An election campaign with a very Taiwanese touch

A candidate for the opposition Nationalist Party KMT on a billboard at a traditional market in Taipei

Since 2014, local elections in Taiwan have been unified to a single vote, typically in November, held once every four years. So, on November 26th, 2022 these will be held again.

They are nicknamedNine-in-One”, as nine categories of elected office, ranging from mayors and heads of large counties to chiefs of small villages, will be decided by popular vote.

The first ones actually took place on November 22nd 1935 during Nippon’s colonial rule (1895-1945), in what back then used to be known as Formosa due to its Portuguese denomination.

Out of a population of around four million, half of the city and township councilors were elected by just 28,000 Taiwanese and Japanese men aged 25 and above who the year before had paid a significant amount of tax.

The other half was appointed by veteran prefectural governor Nakagawa Kenzō (1875-1944), who while implementing limited self-rule on the island still maintained extensive control of these institutions.

I have experienced the current election campaign myself while selling my homemade food at the traditional marketnear Taipei’s main fish and seafood venue.

A female candidate from the Taiwan People’s Party, founded in 2019 by incumbent Taipei City mayor Ko Wen-je (born 1959), with a big balloon over her head, approached me with a smile.

As she wrongly assumed that I don’t understand Chinese, she tried to explain what was going on in relatively good English. To her surprise, I answered in Mandarin that I had already seen her photo and even knew her name. The lady seemed somehow relieved.

At the same time, three young staff members were giving out packages of napkins with her ad printed on. While these handouts have become widespread practice, during COVID times other contestants do the same with surgical masks.

Shortly afterwards, another woman, whose name had a clear Mainlander touch, and looked more full-bodied than on the billboards, showed up with her entourage. It included a helper with something resembling a Buddhist prayer flag attached to his back. She merely waved at me.

Though by far the most outstanding participant in this ongoing political event was a girl dancing at a traffic light near a main road. Too bad I was in a rush to take my bus, so I don’t remember any other details…

The place where I chose to live never stops surprising and amazing me, including its politics. Besides that, as is it’s never good that any party holds too much power, let’s hope that next month the opposition to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) consolidates its position.