Taiwan's Own 'Game of Thrones'

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Tuesday July 8, 2014, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

It's summer, and as numerous TV networks debate which summer re-runs will precede their fall series, HBO is already ahead of the game. Its extremely popular and highly lucrative series, Game of Thrones, has just completed its 4th season and is signed on for another two; this guarantees its expectant viewers many more dramatic action-packed episodes of struggles for power replete with greed, intrigue, loyalty and betrayal. In Taiwan, however, the people need not turn on their TVs for such drama, for their own "Game of Thrones" is developing before their eyes and will continue on to 2016 when Taiwan's "Iron Throne" of the presidency and seats in the legislature are once again up for grabs between the pan-blue and the pan-green camps.

For the pan-blue coalition, the 2016 elections are all the more important because their current leader, Ma the Incompetent, has no male heir or designated successor thus creating a power vacuum. He has a daughter in Hong Kong and another in the USA but they have no interest or influence in political succession on Nation Formosa. At best they may provide him a King Lear-type refuge for when he leaves office. So, surrounded only by trusted aides, Ma's choices for a successor remain limited. There is his vice president, Wu the Lackluster an aging baron who has weathered many ups and downs, then there is his premier, Jiang the Lackey another loyal follower but one more suited to following orders than taking command, and finally there is his trusted advisor and assassin, King the Knife. All have served loyally but Wu and Jiang seem to lack the charisma and skills to unify all factions of the blue coalition, while King has made far too many enemies to engage any trust.

Who then will replace Ma? It is not the first time that the pan-blue camp has found itself facing such crucial decisions. When its past leader, Lee the Democratic stepped down after 12 years reign, he supported his vice president Lien the Dull who subsequently lost the Iron Throne. Though it was James of the People who broke ranks, claimed right of succession and split the blue vote, Lee was branded a traitor and expelled from the party. No, the pan-blue coalition is no stranger to self-created factions, spin-offs, and divisions with divided loyalties, which have never completely healed. So with Ma's waning reputation and his becoming a liability, the blue coalition faces a tough decision. Who can fill this vacuum and command the allegiance of the party?

A groomed scion of the House of Hau is one contender. This family with a long history of dedicated service to the nation claims experience, but is it enough? Its patriarch stood on the front lines at Kinmen and ran for vice president of the Iron Throne in the past, but there are skeletons in the closet as well. The murky Lafayette Affair with its own long string of dead bodies and unexplained billions of dollars remains unresolved.

Lurking in the wings another possible challenger is an undeclared scion of the House of Chu. His family does not have the high profile pedigree as some above, but it does have cachet. Meanwhile the House of Lien, whose patriarch has carried the banner for the throne twice and failed, remains active. One of its scions, Sean the Inexperienced, is being groomed for later possibilities for the throne.

Not to be outdone, there is the opposition Green Alliance. Traditionally known for its divisions and contentious inner power struggles, it seems to have achieved a semblance of unity. Its banner and chances for the throne have been placed in the hands of Tsai of Arc. Tsai had helped unify and bring back the alliance after its disastrous defeats in the 2008 campaign. She has battle-tested experience in going for the throne but whether she can maintain unity in the Alliance and attract undeclared supporters remains to be seen. Certainly like her namesake, the possibility of betrayal is always there.

It is a wonder that so many seek Taiwan's Iron Throne. Forged out of the swords of many past battles, it like that in the HBO series has never been a comfortable throne All past presidents bear wounds to show for it, but still many seek it. Thus it along with the legislative selection in 2016 remains the kingdom's culminating drama.

Leading up to this drama however are other crucial battles. Seven fiefdoms are at stake at the end of 2014. As the green forces battle the blue, these elections will be seen as indicators as to how far north the swelling green tide from the south may reach. Crucial to this question will be control of the central plains. There the House of Hu has long held sway for the blues but its patriarch grows old and is without heirs. Polonius-like its leader can only hope to aid in dynastic succession. But even as this goes on, in the very heart of the king-making fiefdom of Taipei, the green alliance has joined with Ko the Independent in hopes of taking the bluest of blue strongholds. It is a time for alliances, called upon loyalties and risk of betrayals. All sides have had members who will readily switch allegiance for monetary and/or political gain and recognition.

Yes, the stakes are high. But the threats and struggles for the nation are found not only within. Outside its borders lay other dangers. To the west is the Kingdom of Red Oligarchs. Eager to expand their empire, these oligarchs threaten to invade Nation Formosa if it refuses to become a vassal state - something that appeals to the treachery of a few oligarchs within Taiwan. Other nations also have vested interests. To the north, the Kingdom of the Rising Sun realizes that its lifeblood depends on a peaceful southern border and it carefully watches all that happens. To the east is another interested party. Sensing trouble, the land of the Eastern Eagle has pivoted its widening gyre to Asia.

Yes viewers will have plenty to interest them in the coming season. But this Game of Thrones is not HBO. No, it more resembles highly interactive television. For while all these struggles and machinations go on, Taiwan's Populace or Third Estate have earned their say. Able and willing to express their expectations, they will vote to determine who gets the seven fiefdoms and eventually the throne. The trailers are out already for the fall season; the cast of characters is pretty well determined and two more exciting seasons are guaranteed. Who will attract the ultimate loyalties of the populace? How will they vote? Stay tuned; rumors fly, but the kingmakers of Nation Formosa are preparing their ballots. ***

*** (Footnote, the 2014 elections of course will show the KMT losing most of the fiefdoms.)