Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 23 2008

A historic day

Prince Roy wanted to watch me vote, for some reason. He was touring polling stations around town with his AIT pass, so he came down to Bitan and came to the station down here to talk with some of the officials while I cast my ballot in the presidential elections. As usual, nobody stared, pointed, commented or indicated in any way that they thought my participation was anything but completely normal.

Afterwards we had a nice lunch at Rosemary’s Kitchen, overlooking the construction chaos, and then retired to the Water Curtain Cave to watch TV news reporters give their Oscar-night commentary about various celebrities at the poll stations for a while before PR had to leave to catch some more hot vote-on-vote action. I, on the other hand, went downtown to while away the hours before the election results were announced at a badminton competition with my friend Xian-rui, who is also into badminton and quite a good player. The finals weren’t until the next day, but I’d never been to a badminton competition so it was interesting to see. Kind of made me wish I’d taken up the sport at an earlier age, though.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the election, however, and kept checking the Central Election Commission’s website for the latest count after the polls closed at 4pm. Ma Ying-jeou got an early lead, but I recalled that that didn’t necessarily mean anything (Lien Chan also had an early lead in 2004), so I decided to log off and wait instead of torturing myself by checking every few minutes.

Xian-rui had to go to the gym to work off some election-day jitters, so I sat outside the Starbucks amid the mosquitoes, looking at the huge screen on the new stadium. On the second floor, a crowd of people surrounded the TV set, watching the latest poll counts. The only last-minute tactic the DPP had left, it seemed, was to drape as many surfaces of the city as possible with banners claiming that Chinese workers bearing AK-47s would be flooding the island and putting everyone out of a job tomorrow morning, and Ma, who is actually an American, would then fly off to his Haight-Ashbury mansion, where he would sip tea with his pinkie in the air just so.

I hoped that such tactics wouldn’t work, as the negative campaign focusing entirely on niggling doubts and minor transgressions allegedly committed by the other candidates’ wife and family members 30 years ago just made Hsieh seem like a petty little man who had nothing to say about what kind of president he would be. I have to admit I was expecting a much better campaign from the DPP.

Apparently so were most other people. I checked the numbers again, and Ma was still ahead. Way ahead. A call to Prince Roy confirmed that it was indeed a landslide, and he was headed over to the Ma-Siew headquarters to case the scene there. I decided to join him. On the way, every TV screen facing the street was surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. When I saw fireworks being set off around the city, I knew that Ma had attained an unassailable lead.

Xiaonanmen Station, I believe, had never seen the amount of traffic it saw last night, as it was the nearest MRT station. I followed the crowds and the noise to the intersection of Zhonghua and Aiguo roads (note the symbolism of the names), where a huge throng surrounded the stage and spilled out across both roads. Fireworks were being set off, and it seemed that every person there had purchased at least one of those irritating air horns you see at baseball games here. I bought three ROC flags for NT$100 and stuck them in my backpack, and then, fingers in my ears to block the noise, accompanied PR into the fray.

Ma winsIt was madness. I half expected to see a huge statue of Chen Shui-bian, dressed in an Emporer Palpatine-like robe, being toppled. People were waving flags, setting off fireworks, shouting and even dancing. KMT officials were making speeches on stage, punctuated by huge applause and more air horns. I looked at the CEC site to find that Ma had officially won by a whopping 2.2 millon votes, or 17%. The crowd went nuts. Everyone was very friendly, even apologizing to each other when pushing through the dense crowd. “That’s a great flag!” a man called out to me, pointing to the flags sticking out of my backpack and giving me a thumbs-up sign.

“It’s my flag!” I called back at him.

After listening to some of the speeches, PR and I retreated, ears aching, back to the little South Gate. As it happened, this was apparently the pick-up/drop-off area for high-ranking officials. We saw chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and PFP chairman James Soong getting into their cars. I managed to shake hands with Wang and Soong, while PR snapped some nice shots. It was amazing how accessible these guys are, actually. I refrained from asking Wang if he regretted turning down the vice-presidential spot or inquiring whether Soong was feeling at all jealous. Didn’t seem quite appropriate.

Later, Wayne and Grace appeared, followed by Maoman and Vanessa, and eventually Mark and David. We chatted by the gate while policemen milled around us, unconcerned about the big bag o’ beer Maoman had brought along. At one point a woman who apparently didn’t have any teeth tapped on Vanessa’s shoulder, wanting to express her joy at Ma’s victory to a complete stranger. “Oh, it’s been such a hard eight years!” I’m pretty sure she said. The lack of teeth made it kind of hard to tell. Maoman and Vanessa both turned away from the woman and looked at me, and I wondered if I was expected to come up with some kind of way to get rid of the unwelcome guest. Fortunately, however, she took the hint and continued her search for another stranger to talk to.

We all realized, seemingly simultaneously, that we hadn’t eaten since lunch, so we took the subway to the Shi-da area, where we had some middle eastern food at a place called Baba Kababa. I had two pitas, which were good, but the pitas weren’t on the same level as Sababa. It was sort of like the Wonder Bread version of a pita. But the chicken/potato/eggplant filling was delicious. The table next to us was quite boisterous, but it had nothing to do with the election; they were celebrating someone’s birthday.

Outside, it had finally started to rain. The weather forecasters had predicted rain, and some people worried that it would affect the elections, but the day had been very nice up to that point. We retired, stuffed with pitas and other things, to the park along Shi-da Road. Daniel showed up and pried Mark with computer questions. The rain was coming down harder on the roof of the pavilion under which we stood. As the beers ran out, one-by-one, people left, until only PR, Mark, Daniel and I remained.

Now, of course, the hard work begins. I wonder if the first thing president-elect Ma thought when he woke up this morning wasn’t actually “It wasn’t a dream; I really won!” but rather, “Damn, now I have to actually do all the things I promised!” I guess we’ll find out. Interesting times, to be sure.

posted by Poagao at 2:53 am  

4 Comments

  1. […] had called TC earlier and arranged to meet him at 1100–he lives in Xindian, so not only would this give me […]

    Pingback by Prince Roy’s Realm » Blog Archive » 祝賀全臺灣人民! — March 23, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

  2. When I went to the polling station with my wife, a policeman said “You can’t vote? But you’ve been here many years!”

    Like you say, Taiwanese seem to have no issues at all with people who don’t look Taiwanese becoming citizens and voting.

    I tried to explain that I’m not (yet) Taiwanese because it means giving up my UK citizenship, but my Chinese wasn’t really up to it.

    I’m glad Ma won by such a large margin. If it had been very narrow, I’m sure the DPP would be crying foul. Also, now Ma has no excuses at all. His four years start now… get to work, jogger!

    Comment by Steven Crook — March 24, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

  3. […] Poagao recounts the events on election day. […]

    Pingback by 2008 Taiwan Presidential election links - special edition - David on Formosa — March 24, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  4. I must have been in the wrong part of the crowd. Except for an Indian cameraman, I didn’t see any other foreign faces.

    Comment by cfimages — March 25, 2008 @ 1:25 am

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