Those of you who are skeptical can take heart in the China Times poll, which once again has Ma up by 5-6%. As usual.
I was chatting last night with my friend Michael Fahey, one of the sharpest observers of Taiwan politics I know, about the KMT's campaign, which both of us agreed has been poorly handled, to this point. Ma's inane "peace accord" knocked the campaign back a few points, reminding voters that he is too close to China. The KMT seems to lack any clear forward-looking policy, and spend much of its time responding to the DPP's policy stances. Tsai's rapid capture of the high ground on nuclear energy, whatever you may think of nukes as an energy alternative, was an example of a decisive and competent political move that has been lacking on the KMT side. The piggy bank fiasco has also energized the DPP voting bloc and I suspect bandwagon effects are slowly taking place: Taiwanese love to back a winner.
Instead of Ma's slick 2008 campaign with its moving "Ma Ying-jeou, we are ready" TV ad, what we've been getting is klutzy moves like the one by KMT heavyweight Wu Po-hsiung, who the other day labeled the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen a "fake Hakka":
Leaders from local Hakka groups yesterday slammed former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) for calling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a “pseudo-Hakka” and demanded that the KMT apologize for what they called its past policy of “linguistic genocide.”Tsai is Hakka (and one-quarter Paiwan aborigine). This attempt to claim that "we" are the real X and "they" are the fake X reminded me forcibly of the complaints about the DPP's 2008 and 2004 campaigns that "loving Taiwan" or "being a real Taiwanese" meant you voted KMT. Many light blues and independents were offended by such comments. Now the shoe is on the other foot as the KMT offended another community that is conventionally perceived to vote KMT by trying to define who and who isn't a Hakka. Wu himself is a major Hakka politician.
Wu could have affirmed Tsai as a Hakka and left everyone with warm fuzzies, including potential Hakka KMT voters. But instead....
Even worse, though, Wu's attack on Tsai reminded voters of why people in Tsai's generation don't speak Hakka -- because when Tsai was going to school, the KMT banned languages other than Mandarin in the schools and on TV. Ouch! Let's remind everyone of our authoritarianism! Great move.
I also wondered whether the KMT is being hurt because the legislative and presidential elections were being held at the same time, and thus, its excellent local networks are focused on getting their local people elected. Comments, anyone?
Another thing Fahey pointed out to me is that Ma is looking old, especially to young voters. Since he doesn't look old to me, I guess that makes me....old. Damn.
And of course, whenever you raise the KMT's apparent incompetence with pan-Greens, they all say the same thing: expect some major dirty trick in the run-up to the election....
On the other side, the DPP is quietly running a very effective campaign. No major screw ups. No bombast. Moderation is the order of the day. Once again, I heartily thank the KMT for gagging Chen Shui-bian for the last several elections, so that he has completely failed to be an issue despite sporadic KMT attempts to run against Chen Shui-bian. Tsai has a wholesome, moderate, competent image that is very effective and has been steadily chipping away at Ma's lead.
Also, in the 2004 and 2008 elections the major international media was perfectly awful. This time it has really been much better. This week Bloomberg interviewed Tsai. Look how they emphasize her moderate image and her competence (don't know where she was born, though).
Still, sixty days to go. Anything could happen. Brrr....
Academics from all over are reporting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has canceled their usual practice of bringing in academics from all over the world to witness the elections. They say that they are simply inundated with requests and since they are unable to service them all, they have decided it is only fair not to do any rather than pick and choose. Don't get visions of nefariousness into your heads, this explanation may well be true, especially in this era of tight budgets.
Stock market expectations: remember how there was what appeared to be an organized effort to pimp Taiwan's stock market? Up it went throughout the election run-up, and then the day after Ma swore in it began a downward slide. There's nothing like that now, nor the absurd lies about the economy that one heard in the media during the 2008 campaign.
UPDATED: TT today reports on Ma's reversal on elderly farmer subsidies. Originally he supported an NT$316 per month increase -- $10 US dollars, enough for half a tank of gas if you own a small car. After criticism from the DPP and warnings that the low increase would cost the KMT 80-150K votes, it has been tripled to NT$1000 a month. Badly handled, again.....
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