11/17/2014, 00.00
TAIWAN
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Criticism of old guard politics and espionage shadow post-Sunflower vote in Taiwan

by Xin Yage
At the end of November, the country will vote in local elections. It is the first popular ballot since the Occupation of Parliament by young people, tired of the excessive nationalism and Chinese interference. The polls will be closely watched ahead of Presidential elections.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - The election campaign for the municipal elections in Taiwan are gaining momentum. On November 29, the people will be called to renew local governments, and the focus is particularly on Taipei and Taoyuan (桃園 市). The two municipalities are in fact considered strongholds of the Kuomintang (KMT), the Nationalist Party currently in power.

This is the first election since the wave of protests between March and April led by the Movement of Sunflowers (太陽花 學運), when students occupied Parliament for about three weeks. And given that young people question the power of the Nationalist Party, the result of the vote is very important.

In Taipei the two candidates are playing the blame game. According to many people, this is "probably caused by the fact that neither of them appeal to the entire electorate". Sean Lien (連勝 文), KMT candidate who began his campaign as the favorite in the polls now seems to have slipped behind Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who in his first election campaign was underrated as an outsider and now surprisingly as main challenger for the office of mayor of Taipei.

Lien is the son of a rich KMT family: his comments on television are often arrogant and have alienated him from the common people.

Ko, a doctor by profession, instead has uttered deeply sexist statements, for example explaining in the gory details why he decided not to become a gynecologist or saying the Chiayi candidate "being so attractive should not be in politics but a hotel receptionist". These have understandably angered much of the female electorate, and not just for his  macho arrogance and insensitivity to equal opportunities.

The main question is how to attract the support and votes of young people from the Movement of Sunflowers, who are now old enough to vote? Lien is focusing on the fact he is the youngest KMT candidate. He grew up in a wealthy family, but not everything has been easy for him: in addition to surviving the assassination attempt three years ago, he was also diagnosed with cancer. To defeat it, he had to go through a long and debilitating treatment.

Instead Ko, a blunt doctor, in recent weeks has taken up young people's demands for a more transparent politics. He also does not come from the establishment like his opponent, and this is seen by many as the best candidate to make changes in the system.

There have also been accusations of espionage: the election team of Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), last week said it had found 'spy bugs' in the phone in his office. They have alerted the police. Given that investigators found no such  'bugs', Sean Lien (連勝 文) immediately demanded that Ko abandon the electoral race for an "obvious lie".

Lien has also called the accusations "an attempt to divert attention" from the alleged sale of human organs in the hospital where Ko works and in which he is reportedly involved.

Ko and his team that made a u-turn, denying the presence of the 'bugs'. But the next day they talked about telephone cables designed to spy on the conversations in the office. In that case a team of telecommunications experts examined the office and confirmed that there were five telephone cables installed in the premises of the headquarters of Ko used to eavesdrop on conversations.

But its not only about Taipei. The Taoyuan vote is important because it is a new independent municipality, and as such chose its mayor for the first time. The province has always been a KMT stronghold

However, given the heavy unpopularity of President Ma Ying-jeou and the fact that Yeh Shih-wen (世文), a judge of the court of Taoyuan also from KMT, has accepted bribes in recent years for the construction of the largest airport project in the area, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP - 民進黨), the opposition, is looking for a surprise victory.

The election promises of the candidate Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) are based on the containment of housing prices, which because of the airport project have skyrocketed in recent years, hiking the cost of living for citizens in the area.

In this climate of alienation of the political class and the search for renewal by the young voters, these municipal elections will give interesting results, to be carefully scrutinized, just eight months after the occupation of the Parliament.

 

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