POLITICS / The Wild East
Tomorrow is a big day for the people of Taiwan. There is no such thing as a ‘vote from abroad’ here, so all 23 million people, if they want to vote, must travel to their hometown. This makes it difficult for some to vote, particularly for ‘green’ voters (DPP, Democratic Progressive Party) who typically dominate in the South, which may effect the outcome.
Their choice of president is the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九, ‘horse english 9’) of the Kuomintang (the awkwardly antiquated-sounding ‘Chinese Nationalist Party’) and DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, Tsai English). Nobody seems to know who the Green Party candidate is, and James Soong (of the People First Party (PFP) — who made a failed bid with the KMT for president against Chen Shui-bian — fortunately has no chance of winning, with at most about 5 percent of the vote. But as we shall soon see his role in election returns could be a significant one.
Polling 10 days before elections is illegal in Taiwan, forbidden to avoid influencing voter turnout. This is probably a good thing. The last polls were showing both candidates running neck-and-neck, with Ma only slightly ahead of Tsai, a former academic. Instead of polling in the run-up, ‘commercials on wheels’ as I consider them roam the streets with flags and waving supporters on them, intercoms broadcasting ‘Da jia hao!!’ (‘hello everybody!!”) vote for this or that candidate.
My ‘straw polls’ consist of personally asking about 10 taxi drivers, and the 21 nursing students in my English class at Taipei Medical University, how they would vote. The results yielded what I suspected – a very close election. The students voted anonymously (they said they were “afraid to talk about it”), 12-9 in Ma’s favor. The taxi drivers (cabbies are always in the know!), when asked how their taxi driver friends were voting, also said slightly more of them would be voting for Ma. One sociology professor at TMU observed that four years ago, 80 percent of those nursing students would have voted KMT, so this “puts Ma in danger” in his current situation, having lost much of this support base.
And if Soong takes 4 or 5% of the votes, I wonder if we might see a Ralph Nader-like/Al Gore/George Bush sort of phenomenon. Who knows, it might just deliver the tiny amount of votes needed to hand Tsai a victory.
Taiwan friends voting KMT this time explain to me that they feel Ma has greatly improved Taiwan’s relations with China and its international standing in the world, and they want to ‘give him four more years’ to do more work. On the other hand, others fear Ma is basically ‘handing over’ Taiwan to China, giving away the farm essentially, without regard for retaining its magical uniqueness.