by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Ko Wen-je/Facebook

RECENT STATEMENTS by former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je, currently the presidential candidate of the TPP, allege political favoritism in that Ko was not allowed to hold a fundraising concert at the Taipei Music Center.

Ko claimed that this was discriminating against him and the TPP from the mayoral administration of Chiang Wan-an. Nevertheless, the Taipei Music Center has responded that this is due to rules in place that do not allow for political events to take place there. These rules themselves date to Ko’s mayoral administration, when the Taipei Music Center was constructed. Instead, Ko’s concert will now take place at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.

Ko’s concert was already derided over the fact that the highest priced tickets are as expensive as 8,800 NT. This is a comparable price to BLACKPINK when the K-pop group played in Kaohsiung in March. Likewise, there was initially no announced line-up for the event, apart from that Ko himself would be present. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the tickets for the event from selling out anyway. Ko may aim to raise funds to finance his campaign, seeing as he may be an advantage compared to the DPP and KMT in terms of the size of his party, whether measured in terms of resources or mobilization network.

Photo credit: Taipei City Public Works Department/WikiCommons/CC

Either way, Ko’s comments are revealing. Namely, accusations of partisan attacks are increasingly prevalent in Taiwanese politics. Ko was effectively accusing the Taipei mayoral government of turning on him less than three months after leaving office, though Ko claimed that the decision would not have come from Chiang himself but from his underlings–termed “eunuchs” and not the “emperor” by Ko.

Accusations of partisan attacks have been widespread in past years. For example, in 2018, the KMT’s Taipei mayoral candidate, Ting Shou-chung, alleged irregularities with the vote counting process in the election and sought to dispute the results. More broadly, the KMT criticized the long lines for conducting both voting for candidates and in the national referendum to suggest irregularities with the voting process, such as that overly long lines led polls to stay open past closing time or could have influenced voting decisions.

Likewise, in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments alleged that the central government was seeking to undermine their COVID response. This included accusations that the central government did not have accurate numbers on COVID-19 patients, was refraining from distributing necessary medical supplies such as masks or vaccines, and other allegations.

Actions by the government to regulate the media have proved similar. When the Tsai administration declined to renew pan-Blue broadcaster CtiTV’s broadcast license, this resulted in allegations that this was a form of political persecution. Nevertheless, one of the underlying issues at hand was allegations that CtiTV and other Want Want Group-owned outlets were accepting funding or direct say in their editorial direction from the Chinese government.

In this case, conflict is between Ko and the Taipei mayoral administration under Chiang Wan-an of the KMT. However, this proves similar in that Ko is alleging that the system has turned against him in an unfair and impartial manner.

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (center). Photo credit: Ko Wen-je/Facebook

This proves a decidedly populist move on Ko’s part, as a result of which, this is not exactly new for Ko. Ko has usually sought to frame himself as an underdog who is independent of both major political parties in Taiwan who is, in that way, anti-establishment.

Yet Ko may be hoping to distance himself from the KMT by alleging unfair treatment from the Chiang administration. Though his TPP has framed itself as “white” and beyond traditional divisions between the pan-Blue and pan-Green camps, in terms of its candidates, the TPP mostly draws from former members of pan-Blue parties such as the KMT, PFP, and New Party.

As Ko potentially could split the vote among the pan-Blue camp through his presidential run in a manner that results in a DPP victory, the KMT has made various attempts at outreach directed at Ko. But it may be in Ko’s interest to rebuff the KMT–seeing as he currently holds no political office, his main claim to political relevance is as the TPP’s presidential candidate currently. If Ko were to give this up, he would face potentially sliding into political irrelevance, or even potentially losing control of the TPP if other challengers arise from the party that he founded.

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