Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was able to retain its strongholds in yesterday’s legislative by-elections, the voting numbers are a warning sign for the KMT, while being a good omen for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for next year’s presidential election.
Compared with the nine-in-one local elections in November last year, the results of the by-elections are neither special nor surprising.
The three DPP members who had vacated their legislative seats to become local government heads — new Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) and Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) — have been replaced by the DPP’s Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書), Chen Su-yueh (陳素月) and Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) respectively.
The legislative seats of the KMT’s Miaoli County Commissioner Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) and Nantou County Commissioner Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) were taken over by the KMT’s Hsu Chih-jung (徐志榮) and Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) respectively.
It may seem that each party is merely retaining its own domains — with no one losing or winning in particular — and that there is no shift in the number of seats in the legislature. However, the number of votes that each candidate garnered is interesting.
Take Miaoli County’s second electoral district, for example; traditionally, the county — especially the second electoral district — is a stronghold for the KMT, and the DPP has never won even one legislative seat.
However, while the KMT candidate defeated the DPP rival by over 70,000 votes in the 2012 legislative election, the KMT’s Hsu Chih-jung only won by a little over 14,000 votes this time.
In Changhua County’s fourth electoral district, though the seat was transferred from a former DPP legislator to a new DPP legislator, the number of votes greatly increased.
In 2012, the DPP candidate won by a margin of only 878 votes. However, this time, the DPP’s Chen — an incumbent county councilor — won the seat by a margin of 17,000 votes over her KMT rival, Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源), someone who had not only served as a legislator before, but has also twice been elected county commissioner.
True, there are many reasons behind the figures — such as a reduced voter turnout — that need to be considered, but the by-elections might well be sending an important message to the nation’s two major political parties. While the KMT is still able to retain its strongholds, and keep its number of seats in the legislature, its grip in some of its strongholds is slipping.
At the same time, the DPP is making inroads into some of its most difficult electoral districts, while easily holding on to places where it is the dominant political force.
It is certainly good news for the DPP, which will be hoping for a positive outcome in next year’s presidential election. However, it must also be very cautious, since only having “growth” is not enough: It must make sure that there is substantial growth in votes and support.
The DPP must also be aware that a presidential election is not quite the same as a local election. To run for the presidency, extra resources are needed, and the different factions within the KMT will certainly halt their infighting in a bid to appear united.
The DPP should be hopeful, but it must certainly not be overconfident.
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