Logo of the KMT

Mornings are my writing time, and usually I am left alone until Jack barks at the back door to let me know it is time for a walk. One morning last week, however, Manyu needed to vent, so she came to me at my writing table to complain. She was mad because Taiwan’s election commission had just made it illegal for anyone with COVID to vote. 

“Can’t people who test positive vote by mail?” I asked.

“No,” Manyu said, “we can only vote on election day, and it has to be in person.”

I pondered the COVID restriction for a moment, then said, “American politicians restrict voting too, but it’s always the political party in power trying to keep out the people most likely to vote against them. I’ve never heard of anyone interfering with voting rights if there is no advantage to it.”

“Of course there’s an advantage to it,” Manyu said. “It keeps old people from voting. Old people vote KMT, and young people vote DPP. The DPP did this.”

Logo of the DPP

The KMT or Kuomintang is the nationalist party brought over from Mainland China by Chiang Kai-shek in the late 1940s. I would describe it as right-of-center. The DPP or Democratic Progressive Party is the liberal counterpart. It was formed largely by the children of the people who were already living on Taiwan when Chiang Kai-shek showed up. I once thought the DPP was a healthy alternative to the KMT’s conservative values, but I now see it as populism at its worst. Its leaders first came to national prominence through lies and deception and now are willing to do almost anything to hang on to power. Many of the DPP’s stated objectives are appealing, but the tactics to accomplish those objectives are repulsive.

Manyu went on, “No one has to take a COVID test at the polls, so voting is on the honor system. Young people with COVID will vote anyway. I don’t blame them. I might do the same thing. Everyone in Taiwan wears masks all of the time, so they can vote and probably not spread the virus. Old people with COVID, however, are afraid to vote. They’ve probably seen a doctor to get Paxlovid, so the government’s national health system has a record of them testing positive. They won’t vote, because they might get caught, get fined, and lose their medicine.”

If Manyu’s interpretation of the DPP strategy is correct, it did not work as planned. In the elections of this past weekend, KMT candidates won  pretty much everywhere except in the hardcore DPP south. President Tsai Ing-wen was not up for reelection, but most of her handpicked DPP candidates lost. To me, it was analogous to the recent elections in the United States. A political party might have the wind at its back, but it still needs to field reasonably strong candidates. The difference between Taiwan and the US is that, in Taiwan, President Tsai accepted blame and stepped down as head of her political party.* Here in the US, Trump went in the opposite direction and announced his candidacy for reelection. 

*  She resigned as head of the DPP Party; she remains President of the country.

Steven Simpson