Rise of The Third Force in Taiwan; Black Metal Star Runs in Legislative Election

Rise of The Third Force in Taiwan; Black Metal Star Runs in Legislative Election

What you need to know

After the Sunflower Movement, Taiwan’s "third force” is thriving with the emergence of the New Power Party (NPP) that is mainly formed by activists from the younger generation. As these activist-turned-politicians are taking their political ambition from the barricades to the ballot box, Freddy Lim, the lead singer in the black metal band Chthonic and now a legislator candidate, is bringing the world’s attention to the changes of Taiwanese political traditions.

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Compiled by Vic Chiang

On December 26, crowds gathered at the Liberty Square, Taipei, as Freddy Lim, the front man of black metal band Chthonic, held a free concert that marked the band’s 20-year anniversary.

However, this was not just a normal performance, but also a political rally as Lim is running as the legislative candidate for the New Power Party (NPP) in Taiwan’s general elections on January 16. If he wins, he might be the most unconventional figure that could bring a new atmosphere into the Taiwanese political field.

Dubbed as the Black Sabbath of Asia by the Guardian, Chthonic is one of Taiwan’s most renowned band and has toured around the US, Europe and Asia. Their music is a mixture of black metal and Taiwanese traditional instruments, and their lyrics often incorporate the violent history under KMT’s rule in the martial law era and the Taiwanese mythology, as well as an emphasis on the Taiwanese identity. Now, Lim is turning his passion of the island into the ambition in changing the politics in Taiwan.

Photo Credit: Freddy Lim's Facebook page

Photo Credit: Freddy Lim’s Facebook page

Last January, Lim and some other civic activists formed the NPP, hoping to bring more attention to democratic values and transitional justice, as well as several social issues including the legalization of same-sex marriage, indigenous land rights, the development of sustainable agriculture and so on.

In an interview with Voice of America, Lim said that the formation of the NPP is related closely to the Sunflower Movement, the protest that took place in March 2014 when students and civic groups occupied the parliament for three weeks over a disputed trade pact with China. Lim explained that the rise of “the third force” in Taiwan results from the movement, which is when a new dynamic was brought into the long stagnated Taiwanese political environment by young adults.

Ever since the first direct presidential election in 1996, Taiwan’s politics has been a tug-of-war between the KMT and DPP. The two parties form the majority of the parliament, leaving no room for small parties to participate. The design of the legislative electoral system makes it difficult for small parties to win seats in the parliament. With limited resources and funds, candidates from small parties face tough battles in the local constituencies. As for the votes on the parties, only parties that win more than 5% of the votes can be assigned with seats in the parliament. These are the challenges that threaten the small parties in Taiwan.

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However, a turning point has been seen in this deadlock. According to latest statistics, NPP is polling at 7% and is the country’s third biggest party. Through social media, NPP has recruited about 40,000 members within a year. Most of them are young people who are passionate about changing the political atmosphere in Taiwan. They hope to break the long standoff between the KMT and DPP, and transform the younger generation’s visions into actions.

The rise of the NPP is also related to the growing Taiwanese identity in the past two decades. According to a survey conducted by National Chengchi University, in 2015, nearly 60% of the people identify themselves as Taiwanese only, compared with 17% in 1992.

“They don’t necessarily want to be estranged from China, but they do want to exist as different entities. Four years ago, president Ma Ying-jeou said he would never meet with the president of China, then he is there, shaking his hand, and without any consideration of the people’s feelings. The people of Taiwan feel let down,” Lim said in an interview with the Guardian.

“But there is a strong feeling of alienation, and people feel that the political decisions which are being made haven’t been through any sort of democratic review process. Its not just students but a lot of citizens who feel politics have nothing to do with them. It is being decided by the president that China and Taiwan will come closer together – against people’s will.”

Despite many support Lim’s thoughts about Taiwan’s current situation and consider his distinct style may symbolize the openness of Taiwanese politics, Lim’s competitor, KMT legislator Lin Yu-fang chose to comment on Lim’s image. Lin’s remark on how men who wear long hair are psychopaths made it a personal attack since Lim wears long hair. Although the poll suggests that the two candidates have a fifty-fifty supporting ratio in the coming election, conservatives still have a great influence in the constituency.

However, whether or not Lim enters the Legislative Yuan, the surge of the third power is already a breakthrough in the history of Taiwanese politics. The young adult’s strong Taiwanese identity and belief in democracy are now welcoming more liberal politics and will further strengthen Taiwan’s democracy, casting lights on the importance of human rights and domestic reformations.

Edited by Eric Tsai and Olivia Yang