Casting a vote, offering a prayer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 1996, 12:00am

THE air is heavy with incense, a monk beats out the monotonous rhythm of his prayers on a wooden block and Chinese lanterns sway gently above a forest of flickering candles.

This is one of Taipei's polling stations.

For one day, Tien Ho temple - a symbol of Taiwan's cultural inheritance from China - has become a haven for the democratic process.

Decorative Chinese dragons writhe and gaudy devils scowl as voters pass through the gates of the temple and head for a set of steps leading up to the ballot boxes.

'Taiwan's future is on the line today,' said one man as he queued for his turn to vote. 'China is on all our minds.' Many of the voters at Tien Ho temple paused in front of the altar after casting their vote. They bowed, hands clasped together.

One young man in sneakers and jeans hurried straight past the incense coils and made for the door. 'Praying is okay,' he said. 'But you have to vote for democracy.'