Voters must turn out in force
As a person who admires Taiwan for its multi-party democratic system, I will be among those who will await both with anxiety and excitement the results of tomorrow’s presidential and legislative elections.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has topped the opinion polls, which means that she is very likely to succeed President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on May 20.
This would seem to be the most likely scenario — considering Taiwanese frustration with the stagnant economy and the underperforming government led by Ma.
A new government, led by the sincere and intelligent Tsai, would give a new hope to Taiwanese, whose trust in Ma in 2008 and 2012 presidential elections does not seem to be reciprocated.
However, voters must turn out in full force tomorrow if they genuinely believe in change.
We cannot be content with opinion polls and surveys, and expect others to cast their votes for Tsai and the DPP’s legislative candidates.
Recent elections around the world have shown that surveys cannot be trusted.
Prior to the British parliamentary election in May last year, opinion polls showed that the Labour and the Conservative parties were neck and neck, and that a “hung parliament,” in which no party secures a majority, was the most likely outcome. Yet, the results gave the ruling Conservatives a strong mandate, with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s party winning more seats than when they were first voted into office in 2010.
In another instance, pundits had forecast that Singapore’s opposition parties would build on their strong performance from 2011’s general election and secure more parliamentary seats in the elections on Sept. 11 last year. However, the result was a 9.72 percent swing in votes toward the People’s Action Party led by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍). Among other key factors cited by observers in post-election analyses, it was said that Singaporeans’ unhappiness with the government in 2011 has subsided over the years thanks, in part, to the government’s actions in addressing key issues, such as housing and transportation.
I doubt even the most optimistic supporter of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would dream of a scenario similar to Singapore’s — especially as Ma’s government has been ignoring the voices of the people for the past few years.
A strong mandate boosts the confidence of the president and their team. It would demonstrate to the international community the level of trust the public has in the new president and voice their disagreement with Ma’s policies and decisions.
Tsai’s capabilities and sincerity need no further elaboration. Unlike her KMT rival, who reneged on his promise not to run in the election, or Ma, who failed to honor his pledge not to meet with any Chinese officials during his term, Tsai is a leader who practices what she preaches.
A vote for Tsai is a vote not only for democracy; it is a vote for change and a vote for a better future.
While the KMT should be credited for increasing the number of nations and territories that grant Taiwanese visa-free entry or visas-on-arrival, I believe that ordinary Taiwanese are more concerned about their livelihood and their children’s education and future.
In this regard, the KMT failed to convince the public that the policies it has implemented in the past eight years have benefited ordinary Taiwanese. Neither has the KMT apologized for the missteps that, one can argue, led to the situation today.
Come tomorrow, voters must show up to empower Tsai and the DPP to build a better future for 23 million Taiwanese.
I was in the first year of university when the Wild Lily student demonstrations took place in 1990 and although I was a small cog in the movement, the experience opened my eyes to what democracy is. I consider it a great fortune to have had the opportunity to be involved in the movement.
When the Sunflower movement protests happened in 2014, I felt a sense of camaraderie. I sat quietly on the ground, listening to the speeches being delivered by students. It was the students’ day and I was there to offer my support and my blessings, as if I were there observing myself two decades ago.
However, police brutally suppressed the students on March 24, 2014, attacking unarmed students, doctors and teachers, and the authorities have been “unable to find” those responsible for the worst instances of violence even to this day, and despite the fact that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is in office.
During an academic seminar I was hosting, I told the junior doctors and medical students: “It would be terrible if you had been beaten, you should all study hard in the hospital, so you can help the sick and injured in the future.”
I am not sure whether it was the right thing to say. Was this selfish of me? Or was this born of the kind of love that the parents of Lin Chueh-min (林覺民) and Dai Lin (林冠華) would have had, not wanting them to put them in harm’s way?
When I was studying in the US, I experienced something I will never forget. It was during the time of a US presidential election, a presidential debate was being broadcast live, and the TV room for international students at the Harvard School of Public Health was packed. To me, this was testament to the passion that the students had for politics.
Taiwanese did not gain full suffrage until 1996. I say to the young generation: Do not waste your right to vote, which the previous generation fought so hard to obtain. Tomorrow we will have a presidential election. Go cast your vote, let your voice be heard. If you do not seize this opportunity now, then when? You might not think politics matters. It does.
I remember when the young Taiwanese flowers were protesting against the cross-strait service trade agreement proposed by the government, as well as occupying the legislature in 2014, one of the pundits on a pro-KMT TV show contrasted what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri, with what was happening in Taipei.
The point he was trying to make was that law enforcement in Taiwan was too soft on the students and that the police in the US would have been tougher on them. I remember feeling that something was wrong with that comparison, but I could not put my finger on it.
It was not until I saw the farce in Oregon did I realize what was wrong with that comparison. In Ferguson there were racial dynamics involved in how police treated the protesters. In other words, it was the historically accumulated mess of US race relations and evidently, in the absence of the racial dynamics, as in the Oregon farce, the police and FBI were quite prepared to be civil in their indulgence of the armed protesters.
Back in Taipei there were no ethnic dynamics and the students were not armed — on the contrary, they were university students who cared about their futures.
How dare the government use the state apparatus to brutalize and traumatize these young flowers and then have the impudence to congratulate itself on its relative benevolence.
As you exercise your constitutional right to vote, remember the blood, the bruises and the trauma the KMT government inflicted on those young flowers.
Luke Chi-hung Hsieh
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