Standing near center stage in the shadow of a giant balloon pig at a Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) “homecoming party” for piggy banks in Taipei yesterday, Wu Nai-ren (吳乃仁) quietly nodded his head.
The chief campaign manager for DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) nodded because the number of people showing up at the “three little pigs” fundraising campaign on a day of low temperatures and rain was much higher than expected.
Making a play on the English idiom “having a wolf by the ear,” Wu jokingly said the DPP now “had the pig by the ear.”
The piggy bank innovative campaign was never part of Wu or the DPP’s plan. The DPP did not initiate the campaign until after the Control Yuan said in October that it would look into the party’s acceptance of three piggy banks donated by three children, which it said was a possible violation of the Political Donations Act (政治獻金法).
Since then, the DPP has distributed more than 200,000 piggy banks nationwide and supporters have responded en masse, using the campaign as a vehicle to show support for the DPP and voice their -displeasure against the much wealthier Chinese National Party (KMT).
The enormous show of support — and Tsai’s preference for the campaign, according to DPP staffers — was why the DPP went along with the impromptu campaign, which later became one of the main themes of Tsai’s presidential bid.
“I don’t think this has ever happened in the history of Taiwan’s elections. And I never imagined it would be this huge,” said DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲), who first proposed the countermeasure to the Control Yuan’s decision.
However, DPP officials were concerned about yesterday’s turnout because of the bad weather in Taipei during the past week. Party officials were so worried that some DPP staffers prayed to the local earth god, Tu Di Gong (土地公), at a temple on Friday night in the hopes that the deity would deliver good weather yesterday.
As it turned out, supporters’ passion overcame the bad weather. The DPP said that 50,000 supporters showed up, although the number seemed closer to 30,000. Perhaps the event was held too early for young people because most of the supporters who showed up were elderly citizens and their grandchildren.
A women surnamed Wu (吳) said she had brought six full piggy banks in a shopping bag, adding that although they were heavy, “it was a worthy cause.”
A child said he earned an allowance from his parents by doing his housework and household chores so he could “feed the pig.”
The “accidental campaign” had a multi-faceted meaning for the DPP, campaign spokesperson Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said.
The campaign could generate public interest, from independent voters in particular, boost morale for DPP supporters, help the party’s mobilization efforts because piggy bank donors would be asked to give their names and phone numbers, and increase the DPP’s election fund, she said.
The “three little pigs” event also perfectly matched the message the DPP wanted to send out — a David versus Goliath-like image of its difficult battle against the KMT.
Tsai has been a “lucky candidate” throughout her presidential campaign, said a staffer at the campaign’s news department who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
“Whenever she started speaking, the rain stopped and the bad weather was gone. The ‘three little pigs’ were God-sent, you may say,” he said.