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Editorial : "Han" wave provides food for thought

【明報專訊】TAIWAN will go to the polls in the coming Saturday's "nine-in-one" elections. Drawing the most attention is the mayoral elections in the six special municipalities — Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, which are commonly known as the "six capitals". And of the six races, it is that in Kaohsiung, a southern city as well as a stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), that is the most gripping. Han Kuo-yu, the underdog candidate from the Kuomintang (KMT) parachuted into the race, has enjoyed rising popularity on the strength of his alternative yet friendly image, so much so that he has become a new political idol across Taiwan. Now he is ahead of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opponent in opinion surveys. Whatever the election results, the "Han wave" he has triggered will go down in history as the most peculiar political phenomenon in Taiwan in the year 2018.

Southern Taiwan has long been a stronghold of the DPP, and Kaohsiung is an especially deep green region. There the DPP has been in government for more than twenty years. In the presidential election two years ago, the DPP defeated the KMT by more than 560,000 votes in Kaohsiung. The mayoral election of Kaohsiung four years ago also saw Chen Chu, the DPP candidate, trounce the KMT candidate by 540,000 votes. That Han, an outsider to the city, has turned the tide in a place where "even the earth is green three metres deep" is the story of "the race between the tortoise and the rabbit" come true. A heavy blow to the DPP government, it also raises hopes of a KMT revival. It can even be a wild card in the 2020 presidential election.

Han, whose strategy is to put himself in the direst situation and seeks survival, campaigns like no one else. He has talked with farmers and fishermen when presenting himself as a vegetable vendor. He refrains from mentioning issues such as "opposition to Taiwan's independence" and "the 1992 consensus", talking only about selling agricultural products across the strait. A member of the KMT, he takes great pains to distance himself from the old image of the KMT, stressing that "the election will be a vote of no confidence in the DPP by citizens of Kaohsiung and Han". In a departure from traditional politics, he did not launch any vitriolic attacks on his opponent. He has cultivated a friendly image with his eloquence and plain language. He sings with his heart out and downs wine with deep bowls, which people of Kaohsiung find relatable. All of a sudden he has become the darling of the media. Wherever he goes, he stirs passion like a pop star. The "Han wave" has swept across Taiwan, with Han even campaigning for candidates of the same party in other municipalities and magistrates, bringing hopes of KMT revival in many mayoral elections.

The "nine-in-one" elections are seen as a "mid-term test" for Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president. No matter whether there will be a "Han wave" miracle, the leadership of Tsai and Chen Chu, now secretary general to the president, in the DPP is likely to be challenged. The political climate of Taiwan will also be changed. Even if Han loses, he might be able to carry what is left of the "Han wave" into 2020 and become a presidential candidate.

The "Han wave" reflects one thing: the Taiwanese people are tired of ideological manipulation and want an end to the bitter disagreements between the Blue and Green camps.

明報社評2018.11.19:台灣選舉奇蹟 「韓流」帶來啟示

台灣的「九合一」選舉,本周六(24日)就將投票,這次選舉最引人注目的是台北、新北、桃園、台中、台南、高雄6個直轄市(俗稱「六都」)市長選戰,而六都選戰中,又以民進黨大本營的南部高雄市的選情最扣人心弦。事前不被看好、空降參選的國民黨候選人韓國瑜,憑着另類、親和的形象,支持度節節上升,竟成了全台灣的新政治偶像,民調已領先民進黨候選人,無論最終結果如何,由他掀起的「韓流」,都將作為台灣2018年最奇特的政治現象載入史冊。

南台灣一直是民進黨鐵票區,高雄更是綠中之深綠,民進黨在此執政20多年,兩年前總統大選,民進黨在這裏贏國民黨56萬多票;4年前高雄市長選舉,民進黨的陳菊大勝國民黨對手54萬票,在這塊「土地挖下去3公尺都是綠色的」地方,外來的韓國瑜能夠逆轉勝,不僅是活生生、真人版的「龜兔賽跑」,也是對民進黨政府的沉重打擊,讓國民黨有了起死回生的希望,更可能給2020年台灣總統大選帶來變數。

韓國瑜抱着置之死地而後生的態度,走另類競選之路。他以「賣菜郎」身分與農漁民溝通,不談「反台獨」和「九二共識」,只談讓農產品銷往對岸;他是國民黨人,但極力與國民黨舊形象保持距離,只強調「這次選舉是高雄市民加上韓國瑜對民進黨投的不信任票」;他一反傳統政治套路,不向對手口出惡言,口才便給、話語淺白,塑造親和形象,「大聲唱歌、大碗喝酒」的特質,頗迎合高雄人的「氣口」(胃口),令他成為「媒體寵兒」。韓國瑜所到之處都有如巨星降臨般掀起狂潮,這股「韓流」颳向全台,他更跨縣市為同黨候選人助選,令國民黨在多個市的市長選情都出現了逆轉的希望。

「九合一」選舉被視為台灣總統蔡英文的「期中考試」,最後無論「韓流」奇蹟會否出現,都將動搖蔡英文及其總統府秘書長陳菊在民進黨內的領導地位,還將改變台灣的政治生態。即使韓國瑜今次飲恨,也很可能挾「韓流」餘威,成為2020年的總統候選人。

「韓流」的啟示就是:台灣民眾已經厭煩意識形態的操弄,希望告別藍綠惡鬥!

■Glossary

stronghold : an area in which there is a lot of support for a particular belief or group of people, especially a political party

trounce : to defeat sb completely

vitriolic : full of anger and hatred

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