of conspiracies involving the CIA, among others.