With the combined legislative and presidential elections, the presidential election appears to be overshadowing the legislative campaigns, compelling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to make cross-country runs to help boost the party’s legislative candidates’ visibility.
The heavy reliance on Tsai to boost support for the legislative candidates is very clearly felt by those competing in tough electoral districts and as a result, Tsai’s campaign headquarters has received calls almost daily from district legislative candidates asking for her to attend their respective rallies.
Tsai’s schedule, especially before and after the holidays at the start of the year, has been especially hectic, as she has had to crisscross the nation stumping for DPP legislative candidates. Without a private jet, the high-speed rail has become the quickest way Tsai can travel around the nation to help drum up support for her party’s candidates.
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), who is seeking re-election in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sanchong District (三重), cited the instance of rallies for DPP legislative candidates in Sanchong as an example and said that whenever Tsai appeared at the rallies, attendance usually doubled, “easily surpassing 10,000 people per rally.”
According to Gao, votes for the pan-green camp in New Taipei City in recent years have held steady, if not increased. When Tsai ran for New Taipei City mayor in 2010, she even garnered more votes than DPP county commissioner (for the former Taipei County) candidates did in previous elections.
Although the presidential campaign heated up slowly in New Taipei City, supporters have begun to attend rallies as voting day approaches, Gao said, adding: “Tsai’s presence at a rally energizes the mood and gives many supporters the confidence that we can win the elections.”
The DPP’s legislative candidates in southern Taiwan have also been asking if Tsai could show up at their rallies.
According to DPP campaign aides, internal polls suggested that support for legislative candidates surged after Tsai shared the stage with them at rallies. As such, legislative candidates have been eager for Tsai to spend more time in the south to not only bolster their support, but also to raise their profile through the rallies.
In Tsai’s absence, the “Siao Ying Girls” (小英女孩) group, a group of eight girls chosen from the DPP’s Youth Division, who had become a hit after two TV commercials showing their support for Tsai, have also been highly sought after by DPP candidates to appear at their rallies. The group has become so popular that the DPP had to hire managers to help manage its schedule, the aides say, adding that candidates who could not get the group to come root for them at campaign events have also resorted to the use of limited editions of Tsai-related memorabilia, such as piggy banks, as a substitute in the hope of attracting support from pan-green supporters.
The piggy banks are related to the “three little pigs” fundraising campaign the DPP held starting in October last year, which yielded a total of NT$200 million (US$6.6 million), the party said last week.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer