The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have both completed the first stage of their nomination procedures for next year’s local elections.
The DPP’s incumbent county commissioners and city mayors — including the leaders of Keelung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Taichung, as well as Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Pingtung and Penghu counties — were all renominated.
DPP Chairperson and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that “political achievement is the best publicity,” but former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has predicted that the DPP would meet with disaster in Yilan, Changhua, Chiayi and Penghu counties. If the governments in Hsinchu, Taichung and Yunlin County do not improve, they could be in for some changes as well.
KMT candidates have only completed the nomination process in Miaoli, Nantou, Changhua and Lienchiang counties.
Democratic elections are technically a competition between contestants, but the overall goal is national improvement.
DPP campaigning shows that its leadership is confident, while the KMT, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and the New Power Party (NPP) have been keeping more of a low profile.
The DPP has the advantage of incumbency and its eagerness to take action is not necessarily a bad thing.
In some constituencies, candidates want to remove obstacles to the 2020 presidential election, and they will stop at nothing to do that. Regardless of how passionate they are, they must take a sober look at the overall situation to make sure that they do not stumble and fall.
Yilan County Acting Commissioner Derek Chen (陳金德) has introduced positive farmland-related policies, and although these policies might have resulted from political calculation, it remains uncertain whether they will change the DPP’s standing in Yilan. If the DPP’s election prognosis is wrong and it has sacrificed its ideals, it would not be worth it.
In Taipei, DPP Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) has announced his bid for the Taipei mayorship, winning the support of several DPP legislators and city councilors, although his position in the polls is not looking good.
The KMT some time ago said that their nomination strategy for Taipei would depend on whether the DPP and Ko continued to collaborate. Reading between the lines, the KMT is hoping for a falling out, with itself as the benefactors.
The best solution for the DPP is to engineer as great a national consensus as possible.
In Kaohsiung — always prepared for a fight — candidates are taking aim at each other. The party primaries would have been a great opportunity to put a wealth of talent on display, but the candidates are instead engaging in factional infighting.
One can only guess what Kaohsiung residents are thinking and wonder if the DPP is not worried that it could follow in the footsteps of the KMT, which lost Kaohsiung after having held it for a long time.
If decades-old hostilities hamper the party primaries and the election campaign because factional interests are placed above the party’s interests, the party will deteriorate into disunity, or might even see splits and internecine strife.
Kaohsiung has all along been the constituency that KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) most wanted to win back. If the DPP messes things up on its own, there will be significant political reverberations. The outcome will depend on whether the KMT will be able to shape its policies according to public opinion.
In New Taipei City, the DPP has provoked internal conflict within the KMT. Parties often attempt to outwit each other in elections, but the DPP clearly views New Taipei City Deputy Mayor Hou Yu-yi (侯友宜) as a main rival. The DPP must advance with an integrated view of New Taipei City and Taipei City, as it could be difficult to fight an election battle on two fronts.
Winning in both cities would be a great victory, winning one and losing the other would also be a success, but the party must not lose both, because if neither is held by the DPP or a close ally of the DPP, it would have a negative effect on the central government, and that could become an important factor in the 2020 presidential election.
It would not be a surprise if the DPP’s weaker links, as delineated in Chen Shui-bian’s analysis, become the main targets of a KMT attack.
Moreover, although the DPP controls the executive and legislative branches, the pan-green camp still does not have a stable majority within Taiwan’s overall political framework.
The DPP’s political achievements have increased its strength somewhat, but it cannot afford to ignore the opposition — this gives the opposition some room to maneuver.
Over the past year, policy changes — pension reform, the five-day work week, the constitutional interpretation to allow same-sex marriage, the recovery of the KMT’s ill-gotten assets and the transitional justice process — have ignited public discontent and populist mobilization. This has led to flagging government support.
If the economy, employment figures and incomes continue to be lackluster ahead of next year’s elections, the DPP should adopt a defensive rather than an aggressive election strategy.
In 2014, the political layout of the local government map changed mainly because of the failure of then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pro-China policies and the increasing strength of forces in civil society.
The situation has now changed, and total control of power could be a curse as well as a blessing.
The DPP will not easily repeat the results of 2014.
Domestically, it must contend against Wu, who has a wealth of election experience, as well as Ko and the NPP, which is popular among the younger generation.
Internationally, it must deal with Beijing — whose military aircraft keep encircling Taiwan — the crisis on the Korean Peninsula and the effects of US President Donald Trump’s tax reforms.
Public opinion should more freely express itself through elections as the political opposition monitors and counterbalances the government in an atmosphere of national stability.
One can only hope that the national consensus expands a bit with every election.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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