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ELECTION 2024/TPP's Ko slammed for remarks on voters' education levels

02/04/2024 05:28 PM
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Ko Wen-je speaks at an event in Taoyuan Saturday. CNA photo Feb. 3, 2024
Ko Wen-je speaks at an event in Taoyuan Saturday. CNA photo Feb. 3, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 4 (CNA) Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) drew criticism from across Taiwan's political spectrum after saying that his party would have won the election if ballot access was limited to college-educated voters.

At an event for party supporters in Hsinchu on Saturday, Ko said that aside from his own unsuccessful presidential run, the TPP won 22 percent of votes on the at-large legislator ballot, showing that it has become a serious political force that is unlikely to fizzle out.

"The TPP has one major strategic advantage: If you're someone who doesn't support the Kuomintang (KMT) or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), there's no one else to choose from except the TPP," Ko said.

Analyzing the Jan. 13 election results, Ko noted that the TPP had received its highest vote share at polling stations located near universities and science parks.

Citing an unspecified analysis from the U.S., he said the TPP is a party of "elites" similar to the ruling People's Action Party in Singapore, with a voter base that is disproportionately young, well-educated and politically centrist.

Ko acknowledged that, by definition, it is hard for a party of elites to win a majority. Nevertheless, "if there was a rule stating that only college-educated people can vote," the TPP would have won the election, he said.

After making the remarks, Ko quickly clarified that he values democracy and the principle of one person, one vote, which guarantees a voice to disadvantaged groups in society.

For that reason, he said, it would be wrong to"complain" that the TPP would have won if only well-educated people under 40 were casting a ballot.

In a response on Sunday, DPP Legislator Lin Chu-yin (林楚茵) said the comments were just the latest of many by Ko showing an "arrogant bias" against less educated people.

For example, Ko has previously argued that people who don't attend high school account for the vast majority of drug users, and that students graduating from certain university departments are economically "worthless," Lin said.

On the other side of the aisle, KMT lawmaker Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇) dismissed the remarks as "yet another gaffe" by the TPP chair.

In addition to discriminating on the basis of education, Ko's comments are an example of a politician trying to choose his own voters, in a way that is not compatible with democratic norms, Wang said.

Ko, a former physician, founded the TPP in 2019 while serving as Taipei mayor, and finished in third place, with 26.5 percent of the vote, as the party's 2024 presidential candidate.

The TPP also won eight seats in Taiwan's 113-seat Legislature, and will hold an important swing vote over the next four years as neither the DPP nor the KMT won an absolute majority in the lawmaking body.

(By Wang Cheng-chung and Matthew Mazzetta)

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