The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday said it hopes to turn the table in the January presidential and legislative elections by winning more votes from Aborigines, who have traditionally been strong supporters of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
In a joint meeting of its Aboriginal campaign headquarters, the DPP said it had for the first time established campaign offices in all of the nation’s 55 Aboriginal townships, proof of the party’s ambitious and aggressive strategy to win more Aboriginal votes on Jan 14.
While in past elections the party had essentially conceded the difficult Aboriginal districts, DPP Deputy Secretary-General Hung Yao-fu (洪耀福) said the current efforts “reaffirmed the DPP’s dedication and commitment to Aborigines.”
An analysis of previous elections show that the KMT has won the Aborigine vote by a ratio of seven to three over the DPP.
There are about 500,000 Aborigines in Taiwan, representing about 2 percent of the population.
With some opinion polls showing a neck-and-neck race between DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Aboriginal votes could be a deciding factor.
If the DPP increased its vote share among Aborigines by 10 percent, it might very well win the presidential election, Hung said.
DPP Aboriginal representatives said they had noticed a shift in the political leanings within their tribes, former Taitung County commissioner Chen Chien-nian (陳建年) said.
“The tide is turning,” he said.
Chen, who left the KMT after more than 30 years to join the DPP, said the attitude of the DPP presidential ticket toward Aborigines was very different from that of Ma.
Tsai has pledged to offer an official apology to Aborigines if she is elected, Chen said, while DPP vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) spent a lot of effort vying for Aboriginal support when he ran in the Greater Taichung mayoral election last year.
Despite Su’s loss by a small margin, support for the DPP in Heping (和平), a mountainous area populated predominantly by Aborigines, went from 10 percent to 40 percent, Chen said.
In contrast to Tsai and Su, Ma has failed to deliver on his campaign pledges to Aborigines, including a NT$50 billion (US$1.65 billion) development budget for Aboriginal tribes, said Yohani Isqaqavut, chief coordinator of the newly opened Aboriginal campaign headquarters.
Ma’s comment about “treating Aborigines as human beings,” which has since made him notorious among Aborigines, reflected his lack of respect for the original inhabitants of the island, Yohani said.
The DPP’s efforts coupled with Ma’s failures, Yohani said, are why the party representatives are hoping to send to the legislature Tseng Chih-yung (曾智勇) and Antonio I.C. Hong (鴻義章), who will run in districts of highland and lowland tribes respectively.