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【#275】Opposition’s Win Throws Taiwan’s Presidential Hopefuls into Chaos

Koh Sekai / 2014.12.03 (Wed)

December 1, 2014

     In unified local elections on November 29, Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang Nationalist Party lost five of the six major mayoral posts to the opposition camp. The only Kuomintang winner was Chu Li-luan, or Eric Chu, for New Taipei City. The five cities lost to the opposition camp are Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung.

Kuomintang's crushing defeat in major cities
     In the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, the Kuomintang fielded Lien Sheng-wen, or Sean Lien, the eldest son of former Vice President Lien Chan rumored as the richest politician in Taiwan, against political amateur Ko Wen-je who resigned as medical doctor to run in the election and attracted attention by getting support from an alliance of opposition parties including the Democratic Progressive Party for the first time in Taiwan’s history. As a result, Ko won by a landslide by garnering more than 850,000 votes against 600,000 for Lien.
     In Taichung's mayoral election, incumbent Kuomintang Mayor Hu Chih-chiang, or Jason Hu, took advantage of his 13-year service as mayor and his former foreign minister post to compete with DPP candidate Lin Chia-lung, a strong politician who earlier worked as Government Information Office director-general and Legislative Yuan lawmaker. People focused attention on whether the DPP could expand into the northern half of Taiwan after controlling the two major southern cities of Kaohsiung and Tainan. Eventually, the incumbent suffered a crushing defeat to the DPP candidate, 630,000 votes to 840,000 votes, deviating from an earlier expected close race.
     Incumbent DPP Mayor Chen Chu, or Kiku Chen, in Kaohsiung collected the highest number of votes at 990,000 while the same opposition party's incumbent Lai Ching-te in Tainan won the highest share of the votes at 72.9%. In Taoyuan, DPP candidate Cheng Wen-tsan defeated Kuomintang incumbent Wu Chih-yang by a narrow margin of some 20,000 votes. Wu is the son of former Kuomintang Chairman Wu Po-hsiung.
     Of Taiwan’s 22 municipalities and counties including the six major cities, the Kuomintang won only six against the pre-election number of 15, while the DPP obtained 13. The ruling Kuomintang's defeat came as young people in their 20s proactively cast votes in response to the Sunflower Student Movement in March, where students occupied the Legislative Yuan in opposition to the China-Taiwan services trade agreement.

DPP gains momentum toward presidential election
     The DPP has thus an advantageous position toward the 2016 presidential election. But its victory in five of the six major municipalities has increased the number of those eligible for presidential candidates, making it difficult for the party to select one candidate. On the part of the Kuomintang, Chu's narrow victory in New Taipei City and the defeat in the five other major cities made any specific presidential candidate unclear. On the night of the voting day, President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as Kuomintang chairman, told a press conference that Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Kuomintang Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan would resign. On the next day, Ma indicated his intention to quit the Kuomintang post.
     To survive in the international community as a nation, Taiwan must counter China that asserts, "China is one, and Taiwan is a part of China." It should team up with those exposed to Chinese threats. Japan is the friendliest and nearest country to Taiwan among them and important for Taiwan.
     Taiwan, while being required to develop direct relations with the United States, should consider relations with the United States through Japan. Taiwan should make effort to have the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines mention about Taiwan through their coming revision. The pro-China Kuomintang's setback will pave the way for Taiwan's approaching to Japan and the United States.

Koh Sekai is a former representative of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan.