Tears and cheers for Ma's celebrating army

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 2008, 12:00am

Cheering, weeping, blowing whistles and snapping photos, thousands of supporters filled Kuomintang headquarters and thronged the surrounding streets to celebrate a long-awaited victory.

Deafening fireworks lit up the sky in central Taipei.

'Taiwan moves forward', read the giant yellow characters that formed the backdrop to the stage on which the KMT's presidential election winner, Ma Ying-jeou, led a victory celebration. But it also carried the slogan, 'We set off with gratitude, move on with humility', to remind KMT supporters not to forget how it lost its five-decade-long grip on power eight years ago.

'Finally, the KMT wins,' said a tearful Hu Tian, a 62-year-old who was among the supporters standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a big television screen flashing up the election results.

Supporters hugged each other amid a sea of KMT flags and placards bearing one word, 'Ma'. Many were lost in chanting and shouting for their leader.

Four years ago at the same spot, candidate Lien Chan and running mate Vincent Siew Wan-chang had to apologise to followers for their knife-edge defeat by Chen Shui-bian. Last night Mr Lien, now the KMT's honorary chairman, was the first party leader to appear at the headquarters after Mr Ma's victory was announced.

He reminded supporters that it was a very important moment for the island.

'In three years, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China. I hope that we will be united under the leadership of the president and the vice-president, and that a clean and effective government can be established,' he said. '[We] will have a growing and free economy, and the society will be in harmony.'

Jeannie Tien was among the supporters who had to swallow the KMT's bitter defeat four years ago with frustration and disbelief. Last night, she returned to the party headquarters with her KMT flag held high.

'It's just great,' she chanted, standing on a stool so that she could get a better view of Mr Ma. 'It's been an eight-year wait for the KMT to lead Taiwan again. I hope Ma Ying-jeou will do a good job and lead Taiwan to stand out in the world.'

She said the result showed the people of Taiwan had the wisdom to choose the right leader. 'Over the past years, Taiwan just kept falling and there has been so much ideological debate. I think such a situation shouldn't continue.'

Emotions ran high when Mr Ma took to the stage to thank supporters.

'Ma Ying-jeou president! Ma Ying-jeou president,' they chanted.

'How are you?' he said. 'We're great,' came the reply from the jubilant crowd as thousands of camera flashes went off.

Mr Ma and fellow KMT leaders bowed three times to thank them for their support.

Pledging to give them a better future, Mr Ma assured supporters he would change Taiwan and improve ties with the mainland.

'Taiwan moves forward,' he shouted in the island's three dialects - Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka.


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