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KMT crushed in local elections; Cabinet to be reshuffled

2014/11/30 00:09:52

President Ma Ying-jeou (second right).


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Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou and his Kuomintang suffered a massive defeat in Taiwan's local government elections Saturday, as the party's candidates for mayors and county magistrates took the brunt of the electorate's dissatisfaction with the central government.

Shortly after the results became clear, Premier Jiang Yih-huah announced his resignation to take responsibility for the ruling party's crushing defeat.

Although some setbacks for the KMT were expected midway through Ma's second presidential term, the magnitude of the loss was unexpected, as the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won most of the supposedly close races by decisive margins.

The KMT started the day with control of 15 of Taiwan's 22 cities and counties and ended it with just six, an embarrassment for Ma, who is also chairman of the KMT.

The DPP, meanwhile, emerged as the biggest winner, expanding its hold from six to 13 cities and counties, including four of the six special municipalities.

Ma apologized to KMT supporters for the party's heavy losses in the elections but vowed to continue his reforms and liberalization policy.

"Now, my responsibility is to put forth reform proposals," Ma said. "Wipe away your tears" and unite for the party, for Taiwan and for the Republic of China, he told KMT supporters.

The president also said he is confident that "the KMT will not be struck down."

He appealed to voters throughout the country to leave behind their campaign rhetoric now that the elections are over.

Ma pledged he would more humbly make greater efforts to show his government's sincerity in leading the country into the future.

He gave the address after approving the resignations of both Premier Jiang Yi-huah and KMT Secretary General Tseng Yung-chuan, which signaled an imminent shake-up in the executive branch of government and within the ruling party.

The president did not mention, however, of any intention to resign as chairman of the KMT.

The scale of the KMT's defeat was most evident in Taiwan's six major metropolises -- Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung. Prior to the elections, the KMT had held control of the first four, but on Saturday lost all but one.

Pre-election opinion polls had clearly suggested that the KMT was likely to lose in the capital Taipei and in Taichung, the biggest city in central Taiwan.

But the loss of Taoyuan despite a seemingly comfortable lead by the incumbent Wu Chih-yang in a traditional pan-blue stronghold was a blow to party.

In Taipei, the KMT's Sean Lien lost to independent candidate Ko Wen-je, who was supported by the DPP, by a margin of 16.2 percentage points, ending the KMT's 16-year dominance in the capital city. It had held Taipei since 1998 when Ma Ying-jeou was first elected as mayor of the city.

In Taichung the longest serving mayor Jason Hu of the KMT was defeated by the DPP's Lin Chia-lung by a margin of 14.1 percentage points, with 1.48 million votes cast. Hu had led Taichung since 2001.

The three municipalities were the focus of the so-called "nine-in-one" elections, as it was generally thought that a loss in those KMT strongholds would force the party to fight an uphill battle in the 2016 presidential election.

For the DPP, the victories by its candidates in Taichung City and the neighboring Changhua County would be seen as a first step towards its goal of returning to power.

The DPP, which governed Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, had vowed during this year's election campaign to "shift the central axis of Taiwan's political map" by taking the central areas of Nantou County, Taichung City and Changhua County, and it won two of the three.

DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen thanked voters for allowing her party to realize its "best performance" in local government elections, helping it to win 13 of the 22 cities and counties up for grabs.

"Starting today, the DPP should take the Kuomintang's defeat as a lesson," she said, adding that if the government is not "on the side of the people, the people will take back power."

She said her party's victory marked the beginning of a historic change and that the direction of the nation lies with the wisdom of the people. She vowed to "win Taiwan back" step by step.

Meanwhile, in announcing his resignation at a press conference, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said the results of the elections showed that the people are not satisfied with the government's policies and they have "clearly made their voice heard through their votes".

The premier said his resignation has been accepted by President Ma, who is expected name a new premier shortly.

(By Bear Lee; click here for a list of results of this year's local elections)
ENDITEM/pc

Related stories:
●Nov. 29: China expresses hopes to keep warm ties after KMT setback in Taiwan
●Nov. 29: KMT leader vows to keep reforming, opening path
●Nov. 29: DPP chair thanks voters after party takes 13 cities, counties