Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Sobbing for votes

Taiwanese politicians often employ crying, vows and other methods in the hope of obligating constituents to vote for them

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

Hsinchu mayoral candidate Hsu Ming-tsai last week has his head shaved bald inside a temple in Hsinchu.

Photo: Hong Mei-hsiu, Taipei Times

When it became apparent that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Hsinchu mayoral candidate Hsu Ming-tsai (許明財) was going to lose the election, he did the only thing any self-respecting politician would do: head to the temple, sit in front of an alter, pray to a deity and cry, all while having his hair shaved off.

Flanked by supporters at Hsinchu’s Du Cheng Huang Temple (都城隍廟), former Hsinchu mayors Shih Hsin-chung (施性忠) and Tung Sheng-nan (童勝男), and academic Jou Jwo-huei (周卓煇) each took turns using an electric razor to remove Hsu’s hair, a gesture that was meant to symbolize the candidate’s determination to get elected, stamp out black-gold politics and bring happiness and prosperity to his constituents.

Aside from sobbing, Hsu didn’t make a sound throughout the trim.

Crying, praying or having one’s hair cut as a means of appealing for votes is a Taiwanese tradition dating back to the Martial Law era, when non-KMT politicians had to appeal to voters in extraordinary ways. Known as suzhubeiqing (訴諸悲情, literally: appealing to sadness), candidates — political heavyweights in tow — use this kind of behavior to show their sincerity and create an obligation in the minds and hearts of decided and undecided voters, who are made to feel guilty if they don’t vote in a particular way.

The gesture, however, smells of desperation. It is more likely that those candidates heading for defeat will blub in public.

Perhaps the most famous politician to use suzhubeiqing is former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chu Hsin-yu (朱星羽). Chu’s main tactic was to show up at funerals, prostrate himself at the entrance of the hall where the body was kept and proceed to crawl toward the casket, wailing over the memory of the deceased.

But Hsu’s suzhubeiqing trifecta is rare, with candidates typically appealing to only one of these behaviors.

CRYING OUT FOR VOTES

Crying on the campaign trail is de rigueur for many politicians. At a rally last Friday, Kaohsuing mayoral candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) took to the stage and cried in front of 200,000 supporters, as did Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬) — the wife of Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the KMT’s candidate — in front of 150,000 supporters.

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Pasuya Yao (姚文智) choked up many times on the campaign trail as did New Taipei City mayoral candidate Hou You-yi (侯友宜).

In every case, the candidates talk about some wrong that has been committed against them and how they will survive the onslaught.

When asked by reporters why he had a tendency to blub, Ko said that it was the only way for him to handle all the political attacks against him. Others, such as Chen, said that it is all his supporters that lead him to cry.

VOWING TO THE GOD TO DO GOOD

The rough and tumble of political campaigns often lead politicians to make vows, as when DPP Taipei city councilor Wang Shih-cheng (王世堅) vowed to jump in the sea if Han was elected Kaohsiung mayor — a promise he had also made and fulfilled in 2008 when he told the media if the KMT won all eight of Taipei City’s legislative districts. As of press time, Wang had yet to take the dive.

Another common vow is one given to a deity, which consists of leading the media to a temple, making a promise and stating what the consequences will be if the promise is not kept.

In Tainan, mayoral candidate and former KMT, legislator Kao Su-po (高思博) vowed to never use the power of his office to obtain illegal or private gains for his family or take kickbacks. Flanked by former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), Kao said that if he breaks his vow he is willing to undergo the most severe punishment.

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