Sat, Jan 01, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Fear played a larger role than anger in elections

By Hsiao Chih-ru 蕭志如

There is certainly more than one reason why any election is won or lost. The mathematical concepts of set theory or even probability theory are useful tools for logically and thoroughly analyzing the outcome of an election.

The people of Taiwan directly elected the president for the first time in 1996. In response to the direct election that highlighted Taiwan's sovereignty, China attempted to deter the Taiwanese people by launching a missile drill.

Fortunately, then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) handled the crisis appropriately. Meanwhile, Washington also sent aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait. Most Taiwanese voters were angry, not scared, at that time.

About 75 percent of the public voted for either Lee or Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) of the Democratic Progressive Party out of anger. Others voted for Lin Yang-kang (林洋港) or Chen Lu-an (陳履安) due to either their sense of a "greater China consciousness" or their fear of war. By categorizing voters according to their sense of anger, fear, "Taiwan awareness," or "greater China consciousness," it is not very difficult to analyze the 1996 election through some simple mathematical concepts -- such as "union" and "intersection."

As for the green camp's failure in last month's legislative elections, the reasons were rather complex, and different experts have come up with their own analyses. Basically, their analyses are mostly correct but incomplete.

I tend to analyze elections in terms of mathematical set theory. In the latest elections, the number of votes cast dropped compared with the elections in 2000. I agree that many factors that have been mentioned by experts did play a role, including inappropriate nominations, vote-allocation techniques, factions and bribery.

But what I am concerned with is the Taiwanese people's fear -- a factor not even the ruling party has noticed. In the three presidential elections in 1996, 2000 and 2004, the Taiwanese people's reaction was anger in the face of China's threats. They bravely cast their ballots in favor of the candidates Beijing disliked.

But in the legislative elections, the US opposition to the pan-green camp's push for a new constitution and a national name change generated fear among voters. The turnout rate declined from over 80 percent in the March presidential election to about 59 percent. Both pan-blue and pan-green supporters were surely included in the set formed by those who did not vote this time.

If we deduct all the subsets formed by those who were too lazy to vote and those who were disappointed by the government's performance and the unrest created by the pan-blue camp, the remainder were people who feared the US reaction, worrying that voting for the pan-green camp may push Washington away.

The Taiwanese people are seldom angry at their American friends. Since their fear was greater than their anger, not voting seemed to be inevitable.

If China carefully calculates the Taiwanese people's fear, comes up with the necessary steps to turn anger into fear, and forces the Taiwanese authorities to accept an unfavorable interim agreement that may turn the nation into the next Hong Kong through brinksmanship, the annexation of Taiwan by China will only be a matter of time.

It is already impossible for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to create a new constitution or change the nation's name during his term. What the Taiwanese people should fear is that the ruling party would make a concession to accept an interim agreement as a replacement for the "one China" principle in a bid to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait.

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