Fake fruit prices, playing ethnic card cost DPP Hsinchu, Miaoli counties

The China Post news staff

An election is a juxtaposition of strange events in which what could possibly go wrong does go wrong, and so does what could not possibly go wrong. The consequences can sometimes be amusing, if not outright hilarious. And then, trying to butter up voters by claiming, or pretending, to be one of them does not always work.

These are two bitter lessons all public office runners — especially chairwoman and presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party Tsai Ing-wen, the latest also-ran in a presidential election — may do well to learn by heart. In early December, when the campaigns were pretty much in the doldrums, the DPP put out a calendar featuring different kinds of fruits — including the now famous persimmon — and their low prices, to accentuate the plight of fruit growers and blame the Ma administration for it.

This was very well, except that the DPP overdid it by claiming the wholesale price of persimmon had dropped to around NT$2 per catty, or around less than NT$0.7 each, when it was selling for around NT$10 apiece in retail outlets. Although as an opposition party, the DPP may not have easy access to the latest agricultural statistics, no one would believe something could be that cheap, not in Taiwan, at the very least. When common sense should have prevailed, it did not.

Well, the chickens did come home to roost when growers bitterly complained they could not sell their harvests because distributors, taking their cues from the DPP misinformation campaign, offered prices way below NT$2 a catty. The persimmons harvested should have been all gone by the end of November, according to a grower. But thousands, and even tens of thousands, of catties still remained unsold one month later. In the end, the DPP had to apologize and leave its creditability in tatters, especially in the persimmon growing areas in Miaoli and Hsinchu Counties, the two counties in which the ruling Kuomintang completely trounced the DPP in the 2012 presidential and legislative elections.

Apparently to get her party off the hook after the gimmick backfired, Tsai dressed herself up as a “Hakka girl” to appeal to Hakka voters, especially female Hakka voters. The gimmick apparently also did not work, at least not in the two counties. The lesson to be learned here is that when something more serious is at stake, claims of affiliation with an ethnic group may not work in favor of the claimant. Tsai’s rejection of the so-called “1992 Consensus” could easily deny fruit growers a possible market across the Taiwan Strait.

But a still more serious issue is that in an ethnically divided society, it is dangerous to play the ethic group card. Voters may see it as an alarming divisive tactic.