Thursday, March 11, 2010

Election defeats a severe warning for KMT

The results of Taiwan’s by-elections for four legislators were announced on February 27. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won three seats in the counties of Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Chiayi, while the ruling Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) took just one seat in Hualien. In Hualien, the DPP candidate Hsiao Bi-khim lost to the KMT candidate Wang Ting-sheng by 6,100 votes, but the result was notable because the DPP had again closed the gap in this KMT stronghold.

Since taking office in May 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou’s KMT has lost five of the six elections including the election for city mayors and county magistrates at the end of 2009, and five by-elections for legislators. President Ma described this latest by-election defeat as a "severe warning" to the ruling KMT.

After this by-election, the number of DPP seats in the Legislative Yuan increased from 30 to 33, with the KMT retaining 75 and independents holding onto five spots. In the January 2008 elections, the KMT won 82 seats and the DPP took only 27. But since March 2009, the five legislative by-elections have seen a steady increase in the DPP tally.

Morale of opposition boosted

According to the Taipei-based China Times, the ruling party’s defeat can be attributed to several factors: the internal split of the KMT in Taoyuan and Hsinchu, the DPP’s efforts to rebuild trust among undecided and young voters, the low voter turnout (only 36-42 percent) and the absence of KMT voters in particular. Declining poll results for the KMT can also be attributed to the economic downturn, rising unemployment, the government’s unimpressive rescue efforts of Typhoon Morakot victims and the controversy surrounding US beef imports.

According the Central News Agency, the KMT’s secretary-general King Pu-tsung admitted that this election was a failure for the party. King said that the long-term problems of the KMT should still be dealt with despite the defeat. He will intensify efforts to reform the party by stopping the widespread practice of vote buying and exchanges of benefits with local politicians.

Commentator Liao Chin-tin said in the paper that low voter turnout showed the disappointment felt by voters that the legislators of both parties had left their positions unfilled in order to engage in the magistrate’s election.

After the presidential election defeat in 2008, DPP chairperson Tsai Ying-wen has rallied the party by winning five elections. This has boosted the morale of all DPP members. Tsai is expected to win another term as the DPP chairperson in May.

KMT facing uphill struggle

The Five Municipal Elections of Taipei City, Kaohsiung City, and the greater Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung municipalities will be the next important elections before the 2012 presidential election in Taiwan.

The China Times noted that the DPP has a chance in the 2012 presidential election if it can hold onto its traditional strongholds of greater Kaohsiung Municipality and greater Tainan Municipality, and make a breakthrough in Taipei City or the greater Taipei Municipality. As such, the DPP has begun to position itself. Su Tseng-chang, the premier under the previous DPP administration, announced on March 3 his intention to run for Taipei city mayor at the year-end Five Municipality Elections.

The Central News Agency reported that Liao Kun-jung, professor with the Political Science department at National Chung Cheng University, predicts that the KMT will suffer another setback in the Five Municipality Elections, but they might perform better in the presidential election. He said the low turnout in recent elections is directly due to the KMT’s supporters’ general sense of apathy, but Liao expects they will still turn out to vote for President Ma. Liao stressed that Ma is likely to face a difficult election, but at this time, no obvious challenger has appeared to oppose him within the ruling party.

Political commentator Ku Er-teh noted after the 2008 presidential election that all the six elections are local ones and the DPP might not duplicate its recent successes in the 2012 presidential election.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.