In reply to a letter to the editor, (Letters, April 20, page 8) Paul Huang asked why the DPP would adopt the idiotic policy of using Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) in its presidential primary debates. It is incumbent upon me to provide him with some answers.
DPP politicians use the Hoklo language because the majority of their core and potential supporters speak it. It is the language that is closer to their heart.
During the 2000 and 2004 elections, Mainlander Mandarin and Hakka speakers in the northern part of the country gave 75 percent to 85 percent votes to the opposition, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP). The majority of non-Hoklo speakers ditched the DPP for the opposition. The ethnic divide, as exemplified by language, is clear and transcends voting patterns. The DPP even began filtering out pan-blue camp supporters in order to accurately judge the actual support it can expect.
The principle to follow, therefore, is to use the dominant language in order to win votes. Using the right language at the right time to get the right message across to the right people is equally important. The Hoklo language has long been used as an instrument to create a strong emotional and social bond among supporters. It is no wonder, therefore, that even opposition leaders like PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) regularly speak Hoklo at major functions.
Hoklo speakers are not only Hoklo, but Aborigine, Hakka and Mainlanders as well. Through the bond created by language, many people come to share a similar ideology and political and social-cultural identification, all of which are usually the ideas espoused by the DPP, such as opposition to unification with China, support for democracy and localization.
As the saying goes: "The way to win a husband's heart is through his favorite food." In politics, the road to win voter support is to speak their mother tongue. This is the tool of social allegiance and emotional intelligence.
After 50 years of suppression by authoritarian rule and aggressive policies of Mandarinization and Sinicization in Taiwan, Japanese is almost extinct today. Ant yet, the Hoklo language has successfully withstood repression and discrimination, largely because, unlike Japanese, it is the mother tongue of the majority. After martial law was lifted, the Hoklo language reached unprecedented levels of popularity, even among the young and non-native speakers of Hoklo.
Over the past 400 years, the Hoklo language has been passed on by as many as 20 generations, despite colonization and suppression by the Dutch, Koxinga, the Manchus, Japanese and Mainlander Chinese. The willpower of Taiwanese to protect and preserve their mother tongue and sociocultural unity is a truly inspiring story.
As many as 85 percent of Taiwanese speak Mandarin, but from an electoral perspective this statistic can be misleading. Removing people below the age of 20 (27 percent of the population, of whom 100 percent are fluent in Mandarin but cannot vote) brings the number of eligible voters to 73 percent of the population.
A breakdown of eligible voters is as follows: aged 20 to 49 (42 percent); 50 to 64 (31 percent). The majority of individuals in the 50 to 64 age group are non-Mandarin speakers, with the exception of some mainlanders.
The more Mandarin speaking 20 to 49 age group, for its part, constitutes approximately 60 percent of total eligible voters. A DPP policy of using Mandarin would risk alienating about 40 percent of eligible voters in the 50 to 64 age group. As individuals in this category are predominantly heads of families, their views and opinions are widely respected by the younger generations and as a result they are well-positioned to influence family members on political issues -- and which party to vote for.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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