Crass Electoral Politics and the Role of a Militant Civil Society

After the Sunflower Movement, more Taiwanese are paying attention to the quality of the leadership between elections, and will take action if quality is found to be lacking
J. Michael Cole

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the China Policy Institute Blog, University of Nottingham, on Nov. 27, 2014.) 

Merely 48 hours to go before Taiwanese across the nation cast their votes in the nine-in-one local elections. With regulations barring the release of polling data ten days prior to the election, one can only now speculate about how each party, along with independent candidates, will fare on Nov. 29. What is known, however, is that facing the prospects of a major setback, the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has begun to sound desperate and taken eleventh-hour measures that, while possibly giving its candidates an edge over their opponents, could backfire by further discrediting them in the eyes of a watchful—and battle hardened—civil society.

Fear, lies, and big money

As discussed in a previous article on the CPI blog and elsewhere, in the constituencies where it faces outright defeat, and more importantly in those where the race is close, the KMT has resorted to a variety of tactics that unfortunately do not reflect well on the quality of Taiwan’s electoral democracy. Character assassination, fabrication, negative campaigning (serious thought needs to be given to curbing the phenomenon), and fear mongering have been at the core of KMT Taipei mayor candidate Sean Lien’s campaign strategy against its main (and leading) opponent, Ko Wen-je, who is running as an independent. Several of Lien’s TV ads, including one which portrays Taipei the day after an implied Ko victory that had to be pulled for breaking campaigning regulations, have furthermore dragged in topics that are altogether unrelated to the race for mayor of the nation’s capital, such as the China-South Korea FTA (the 60-second ad, which has been widely criticized as racist, leaves the viewer with one message: Vote KMT on 11/29, or Taiwan will lose out to South Korea).

Continue to the full article on the CPI Blog.

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