Some random thoughts on Taiwanese politics (UPDATE)
Sorry for being away for so long. My computer has been in the shop for a couple of weeks. I have also been taking time to absorb the situation here in Taiwan. It is hard to process everything that is happening, even on days when nothing seems to happen. And there are so many different voices saying different things--different interpretations. I'm not sure I have anything brilliant to say, just some random thoughts on the mayoral and city council elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung that are on this horizon (this Saturday):
1. Anyone who has been to Taipei, and I suspect Kaohsiung, recently is aware of the menagerie of political campaign slogans, signs, and moving billboard vehicles snaking their way about the city. In some areas, banners from every campaign hang everywhere, some hanging on top of each other, a profusion of colors confusing the eye. How is one to make sense of it all. And no, it is not just because I am a foreigner. Most local people with whom I have spoken are having difficulties deciphering one city council candidate from another.
2. Those candidates who pose with party leaders are easy to recognize. Some stand side by side with Ma Ying-jeou (KMT), Frank Hsieh (DPP), or James Soong (PFP). I haven't seen many other party elders appearing in campaign posters.
3. Most of the city council banners do not include the names of political parties on them, though I have noticed that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates are more likely to do so. But this is not always the case. In general, you have to look for other icons of party or ideological allegiance.
4. You can often tell by the color of the banners, posters, and moving billboards. Kuomintang (KMT) campaign signs use the colors of the ROC flag--red and blue and a little white--and tend to display emblems of the flag somewhere on the sign. DPP signs are mainly green and usually include a little form in the shape of the cartographic Taiwan. But don't be fooled; this could also be an ad for a Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) candidate. Red or orange, though more often than not, it seems, red, represent People First Party candidates. It is funny that James "Think Positive" Soong and his proteges would be choosing red. What could that mean? Then, I saw a yellow banner with nothing on it except a candidate's name. Apparently, he is from the New Party, which isn't so new anymore.
5. Along with the ROC flag, which has been connected with the KMT since the beginning, KMT candidates often hearken to the dream of Chunghua中華--that is, the name of the abstracted, timeless, ideal China that is not geographically restricted, as opposed to Zhongguo中國, which is a place with borders that is occupied by another power. The two terms overlap and also diverge, but in English they are just "China." The DPP, and of course the TSU, takes pride in Taiwan in all its localness and uniqueness.
6. It is hard to find anything of substance on any of the signs nor in the messages that blast from the moving billboards. They are mainly for appearances, and many of them highlight the attractive qualities of the candidates. There was an interesting article in the Liberty Times yesterday about this. I'll have to look for it.
7. The park across from the Yuanshan metro station is a popular place for political rallies. Twice I have shown up just as DPP rallies were ending. Last night, as I passed by, there was a KMT rally with a large crowd. It was like listening to Wagner; you could hear it all the way from the tracks. And as I stood there, watching on, waiting for the train back to Beitou, I could see a giant red-and-blue Taiwan. What a different feeling than the green one.
8. Taipei Times has an interesting article on the importance of Kaohsiung to both the KMT and the DPP. Kathrin Hille pens an article for the Financial Times with a somewhat more negative outlook on the DPP's chances on Saturday, on which I'm sure some of my fellow bloggers will be commenting. At the end, she also includes this nugget about Ma Ying-jeou's fate:
But the elections are not just crucial for the DPP. Some observers have called the mayoral elections a vote of confidence for Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT chairman who had until recently been seen as the likely winner of the 2008 race but has been weakened by a probe over whether he misappropriated part of a special allowance as mayor of Taipei.
Analysts said that if the local elections showed traces of this damage, Mr Ma's opponents within his party would be strengthened and the KMT, too, could see a battle for the presidential ticket.
Things are gonna get interesting on the beautiful island--as if they weren't already.
UPDATE: I liked this from Jerome Keating from Election Eve:
I have to admit that elections in Taiwan are for me a joy to experience. All major parties have rallies tonight and they have their best orators pouring forth. TV covers all. The speakers' passion matches that of the people for their candidates and their parties. It is democracy in action.
The city is colorful and noisy. Banners and flags line the streets reminding one of how the Qing Manchus divided their armies under banners. Trucks, jeeps, cavalcades course the major boulevards and streets blasting out party songs, and pleas for votes for their candidates.
[Taiwan politics], [political parties], [Democratic Progressive Party], [Kuomintang], [visual culture]