THE PRESENT ELECTION cycle has been, if nothing else, characterized by a great degree of political scandal. Indeed, as a consequence, many races have boiled down to the personalities running for office, rather than their policies. To this extent, both DPP and KMT have sought to leverage on the scandals of the other camp.
The most prominent scandal of the early election cycle was the plagiarism charges that faced the DPP’s Taoyuan mayoral candidate, former Hsinchu mayor Lin Chih-chien. Lin was accused of having plagiarized his master’s thesis from National Taiwan University from another student. Though Lin’s advisor, National Security Bureau director-general Chen Ming-tong, defended him, a committee convened by the university–Taiwan’s most prestigious educational institution– recommended that Lin’s master’s degree be invalidated.
Nevertheless, after the Lin controversy, one saw a number of plagiarism charges slung against both pan-Blue and pan-Green candidates, Among those accused of plagiarism include Lin’s original opponent, Simon Chang of the KMT, legislators Ann Kao and Tsai Pi-ru of the TPP, as well as Nantou County commissioner candidate Hsu Shu-hua and Nantou County Council Speaker Ho Shang-feng both of the KMT, and Tsai Shih-ying, the DPP’s Keelung mayoral candidate. Tsai Pi-ru resigned from her post as legislator over the charges.
Former TPP legislator Tsai Pi-ru. Photo credit: Tsai Pi-ru/Facebook
The spate of plagiarism charges likely took some of the heat off of the DPP in the wake of the Lin controversy. In the meantime, the DPP took the tack of trying to attack the KMT on the issue of corruption. Namely, midterm elections in Taiwan tend to be about local issues, rather than cross-strait policies, and so unlike the 2020 elections, the DPP was unable to lean into cross-strait issues to attack the DPP.
Chung Tung-chin while campaigning on a speaker truck. Photo credit: Chung Tung-chin/Facebook
The DPP leaned harder into attacking the KMT over the issue of corruption after the gang-related murder and assault charges emerged with regard to Miaoli county independent magistrate candidate Chung Tung-chin. Chung is backed by the KMT incumbent Hsu Yao-chang, who broke from the KMT’s central leadership to endorse Chung, seeing as the KMT is instead running Hsieh Fu-hsiung. But Chung is a former KMT member and his endorsement by Hsu makes it easy to associate his past history of gang-related violence with the KMT, particularly in light of “black gold” ties between the KMT and gangsters dating from the authoritarian period, and the KMT’s use of gangsters as political enforcers during the White Terror.Chung’s defense has been memorable, comparing himself to Mandela.
Ann Kao campaigning on a bicycle. Photo credit: Ann Kao/Facebook
If the Lin plagiarism scandal meant that the DPP was more heavily hit by scandals in the first half of the election cycle, the corruption charges facing KMT and TPP politicians may have resulted in the pan-Blue camp facing more scandal in the latter half of the election cycle.
At the same time, despite the prevalence of these scandals, it may not be an obstacle to such politicians winning, with past polling suggesting that Kao and Chung are highly competitive candidates. This perhaps indicates how deeply rooted corruption has been in Taiwanese politics historically, that these charges do not prove obstacles to candidates winning office.