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Monday, December 04, 2006

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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.




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8 Comments:

At 1:29 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Despite having a dateline that says Hille was reporting from Taipei, the Financial Times article to which you link bears this remarkable headline:
- - -
Taiwan's LDP braced for power struggle.
- - -

"LDP" -- as in the party of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi? WTF?!

Do the FT's Asia-Pacific editors not know the difference between Japan and Taiwan?

Pathetic! Don't fail to notice Hille's unnamed "observers" and "[a]nalysts" -- big clues that she might be making shit up.

Wulingren, regarding your point #3, do you think that the non-DPP candidates' are at a disadvantage, what with all the recent so-called "non-partisan" chaos, and that their chances of being elected would be hurt by displaying their party affiliation? Hopefully, the voters will choose carefully and send as many pan-blue candidates as possible off to political oblivion where they can keep dreaming about their "Chunghua."

Tim Maddog

 
At 10:54 AM, Anonymous david on formosa said...

Is there a law that prohibits candidates from displaying the name of their party on campaign materials? I find this practice quite strange.

 
At 11:42 PM, Blogger Wulingren said...

I don't think there is a law with such a prohibition. Indeed, some of the candidates do mention their party affiliation. I think it is more an attempt to downplay which party they are in.

 
At 7:01 AM, Blogger Taiwan Echo said...

david on formosa said...Is there a law that prohibits candidates from displaying the name of their party on campaign materials?
No. It all depends on the reputation and impression the party has at the time of campaign. The candidates are all very sensitive and quick on this issues. If the party was bothered by corruptions or any other scandals, candidates will autimatically distant themselves by avoiding the party name. On the other hand, if the public impression on the party is good, every candidate will emphsizes their party origin.

IMO, it is actually a sign of knowing how general public see the parties.

 
At 7:11 AM, Blogger Taiwan Echo said...

- - -
Taiwan's LDP braced for power struggle.
- - -

"LDP" -- as in the party of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi? WTF?!


yea, have been wondering what LDP means too. While we have been complaining how disqualified Taiwan's journalists are, it's amazing to see how eager the journalists from outside of Taiwan get their names ruined.

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger Wulingren said...

"If the party was bothered by corruptions or any other scandals, candidates will autimatically distant themselves by avoiding the party name."

This is interesting because I have noticed more signs that say DPP than KMT. And yet, most analysts are arguing that it is the DPP that is plagued by corruption. If so, then why aren't KMT candidates proudly displaying the name of their party?

 
At 3:19 AM, Blogger Taiwan Echo said...

most analysts are arguing that it is the DPP that is plagued by corruption. If so, then why aren't KMT candidates proudly displaying the name of their party?

What I believe is, what the candidates smell is the real opinions coming from the people they contact daily, or some inner polls done on the local people whose votes really count.

The fact that "most analysts said" is deviated from what the candidates smell seems to indicate that those analysts are either bullshitting or are trying to create a false facade intentionally.

You mentioned that "more signs that say DPP than KMT" is actually not what I expected, 'cos what I read is the same as yours -- what the media say. But it won't be a surprise to me. We always say, "Taiwan's media have to be read upside-down". So whatever analysts say, thinking toward the opposite direction might get you closer to the truth.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Wulingren said...

I should add that ""more signs that say DPP than KMT" is not a scientific figure, just what I have noticed, and that it is usually pretty obvious who is KMT and who is DPP, even if there is no name to tell you so. And there are definitely plenty of candidates who are trying to blur the distinctions, and they are by no means all DPP candidates. I know plenty of people who answer the question "what do you think of so-and-so" by saying, "He is KMT. I don't like the KMT." So, it is definitely more in their interest to hide their party affiliation, especially when they are trying to appeal to more local constituents. Like the red ant demonstrators, the PFP's tack is to try to convince people not to distinguish between green and blue, even though the distinctions are quite significant.

 

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