Electoral tide is now turning in Tsai’s favor
By Paul Lin 林保華

Nan Fang Shuo (南方朔), a well-known commentator and someone President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) called “big brother” as a child, recently published an article in the Hong Kong -Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News. Will this article finally show Ma’s supporters in Hong Kong what he is really like?

In the article, Nan Fang Shuo says that because much of the Taiwanese media use polling data as a tool to influence voter behavior, he only trusts political polls conducted by Global Views Monthly magazine and National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) Center for Prediction Markets and its Exchange of Future Events. However, Global Views has been forced to stop polling and the NCCU polling center was shut down during last year’s elections for the five special municipalities at a time when tensions were at their highest. There is therefore good reason for concern over the coming months.

According to the most recent poll from NCCU, there was a sudden turnaround after Ma mentioned signing a peace accord with China, putting Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the lead by 0.1 percent on Oct. 19. However, the next day, when Ma proposed a referendum on the matter, he led Tsai by 0.4 percent. As of that Tuesday, Tsai had been ahead of Ma in four out of the past seven days and on Monday she was ahead by 0.8 percent.

If Tsai maintains her momentum, then the tide could turn decisively against Ma and Tsai’s lead will only widen further over the ensuing months.

Among the numerous factors at play, there are two key reasons for this sudden turnaround. First, Ma’s approach to the proposed peace accord and talks of a referendum on the matter has made many voters feel as though he is only trying to manipulate the outcome of the election and is therefore untrustworthy. Second, the public does not trust this “peace accord,” especially if Ma — who lacks both sincerity and a sense of identification with Taiwan — will be the one negotiating with the Chinese Communist Party.

Reporters from Hong Kong who have come to observe Taiwan’s elections have also discovered Ma’s manipulative side, which is why they recently asked Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) why Ma has failed to follow through on his initial announcement of the possible peace accord.

Wang has no way of knowing the answer to that, because Ma’s election strategy is in the hands of Ma himself and his campaign director, King Pu-tsung (金浦聰). He responded simply by saying it was “election talk.” Evidently, then, Ma is willing to use any means at his disposal to win the election, even manipulating the cross-strait issue on which Taiwan’s sovereignty rests.

Ma has two strategies for dealing with this situation. First, he is delegating the dirty work to his running mate, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), and his spokesperson, allowing them to spread fabrications about Tsai while he himself remains above the fray. His other strategy is to denigrate the hard-earned achievements of others in major ad campaigns.

At the same time, old military men and friends have been encouraged to play to people’s sympathies and stir up tension.

Taiwanese must let go of Ma’s fantasies and use their votes to seize control of their own destiny. Tsai has recently received greater support at campaign rallies and there has been a clear rise in anti-Ma sentiment since the DPP declared this month “little piggies month” — sparking a craze for piggy-bank donation boxes. If Tsai and the DPP can be scrupulous in their dealings with big bad wolf Ma, then his recent downturn in support will ultimately translate into victory for Tsai.

By Paul Lin 林保華

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat


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