Monday, December 07, 2009

Council and mayoral elections show DPP progress?

Although yesterday I wrote that there was nothing really shocking about the results, some of the mayoral and council races at the local level showed some pleasant surprises for the DPP. The Taipei Times reports:
The DPP won a total of 128 county or city council seats in the 17 cities and counties where council elections were held on Saturday, while the KMT secured 289.

Compared with 2005, the DPP won 21 seats in the 17 counties and cities while the KMT lost 22.

Although the numbers may not seem as significant, the DPP’s advances were a surprise for several political observers.

In Keelung County [MT: Keelung city, TT has typo'ed here] , all of the DPP’s nine candidates for the city council were elected, in Hsinchu City, its seven candidates for city council were elected, while in Yunlin County, its 13 candidates for the county council were elected.

At present, the DPP holds six seats in the Keelung City Council, five in the Hsinchu City Council and five in the Yunlin County Council.

In Miaoli County, a KMT stronghold, four of the DPP’s five candidates for the county council were elected.

The DPP has two members in the Miaoli County Council.

In the township mayor elections, the DPP increased its number of seats from 20 to 35 — including the party’s Miaoli chapter director and Yuanli Township mayor-elect Tu Wen-ching (杜文卿), who ran as an independent and won the party’s first mayoral office in the county — while the number of township offices under the KMT dropped from 122 to 121.

For the first time in history, Saturday’s elections saw the DPP take KMT strongholds including Gueishan Township (龜山) in Taoyuan County and Hualien City (花蓮) in Hualien County, while the party also won the mayoral race in Yucih Township (魚池), Nantou County, for the first time.

The DPP’s Tien Chih-hsuan (田智宣), former mayor of Jian Township (吉安), Hualien County, also won the Hualien City mayoral race with 22,031 votes, the first time the DPP won a Hualien mayoral seat. Tien won against the KMT’s Lin Yu-chih (林有志) by labout 900 votes.
The DPP apparently made gains in aboriginal areas, a pleasant surprise. Morakot severely damaged aboriginal areas, and the government's indifferent response must have opened many eyes. However, it remain to be seen whether this is a sea change, or merely temporary voter punishment of the KMT.

The China Post offers some numbers on the township chief positions, of which the KMT grabbed 121 of the 211 available:
The opposition Democratic Progress Party (DPP) obtained 32 positions, or 16.11 percent of the available seats. The remaining 56 seats went to independent candidates.

Eight other smaller parties also joined the township chief elections but failed to gain any seats.

In terms of vote numbers, the KMT won 48.8158 percent of total votes for township chiefs, the DPP got 20.0433 percent. Independents obtained 30.8733 percent. Two smaller parties got less than 1 percent of vote: China Unification Promotion Party (0.0591 percent) and Da-dao Ci Bei Ji-shi Party (0.2085 percent).
It's clear that however you slice it, the KMT remains strong at the local level -- witness the 20% gap in overall votes. Moreover, many of the independents are KMT-aligned, meaning that the numbers there underestimate its strength.

The China Post, an ardently pro-KMT paper, noted:
Observers generally agree that the outcome of the elections has attested to Ma's dwindling popularity. Ma will be facing even tougher challenges in elections in Taipei and other special municipalities next year, and his reelection bid in 2012.
Perhaps the government's low popularity may have something to do with the DPP successes in traditionally KMT areas. Whether this is permanent, though, or merely protest vote, only time will tell. Any election will bring surprises at this level. But because the elections covered only 38% of the electorate, and took place in areas that are overrepresented with Greens, the overall percentages don't mean very much. The DPP ran only 147 candidates and won 128, excellent work, but there were many places with no DPP candidate. Much remains to be done.
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