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Talk of the Day -- What's behind KMT's by-election defeat?

2012/09/09 20:07:21

Local newspapers on Sunday gave prominent coverage to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) victory in the Jiaosi Township chief by-election in Yilan County the previous day.

The success followed the party's victories in similar by-elections in Huatan and Lugang townships in Changhua County in central Taiwan held earlier this year.

DPP politicians hailed these electoral victories as reflection of public discontent with the incompetency and lackluster performance of President Ma Ying-jeou's administration.

The Jiaosi by-election result symbolizes a vote of no confidence against the Ma administration, the DPP said in a statement.

Some ruling Kuomintang (KMT) officials, however, attributed the party's Jiaosi by-election defeat in part to structural factors, arguing that DPP supporters outnumbered pro-KMT residents in the town known for its hot springs and natural scenery.

The following are excerpts from the local media coverage of the latest township chief by-election:

United Daily News:

Jiaosi in the northeastern county of Yilan has been governed by KMT members for nearly a decade. The death of township chief Huang Tai-ping in June led to the by-election.

The DPP drafted a political rookie, Lin Hsi-chung, to vie with the KMT nominee Lin Cheng-sheng, a two-term Jiaosi township head who passed the helm to Huang Feb. 28, 2010.

With full support from DPP heavyweights, Lin Hsi-chung managed to defeat his two rivals -- Lin Cheng-sheng and Lin Cheng-kung, a DPP maverick who ran as an independent.

Lin Hsi-chung garnered 5,424 votes, beating his closest rival Lin Cheng-sheng by a narrow margin of 253 ballots. The third candidate Lin Cheng-kung obtained 3,872 votes. Voter turnout reached 51.6 percent.

The DPP has scored a series of electoral victories in Yilan County since its candidate Lin Tsung-hsien thwarted his KMT rival Lu Kuo-hua's re-election bid in the 2009 county magistrate election.

From then on, the DPP also won the 2010 Yilan Irrigation Association chief election and the county's regional-seat legislative election in January this year.

Although the DPP lost the 2012 presidential election, its candidate Tsai Ing-wen secured nearly 20,000 ballots more than President Ma in Yilan County.

Some political analysts said the KMT's successive election defeats in the northeastern county was like a string of political mudslides.

They said the Ma administration's low approval rating has adversely affected Lin Cheng-sheng's electroal bid even though Lin himself is political veteran with 32 years of experiences in grassroots elections. (Sept. 9, 2012).

China Times:

Before by-elections, Huantan, Lugang and Jiaosi were all controlled by the KMT. The three townships were traditionally seen as KMT strongholds.

In the Jiaosi by-election, the DPP camp was divided, with a rebel challenging the party's nominee. Why was the KMT still unable to win the race after having governed the twonship for 10 years?

Political analysts said the central government needs to do soul searching to find the root causes for the ruling party's recent string of election setbacks.

First of all, they said, the ruling party should study whether the domestic economic downturn undermined its electoral showing or whether the Ma administration itself should be blamed for Taiwan's current economic woes.

While Ma himself took pride in carrying out stock capital gains tax reforms and raising gasonline and electricity prices to promote energy conservation, local people do not seem to share the president's view. Otherwise, political analysts said, Ma's approval rating would not have continued a downward streak and the ruling party would not have suffered three by-election defeats.

They suggested that the Ma administration review its reform direction and reform strategy in order to assuage social discontent and revitalize the domestic economy, which has flashed a gloomy "blue light" on the government's monitoring system for nine months in a row. (Sept. 9, 2012).

Liberty Times:

Jiaosi Township Chief-elect Lin Hsi-chung said his election signified public discontent with the central government's policy.

"I hope the central government will pay more attention to grassroots people's feelings and correct its wrong policy of raising fuel and electricity prices at a time when our economy is languishing in doldrums," Lin said in a post-election statement. (Sept. 9, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)