Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Eight months to sink or shine

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Chiang Nai-shin (蔣乃辛) won the legislative by-election in Taipei City’s Da-an District on Saturday, but the party had cause for concern since its victory in the traditional KMT stronghold — which is home to many top KMT members — was far from decisive compared with past polls.

Chiang received 46,065 votes, or 48.91 percent, down from the KMT’s 66.8 percent win in Da-an in last year’s legislative election. Even counting the 9,868 votes for New Party candidate Yao Li-ming (姚立明), the pan-blue camp still won only half the number of votes received by the KMT last year. That should have the KMT worried about the county commissioner and mayoral elections scheduled for December.

Low voter turnout on Saturday and the narrow margin of less than 10,000 ballots between the pan-green and pan-blue camps indicated that voters are dissatisfied with the KMT government’s performance and the controversy over former KMT legislator Diane Lee’s (李慶安) dual citizenship. The outcry surrounding former diplomat Kuo Kuan-ying’s (郭冠英) hate-filled articles may also have played a role.

Two weeks ago, the KMT’s loss in the legislative by-election in Miaoli County served as a warning. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and several Cabinet ministers turned out to stump for Chiang, and the Taipei City Government was accused of devoting resources to boost his election campaign. The KMT was able to prevent a split in the pan-blue vote, keeping Yao’s votes below 10,000, but 49 percent of the vote was nevertheless an embarrassment compared with the more than 60 percent the party has enjoyed in recent presidential, mayoral and legislative elections.

The Democratic Progressive Party’s Chou Po-ya (周柏雅) took close to 39 percent of the vote, claiming the party’s best-ever result in the Da-an constituency in terms of percentage. In terms of number of votes, however, Chou’s result of 36,465 fell short of the 48,240 votes won by DPP candidate Luo Wen-chia (羅文嘉) in last year’s legislative election. The DPP clearly failed to mobilize its supporters and has no reason to be complacent.

Some in the pan-blue camp saw the by-election as a vote of confidence in the government and felt it would reflect public attitudes toward the corruption case against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). In fact, allegations of corruption against the former first family have been hitting the DPP at the polls since 2005. Although the DPP lost in Da-an, the start of the Chen trial did not erode its support there. The Chen case may influence the December elections, but it will not decide the outcome.

With the economy in recession and no recovery in sight, the government will struggle to improve its scorecard between now and the end of the year. The DPP, meanwhile, may have passed a low point and be on the verge of recovering support, but it will have to make its case with sound proposals that offer a viable alternative to current government policies.

The year-end polls may still be eight months away, but one thing is clear: Neither the DPP nor the KMT will have an easy ride.

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