1705045824 Three options ahead of the Taiwan election closer to China

Three options ahead of the Taiwan election: closer to China, further away or a promise of change

Three options ahead of the Taiwan election closer to China

With just a few days left until this Saturday's election, the streets of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, are abuzz with electoral spirit. Scores of buses carry the faces of presidential and legislative yuan (parliamentary) candidates on their backs, posters adorn buildings and shops, and volunteers hand out advertisements on street corners. Until then, everything is pretty familiar. Then there are the typically Taiwanese things about the campaign: It's Wednesday, when people come home from work, as a group of about 20 people wearing the turquoise Young People's Party of Taiwan (PPT) cap and waving flags The formation moves through the streets of the Xinyi district at a good pace.

To follow them you have to take faster steps. They are escorted by the police who force them to cross the zebra crossing. They hand out flags here and there, and as they advance, the procession of volunteers shouts the name of Ko Wen-je, the presidential candidate, and greets him with a saying in the local dialect: “A-by, a-by! [¡Tío, tío!]”, a common formula for addressing older people that reflects the easy-going and down-to-earth character of the former doctor, who was mayor of Taipei until 2022. His vote growth has surprisingly increased in the polls. The escalation is largely due to the support of young people, the spread of news on social networks and anonymous helpers, such as the hopeful Chen Ting-wei, a 32-year-old real estate agent who came after the completion of It was his time, the message in this type of street gymkhana. “We don’t know exactly whether it will bring changes,” he says. “But at least it’s a chance.”

The group was founded in 2019 and presents itself as an alternative to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), the only two that have ruled the island since the first democratic elections in 1996. Ko Wen's victory heh, while distant but not out of the question (it was in third place in the most recent polls from early January), would take Taiwan into uncharted territory after more than 25 years of bipartisanship. That's exactly what Chen wants, protesting that the two traditional parties offer no real change. For these two, he continues, it all boils down to cross-strait relations, with one party (the KMT) being closer to China and another (the DPP) being more independent. “And that assumes Taiwan doesn’t make progress, it’s stuck in the middle.”

Many young people in Ko saw a man with experience running the capital, known for his transparent management and talking to them about their daily problems such as access to housing or low salaries. These issues are often overshadowed by the geopolitical struggle between the two major superpowers: China, which views the self-governing island as an inalienable part of its territory, and the United States, Taiwan's main backer.

Another volunteer added that he joined the delegation because he wanted to support a party with few resources. He believes that the PPT is trying to change the electoral culture without relying on donations or loans for its campaign. You can see the excitement of the first time in the faces of these citizens. “Do you want a pennant?”

It's the last stage. Political events overlap. For example, at some point the procession of PPT volunteers passes a parking lot where supporters of one of their rivals, the KMT, are gradually beginning to gather. This is the successor party to the side that fled China in 1949 after being defeated by Mao Zedong's communists in the Chinese Civil War. The defeated settled on the island of Taiwan and founded a kind of government in exile under the leadership of the leader of the KMT, the dictator Chiang Kai-shek. His journey is the origin of one of the great geopolitical conflicts of our time. The party is in second place in the presidential elections, although it is leading in the parliamentary polls.

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At first glance, KMT followers are older. And the flag they wave in the air is different: the official flag of Taiwan. They are waiting for the start of an electoral caravan, another feature of Taiwan. Politicians often drive through the streets in vehicles that resemble Popemobiles. They greet and call for a vote over the loudspeaker. In this case, it is Jaw Shaw-kong who is running for vice president and Hsu Chiao-hsin who is running for parliament.

As the caravan sets off, supporters chant the name of the leader and presidential candidate: “Hou Yu-ih, win the election!” And in an instant the procession disappears down the street. One of those present, a pensioner named Wang Der-song, 69, says that the DPP, the current ruling party that has been in power for eight years, is “deliberately provoking China and does not want dialogue or trade” with the country. The KMT is the preferred party in Beijing.

“I want there to be peace and friendship across the strait,” said Hou Jun-luen, a 69-year-old former civil servant, when asked if she was in favor of reunification with China. He assesses the Asian giant's progress positively: “The buildings there are taller.” He has a son who lives in Beijing (which he recently visited), another in Silicon Valley and a third in Taipei. Her husband, a retired history professor, recalled the Chinese presence in Taiwan since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and asserted that changing the status quo would lead to conflict with China.

Finally, there are the big final campaign rallies. The most popular party, the DPP, celebrated on Thursday evening on a boulevard next to the government headquarters in Taipei. He manages to bring thousands of people together. The event has something of a sporting event. Streams of people are already streaming out of the exit of the next subway, in the distance the huge screens show what is happening on the stage, the powerful spotlights are directed towards the sky and dance in the dark shell of the night. As epic music plays and one of the party leaders warms up before the first sword speech, Yuhsiang Ying, a 35-year-old high school teacher, gives her reasons for supporting: “We all feel that China is not really friendly to us.” Taiwan. , and that we need a party that will support us and help us defend our country.” This formation is the most unpopular in China.

Andrew Woo, 45, also a business school professor, adds of the three parties vying for the presidency: “Out of three bad apples, you have to choose one.” And of course one of them is bad, the KMT , which is pro-Chinese.” In his opinion, the formation of a government has gone “well” in recent years. GDP per capita exceeds Japan's, he says; The Taiwanese stock market is doing better than the Hong Kong one. And he doesn't see any risk of conflict either. “Many say that China will attack if this party is elected, but this has happened before. I don't think China is a threat. “It's a paper tiger.” His girlfriend next to him adds: “And if we vote for the KMT, we run the risk of becoming Hong Kong or Xinjiang.”

The audience waves its flags, the loudspeakers blare and the moderator finally announces the candidate most likely to become Taiwan's next president: “Lai Ching-te!” “The whole world is waiting for Taiwan's decision,” begins Lai, the current vice president, his speech. “Whether you go forward into the future or back into the past; whether it embraces the world or locks itself in China; “Whether it adheres to democratic values ​​or bows to authoritarianism.”

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