Jan. 9 - Taiwan's main presidential candidates look to gain support from first-time voters who have a clear priority of jobs and wages over cross-strait issues. Nick Rowlands reports.
These dancing puppets are part of a campaign by the Taiwanese Nationalist Party to attract the youth vote. Young people aged 20 to 24 have yet to express a political opinion in a presidential vote, but are seen as a critical constituency in Taiwan's January 14th presidential election. Political debate in Taiwan traditionally has been dominated by the question of identity and relations with China. But as one analyst explains, the 768,000 young voters care more about the country's pressing economic problems than about ties with Beijing. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) HEAD OF THE FIRST VOTERS' NATIONAL POLICY OBSERVATION GROUP, CHEN YI-CHIH, SAYING: "It does not matter whether the cross-strait relationship is good or bad, the most important thing is that when I cannot feed myself, why should I care about how good the cross-strait relationship is? The current government only talks about the cross-strait relations, but ignores the daily lives of the ordinary people, and whether they are doing their best to improve our lives. This is the most important question we want to raise to the three candidates' attention." At a news conference staged as a mock wedding, two students vowed to use their first vote to express love for their country and take Taiwan into a better future. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 26-YEAR-OLD STUDENT TSAI JEN-FU SAYING: "Most of my classmates, even after they have started working for a while, find it impossible to afford a house within a short period of time. We are no longer like the young people in the past, when they could tell their parents that they bought a house after working for five to six years, and prepare to get married. To buy a house on our own is a very difficult thing for us now." The two major presidential candidates are closely matched in the polls, but it remains to be seen who is successful at courting the youth vote. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.