Friday, January 18, 2008

2008 Legislative Election Observation Trip--Day 1

Day 1--1/11

Our main observation objectives were legislative candidates Yuh-Chin Hong(洪玉欽) from the KMT and Yi-Ching Yeh(葉宜津) from the DPP. They were both in the First Election district in Tainan county, which was a really intense and rival competition. The day before we left for the trip, news came out that prosecutors were searching both parties for evidence of vote buying. Furthermore, both parties accused each other for violence and smearing. One of the questions that Professor Phillips and I were very interested in, was if they believed that the opposition really bought votes, and if so, how much were they paying for each vote. This was also the question we brought up during conversations with taxi drivers later on.
  • 14:07
We boarded the 14:07 Taiwan High speed rail to Chiayi, which we simply just call the "bullet train," and arrived at around 15:30. Our taxi, which turned out to be a 9 seat van, was waiting for us outside. Our driver looked very "local"-- exactly what we asked for due to the destinations we were visiting-- until he told me that he was better acquainted with northern Taipei, especially Keelung area.

This is the part where I should tell everyone about the extremely exciting adventure we had with the driver.

We had three main destinations, Sinying city(Tainan county), Kaohsiung city, and Tainan city. The driver knew how to get to Sinying, but didn't "know" the city. Luckily my grandparents lived nearby, so I kind of knew how to get around. Fortunately, we got to the KMT HQ.

Later on, when we were going to the Kaohsiung KMT rally, he didn't know the intersection we were supposed to get off of, and neither did I. There were 3 intersections, so I picked the last one out of instincts and experience. It turned out correct. Then the driver simply froze at the bottom of the intersection. Although I used the word "froze", he was actually very calm. He softly asked me if we should take a right turn or a left turn-- with tons of cars jamming behind us at the same second. I totally didn't know Kaohsiung, and cars were piling up behind us. He repeated the question twice and looked as if he wouldn't budge if I didn't make the call. So again, I had to trust my instincts and sense of direction. I told him to make a right turn, which I hoped was really the right turn, to at least get out of the way. Then he stopped by the road to ask for directions. He asked me the destination twice and I told him twice. Thirty seconds later, he came back to ask me again because he forgot. If you want something done, you better do it yourself-- I got off the van, got the directions, and we finally got to the rally.

If you think our adventure came to an end, think twice. After the rally, our driver couldn't retrace our steps back to the intersection. Again, I'm glad my Mom gave me a great sense of direction-- once I get to a place I always know how to get back. I pointed out all the roads we took before, and successfully got to the freeway. Then again, the driver didn't know Tainan city, but since I grew up there, it wasn't a problem. We got to the hotel safely.

My Dad's suggestions to the driver: maybe he should bring along a map next time! Well, I totally agree with that, but no more "next time!"

Anyways, let's proceed with the trip.
  • 16:15
We arrived at the KMT Tainan County HQ where we were supposed to meet with Mr.Tsai(蔡明顯), the HQ secretary general who was also our contact at the HQ. Unfortunately, since it was the day before the election, he was pretty busy. Therefore, he had Ms. Hsieh, a group leader to tour us around and answer our questions. She lead us to Yuh-Chin Hong's campaign HQ which was a few minutes down the street.

At the HQ, we met Mr. Lee, the campaign HQ director, who was a school principle. Ms. Hsieh and Mr. Lee answered Professor Phillips' questions for the next hour or so. The questions included their recent campaign status, strategy, HQ organization structure, and of course, the "vote buying" issue. According to them, they said the opposition campaign were paying 1,000~3,000 NT dollars per vote. Also, they said the DPP supporter were more "grass root", thus more prone to violence. My impression was that they seemed really confident and optimistic. In the mean time, since we were so busy talking, I forgot to take pictures of the HQ, Ms. Hsieh, or Mr. Lee. Thus, I don't have pictures for this destination. Seriously, trying to be neutral here. Not giving anybody preferential treatment or "dis-preferential" treatment!

  • 17:30
We got back to the KMT HQ and met with Mr. Tsai who just got back. Professor Phillips and him had a short talk mainly about KMT's objectives for Tainan county. We got a lot of propaganda literature on the way out and took this picture below. On the right is Professor Phillips, and on the left is Mr. Tsai. On the background of the picture, you can also see the names of KMT candidate for each district on the poster. From Left to right: Yuh-Chin Hong, He-shun Li (李和順), Jian-Bau Wu(吳健保). As election results turned out, all of them eventually lost.

  • 17:45
After the meeting with Mr. Tsai, I asked him to take us to someplace where we could take-out our dinner and then take us to Yi-Ching Yeh's campaign HQ. By the way, I acknowledged that they were rivalries, so I only asked him to help us get there. Anyways, he thought for a few seconds and came up with someplace he said was nice and promised us he would take us to Yeh's HQ. Since we were on a tight schedule, I was kind of nervous when it took us about 10 minutes to simply get to our restaurant. On the way there, I joked around with Professor Phillips and said that maybe Mr. Tsai was try to squeeze our time with the DPP since they were having this intense competition. Professor Phillips agreed and added that we were passing all these delicious food, namely a food stand called "God of food"(食神), which sells watery rice. He was so hilarious!

After our take-out, Mr. Tsai fulfilled his promise and took us to Yeh's HQ. Our driver gave us VIP status by parking directly in front of the HQ, and also right in front of a middle aged woman who turned out to be Yi-Ching Yeh herself! What an entrance!

Professor and Yeh talked for a few minutes, but since she was going to leave for street rallying, she seemed distracted and serious looking. My impression was that the atmosphere at the HQ was pretty tense, and they were in a difficult situation in comparison with Yuh-Chin Hong.

Then we met with the HQ director, Chia-Bin Hong(洪嘉賓). Again, we brought up the vote-buying issue, and he said that the KMT were paying 500~1,000NT per vote. Professor Phillips' impression was that they might be projecting the amount on the basis of their own capabilities.

We also asked him about the campaign status, DPP objective, HQ organization structure, and whether President Chen had a positive or negative influence now at rallies. He told us that Chen's influence wasn't as great as it use to be but still a positive one. (My memory is kind of blurry here. Maybe Professor Phillips could give us some input or corrections?)

Later on Mr. Hong and the Professor had a deeper discussion on Taiwan's independence and America's attitude toward it. My impression was that Mr. Hong couldn't differentiate the facts of realpolitik and his own belief of what is right or wrong.

Professor Phillips' perspectives were that the US couldn't decide whether Taiwan really wanted independence or not--due to the fact that the DPP and KMT influences are fifty fifty. Neither could the US decide on China's determination of consolidation for two reasons: first, pressuring Taiwan hasn't taken any major sacrifices--it was simply too easy for them, considering their enormous power now; second, whether supporting consolidation was only the way of expressing patriotism for elites or a consensus of Chinese people, which is less likely.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hong was talking about the right of self determination, and couldn't quite catch Professor Phillips' point.

Eventually, time ran out and we had to leave. The picture below is Professor Phillips with Mr. Hong and a extremely large photo of Yi-Ching Yeh in the background.

By the way, during our discussion, Mark Chen popped by and kept glaring at us, probably curious of what we were doing there.

  • 20:00
Despite the confusion of our ride to Kaohsiung(mentioned above), we arrived at the rally at around 8:00 pm. We heard that Ma Ying-Jeou(馬英九) came and just left, so we were just starting to regret it when the hosts on the stage announced that Mr. Ma is coming back because his flight was grounded. A grounded flight? Sounded pretty conspiratorial to me. Anyways, he came back. Below is my recording of him entering the rally.

During the 30 second live connection with the Taipei KMT rally below, Mr. Ma told Po-Hsiung Wu(吳伯雄) the reason why he wasn't back in Taipei-- the grounded flight-- and said that he would be back in Taipei tomorrow to cast his vote. Also, Mr. Ma showed off some Taiwanese, which still needed some polishing if he wants to seek the identification of Ming-nan(閩南) population.

The picture below(by the courtesy of Professor Phillips) shows Mr. Ma, Jin-Pyng Wang(王金平), Vincent Siew(蕭萬長) supporting all the Kaohsiung city and county KMT Legislative election candidates. Come to think of it, the way they support the candidates are quite different than the DPP. Mr. Wang takes each candidate's hand at a time and shouts "Dong swan!"(凍蒜) separately, which means "elected"in Taiwanese. Whereas, the DPP candidates hold hands together and do it all at once. Well, I think doing it together creates a better atmosphere. So maybe the KMT can try that it the future.

I didn't record the "Dong swan!" part--because it took too long-- but here's the supporters yelling "Dong swan!" for Mr. Ma and Mr. Siew, which are the presidential election candidates. You can get a feel of the atmosphere.

The last film is the famous "wheel turning" of Mr. Ma. I though it was quite interesting. Creative idea for the KMT, which wasn't good at rallying in the past, but I guess the wheel turning was... kind of taking too long!

Later on, I learned that the DPP didn't have joint rallies for their candidates in Tainan or Kaohsiung during this election, which is pretty odd because the DPP were really good at it, and it really helped with their election results. Rumors were that the DPP were fractioned so that heavy weight people like President Chen, Frank Hsieh, and Tseng-chang Su supported different candidates, thus, didn't have a joint rally. Without the consolidation, this may be one of the reasons the DPP didn't do well in the south--except for Tainan where the DPP are supposed to win.

  • 23:00
We arrived at our hotel at around 11:00 pm, thanked the driver, let him go. (Whew! What a relief!), and checked in.

This is the picture Professor Phillips took of my Senior, Wei-Chia and me.

To be continued...
(Maybe next weekend! I have to save my finals now!)

1 comment:

Chih-Hsiang Liao said...

What a great experience of observing parliment elections with political professors from US!