The results of Saturday’s special municipality elections showcased the collective wisdom of Taiwan’s voters, who took the opportunity to tell both the government and the opposition that they want a middle course and pragmatic reforms. The overall distribution of votes also sent an important warning to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and the fact that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) only won two cities implies that they will not be able to influence current cross-strait policies, which was no doubt a relief for China’s leadership.
However, the latest expression of public opinion showed the power of mainstream society and highlighted a call for more attention to be paid to protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty. For example, the recent scandals surrounding Taiwan’s participation in the Tokyo International Film Festival and taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun’s (楊淑君) disqualification from the Asian Games both caused a great deal of public uproar. A majority of the public also wish to maintain the status quo that makes peace the greatest cross-strait common denominator.
There were many scandals surrounding the elections, such as the alleged corruption surrounding the Xinsheng Overpass, the incident in which Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) went home to take a nap during Typhoon Morakot, the Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀) swearing incident in Taichung, questions as to whether former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) were serious about their election bids and the shooting that happened the night before the elections. These incidents all influenced supporters of both camps in positive and negative ways. However, independent voters balanced things out and that contributed to the final distribution of the overall vote.
Perhaps some will say that the shooting of Sean Lien (連勝文) increased the KMT’s chances in Taipei City and Sinbei City by encouraging traditional KMT supporters to come out and vote. However, it also encouraged pro-green supporters in the south to vote, giving the DPP big wins in Kaohsiung and Tainan. In the end, the KMT may have gained a bit more than the DPP.
The KMT chose to focus on rumors about Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) soliciting a prostitute, but this had the opposite effect, as Chen won election by the highest number of votes of all Greater Kaohsiung City councilors.
The blue camp also took advantage of the legal cases against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and even sped up legal proceedings so a final verdict could be handed down before the elections. However, this also produced a backlash as supporters of Chen increased their number of seats by 25 in the different city councils. The green camp also attacked the blue camp over allegations of corruption surrounding the Taipei International Flora Expo and the Xinsheng Overpass. This also created a backlash as pro-KMT voters came out to show their support for the blue camp. These issues clearly show the maturity of voters who are now moving to the center and become increasingly rational.
For the DPP, the results clearly show the recognition given to the party by voters. It also helped the DPP distance itself further from former president Chen. The party regained the public’s trust and must now realize that it cannot repeat its past mistakes, and that they must carefully draw up appropriate China policies to make the public feel more at ease and secure.