Fri, Jan 10, 2020 - Page 8 News List

Han counts on complacent voters

By Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos

In November last year, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-Yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate and main contender against incumbent President Tsai Ying-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election bid, told his supporters in a Facebook post that they should lie to pollsters and tell them that they support Tsai whenever they are asked to participate in political surveys. The post came when polls were showing a double-digit advantage in favor of Tsai.

This was without a doubt strange advice to give his followers, as most politicians would rather have factual information to plan their campaign strategy to try and improve their standing among voters that could eventually lead to victory.

Some members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called his suggestion to supporters to lie “laughable and ignorant.”

At first sight, this suggestion seemed like a defeatist attitude coming from the opposition candidate that could not only affect morale among his supporters, but also diminish the amount of campaign contributions he could raise from locals and Taiwanese businesspeople abroad.

It is no secret that big campaign donations usually come with strings attached and that the people making them are expecting to be repaid once a candidate reaches office.

Taking that into consideration, and that it sounds unlikely that anybody would be willing to donate significant amounts of money to a candidate with slim chances to win, it is hard to understand why a candidate would go out and publicly ask his supporters to make it look like his main competitor has the upper hand, but Han might be trying to do more than just confuse the pollsters and the general public.

In July last year, I wrote an article that drew a comparison between Han and US President Donald Trump, specifically how both relied on a populist message and enjoyed extensive media coverage.

My opinion has not changed since, as at the end of last month, during a public debate, Han made headlines for taking an aggressive stance toward journalists that asked him questions about his cross-strait position, among other topics. This confrontational style when being questioned is something for which Trump has become notorious since taking office.

Now, right before tomorrow’s elections, is it possible that there was actually a plan behind the seemingly incomprehensible suggestion to his supporters that relies on one of the factors that helped Trump get elected in 2016?

In many of the analyses that were made after Trump’s victory, which came as a shock for experts, pollsters and the majority of Americans, there was a word that was constantly repeated to explain then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s defeat: “complacency,” specifically, Democratic voters’ complacency.

After Han asked his supporters to lie to pollsters, the distance between both candidates widened significantly, with some opinion polls showing a difference of more than 30 points. With a divide like that it would be hard to imagine that he has any real possibility of victory.

However, could it be that the real goal of burning down the polls by asking his followers to lie was to make it look like he has no chance of winning to make DPP voters overconfident in being able to defeat him and keep them away from the polls?

Such a strategy would be a risky one indeed, but if he was able to succeed in his gamble, it could end up tilting the needle in his favor.

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