Sunday, November 28, 2010

day 72_election day

Over the past few weeks - maybe even a month - Taipei has been infected with political campaigns. Everywhere you turn there are banners, announcements, billboards, hand outs campaigning for the candidates for the mayoral, city councilor, and borough chief positions. I'm told by my friends that you never see the politicians... it's almost as if they're in hiding... until the elections come around, and then you can't miss them! I would say I can attest to that. Due to my inability to read or speak Chinese, it is pretty much just all noise to me.

When I first arrived in Taiwan, I was oblivious to any present politics, but over the last few weeks I have been just as exposed as everyone to the many candidates vying for a seat in Taipei's government. It's is very similar to campaigning in the US I suppose... except that the compact city environment is more accessible than US suburbia. So, where as I may have never met a candidate running for office in Dallas, TX or Edmond, OK - I actually met 2 of the candidates here during the last week! Each candidate has advertisements with their identifying number... and since I can't read Chinese, I recognize each person as their number. I met #4 one day on my way to work...

Politician (#4), greeting the city. Campaigners passing out tissue packets.
Wishing good morning to all on their way to work.
[Side note - do you love the light shining down on him in this photo or what?!]
It was sort of nice to meet #4, to put a face/person with a number. He was all smiles and waves and greetings to the traffic and the pedestrians that morning. The campaigners hand out tissue packets with advertisements on the wrappers and I have a whole stash in my purse now (they've been busy). At least they pass out something useful!

Billboard I pass on my walk to work. (Note the bamboo construction)
In addition to the many handouts, there are endless banners to remind you of the upcoming elections. AND there are trucks with loudspeakers that drive up and down the streets broadcasting about the candidates or actually carrying the candidates themselves, who deliver their own messages to the city. At our Thanksgiving dinner this week, one dinner guest (new to Taiwan like myself) said something to the tune of "Well, at least they will stop driving and announcing once the elections are over! [The loudspeakers pass by at anytime - sometimes interrupting your nap or television program - for example.] Another dinner guest laughed and told her "No, now they will all come out to thank you for your generosity and support... even those who lost!" Ha! So, I guess we have that to look forward to, post-election.

Banners along a sidewalk.
Yesterday, when I went out exploring the city, I was curious what the random tents that I passed were for... and it took me a little while to remember that: "Oh yeah, this is the election day." Tents were set up in various locations throughout the city for voting. No cameras or cellphones allowed at the voting places. Plenty of people out casting their votes. I did not vote - I wonder if I would be eligible?

This poor pedestrian bridge was suffocated with campaign ads!
Towards the end of the day, when I stopped to eat dinner, the election coverage was on every television. People huddled around expectantly, anxious to hear the results. On my walk home, there were people setting off fireworks in the streets (fireworks are pretty popular here for special occasions) - celebrating the final election results. I guess the elections are complete! Now let the thank you speeches begin so that the politicians can go back into hiding.

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