Fun in Taipei as voters choose between 'vegetable' and 'fish'

January 10, 2020 11:11
Supporters of Kuomintang presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu attend an election campaign in Taipei on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

TAIPEI -- Will it be fish or vegetables?

Before you start thinking about food and menus, I'm actually talking about the presidential election in Taiwan on Saturday.

Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu, whose name sounds like "Korean fish" in Mandarin, appears to be closing the gap with incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, whose name sounds like "vegetable" and "English".

But according to the latest polls, Tsai is likely to gain a second term, thanks to her young supporters – and most especially the young protesters in Hong Kong, who seem to give credence her contention that China's "one country, two systems" formula will not work in Taiwan.

A year ago, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's standard-bearer appeared to be losing ground as her popularity fell to an all-time low, but anti-infiltration legislation, which seeks to prevent "hostile foreign forces" from influencing elections on the island, has stirred up the people's worst fears about China, which backs Han.

Taiwan has always been evenly split between the greens (DPP) and the blue (KMT), and an outsider who knows nothing about tomorrow's elections is sure to become an expert by simply hailing a taxi as the cabbie will talk non-stop about politics throughout the ride.

On Thursday, some 80,000 people showed up at a KMT rally along Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei before sunset.

There was no way for me and my companions to squeeze into the venue and hear a few lines from the candidates as it was really packed. We noticed, though, that most of those in the crowd were a bit old.

We were told that the youngsters, whose voting often determines the winners – just like in the District Council elections in Hong Kong last November – were not keen on joining an election rally; they would rather be in a pub with friends and watch a live broadcast of the event on TV.

One of the reasons why Tsai's campaign appears more effective is her ability to connect with youngsters through social media. She's been having constant dialogues with YouTubers and KOLs (key opinion leaders) on the internet, thus widening her audience and enhancing her media coverage.

That's also the reason why she got elected four years ago.

Another thing that I noticed here is the presence of a lot of Hongkongers as the election nears.

I've bumped into several friends and acquaintances in restaurants, public transport and the streets of Taipei.

Apparently, many just want to share in the fun and excitement of Taiwanese as they choose their own leaders.

So cheers for democracy and may the best candidates win!

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EJ Insight writer