“The voters have taught President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) a lesson.” The comment may seem hackneyed, but however you view the results of last Saturday’s local government elections, this is the one clear conclusion to be drawn from them.
With respect to county and city seats, the only constituency the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won back was Yilan County, and it held on to three others. It is fair to say that the DPP won where it should have won and lost where it was going to lose anyway.
When it comes to the overall number of votes, however, the DPP got nearly 46 percent, the highest it has ever received in elections for city mayors and county commissioners since it was founded. In 1997 the DPP won control of 12 cities and counties, but it only got 43 percent of the total vote.
This time the party’s vote went up in every constituency bar Hualien County, where it did not put up a candidate. The result was close even in cities and counties where the DPP was expected to lose heavily.
In Taoyuan County the DPP lost by 180,000 votes four years ago, and by 300,000 votes in last year’s presidential election. The last opinion poll published before last weekend’s elections by the United Daily News indicated that support for DPP candidate Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) was only 10 percent, but Cheng got 46 percent of the vote, less than 50,000 votes short of victory. This came as a surprise not just for the media, but even for many seasoned veterans in the pan-green camp.
In Taitung County, the DPP closed the gap from 20,000 votes in 2005 to around 5,000 this time. If we subtract the votes of the county’s Aborigines, who are mostly loyal Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) voters, the DPP would have won in Taitung. This result shows how angry people in Taitung are about the performance of outgoing county commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞), who used to enjoy Ma’s strong support.
Even voters in Hualien County, who for decades have been solidly loyal to the KMT, did not help Ma save face, giving KMT candidate Du Li-hua (杜麗華) less than half the votes of the winner, independent Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁).
Outgoing Hualien County Commissioner Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) voiced his firm support for Deputy Commissioner Zhang Zhi-ming (張志明), also standing as an independent, even though he knew Zhang would lose by a wide margin. Hsieh could be expelled from the KMT for this, but his insistence on doing so made it clear he doesn’t care.
KMT Chairman Ma did what he had to do in expelling Zhang for standing against the official KMT candidate, but he would find it hard to explain why Hsieh, a veteran who joined the party decades ago, chose to ignore his wishes and his authority.
The 2005 elections for mayors and county commissioners marked a shift of territory between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, with the DPP suffering its heaviest defeat as a result of malpractice cases involving Chen Che-nan (陳哲男), former deputy secretary-general to then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘), Chen Shui-bian’s son-in-law.
It suffered another heavy defeat in the 2007 legislative election, and was beaten by 2.7 million votes in last year’s presidential contest.
This time, however, the DPP’s vote has not just stopped falling, but risen to its highest point ever. The four-year trend of dwindling votes for the pan-greens and growing support for the pan-blues has finally been reversed.