If we look at the final results of Saturday’s five special municipality elections, we will see that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) kept hold of the same administrative areas they had before. In certain respects, however, the DPP could claim victory over the KMT.
The DPP won both in terms of the overall vote count and in how it reinforced its strongholds. The KMT only won by 280,000 votes combined in its traditional strongholds of Taipei City and the soon-to-be renamed Sinbei City, and a mere 31,000 votes in Greater Taichung, whereas the DPP garnered 710,000 more votes combined in Kaohsiung and Tainan. The DPP, then, got 400,000 more votes than the KMT.
In last year’s county commissioner and mayoral elections, in which the constituents accounted for 40 percent of Taiwan’s total population, the DPP won 45.32 percent of the vote, slightly behind the KMT’s 47.38 percent. However, this time around the tables were turned, with the DPP winning 49.87 percent of the vote to the KMT’s 44.54 percent.
Even if we count things according to the KMT’s logic, which involves listing all of independent Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing’s (楊秋興) votes as belonging to the KMT, the KMT and DPP were still equal. However, the KMT really needs to worry if 410,000 KMT votes in Kaohisung went to Yang’s camp.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is merely concerned with getting re-elected. Barely holding on to the three constituencies the KMT already had is no reason to celebrate. However, Ma does have reason to worry if we look at the respective gain and loss of the total number of votes gained by the DPP and the KMT. If, in 2012, the DPP has Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) or Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) running for president, they will at least be able to keep the votes they gained this time in Taipei and Sinbei City, and then make up the difference from other constituencies.
If we look at the elections for city councilors in the five special municipality elections, we can see that the DPP moved from having 28 percent of the overall number of seats to 41.4 percent, tying it with the KMT, with both sides walking away with 130 seats. This result will be an important indicator for future changes in terms of which political party rules which regions.
In terms of the quality of the elections and the way each side went about running their campaigns, the DPP completely transformed its strategy. It focused on what it had achieved, its policies and its abilities. The KMT, on the other hand, was unable to show any substantial achievements it had made while being in power. It focused instead on smear tactics, on using negative campaign flyers and false information to discredit or smear their opponents. Neither was it above manipulating the judiciary in attempts to influence the elections.
Although the DPP is often dismissed as being low-class and negative, this time it led Taiwan’s democracy and elections to a much more sound and healthy state. The KMT on the other hand, acted in a chaotic and undignified manner. As leaders of the ruling party, Ma and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) had nothing bad to say about their own candidates whatsoever, but they did not hesitate in using their special skills to deride and attack their opponents. Tainan’s Kuo Tien-tsai (郭添財) donned KMT “battle garb” and went around kneeling before people to coerce them into voting, shedding all self-respect.