Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 4 News List

South sees different kind of campaign

RESULTS MATTER In the more rural south, personal connections and service to constituents are more important than than candidates' political ideologies

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER, IN KAOHSIUNG COUNTY

KMT legislative candidate Yu Yu-ting, left, bangs a drum with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, center, and Deputy Speaker Chiang Pin-kung, right, to open a campaign HQ last Sunday.

PHOTO: WU HSING-HUA, TAIPEI TIMES

The March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Committee, the NT$610.8 billion weapons purchases from the US, the KMT's stolen assets stand aside. What matters to voters in the countryside in southern Taiwan is "boa gam chin" (搏感情) a Hoklo expression meaning to establishing emotional and personal ties with constituents.

Two days ago in Luchu (路竹) Township in Kaohsiung County, a group of people sat on the square surrounded by traditional three-sided houses (三合院), drinking tea and reminiscing about the past.

These three-sided houses with a half-enclosed square can be seen everywhere in Taiwan's countryside, and it is common for neighbors to wander into each other's places casually, drink tea, and talk.

Yet the uncommon thing about the scene in Luchu was that one of the people in the tea party was Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who was playing the role of an old neighbor, rather than a major political figure.

There he was a highly respected elder, but he was even more a familiar neighbor who shared similar experiences with his neighbors as they grew up together.

Luchu is where Wang grew up. Wang's family is much respected in the village, and Wang knows almost everyone there. Every time he returns to the village, passersby would come and say hello.

"Of course I am still helping out my constituents with their requests," Wang said, saying he was still meeting and serving the constituents despite the fact that he is going to be a legislator-at-large in the next legislature.

Wang said that every Sunday he would return to Luchu, and his old home would be filled with constituents and he would mingle with them. The constituents would be provided with meals, and they would have a good time.

In this way Wang builds his popularity.

In Tainan County, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) set up his campaign headquarters in a similar setting: There is a square in which he can provide constituents with food, and right inside the headquarters there is a table with tea pots facing the door, so anyone who comes can immediately sit down, have a cup of tea and start chatting.

Lee's mother, who is 76 and dresses modestly as any farmer's wife would, is also at the headquarters welcoming the visitors.

Lee looks very calm, believing he has his constituency well secured.

"In the past, there would be fights between one village and another, and that is how united the villages are," Lee said, hinting that he had tight support from his village.

This is how elections work in the southern countryside -- the candidate is either from the area, or he has been serving the area well and knows the constituents well.

This is unlike the northern cities, where the candidates can try to gain support by promoting their personal ideologies and attract voters with similar ideas.

Many lawmakers in the southern countryside, be they pan-green or pan-blue, have voiced similar opinions: the constituents do not care about the political disputes presented by the media, but they care very much about whether they know the candidate and what the candidate can contribute to the area.

Familiarity with the constituents, or at least sharing the same origin, is of utmost importance to the candidates. A Hoklo proverb, "there is at least familiarity between two if they come from the same place even though they may not know each other well (人不親土親)," highlights how important it is for the candidates to share close ties with constituents.

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