Tue, Mar 09, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Youth votes depend on character and policy

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

After the Feb. 28 Hand-in-Hand Rally, the presidential campaign between the pan-green and the pan-blue camps has entered the final countdown phase. Several public polls showed President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is taking the lead over Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) by 1 percent to 3 percent.

In the face of such a close race, the final decision would be made largely by the so-called "swing voters." Among them, young people have been both camps' most significant target voters, since more than 1.5 million young people have become eligible to vote for the first time.

It is widely recognized that the support of young voters was one of the driving forces behind Chen's victory in 2000. The desire for change and younger leadership motivated the young people to cast their votes in the historic transfer of political power four years ago.

In the present presidential race, as Lien teamed up with his former rival People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), attracting young voters by taking advantage of Chen's policy failures is the key to their campaign ticket. Despite emphasizing that "leadership is not about age but about wisdom and experience," both of them have been trying to change their wardrobes as they opt for a more youthful look to attract younger voters.

The efforts made by Lien and Soong to lure young voters might have short-term effects, but they will have a negligible impact on the campaign itself, because they fail to grasp the pulse of the young generation.

First, the pan-blue camp has thus far been unable to create a campaign with momentum such as the 228 rally to encourage young voters to participate in the campaign.

For the youth to come forward, a great incentive is necessary to make them "creators of history." Chen's camp successfully mobilized young people to join the change of Taiwan's first ever transfer of political power in 2000.

Even though the pan-blue alliance has resorted to the slogan of bringing forth "the second switch of political parties" this time, the idea is based merely on Chen's apparent lack of concrete performance, not because the Lien-Soong ticket is a better choice.

Second, Lien's camp failed to present a feasible policy to young voters.

The three-month voluntary military service scenario is too bold and irresponsible, simply because it put aside the issue of national security and bypassed the necessity of an incremental adjustment of the current system.

Third, the purpose of leadership is to get young people to follow you and to stay with you. So motivate them, do not dictate to them.

Political leaders have to create a culture that makes young people feel as if they are part of something important and that they are themselves important. Even if it were a mentor-protege relationship, the kids should play a key part. In this regard, the pan-blue camp should incorporate more young blood into the decision-making process.

Young voters are by nature pragmatic. Getting a decent job and having a brighter future are of great concern to them. Whoever can guarantee them a better future will have their votes in his pocket.

Personality no longer plays as significant a role as it did before. Some young voters will carefully make a character judgment in evaluating whom to trust with their vote.

But as the younger generation becomes more certain of their own opinions, they worry less about to whom they will delegate their power, and more about whether or not their representative will echo their own points of view.

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