Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 8 News List

The middle road will win voters

Apollo Chen陳學聖

The primary elections of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to nominate candidates for the year-end legislative elections and the Kaohsiung City Council by-election took place last month. The results of these two elections can be seen as the first indicator of a possible change in Taiwan's political power distribution in the "post-320" period.

In the poll held in 10 constituencies for the KMT's primary, it's conspicuous that those candidates with more rational, middle-course images gained the most support. The result of surveys held in Taipei County, Keelung, Hsinchu City, Taichung City, Yunlin County, Tainan City, Tainan County and Taipei City's first and second constituencies shows that among those who won a high level of support, less than 10 percent were candidates who often take aggressive action.

Some of the candidates with reputations for taking aggressive action had unexpectedly low support rates. The information hidden within the result may be that what most people want is a KMT that follows a middle, rational and modest course, rather than a party with an aggressive protest image.

As for the Kaohsiung City Council by-election, the most significant outcome was the total failure of the four candidates nominated by People First Party (PFP). In the fifth constituency, with seven seats, the PFP's only candidate was Chieh Gi-huai (簡吉輝), the son of former councilor Chieh Gin-cheng (簡金城). He unexpectedly lost the election, receiving only about 4,000 votes, a drastic fall from the 11,000 votes previously gained by his father.

By the same token, the PFP lost a significant amount of support, which fell from 11.99 percent to 9.48 percent in total. In contrast, the KMT's support level rose from 25.76 percent to 32.18 percent. PFP councilor Wang Chia-tseng (王家貞), in Tainan County, has held several press conferences to draw the PFP leadership's attention to the enormous change in southern Taiwan. All these factors seem to indicate that the differences between the KMT and the PFP are becoming more and more clear.

Furthermore, both the election losses of the six candidates from nine so-called "bribery families" and the fall in the number of voters from nearly 760,000 to about 300,000 implies two things: one the one hand, voters' expectations are for clean politics, while, on the other hand, the reality of dirty politics may be driving voters away in the first place. People become indifferent to elections and decide not to vote. This phenomenon deserves more attention from all parties.

Also, some structural problems within the KMT and the PFP were revealed in the two elections. For the KMT, the most obvious was the huge gap between the preferences of the party and those of the people. In many constituencies, we saw candidates with high support rates in the poll, but very low support in the vote by party members. My own case is a good example of this.

The contradiction was most clearly demonstrated in Hsinchu City. In the poll, incumbent legislator Chang Tsai-mei (張蔡美) won 41.5 percent support, 19 percent greater than rival Ko Chun-hsiung (柯俊雄), who received 22.6 percent.

However, in the vote by party members, Ko's 57.4 percent, in comparison with Chang's 6.4 percent, unexpectedly turned Ko's defeat into victory. As a result, Ko won the nomination on a small 2 percent lead, after the figures were combined (the public poll was given a 70 percent weighting, with the party member vote weighted at 30 percent).

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