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Opposition Party Candidates Often Left Unprotected During Campaigns

Around the world, election violence has made armored vehicles and bodyguards staples in election operations – especially in countries where election violence is expected and public disapproval often comes in the form of bullets. Government’s will typically put up the money to protect incumbents during campaigns, but they are often slow to protect opposition party candidates. Candidates from opposition parties in Taiwan are calling for a change in the current policy, which only provides armored vehicles for incumbent candidates.

Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou plans to campaign throughout the areausing at least two armored vehiclesin hopes of holding onto his position for another term, the  Taipei Times reported on Monday . Both he and the National Security Bureau (NSB) are under fire for not providing his main opposition candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, from the Democratic Progressive Party, with any armored vehicles. In the past only incumbents were provided armored vehicles, but Tsai feels past attacks on candidates justify the need for equal protection for all candidates. NSB provided Tsai with vehicles but none of them are armored.

The threat of election related violence is rare in Taiwan, the Taipei Timesreports but not nonexistent. Last fall, Chinese Nationalist Party candidateSean Lien was shot in the faceas he took the stage to speak at a rally. In 2004,Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan’s president was shot while riding in an open top armored vehicle while campaigning. He survived.

The issue is reminiscent of Pakistan’s 2007 campaigns where opposition candidate Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after requests for additional security. Bhutto worried thatgovernment provided bodyguards were inadequate. She made a request for protection from an outside security contractor, but it was denied by Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. While campaigning in Rawalpindi, she came under fire. As she ducked into the vehicle, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives next to the vehicle, causing herhead to strike the sunroof and killing her, according to an investigation by the Scotland Yard.

“A front-page report yesterday in the Chinese-language China Times quoted unnamed NSB officials as saying that despite the two shooting incidents, the agency was ‘too cash-strapped’ to procure a new bulletproof vehicle,” the Taipei Times reported. 

Security is especially critical for opposition parties or female candidates. As retired Secret Service agent Joseph J. Funk told Newsweek in 2007, "Anytime you step outside the norms, you're going to attract [trouble]. So whether you're the first African-American, you're the first woman or [Connecticut Sen. Joe] Lieberman, the first Jewish person to run for [the White House]--you're a polarizing figure.… That attracts a whole other crowd." He made his remarks in aQ&A about campaign security.

Sometimes it's the government itself that the opposition needs protection from. Last year, the leader of Rawanda’s opposition party requestedadditional protection from the government after being attacked outside the capitol in plain sight of government police. When physical attacks didn’t intimidate her, she was arrested and charged with terrorism. Her party says theevidence was fabricated to keep her out of the elections. 

Armored vehicle companies that serve Guatemala reported a70 percent increase in businessahead of elections this September and with good reason. Five days ago, aGuatemalan mayoral candidate was arrestedfor having two rivals killed.

photo byjetalone from flickr