In Saturday's Lugang township chief by-election, Huang Cheng-yen, the nominee of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), overwhelmingly beat the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) Tsai Ming-chung by more than 13,000 votes.
The by-election was necessary because former township chief Wang Huei-mei was elected as a legislator in January.
Although the Lugang by-election involved only around 60,000 voters, it was seen as an extension of the battle between the KMT and the DPP in January's presidential and legislative elections.
The DPP decided its nominee early on. In contrast, the KMT only chose its candidate in late February due to a rift within the party that has emerged since Wang was nominated as legislative candidate.
Huang, a Changhua County councilor, had the advantage of being already established on the local political scene, while Tsai, although a doctor with a fresh and clean image, lacked political experience.
In addition, Lugang is a constituency in which DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen beat out KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou in the January presidential election.
It was therefore easy for the DPP to win over the voters simply by calling for voters to choose their nominee to show their disapproval of Ma.
One should bear in mind that the since the KMT returned to power in 2008, it has won only one legislative by-election -- in Daan District in Taipei City -- and only won the five special municipality elections by slim margins.
Even though the DPP is close to the grassroots, it has not been able to solicit more trust on major policies and should therefore not indulge in victory joy.
Since winning re-election in January, Ma has unveiled several measures, including a double whammy of fuel and electricity price hikes, plans to lift a ban on U.S. beef imports containing ractopamine and the imposition of a capital gains tax on stock transactions.
These unpopular measures or plans show only one thing -- that the Ma administration still has not been able to defend its policies although vowing to engage in reforms.
The local election defeat might not be a big deal, but the Ma administration's estrangement from the grassroots is a big issue. Ma's pledge of reforms could win, but his will to carry out these reforms and defend his policies is obviously lacking.
As the DPP is focusing on the seven-in-one elections set for 2014, the KMT should keep in mind that history will not give a good assessment of a leader who keeps losing. (Editorial abstract -- April 30, 2012)
(By Lilian Wu)