Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: ANALYSIS: Multifaceted Tsai is different kind of candidate

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Tsai Ing-wen, left, greets supporters in Taoyuan County on Oct 16 at the conclusion of her presidential election campaign trip along the west coast of Taiwan.

Photo: Li Jung-ping, Taipei Times

The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential campaign team was a bit confused at first about how to position and promote DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has been described as an “unorthodox” politician by many.

It would be difficult for the party’s traditional supporters, particularly those in rural areas, to relate to the cool and collected intellectual, who boasts little political experience and cannot even speak fluent Taiwanese, most team members thought.

It turned out that Tsai’s multifaceted identity and character became a campaign team’s dream as Tsai’s popularity has soared in the past few months.

As the first female presidential candidate in Taiwan history, the DPP campaign made “Taiwan’s first female president” the main slogan of the second phase of the campaign, following the “Taiwan NEXT” slogan in the initial stage, and it became an immediate hit with supporters.

At every rally, speakers highlighted that there have been more than 60 female leaders in the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigureardottir, which shows democratic development in those countries.

Meanwhile, Tsai also listed former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher as a role model.

“The slogan is in line with the DPP’s long-time advocacy of gender equality, and our opponents cannot copy that,” Tsai’s campaign spokesperson Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said, referring to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) alleged plagiarism of Tsai’s platform during the campaign.

Tsai also made a distinction between men and women to supporters, saying that women usually stress harmony and communication more and are more perseverant and less confrontational.

The 55-year-old’s background has enabled her to reach out to voters of different regions, ethnicities and languages.

Born in Pingtung County and spending most of her adult life in Taipei, Tsai has a Hakka father and a Taiwanese mother, and her grandmother is a Paiwan Aborigine.

People in southern Taiwan, the DPP’s stronghold, accepted her as one of their own as they did with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), giving Tsai a massive welcome during her recent 11-day 500km campaign trip on the west coast.

In campaign stops at Aboriginal townships, she said she always pride herself on her Aboriginal ancestry and pledged to apologize to Aborigines for the country’s past discrimination and misconduct if she is elected in January.

While Aborigines represent only about 2 percent of the total population, former Taitung County commissioner Chen Chien-nian (陳建年), an Aborigine, said recently that DPP Aboriginal representatives had noticed a shift in the political leanings of their tribes and “the tide is turning.”

Voters in Hakka constituencies in Miaoli, Hsinchu and Taoyuan, which traditionally favored the KMT, seemed to be able to relate to Tsai, shouting “Hakka girl for president” as she spoke during her visit.

Hakkas, which make up 18.1 percent of the nation’s 23 million nationals, or 4.2 million people, are the second-largest ethnic group in Taiwan behind the Hoklo people.

Tsai’s support rate among female Hakka voters appears to have increased a lot, said Yiong Cong-ziin (楊長鎮), a DPP legislative candidate in Miaoli.

The DPP is hoping that it will make progress in securing votes from women, Hakkas and Aborigines — all the DPP’s weak areas in past elections.

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