Election Violence

According to Associated Press, acts of violence are unusual in election campaigns in Taiwan, which began a gradual transition from one-party dictatorship to fully functioning democracy in the late 1980s. Violence carried out by Taiwan’s gangs is also limited, though the gangs themselves exercise considerable political influence, particularly on Taiwanese county governments.

Taiwanese election campaigns were described as long, freewheeling affairs. Presidential campaigns have lasted for six months and have been characterized by personal attacks, dirty tricks, accusations of bribery and corruption, bitter television debates, extreme views and even claims of fake assassination attempts. Vans with loudspeakers blast slogans and songs. Candidates hit temples and shopping centers to shake hands and seek votes. In the past there have been bombings.

In 2004, one month after election, about 300,000 people protested against the election result, as well as demanding an independent inquiry into an election-eve assassination attempt on Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan leader. The opposition supporters suspected was part of a conspiracy staged to win sympathy votes. The violent crackdown erupted causing nearly 100 people injured and a dozen arrested. The protest was initiated by allies of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP). The two parties have jointly raced against the Democratic Progressive Party during the election.

Before 2010 Elections, there was one violent incident that Lien Sheng-wen, a KMT politician also known as Sean Lien, was shot in the face as he spoke at a suburban Taipei rally in support of a Kuomintang candidate for city council. His father, Lien Chan, widely reported to be one of Taiwan’s wealthiest people, was Taiwan’s Vice-President from 1996 to 2000 and the party’s losing Presidential candidate in 2004. The motive for the shooting on Friday was unknown. The Associated Press quoted a Taiwan television report as saying that a suspect apprehended by the police was nicknamed ‘horse face,’ suggesting a link to Taiwan criminal gangs.

The shooting had a number of bizarre aspects, even by the standards of Taiwanese politics, which for many years featured physical brawls between members of opposing political parties on the floor of Taiwan’s Legislature. Perhaps the strangest was that the gunman, who was arrested at the scene and quickly identified as local gangster Lin “Horse Face” Cheng-wei, claimed that he had not even intended to shoot Lien. According to Lin, the actual target was another man, identified as municipal council candidate Chen Hung-yuan.

The Taipei Times reported: Sean Lien was shot in the face when campaigning for a KMT Sinbei councilor candidate in Yonghe, Taipei County. He was rushed to the hospital and survived the accident. It is believed that the incident help prompted some swing voters with pan-blue leaning to give their votes to the KMT candidates, especially in Taipei City and Sinbei City, where the candidates from the two parties were fighting a neck-to-neck battle. Political analyst Ku Chung-hwa of National Chengchi University said the accident helped Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and Sinbei mayor-elect Eric Chu win the battles against strong rivals, DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Su Tseng-chang and DPP Sinbei candidate Tsai Ing-wen, who threatened the KMT candidates throughout the election campaign with high support rates.

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