campaign trail: Hau parade and rally

On Sunday afternoon, I went to Hau Long-bin’s parade and rally.  I didn’t start with the marchers or join them on their trip from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial to the Presidential building.  Instead, I showed up to the former new KMT party headquarters by the East Gate at about 4:00.  Probably about a third of the marchers had already arrived.  I watched as the remaining marchers went passed and entered Kaidagelan Ave., where they had a stage erected.

The parade started out as an election mobilization parade, and then morphed into a protest against “corruption” (read: Chen Shui-bian) when Chen was found not guilty.  After Chen was found guilty in another case, the KMT was left without a theme, so they decided the parade would be a festive carnival.  And then a few days ago, in the wake of the Yang Shujun incident at the Asian Games, they decided that this should be a demonstration in support of Yang Shujun. (Or maybe it was against unfair treatment by international sporting authorities.  I’m confused).  As you might expect from this mishmash, all of these ideas showed up a little.  There was a signature petition against Chen and a truck supporting judicial reform.  Several legislators showed up in Tai Kwon Do uniforms.  And they had big balloon floats and people dressed up in lots of fun costumes.  It was all quite fun.

I must dedicate an entire paragraph to the single most spectacular participant, who I encountered about 10 minutes after the battery in my camera died.  There was a man on stilts.  The stilts were the least interesting thing.  He was wearing a clown wig, a halter top (like a bikini top), and bright green Sinbad the Sailor pantaloons.  Colorful, yes?  Did I mention that he was about 75 years old, with wrinkly, saggy old person’s skin?  Don’t forget, he was wearing a bikini top.  Actually, I’m not completely sure it was man.  And he was missing a few teeth, so he had a snaggly smile.  The best part was that whenever someone saw him and stared in disbelief (which was everyone), he would shake his booty like a sexy go-go dancer at them.  New Orleans would have been proud to have this character prowling Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras.  All I can say is, well done sir.  This was far above and beyond the call of duty.

However, somewhere about 15 minutes after I started watching, I became aware that I was missing an important aspect of the march.  There weren’t that many people.  There were big gaps in the line of marchers.  Sometimes you had 50 meters with only one or two people.  And after those first few groups, I started paying more attention to the expressions on people’s faces.  They weren’t happy or angry.  They were mostly just tired.  Now this could have been from walking for two hours.  But this isn’t my first parade.  Usually, people rely on each other to keep their energy up.  They yell slogans, cheer for each other, and have a good time.  There wasn’t much of that at all.  There were very, very few spontaneous chants.  Every once in a while, someone (usually working for a city council candidate) would try a frozen garlic cheer, but they faded out pretty quickly.  Mostly, the marchers just quietly (grimly?) finished their task of marching to the rally site.

The crowd at the rally stretched back to the front of the East Gate (though not behind it).  That sounds like a lot of people, right?  Well, Kaidagelan runs from the presidential building to the East Gate.  Halfway between them, it is crossed by Guanqian Rd.  Normally, the stage is right in front of the presidential building, but today it was placed after Guanqian Rd. (on the side closer to the East Gate).  In other words, they only choose to use about 40% of the available space, and they just barely filled even that.

13000 people is a lot, but the KMT has been building to this event for weeks.  A very large percentage of those 13000 people were working (holding signs for a city council candidate, in charge of carrying balloons, and so on) or otherwise mobilized.  My guess is that about half of the crowd was completely unmobilized.  That is not very good for something with this much buildup.  And remember, the people who did show up were not very energetic.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this event was a disaster.  So what?  Well, no one quite knows what this means for the hundreds of thousands of usually blue voters who didn’t show up.  My guess is that there is something like a ladder, and everyone is one step below their normal position.  These people who showed up today with no energy would normally be enthused.  The people who would normally show up but not necessarily cheer wildly stayed home.  The people who would normally stay at home but pay close attention on TV might not be so concerned this year.  At the end of this ladder, the people who might normally vote without much enthusiasm just might not bother to turn out this year.

The part of my brain that pays attention to past election results says it is almost impossible for Hau to lose this election.  The part of my brain watching the campaign keeps insisting that he is in real trouble.

I’m not a great photographer, so I apologize for the quality of these pictures.

Floats!  Isn’t this fun!

A whole battalion of superheroes.

City Council candidate Wang Xinyi 王欣儀 dressed as a fairy.

City Council candidate Zhong Xiaoping 鍾小平 ready to kick ass!

They were filling this hot air balloon when I arrived at 4:00.  It looks fantastic.  One of Hau’s slogans is “Taipei taking off” 台北起飛 and they had a lot of airplanes ready to take flight.  This fit the theme perfectly.  When I left the rally nearly two hours later, the balloon was still in the same place.  The rally wasn’t quite over, so they might have been saving it for a grand finale, but it was already dark and it wouldn’t have had much effect.  If Hau loses the election, this balloon that didn’t take off while there was still daylight (if at all) might be a good metaphor for his campaign.

This sign announces a petition drive to protest the corruption of Chen Shui-bian and the judge who protected him.  It is sponsored by city council candidate Li Qingyuan 李慶元。

This guy is warning us about pink wolves (Chen and Su) who will betray the country.  Pink is a reference to all the pink Su has been wearing in this campaign in an effort to de-emphasize his green affiliation.

Not many marchers.  There were lots of gaps like this one.

These marchers just look tired.  I saw this again and again.

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7 Responses to “campaign trail: Hau parade and rally”

  1. Abe Chen Says:

    It looks like this is a humiliating event for KMT as evidenced by you and the lack of supposedly headline news treatment. I would have been better no having this self defeating parade that KMT shows it is not even capable of organizing a parade, let alone governing the city.

    Pity.

  2. Okami Says:

    Very interesting as you saw the same thing on the Democrat’s side in the US before their shellacking.

    Any conclusions about the number of people who were told it would be good to “volunteer” to attend and where they might come from?

    I’m willing to accept bad pictures as long as you don’t show guys in bikers’ shorts constantly. 😉

  3. Echo Says:

    it is not even capable of organizing a parade, let alone governing the city.

    Judging the KMT gov on their capability to organize a parade is way too unfair. They don’t even know how to send a fax, a task that can be easily achieved by any high school student organization.

  4. Echo Says:

    Bird-view photos of past rallies, collected at the same location, might serve as a good reference to judge the people count:

    830和紅衫軍遊行人數之謎!

    • frozengarlic Says:

      This is interesting. Area 3 was not filled since the stage was positioned in front of Guanqian Rd. So instead of 7000 m2, let’s call that 4000m2. Most people were sitting on stools, so let’s count that as 4 people per m2. The circle was about 1/3 full, so lets call that 3000m2. However, this part of the crowd was a lot less dense. 2 people per m2 seems generous to me, but let’s use that. That would give you 22000 people. 22000 is a lot closer to my estimate of 13000 than to the United Daily New’s estimate of 70000. Anyway, the crowd was nothing like the one in the picture of the Red Shirts’ Rally.

      Estimating crowds is always difficult, and the media always has pressure to report a higher number. Of course, the organizers always try to convince you that lots of people attended their function. My estimates are certainly very imprecise as well, though at least they are not inflated for political motives.

  5. Echo Says:

    Maybe you can make a map with red dots representing the density of crowd ? That would be interesting.

    Yes, crowd estimation is hard. It depends on many factors. Other than those factors you mentioned, people come and go which makes the timing of calculation critical. It’d be ideal if a bird eye view is taking like every half an hour, but that is difficult, I think.

    Maybe in the future some image recognition tech can be developed to count heads automatically, or a google satellite images can provide some instant record of the crowd.

    Btw, I think the road crosses the middle of Kaidagelan should have been Gongyuan Rd (公園路) but not Guanqian Rd (館前路). If my memory (and the google map) serves me right, Guanqian Rd goes southbound and ends before the part north to Kaidagelan.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      Re: road names. Oops
      I was looking at crowds last night, and 4 people/m2 is really dense. 6 would be the center of a mosh pit, with people physically jammed together. Your average crowd sitting on stools might be more like 3 per m2, if the stools are tightly packed. The crowd standing on the fringes might be 4 per m2. I’m pretty sure that almost every estimate of every crowd is too high.
      Anyway, it isn’t really that important to estimate the crowds precisely. I do it because I’m wired to count everything.

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