Photo credit: Liberty Times
Formosa Ex Machina is a column about Taiwanese netizens, and the intersection of politics and the internet in Taiwan.
“LOTS OF PEOPLE have already come by to pick up stickers,” says the man at the Free Taiwan Party’s booth stationed outside Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.
“It’s not just young people, people of all ages have come by to pick them up,” he adds.
The new stickers seem slightly out of place among the dozens of other stickers advocating for the creation of the Republic of Taiwan, and the downfall of the Nationalist Party (KMT) available at the booth.
“Ma Ying-jeou fully recommends” stickers smother KMT Taoyuan Legislator Sun Ta-chien’s campaign material. Photo credit: Sun Ta-chien’s Facebook Page
But these new stickers have become the scourge of the ruling party, and KMT legislative candidates have already reported dozens of citizens to the police for “defacing” their campaign material with the new stickers.
What kind of seditious sticker content could lead the KMT into such an uproar? Does it swear at the KMT in unsavoury language? Expose the KMT’s enormous property holdings? Uncover shady backroom deals between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?
Heavens no! It’s merely a sticker with an endorsement from current President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), from Jennifer Wang (王如玄), the KMT Vice-presidential candidate, and topped off with a giant emblazoned KMT party logo.
KMT legislators are facing their toughest re-election battles in Taiwan’s democratic history. Formerly safe seats for the KMT in northern and central Taiwan are suddenly up for grabs by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
KMT legislative candidates are doing everything they can to ensure their victory, including disassociating themselves from Taiwan’s lame-duck president, Ma Ying-jeou, and from KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) VP choice, Jennifer Wang, who has been embroiled in a housing speculation scandal for over a month.
Some KMT candidates have even taken the bold step of removing all colors, symbols, and logos associated with the party from their campaign posters and material.
But a new internet campaign by Wang Yi-kai (王奕凱) and Revolution Congress (革命議會) is helping to remind voters that KMT legislative candidates represent a party that is embroiled in constant scandal.
“Ma Ying-jeou fully recommends” stickers are being distributed at the Free Taiwan Party outside of the Legislative Yuan. Photo credit: Aaron Wytze Wilson
By lovingly placing a free sticker that reads “Ma Ying-jeou strongly recommends” on KMT election posters, netizens are kindly reminding voters which legislative candidates backed the unpopular president for the past eight years, perhaps pushing the electorate to vote for the opposition.
Miss Him, Kiss Him, Love Him, (Wrong Move You’re Dead), That President is Poison!
This isn’t the first time a KMT candidate has gone all out to avoid any association with President Ma and the party logo.
During Taiwan’s 2014 city and county mayoral elections, Chiayi City mayoral candidate Chen Yi-chen (陳以真) avoided any mention of her affiliation with President Ma and the KMT party in almost all of her campaign posters.
When President Ma made an election campaign stop in Chiayi to stump for Chen, she did not attend the event that would have both her and Ma appear on the same stage. Chen’s husband explained that “a delay in their itinerary made it impossible to return”.
Instead, Ma sat languidly by himself at the campaign event, looking listless when it was announced Chen would not be attending the event.
Simultaneously, Chen’s rival, DPP mayoral candidate Tu Hsing-Che (涂醒哲), was falling behind in the polls to the young Chen. Sensing an opportunity to exploit his rival’s weakness, Tu began to purchase billboard space beside Chen’s election posters.
In giant bold red characters and the KMT party logo hanging large over top, the billboards read: “A vote for Chen Yi-chen means support for Ma Ying-jeou.”
“Voting for Chen Yi-chen means supporting Ma Ying-jeou”, a campaign poster created by Chen rival, DPP’s Tu Hsing-che. Chen’s support dropped precipitously after the poster went up. Photo credit: SETN
Tu’s posters were enormously popular, with news of the DPP’s “Support Ma Ying-jeou” counter-campaign making headline news, delighting viewers, eventually lead to victory for Tu, and quashed young Chen’s rising star status in the KMT.
2016’s election campaign has seen opposition candidates use the same tactics with similar levels of success.
The New Power Party’s Freddy Lim (林昶佐) was facing an incredibly difficult race against incumbent Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) of the KMT, who almost certainly would have sailed to victory in the long-time KMT bastions of Wanhua and Zhongzheng Districts (Taipei 5).
But the KMT’s vice-presidential pick, Jennifer Wang, has been embroiled in a shocking property scandal that has exposed her penchant for speculating on housing units reserved for the economically disadvantaged families of military veterans. Speculation at the expense of military families is rife in Northern Taiwan, and the scandal with Wang has robbed the KMT campaign of it’s vitality in key election battleground districts in the greater Taipei City area. Wang has been unable to bounce back from the incident, and worried KMT legislators have avoided all mention of Wang in their campaign material.
Lin Yu-fang peeved posters showing his “support” for Jennifer Wang have gone up. The posters were created by his rival, Freddy Lim of the NPP. Photo credit: Lin Yu-fang’s Facebook page
Sensing an opportunity, the NPP’s Freddy Lim has hit Lin Yu-fang on the housing speculation issue. Freddy’s campaign has paid for a number of banners and posters that read: “A vote for Lin Yu-fang means supporting Jennifer Wang.”
Lin has since filed a complaint with the Taipei Prosecutor’s Office. Freddy’s poll numbers have risen dramatically. Xfuture.org, a Taiwan predictions market, put Freddy in the margin of error to win the district earlier this month.
One Sticker To Rule Them All, One Sticker To Bind Them
The current run of “Ma Ying-jeou recommends” and “Jennifer Wang supports” is the mastermind of prominent Sunflower Movement student leader, Wang Yi-kai, and Revolution Congress, an advocacy group that calls for more young people to become legislative candidates for Taiwan’s 2016 general election.
As the sticker campaign kicked off, Wang mentioned on the Revolution Congress page that “90% of KMT candidates have left off the party emblem from their page, or have only placed a nanometer size one on their posters.”
“So let’s help them remember what party they belong to, and who their current and president vice-presidential candidate are!” wrote Wang.
Soon after, reports began to appear that KMT legislative candidates were unhappy about the stickers appearing on their campaign posters, with many of them pursuing legal action against the offending individuals who placed the stickers.
“Jennifer Wang only supports” stickers available at the Free Taiwan Party booth outside the Legislative Yuan. Photo credit: Aaron Wytze Wilson
“I think their reaction to this is strange, I don’t understand why they think I’m defaming anyone,” said a man surnamed Chang, who was interviewed by the Apple Daily after placing a number of “Ma Ying-jeou recommends” stickers on KMT legislative candidate Wu Yu-sheng’s (吳育昇) campaign poster.
Similar complaints from KMT legislators Lin Kuo-chun (林國春), Sun Da-Chian (孫大千), Apollo Chen (陳學聖), and Chiang Nai-hsin (蔣乃辛) also began to percolate in various Taiwan news feeds.
This reporter noticed a number of Ma Ying-jeou “recommendations” in New Taipei City’s Yonghe District on a recent visit. A re-election poster for long-serving KMT legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) hanging outside Dingxi station, too, received the sticker treatment.
Although a number of legislators have announced they will pursue legal action, some have since backed down from such a move, including KMT legislator Sun Da-Chian, who is facing a tight race against his DPP competitor in Taoyuan.
Posting on his Facebook page about the sticker uproar, renowned Sunflower Movement humorist Indie Dadee (音地大帝) has expressed confusion at the KMT’s discontent over the stickers.
“I hear that the KMT is pissed when you stick a ‘Ma Ying-jeou recommends’ sticker on their campaign stuff. So what about a ‘Ma Ying-jeou doesn’t recommend’ sticker? Or what if I stick both a ‘Ma Ying-jeou recommends” and ‘Ma Ying-jeou doesn’t recommend’ sticker at the same time? Will that make the KMT fall to pieces?”
As the election counts down to it’s final week of electioneering, it’s difficult to know how much the sticker campaign will affect the KMT. Past attempts in “outing” KMT election candidates have been successful at the local level, now will they have the same impact at the national level?
Poster of Yonghe Legislative candidate Lin Te-fu of the KMT. The “Ma Ying-jeou recommends” sticker has been added by a “supporter”
Perhaps a tally of a KMT election loser multiplied by the number of “Ma Ying-jeou recommends” stickers visible in the community may hold the answer.
If you would like to pick up your own “Ma Ying-jeou recommends” and “Jennifer Wang supports” stickers, a listing of locations can be found below. If you live in Taipei, it’s easiest to pick up the stickers from the Free Taiwan Party booth stationed outside of the Legislative Yuan.
The stickers are available nationwide.
List of Locations Where Stickers Are Available
Keelung City (基隆市)
New Taipei City (新北市)
捷運新莊線附近（請直接私訊革命議會工作人員Ko Yu Chang）
Taoyuan City (桃園市)
ThERE CAFE & LIVE HOUsE（桃園市復興路454號B1）
Taichung City (台中市)
Tainan City (台南市)
暖暖蛇咖啡館 Café Flâneur / ?迌咖啡（台南市中西區普濟街53號）
心心手捲 孝親糕（台南市中西區慶中街26號 ）
Kaohsiung City (高雄市)