Saturday’s presidential election in Taiwan, the only place in the Greater China region where we can see real democracy in action, will be the most one-sided contest in the island since Lee Teng-hui won a landslide victory in 1996.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Tsai Ing-wen is set to become Taiwan’s first female president, trouncing her KMT rival Eric Chu and helping her group regain control of the island’s affairs after eight years.
Polls show Tsai ahead of Chu by at least 20 percentage points.
As both sides addressed their supporters in last-minute rallies, the soft-spoken Tsai talked about how important it is to cement the last mile and seal a win.
Chu, meanwhile, showed signs of desperation as his troops were made to chants slogans — quite unconvincingly — that the victory would actually be theirs.
One can easily gauge the mood following visits to the DPP and KMT offices ahead of the election.
On Thursday, I was privileged to join a tour organized by the Hong Kong Journalist Association and get the chance to mingle with fellow journalists as well as Hong Kong’s “yellow-ribbon” leaders – young and old.
The first question that Taichung mayor Jason Hu — a vice-chairman of KMT — faced when he met some reporters was this: “Does your party still have any hopes of pulling off a win?”
To this, the always-articulate Oxford-trained politician who won all his three mayor elections said: “It ain’t over till it is over. We really want to win, but if we win, it will only be close.”
KMT played the card of “One Taiwan” and sought to tell people how important it is to communicate with China.
A groundbreaking meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou and his mainland counterpart Xi Jinping last November is touted as a good start.
But such appeals have failed to impress Taiwan’s youth, who — like their peers in Hong Kong — are wary of a close embrace of China despite purported economic benefits from such a partnership.
That is where DPP, which advocates Taiwan independence as a core principle, saw an advantage.
Deploying the slogan “Light up Taiwan”, DPP has made good use of social media to foster and spread the desire for change.
It’s almost a rule in Taiwan politics to point fingers at rivals for failing to deliver during their terms in office.
DPP has come a long way since its 2012 election debacle, which saw Tsai lose to Ma by a significant margin and allowed the latter to win a second term as the island’s president.
Meanwhile, the campaign scene is also very different now compared to four years ago, as journalists who watched the 2012 election can tell.
Presidential candidates, for instance, have set up souvenir shops for fund-raising and marketing purposes. We saw that Tsai items were selling faster than Hello Kitty merchandise.
The air is festive as many Taiwanese residing overseas have been heading home to participate in the election.
Apart from voters, there has also been an influx of other people who just want to observe the scene.
It is said that China has curbed travel to its citizens for Taiwan visits during the election period as Beijing doesn’t want people to carry back tales of KMT’s loss to independence-leaning DPP.
A 50 percent drop in night market sales in Taiwan recently is touted by some of the island’s residents as evidence of a slide in mainland tourist numbers.
However, this needn’t worry Taiwan too much.
Reason: The decline in China visitors has been offset by a surge in arrivals of democracy lovers from Hong Kong.
Hong Kong people will be more than ready to party along with their freedom-loving Taiwan brethren over the weekend.
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