Saturday’s elections saw the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retain its hold on Taipei City and the new special municipalities of Sinbei City (currently known as Taipei County) and Greater Taichung (the merger of Taichung city and county), while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the new special municipalities Greater Tainan (the merger of Tainan city and county) and Greater Kaohsiung (the merger of Kaohsiung city and county).
However, compared with the local government elections in December last year, the KMT’s share of the overall vote decreased by 7.6 percentage points to 44.5 percent, while the DPP won 49.9 percent. This KMT figure was also 12.5 percentage points, or 1.2 million votes, lower than its vote in the 2008 presidential election. In comparison, the DPP’s share of the vote increased by 4.7 percentage points from 45.2 percent in the previous elections, and it was 7 percentage points, or 300,000 votes, higher than what it received in the 2008 presidential election.
Faced with these results, the natural question is why the KMT had such a hard time in these elections and why the DPP’s support increased so much.
Cross-strait relations are stable, more countries are granting Taiwan visa-free privileges, the latest economic growth rate hit a 21-year high and the unemployment rate has dropped below 5 percent. All these facts and figures are evidence of the KMT government’s achievements. But why doesn’t the general public show its approval?
While cross-strait relations are indeed relatively stable, China has not relented in its military threats and diplomatic suppression of Taiwan, making such improvements seem superficial. The further deregulation of cross-strait economic exchanges has benefited conglomerates most, but the public has yet to experience it directly. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China is merely a framework agreement without substantial content or obvious benefits apart from certain items on the “early harvest” list. President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) hopes that the ECFA will enable Taiwan to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other East Asian countries has not yet become reality. Taiwan’s attempts to participate in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and international civil aviation organizations have also been hampered by Chinese obstruction.
Economic growth has hit a new high, but public wages have remained stagnant for almost 15 years. Meanwhile, commodity prices and housing prices have continued to climb, creating a sense of relative deprivation. The deteriorating income distribution is the worst since 2001. Last year, the average income of the top 20 percent households was 6.34 times that of the bottom 20 percent and the Gini coefficient was 0.345. In comparison, the income gap was 5.98 times in 2007, while the Gini coefficient was 0.340. Although the unemployment rate has dropped below 5 percent, the figure had remained above 5 percent for 22 consecutive months. Not to mention that the government is providing a number of short-term jobs just to improve the jobless rate, although this will do little to eliminate public fears of being thrown out of a job. Besides, the jobless rate was only 3.8 percent when Ma came to power in May 2008. All these have caused great disappointment with the Ma administration.