More than half of Taiwan’s voters are swing voters, so their support for a specific political party varies. They are open to letting economic gains and personal connections decide who they vote for and this makes it more probable that they would favor the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over other political parties.
On the other hand, swing voters are typically attuned to images of incorruptibility.
During the dangwai (outside the party, ie, the KMT) movement of the mid-1970s and early 1980s, Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), who later became minister of justice, succeeded thanks to his incorruptibility and hard political work, which gained him the favor of nearly all swing voters.
During the presidential election of 2008, the anti-corruption image of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had become a thing of the past and many swing voters cast their ballots in favor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) simply because they thought he was less corrupt than the other candidate, giving him a landslide victory.
Plenty of public discontent toward Ma surfaced during this year’s presidential election, but somehow he still won by pulling a veil over the public’s eyes. The main reason he was able to win was his image of incorruptibility.
Despite their apparent dislike for Ma, swing voters still chose him because they no longer trusted the DPP and did not believe the party would do a better job of running the nation.
However, people in the pan-green camp believe Ma is truly corrupt, while swing voters believe he is relatively clean. Remember that even though swing voters hold much disdain for ineptitude, they dislike corruption even more.
The financial power and political connections of the DPP are far from reaching those of the KMT. The DPP must therefore rely on an image of incorruptibility to win over swing voters and that image must outshine the KMT to be able to make up for the party’s lack of financial resources and political connections.
The recent corruption scandal surrounding former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) has made people in the pan-green camp think the tables have turned in their favor.
If the KMT’s clean image now collapses, they will be incapable of contending with the pan-green camp.
However, it would take a few more of these corruption scandals to completely crack the KMT’s image of incorruptibility. If all the DPP relies on is this one measly case, the KMT will return in full force in just a few months.
The Lin case is not enough to tarnish the pristine image of the KMT and there are three reasons for this.
First, the KMT has severed all ties with Lin and revoked his party membership, even though Lin said he would give up party membership on his own.
KMT Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如), who served as Lin’s attorney and accompanied him during the prosecutors’ questioning, has also decided not to serve as his attorney any longer.
Second, despite being the son of an important politician, holding high office and immense political power, Lin has few supporters who can help him maintain his connections with the KMT.
Third, Lin is not high-profile enough and lacks the financial resources to build sufficient grassroots support.
If Lin had succeeded in doing that, there would have been many people willing to stand up for him and that would have made it difficult for the KMT to distance itself from him.