- Title: TAIWAN: Taipei's upcoming election a barometer to 2012 presidency
- Date: 26th November 2010
- Summary: TAINAN, TAIWAN (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (RECENT) (POOL) AN ELECTION CAMPAIGN EVENT FOR TAINAN'S MAYOR CANDIDATE KUO TIEN-TSAI TAIWAN PRESIDENT MA YING-JEOU STANDING BESIDE KUO SUPPORTERS WAVING FLAGS AND HOLDING UP A BIG BANNER NATIONALIST PARTY OFFICIALS ON STAGE PRESIDENT MA CHEERING FOR KUO ON STAGE THOUSANDS OF SUPPORTERS AT THE RALLY SUPPORTERS WAVING FLAGS MORE OF MA CHEERING FOR KUO TAIPEI COUNTY, TAIWAN (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (RECENT) (POOL) AN ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR DPP CHAIRWOMAN TSAI ING-WEN TSAI TALKING IN FRONT OF A PODIUM SUPPORTERS WAVING FLAGS DPP OFFICIALS WAVING FLAGS ON STAGE SUPPORTERS CHANTING "ELECTED" AND WAVING FLAGS FLAGS AND POSTERS TSAI ON STAGE THE RALLY
- Embargoed: 11th December 2010 12:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9Z2EEJ3IBVWCDYFMEEGUKILK0
- Story Text: Taiwan voters are gearing up for local elections on Saturday (November 27) that will send a signal on which party -- the pro-China Nationalists or anti-China opposition DPP -- has a cleaner shot at the presidency in 2012.
Voters in Taiwan's five biggest cities and counties, totaling 60 percent of the island's eligible electorate, will choose mayors and magistrates. City and county council races take place on the same day. The rest of Taiwan already chose local leaders in 2009.
In the capital, Taipei, the hardest race to call, Nationalist incumbent Mayor Hau Lung-bin is fighting back against accusations he has done little in office with new infrastructure and a popular international floral exhibition.
He is running against Su Tseng-chang, a charismatic former opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) premier often seen as his camp's most likely candidate to win the presidency.
Polls show the DPP narrowly seizing control from the Nationalists.
Whether on motorcades sweeping through the streets or in the traditional markets shaking hands with voters, candidates of the five cities are eager for a final boost as the days count down to the election.
Forty-two-year-old Huang Mei-jen said the candidate doing the most for improved education system will win her vote.
"I wish to see improvement in children's education, and I would also like to see more subsidies from the government," she said.
While Su lost the 2008 Presidential election as the vice-presidential candidate paired up with Frank Hsieh, supporters said they will make sure he takes the seat this time.
"I think the DPP will take up more seats in the election, because I know a lot of people will support them. In the previous election people showed support but the result went to the other party. We will vote for Su Tseng-chang again. I tell people they better vote for him, or I'll spank their backside," said 63-year-old vegetable vendor Tan Cho.
In neighbouring Sinbei city, Taiwan's biggest electoral district with about 3 million people, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen slightly lags Eric Chu, former vice premier and one of the Nationalist Party's young rising stars.
The southern port of Kaohsiung is expected to give their popular DPP incumbent another four years in office against two rivals.
Tainan, another opposition stronghold, is tipped to elect the DPP's Lai Ching-te over a Nationalist opponent.
Central Taiwan's main metropolis, Taichung, is leaning toward re-electing Jason Hu, a long-standing Nationalist mayor respected at home but unlikely to pursue higher office.
Across the five cities, the economy is the dominant issue. Candidates want to be seen as concerned about jobs, the rich-poor gap and new infrastructure that helps the economy while factoring in the environment.
Traditional party lines are expected to weigh heavily in Kaohsiung, Taichung and Tainan, easily giving the opposition two seats and the Nationalists one.
Since Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, Taiwan and China have signed a series of historic trade and transit deals, but avoided politics or defence.
The opposition has criticised Ma's China-friendly policy to boost the Taiwan's economy, saying it will make the island too economically dependent on China.
"It doesn't matter whether the KMT or DPP wins, ultimately the boss is Communist China. It doesn't matter. If everyone can open their eyes, in the end, they all have to listen to China. It is clear now that no one will oppose to the 1.3 billion people. No one," said 31-year-old Michael Wei.
But others, like 55-year-old Li Ching-chou, said Taiwan has seen economic recovery, and the Nationalist party will receive support.
"Time will prove whether we are too close to China or not. But a peaceful cross-strait relation will help Taiwan's economy. Our island doesn't have much resources, a bad economy means bad living standards for people," said Li.
If the DPP keeps the two mayoral posts it controls now and takes Taipei from the Nationalists, it also indicates a broader public discontent with President Ma, whose ratings have dropped from high levels when he took office in 2008.
However, Taiwan's political landscape changes quickly, meaning the 2012 race will most likely hinge on whatever issues will be dominating the news once that campaign is underway.
Continued strength in Taiwan's export-reliant economy after last year's recession would give the ruling party a solid foundation for its 2012 campaign.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None