If a non-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate is to stand a chance of winning the Taipei mayoral election, the candidate will need at least one of the following: a split within the KMT; anger among KMT supporters over corruption and waste within the city government, coupled with a desire to teach the party a lesson; or for the other political parties to come together and field a candidate that is to the electorate’s liking.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), together with other political forces, have the potential to fulfill the third criterion, but the biggest problem is deciding who will be most popular with the electorate.
In terms of experience and oratorical skills, National Taiwan University physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) cannot compete with former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), DPP Legislator Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財), Taipei City Council Deputy Speaker Chou Po-ya (周柏雅) or lawyer Wellington Koo (顧立雄).
The only things Ko has going for him are his youth and freshness, which position him relatively closer to the Internet generation, which includes many journalists.
The lack of the “oh no, not you again” effect accounts for Ko’s popularity in the polls.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has his work cut out for him. He has to abide by the party’s rules and yet there is nobody in the party doing as well in the polls as Ko.
Actually, if the non-KMT forces prioritize defeating the KMT over everything else, they could always consider the “electoral fusion” or “ multiple party nomination” option sometimes used in local elections in the US.
The peculiar make-up of the New York City electorate, being comprised mainly of Catholics, Jews, African Americans and immigrants, predisposes it to voting Democrat.
For example, in the two decades following the end of former New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s term — from 1945 to 1966 — there was not one Republican New York mayor.
The Republicans’ dry spell was broken by John Lindsay, a political maverick who registered for the 1965 New York mayoral election as a Republican, supported by the Liberal Party of New York. His campaign motto at that time was: “He is fresh and everyone else is tired.”
Enjoying support from the Democratic Party and help from New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Senator Jacob Javits, he won the three-way election.
However, when it came to seeking a second term, Lindsay lost the Republican primaries.
He still made it onto the list of candidates, but as a nominee of the Liberal Party of New York.
During the course of his two terms and eight years in office as New York mayor, Lindsay changed his political affiliation twice.
Between 1966 and 1969, for his first term, he stood as a Republican, with Liberal Party of New York support.
For re-election in 1969, he was with the Liberal Party of New York.
The following year he registered with the Democratic Party, retaining Liberal Party of New York support.
If the non-KMT forces trust the opinion polls — in which Ko is doing quite well — and make putting an end to the KMT’s politics of privilege a priority, then the best way to fulfill that third criterion could well be to let Ko into the DPP, let the party vote on whether it would accept him as its candidate and then negotiate with other political parties to give Ko their joint nomination.