Written by Solidarity.tw.
When the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) declined to nominate a candidate for Taipei 5—which consists of Wanhua District (a historic Taiwanese community featured in the 2010 hit movie Monga) and most of Zhongzheng District (which holds numerous national government complexes)—and instead endorsed New Power Party candidate Freddy Lim (林昶佐), 39-year-old Chthonic frontman and former chairman of Amnesty International Taiwan, many assumed 20-year incumbent legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) (age 64) of the KMT would win re-election easily.
After all, Lin had won as much support as the KMT presidential candidate in 2012, defeating DPP Taipei City Councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) by 12.9%. His new opponent was a campaign neophyte who hadn’t even lived in the district where he would run: Lim had originally declared he would campaign in Taipei 6, Da’an District, because he’d spent his whole life there, only to step aside one week later for Social Democratic Party Chairwoman Fan Yun (范雲) (who has since run a desultory campaign). The DPP decision seemed to be motivated more by a desire to avoid two bouts of nasty infighting—one between rival city councilors Yen Sheng-kuan and Tung Chung-yen (童仲彥), and the other between the DPP and Freddy’s party, the New Power Party (NPP), which has associated itself very closely with the nation-changing Sunflower Movement—than it was about Freddy Lim being the candidate with the best chance to win.
Lin Yu-fang had avoided the negative news reports that have plagued KMT politicians in recent years. All he had to do was remind the voters of everything he’s done for them, point out he has far more experience in and knowledge of the district than his opponent, and stay positive, while allowing his opponent to distance himself from the center through his unapologetic leftism.
This seemed to be the plan at first. But recently Lin has veered sharply in another direction, lending credence to Lim’s self-proclaimed poll numbers showing this is actually a tight race. The candidate that’s lost his cool and degenerated into blind rage is not the third-party heavy metal star and human rights-oriented left-wing protester; it’s the veteran ruling-party lawmaker. Either Lin is panicking because he’s behind, or he hates Lim on a personal level and is letting it get the best of him, or both. As a result the race is now attracting a lot of domestic media attention, not just international media curiosity about Freddy’s unique background.
In its better days, the Lin campaign just posted signs like this all over the place:
“Lin Yu-fang is trustworthy,” it says as he reaches out to shake your hand. Though anyone who makes a point to tell you he’s trustworthy is automatically suspicious in my book, and he should have also advertised his achievements, he at least projected positivity and confidence.
Meanwhile, Lim courted Taiwan independence groups, ran campaign ads like this which were upbeat and positive but also unapologetically liberal, and even proposed the abolition of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. This campaign truck of his, which drove around Taipei last spring, declared, “End the Evil Kuomintang!” He was preaching to the choir.
But public perception of the race began to turn a month ago, when Lim accused Lin of being an accomplice with KMT vice presidential candidate and military housing speculator-in-chief Jennifer Wang (王如玄) in killing military communities. Lin then theatrically proclaimed, “If I’ve ever bought or sold military housing, my entire family will be dead by noon!” (They are all still alive and well, in case you were wondering.) Lin accused Lim of aggravated libel; today the Taipei Prosecutors Office announced it would decline to take the case.
Lin has continued to make headlines by:
- Making an apparently baseless accusation that some students who protested against the MOE’s Sinocentric high school history curriculum revision had denied Taiwan’s comfort women were forced into service.
- Mocking Lim for having “hair longer than a woman” and accusing him of abnormal thinking.
- Twisting the facts about Lim’s criticism of the behavior of a prosecutor investigating a sexual assault case a few years ago.
- Agreeing with serial slanderer Alex Tsai’s (蔡正元) claim Lim is “the real” cross-strait comprador because his mother works for a Chinese accounting firm.
- Angering parents of elementary school children by putting these signs up all over neighborhoods, even on the fences of elementary schools:
The sign in black and gold claims that because Freddy Lim opposes the death penalty, supporting him is tantamount to indulging the metro killer and other cold-blooded murderers.
Everyone knew Freddy Lim was a heavy metal star, and the pessimistic elderly could have easily drawn their own inferences about that, but Lin Yu-fang has taken to disparaging Lim’s profession at every turn, sharing clips from Chthonic concerts to show “what a miscreant” Lim is, and running this Facebook ad all over the place asking whom you’d rather vote for, the accomplished statesman or this crazy radical? (Unsurprisingly, Taiwanese Facebook users would rather have the crazy radical.)
So far, so good. It’s the basic “I’m trustworthy” message, plus pictures of Lin with all the borough chiefs who support him. Taipei borough chiefs are mostly KMT members or supporters elected a generation ago, so it’s no surprise they’d prefer to stick with Lin, but it’s a good thing to remind voters of.The next page is “The Lin Yu-fang You Don’t Know.” It’s an alluring tale: He says he grew up in a remote mountain village of Kaohsiung County, one of 11 children, and he’s a 7th-generation Taiwanese (he’s Hakka but doesn’t mention this), and his father was a schoolteacher and his mother was a “classic Taiwanese farmer-housewife” who took care of children, animals, and crops alike, and he and his wife worked hard to get him his Ph.D. in America, then he returned to Taiwan to serve the country. He then notes his work to add another metro line and establish 16 parks in the area. If we don’t know this Lin Yu-fang he certainly hasn’t campaigned his hardest until now because this is a great story and makes me like him better.And then he goes and ruins the good vibes on the next page by writing this comically unfair head-to-head comparison of himself and Lim. If he’d written the biography for his opponent as charitably as he did his own biography, he’d have come out way on top, but redefining “Amnesty International Taiwan Chairman” as “Key Player in the Anti-Death-Penalty Alliance”, accusing Lim of being “rumored to have dodged” military service, asserting Lim believes Japan is Taiwan’s fatherland, etc., and choosing categories like “views of the national flag” and “contributions to the Wanhua twin towers project” is the kind of thing that makes me think Lin just hates Lim on a personal level, or that he imagines the median voter age here is 64.
Meanwhile, belying the heavy metal stereotype, Lim has run a calm and confident campaign in this last month. The “death to the KMT” advertising is gone, and instead he’s spent his ad space on getting one simple and supremely important message across: Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) endorses his campaign.
This is direct mail I received from the Lim campaign a month or two ago. It tells you he’s the only candidate Tsai supports in the district, and on the back is a letter from Tsai saying Lim is a progressive force who has brought Taiwanese culture to the world and you should give him your vote to ensure a progressive legislative majority.
In the end this might be all that matters. I believe Tsai is certain to win a majority of presidential votes from this district, and so Lim just needs to get as many of her supporters as he can. It’s quite possible that even though voters would rather have a more experienced candidate than Lim, their biggest priority is ensuring the Legislature cooperates with President Tsai. Lin Yu-fang’s histrionics may be communicating to them that his time is past.
Solidarity.tw is an indispensable blog about Taiwanese politics.