"How I'd love to see such issues in our local elections."



Mid-term elections were held in Taiwan last Saturday. Local posts, such as city and county local government positions, were at stake.  The election template here is similar to the United States, in that a president is elected for a term of four years, and is allowed to seek one reelection. Presidential elections are not simultaneous with the local elections, unlike our synchronized elections.

The Saturday results, while not necessarily unexpected, proved to be a stunning upset for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Public opinion polls the week before the elections showed the Kuomintang (KMT) was likely to win more seats than the ruling DPP, but the results in key DPP strongholds were particularly bad for the administration.

At stake were 22 mayoral and county magistrate seats and 11,025 local offices (similar to our barangays).  Of the 22 races, the DPP lost seven of the 13 cities and counties it previously held—Taichung, Kaohsiung, Chiayi cities and Yilan, Yunlin, Changhua and Penghu counties.

Only six were won by the DPP—Taoyuan, Tainan, Keelung and Hsinchu cities, as well as Chiayi and Pingtung counties.

The KMT kept all the seats it previously occupied, namely New Taipei City, Miaoli, Nantou, Taitung and Lienchiang counties, and won KMT-aligned Kinmen and Hualien counties previously held by independents.

Independent Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je, the incumbent, won a second term by a mere 3,254 vote margin over the KMT candidate, Ting Shou-chung.  Had the DPP not insisted on fielding its own candidate, the incumbent Ko, who had an alliance with the ruling party, would likely have won with a much bigger margin.

Political analysts here conceded New Taipei City to the Kuomintang early on,  with the incumbent Mayor Eric Chu’s deputy mayor predicted to win easily.  Mayor Chu was a popular city mayor who previously held the mayorship of Taoyuan as well.  Chosen by the KMT to be its presidential candidate in 2016, he was however defeated by DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen.

The contest was too close to call in Kaohsiung and Taichung, DPP strongholds, and the ruling party candidate’s defeat in these two large cities was truly upsetting for the administration party.

DPP campaign strategists conceded early on that if they lost New Taipei, it was expected.  If they lost Taichung as well, it would be a stalemate.  But if they lost Kaohsiung, which has been under their control for 20 years, it would be a defeat.

 KMT’s Han Kuo-yu, who is not even a long-time Kaohsiung resident, prevailed over DPP’s Chen Chi-mai who acted as mayor after then incumbent Chen Chu was appointed as the secretary-general of President Tsai’s office, despite a lackluster debate performance a week before the elections.  

Taking full responsibility for the DPP’s showing, Pres. Tsai Ing-wen immediately resigned as party chairperson.

Premier William Lai, the charismatic former mayor of Tainan, resigned as premier as well, but the President and the cabinet asked him and former Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, now secretary-general of the Office of the President, to stay in their posts for the sake of continuity.

The results of the local elections, while they could affect the fate of both major political parties in the 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections, do not necessarily constitute a repudiation of the national leadership.  Media and academics are having a field day at analyzing the results of the elections, clearly an upset for the DPP.  

While understandably the opposition KMT is ecstatic, the acceptability and campaign efforts of its individual candidates, more than the party as a whole, were contributory to the upset. 

I recall what the long-time Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Tip O’neill kept stating, that “all politics is local..

 Add to that the “politica del estomago.”  Economic issues, such as cutting down on the pensions of retired civil servants in an aging society, thus losing the senior citizen vote.  Still for the government, that was an actuarial matter; they had to save the pension fund system.  And while the economic situation is not in the “doldrums” and exports have actually been increasing, there is no question that the state of cross-strait relations, plus the nascent trade war between the world’s largest economies have had its toll.  For an island of shopkeepers and SME’s, economics prevails over politics when voting time comes.

Unfinished infrastructure and environmental issues as well.  For Kaohsiung, it was the winner Han’s promise to revive the local economy, largely dependent on the activity of one of the world’s busiest ports, and being tough on controlling air pollution.

How I’d love to see such issues in our local elections, such as if a mayor loses because garbage collection is bad, or because factories are closing down.

For the capital Taipei, the election results were very close, where the incumbent mayor won narrowly over the KMT candidate by a 3,254 vote margin.  Had DPP not fielded its own candidate, Pasuya Yao, pundits claim that Mayor Ko would have won more handily.

The results of the close Taipei City elections was completed a bit late, around 2:30 Sunday morning.  Citizens were howling because the other major cities had completed the canvass much earlier.

Now the postscript:  The chairman of the Central Election Commission (their Comelec) apologized to the voters and promptly resigned.

“As the senior official. I must accept all responsibility,” Chairman Chen In-chin said in announcing his resignation. 

The resignation was accepted by the Executive Yuan.

Only in Taiwan?

In da Pilipins, would you see such a spate of resignations by officials for failures not even directly attributable to them?

Topics: Taiwan , Kuomintang , Democratic Progressive Party , Central Election Commission , Chen In-chin
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