ELECTIONS 2022/KMT wins big in local elections, taking four special municipalities

11/26/2022 11:01 PM
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Taipei Mayor-elect Chiang Wan-an (front) of the opposition KMT and his campaign team celebrate his victory outside his campaign headquarters on Saturday evening. CNA photo Nov. 26, 2022
Taipei Mayor-elect Chiang Wan-an (front) of the opposition KMT and his campaign team celebrate his victory outside his campaign headquarters on Saturday evening. CNA photo Nov. 26, 2022

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) The Kuomintang (KMT) scored a big victory in Taiwan's local government elections, taking 13 of the 21 cities and counties up for grabs, including four of the country's six biggest metropolitan areas where nearly 70 percent of Taiwan's people live.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other hand, saw its number of local government seats fall from seven to five, and it was swept out of power in the northern half of Taiwan.

Following the election setback, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced she would step down as chairperson of the DPP, potentially creating uncertainty for the party 14 months ahead of Taiwan's next presidential election.

Though numerically, the KMT entered Saturday's elections holding 14 seats and finished with 13, its victories in Taipei and Taoyuan more than compensated for its losses in the island counties of Penghu and Kinmen and in Miaoli County.

It will have a chance to win control of a 14th district when Chiayi City votes for its mayor on Dec. 18, in a race that incumbent Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) is favored to take. The race was postponed due to the death of one of the six candidates entered in the election.

The big prize for the KMT was winning back Taipei eight years after Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) of the fledgling Taiwan People's Party (TPP) took over the city government in 2014, succeeding the KMT's Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who could not run for reelection after serving two four-year terms.

In Miaoli County, the winner was independent Chung Tung-chin (鍾東錦), the incumbent Miaoli County Council speaker who was expelled from the KMT in September after he registered his candidacy for the Miaoli race without the party's nomination.

The KMT also retained its mayor seats in New Taipei and Taichung by 25 and 20.5 percentage points, respectively, and it also won in Keelung City, Hsinchu County, Nantou County, Changhua County, Yunlin County, Yilan County, Hualien County, Taitung County, and Lienchiang County.

Another winner in the 2022 elections was the minor Taiwan's People Party, which Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) founded in 2019.

The TPP fielded three candidates in the nationwide races -- in Taoyuan, Hsinchu City and Yilan County -- and supported the independent candidate running for mayor in Taipei, Huang Shan-shan (黃珊珊), who served as Ko's deputy for nearly three years.

One of them, Kao Hung-an (高虹安) in Hsinchu, triumphed even though she faced a barrage of accusations related to copyright infringement and misappropriation of public funds when she served as a legislator.

For the ruling DPP, Saturday's elections was a clear defeat after it failed to expand on the seven cities and countries it held going into this year's polls.

The DPP lost one of the six special municipalities it previously held, Taoyuan, while continuing to hold power in its strongholds of Tainan and Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

Outside the six largest cities of Taiwan, the DPP managed only to keep Chiayi County and Pingtung County it previously held in its control, and won in Penghu County where former Penghu County magistrate Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復) beat the incumbent Lai Feng-wei (賴峰偉) of the KMT.

Post-election analysis

The DPP's crushing defeat was mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Chen Fang-yu (陳方隅), an assistant professor in politics at Soochow University, said took its toll on the ruling parties of many countries around the world over the past three years.

That was because "ruling parties shouldered all the fatigue and unhappiness people suffered during the pandemic," Chen said.

Meanwhile, Chen Shih-min (陳世民), an associate professor of political science at National Taiwan University, said that judging from the fairly low turnout in the referendum that was held alongside the local elections, many young voters did not vote.

This had a negative impact on the DPP's fortunes, Chen said, and the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty, on which the DPP generally has a higher approval rating, did not play a deciding factor in Saturday's polls, which he said revolved more around economic problems.

Associate political science professor Lin Tzu-li (林子立) at Tunghai University agreed, saying voters in local elections cared mostly about economic and livelihood issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the services sector, in which a large number of workers are employed.

He also said people seemed to be tired of the integrity issue that was a big issue in the campaign, leading to low turnout that affected the DPP's showing.

Despite the KMT's triumph, there was concern within the party that "history would repeat itself," KMT sources said, referring to the party's defeat in the previous presidential and legislative elections in 2020 after a strong showing in 2018.

The party is facing many challenges on the road back to power, including having to deal with a China-friendly label that puts it at a disadvantage in national elections, and the need to improved its ties with the United States, the sources said.

The sources said that since taking over as KMT chairman in 2021, Eric Chu (朱立倫) has been trying to shift the party's political approach from being China-leaning to U.S.-friendly.

"It's obvious Chu has tried to remove the China-friendly label from the KMT," a source said.

(By Elizabeth Hsu, Lai Yu-chen and Matt Yu)

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