"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

An intro to Taiwan's "Bulletgate"

... or "How to be Imperial Assholes and let the whole world know"

A "mysterious" election eve shooting, a narrow victory, sore losers, riots, molotov cocktails, lawsuits filed without a shred of evidence, ...

Ai-yo! Where to begin?!

In the pan-blue corner...
The strange relationship between Lien Chan and James Soong is a murky and complicated one, but I will do my best to present a brief introduction to the evil within.

Lien served as vice-president to former president Lee Teng-hui when Taiwan was still under the rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT) which Lien now chairs. James Soong was a provincial governor and information minister during KMT rule, infamous for tapping phones and suppressing the use of local languages. He is now the chairman of the People First Party (PFP). With Soong running as an "independent" candidate in the 2000 presidential election, he and Lien both lost their bids to become the president of Taiwan to the current president Chen Shui-bian after their party had been in power for 50 years.

Habitual rioters
After the 2000 election, there were riots by dissatisfied members of the KMT who blamed former president Lee Teng-hui for Lien's loss. Lee, being the first Taiwanese-born president, had already put the nation on the road to democracy. Fittingly, he was the first president to be elected directly by the citizens of Taiwan -- while being intimidated by Chinese missiles. However, Lien clung desperately to the old traditions which were his last chance to remain in power. In the wake of the riots of 2000, Lee was forced out of the KMT. Lien took over the chairmanship (his first "coup" being successful), and Lee is now called the "spiritual leader" of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU).

Soong's PFP formed as a breakaway group from the KMT and for most of the time between 2000 and 2004, the two parties were arch-rivals.

Prior to the latest presidential election, however, the PFP dispensed with their tongue lashings of the KMT, and the KMT gave up trying to prosecute Soong for stealing their assets. They promulgated this farcical collaboration in an outlandish attempt to regain totalitarian control of a government that had been drunk on power from decades of "black gold" (a term Taiwanese use to describe corruption) and was still suffering a serious hangover nearly four years after losing their first election.

This resulting alliance of gangsters and thieves became known as the pan-blue alliance, whose name comes from the blue "sky" in the KMT's emblem. Lien and Soong teamed up as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, hoping that their combined votes (58% in 2000) would beat Chen in a second match-up.

These are the results of the 2000 election:
Chen Shui-bian: 4,977,697 votes
James Soong: 4,664,972 votes
Lien Chan: 2,925,513 votes
Things would change a good bit by the time the 2004 elections rolled around.

NEXT UP: "Introducing the good guys"
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