Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Implications of Taipei mayoral race

It would not be surprising if the public feels as if the Taipei mayoral campaign has been going on forever.

First there was the raucous and prolonged Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) primary, which resulted in the selection of an independent candidate backed by the pan-green camp’s Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). However, the nine-in-one elections to be held on Nov. 29 are still four months away.

Sadly, the campaign has not seen either of the two front-running candidates, Ko and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Sean Lien (連勝文), engage in any substantive discussions on issues affecting the city.

Sometimes they have alluded to the issue of public housing and attacked each other’s platforms.

However, unfortunately, public discussion has also included topics such as the Battle of Stalingrad, to which Lien compared his campaign, or Ko’s recruitment of a pro-unification academic, Yao Li-ming (姚立明), to be his campaign manager.

Ko appears to enjoy a comfortable advantage over Lien, according to most public opinion polls, boosting the opposition’s hope that the KMT’s 16-year control of the capital might come to an end.

In the final analysis, either Ko or Lien is set to be elected as Taipei mayor — the independent candidates, former DPP lawmaker Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) and screenwriter Neil Peng (馮光遠), do not stand a chance — and the result could have profound implications.

If Ko won, it would likely end the debate about whether there are “independent” voters in Taiwan, in particular in Taipei, where the fiercest struggle between the pan-blues and the pan-greens has been seen.

As the pan-green camp has never won a head-to-head battle against the KMT in the Taipei mayoral election, conventional wisdom has it that even if the KMT nominated a stone as its candidate, the stone would be elected mayor.

A win for Ko would be a declaration that the current political ideology of the two major parties was no longer valid. It would signify the emergence of an independently thinking civil society dominated by the middle class and intellectuals, which would be the beginning of a new age, and a boost for politicians who believe that they can find a way to serve the public without the support of a political party.

Despite Ko leading the race by as much as 20 percentage points according to some surveys, a significant percentage of pan-green supporters believe that if the Lien camp successfully turns the campaign into the traditional “blue versus green” battle, the so-called independent voters could disappear and the result would be a win for the KMT.

Ko’s victory would also suggest that the influence of political parties could decrease over time. At the very least, it would show voters no longer accepted everything political parties told them. The same phenomenon could be observed during the Sunflower movement, as the majority of the participants in the movement trusted neither the KMT nor the DPP.

However, a win for Lien would mean that the pan-blue camp’s footprint in the city was so hard to erase that pan-blue voters would not accept an independent with a pro-independence and pro-DPP background even if they realize that the KMT’s 16-year governance has failed to produce satisfying results. A KMT win, regardless of how small the margin was, would likely be interpreted as a win for the conventional wisdom about Taipei City’s political landscape.

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