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In Taiwan, a presidential election and concerns

Rémy Bourdillon Le Devoir Volunteers distribute flags during a rally of Democratic Progressive Party supporters in Taipei.

They came by the thousands from the four corners of the capital to crowd in front of a stage set up in the middle of a boulevard, with the Taiwan Presidential Palace in the background. At the entrance, after a few hugs to the comrades who have just joined her, Cynthia Hsueh, 23, explains her presence at this gathering of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP): “We want to perpetuate our democracy and keep our friends internationally . »

Dressed all in green – it’s the party color – these young voters are going to experience an evening like only Taiwanese politics can offer, with rock bands and fiery campaign speeches. And the star of the evening will be Lai Ching-te, the well-positioned candidate to become the self-governing nation's new president on Saturday.

He is “a humble man, the son of a miner who became a doctor, then a politician,” summarizes Wei-Shen Lin with admiration in his voice, a partisan with salt-and-pepper hair and a mouth covered by a mask bearing the inscription “Team Taiwan“, the name of Mr. Lai's campaign. This slogan can be found on the many bomber jackets worn by the crowd, while on the giant screens images borrowed from baseball, the most popular sport on the island, appear. A reminder that in Taiwan, we like to put a little lightness even in the most serious subjects.

Vice-president since 2020, Lai Ching-te promises to follow in the footsteps of outgoing president, Tsai Ing-wen, in terms of international politics. That is to say, a refusal of any rapprochement with China and a strengthening of the island's defense capabilities, without seeking to ignite sparks in the Formosa Strait. His election would greatly displease Beijing, but his voters don’t care: “China will be angry anyway. Either because we elect the DPP and it cannot control Taiwan, or because we elect another party, but the unification process is not going fast enough for its liking,” analyses Wei-Shen Lin .

“War or peace”, “democracy or authoritarianism”

Far from this agitation, Tirina Chen, in her twenties, appears less confident. “I’m worried about peace. Many people think that we will never come to the point of using force, because life is peaceful here, but it is already happening elsewhere. Look at Ukraine…” she confides in a soft voice.

She accuses the DPP of stoking tensions “to get votes” and has instead joined the ranks of the Kuomintang (KMT), the oldest party on the island, once led by Chiang Kai-shek. A rather rare decision for a young woman of this age, the KMT being generally associated with older generations, who still feel a strong cultural connection with China.

Its candidate, Hou Yu-ih, advocates a resumption of dialogue with Xi Jinping and does not hesitate to describe the election as a “choice between war and peace”. And as nuance is not required in this campaign, his opponent, Lai Ching-te, speaks instead of a choice between democracy and authoritarianism: according to him, engaging in a discussion with Beijing would be a slope slippery path towards unification, a nightmare that nearly 90% of Taiwanese oppose.

The fact that China is trying to influence the vote of the Taiwanese (through military pressure, economic sanctions or online disinformation campaigns) to cause the fall of the DPP in favor of the KMT does not worry not Tirina Chen too much. “If that’s their goal, I don’t think they’re doing a very good job,” she said with a laugh, referring to her party’s second-place finish in the polls.

Out for a walk with his family, Michael Yuan, a fifty-year-old also leaning towards the KMT, thinks no less. “If people who went to college can't tell right from wrong on the Internet, then they're idiots and there's nothing we can do about it! » On the other hand, he finds that there is too little talk about the influence of the United States on Taiwanese policy, which has hardened since the Trump era. “It will be even worse if he is re-elected as a result of the PDP. However, we are an island, no one will be able to come and help us in time if China attacks…”

The economy, the other fear of young people

A good part of Taiwanese society, on the other hand, shows signs of disgust at the omnipresence of the Chinese question, which eludes other, more immediate concerns. At the exit of a subway station, Chi Chen, 32, distributes brochures from the Taiwan People's Party (PPT), a young group that intends to go beyond questions of identity. “We hate Xi Jinping’s government, but we don’t hate the Chinese people,” she assures. We will not back down on our positions, but we will remain friendly with them. »

Like many millennials, she voted for the PDP in the two previous elections. But we won’t do it again, she swears. “We are tired of the two traditional parties, we need a new atmosphere and a government closer to the people. During the eight years that the PDP was in power, our salaries have not increased and the price of apartments is so high that I have to live with my parents or my boyfriend. We are scared at the idea of ​​getting married because we don’t know how we will be able to raise our children! » Taiwan also has the lowest fertility rate in the world today (1.09 children per woman, according to the CIA's World Factbook), which in the long term compromises the ability of its army to recruit soldiers. , and therefore to ensure the defense of the island.

Caught in his inconsistencies – although he claims to be outside the system, he attempted a last-minute alliance with the KMT – the TPP candidate, Ko Wen-je, has very little chance of take it away. But the votes he grabs from both sides ensure at least some suffocating suspense before the electoral verdict on Saturday evening.

The spectacle of Taiwanese democracy therefore already promises to achieve great international success, from Washington to Beijing. While waiting for the following episodes, which promise to be at least as gripping.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116