Taiwan remains a hyperactive democracy, where political rallies and gatherings of various types are being organized in all directions as the elections draw near. These rallies are often arranged in a professional manner, influenced by the U.S. campaigning style (with a pinch of local “cute” design – see photo 5) and benefiting from Taiwan’s own assets in the marketing and entertainment industries.
Observations of the rallies, in all their diversity, point at the fast-pace emergence of a new political force, the New Power Party, founded by charismatic leaders of the Sunflower Movement of March-April 2014. Many of the Sunflower leaders, such as Huang Kuo-chang (photo 6) or Freddy Lim (photo 11), are now running as legislative candidates in the current elections, with the personal support of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen.
However, this presidential campaign appears calmer than the previous ones, at least in the street, with political rallies both smaller in size and less numerous according to long-time KMT and DPP campaigners. For one thing, with the development of social networks, the campaign has shifted online. Most of all, according to polls, the die is already cast — Tsai Ing-wen is likely to be elected as the new president. In this context, many Taiwanese believe that their participation in the campaign, and the efforts of KMT campaigners (photo 10) or current President Ma Ying-jeou (photo 2) to support candidate Eric Chu, will not have much effect on the result.
The photos used in this essay were mainly taken during political rallies in Taipei in mid- to late December 2015, two to three weeks before the presidential and legislative elections on January 16, 2016.
Dr. Alice Ekman is Head of China Research at the French Institute of International Relation’s Center for Asian Studies.