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DPP, KMT facing vote splitting in fights for dominance in Legislature

10/06/2023 03:08 PM
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Three candidates will compete for a seat in the fourth legislative district in Taipei. From left: KMT's Lee Yen-Hsiu (李彥秀); DPP's Kao Chia-yu; Taiwan Statebuilding Party's Wu Hsin-tai. CNA file photo
Three candidates will compete for a seat in the fourth legislative district in Taipei. From left: KMT's Lee Yen-Hsiu (李彥秀); DPP's Kao Chia-yu; Taiwan Statebuilding Party's Wu Hsin-tai. CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 6 (CNA) In the run-up to Taiwan's 11th legislative election, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) are both grappling with the complex issue of vote splitting in several electoral districts, as they battle for dominance in the Legislature.

With approximately 100 days left until the legislative and presidential elections on Jan. 13 next year, some DPP sources have said the party's chances of retaining single-member seats in at least nine districts are dwindling.

The DPP is confronted with an "unfavorable" climate, even as it seeks to maintain its majority in the Legislature, which has been the case since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016, a DPP source told CNA, speaking on condition of anonymity and likely referring to the sluggish economy, stagnant wages, and rising inflation and housing costs, among other public concerns.

Further complicating the DPP's prospects in the legislative election is the issue of vote splitting, which stems from internal party conflicts among DPP contenders in the primaries and challenges from candidates of other parties, who all appeal to the same voter base in certain electoral districts.

For instance, in Taipei's second district, supporters of DPP Legislator Mark Ho (何志偉) have shown little enthusiasm for Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅), who won the party primary against Ho in August, according to the DPP source.

In Taipei's fourth district, DPP candidate Kao Chia-yu's (高嘉瑜) chances of reelection seem to be shrinking since Wu Hsin-tai (吳欣岱) of the independence-leaning Taiwan Statebuilding Party threw her hat into the ring.

The DPP has a similar problem in Taitung, where seasoned politician Lai Kun-cheng (賴坤成) won the primary in August but is facing a battle against three-term incumbent Legislator Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪), who is preparing to run as an independent candidate.

A similar issue is at play in Pingtung's second district, where four-term Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) is throwing his weight behind his son Su Meng-chun (蘇孟淳) in a race against the DPP's Hsu Fu-kuei (徐富癸).

Su Chen-ching was forced to relinquish his DPP membership in 2021 after being indicted on corruption charges and is currently awaiting the verdict in that case.

According to sources within the DPP, the party is bracing for "the possible loss of up to nine legislative seats, in a worst-case scenario."

The constituencies seen at highest risk are Yilan, Keelung, Taipei's second and fourth districts, New Taipei's eighth district, Taitung, Pingtung's second district, Nantou's second district, and Taichung's second district, according to the DPP sources.

In the 113-member Legislature, the DPP holds 64 seats, the KMT 37, Taiwan People's Party (TPP) five, New Power Party (NPP) three, and independents three, while one seat has been vacant since February when KMT Legislator Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) resigned to take up the post of Taipei deputy mayor.

Meanwhile, the KMT is also battling potential vote splitting in the upcoming legislative elections.

In Taipei's first district, the KMT's Chang Szu-kang (張斯綱) and his Taipei City Council colleague Hou Han-ting (侯漢廷) of the opposition New Party are both in a race against two-term DPP Legislator Wu Szu-yao (吳思瑤).

Similarly, in Taitung, Hsu Rui-kuei (許瑞貴), who had served in the county government for 15 years before resigning as head of the Public Works Department to enter the legislative election, is seen likely to siphon off votes from the KMT candidate Huang Chien-pin (黃建賓), chief of the county's Dawn township and a political newcomer.

Nonetheless, the KMT is optimistic about the 2024 legislative election, looking to gain approximately 10 seats, in the hope of boosting its number to around 50, a KMT insider told CNA on condition of anonymity.

According to the source, the KMT is more likely to pick off seats from the DPP in Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, and Taichung, but not further south where it remains relatively weaker.

The KMT thinks that the majority of people in Taiwan are discontented and are ready for a change of government, the source said, adding that the party is putting forward many fresh new faces that it hopes will appeal to disenchanted voters.

"There is no reason for pessimism" in the KMT ahead of the election, given the narrow margins of its losses -- by a few thousand votes -- in several districts in the 2020 legislative elections, the source said.

In the opposition parties' efforts to unseat the DPP, the TPP meanwhile is aiming to secure between eight and 10 at-large seats, which would be a significant gain for the party that was launched in 2019 and is currently the third largest in the Legislature, holding five at-large seats it won in 2020.

The Legislature comprises 73 district legislators, six aboriginal legislators, and 34 at-large legislators. To qualify for participation in the distribution of the 34 at-large seats, a party must secure at least 5 percent of the overall vote for political parties.

As of early October, the TPP had nominated 12 candidates in 11 districts -- in Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Yilan, Kinmen, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Hsinchu City and Lienchiang -- and in an aboriginal district in Taitung.

The minor opposition NPP has put forward three candidates in districts in Hsinchu City and County, as well as in Taoyuan, and is scheduled to unveil a list of at-large nominees on its eighth anniversary on Oct. 15.

The NPP made its legislative debut in 2016 with a relatively big splash, winning three district seats and two at-large seats. In the 2020 elections, however, it only managed to secure three at-large seats.

NPP Chairperson and Legislator Wang Wan-yu (王婉瑜) said that the single-member district system puts smaller parties at a disadvantage, making each election a battle for survival for them, but the NPP has set its sights on five seats in January's elections.

Among the other smaller parties, the People First Party and the New Party are both in the process of considering at-large nominations, while the Taiwan Statebuilding Party is competing in Taipei's fourth district and in Yilan district and is expected to soon announce its at-large lineup.

The registration period for legislative candidates is Nov. 20-24.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Yeh Su-ping, Wang Chen-chung, Kao Chien-shien, Wang Yang-yu, Liu Kuan-ting, and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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