TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Candidates in Taiwan's legislative election next week include a jailbird, a former soap opera star and a man who wants to make this island part of the United States -- all signaling a new force in Taiwanese politics: wackiness.
The quirky candidates help mark the island's successful transition from humorless -- and often brutal -- authoritarian rule to one of Asia's most freewheeling democracies, a change that began happening about a decade ago.
One of the kookiest characters in the race is 52-year-old David Chou, whose campaign headquarters in the capital, Taipei, looks like a shrine to America. A portrait of George Washington hangs on the wall along with a copy of the Bill of Rights. A pole with the U.S. flag stands in the corner and a big red and white banner reads "Uncle Sam Wants You!"
The items are perfect props for Chou's main campaign issue: Taiwan should become the 51st state of America.