Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taipei race for mayor a challenge for the DPP

By Jason Lee 李昭賢

The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) procrastination on whether it will nominate a candidate for Taipei mayor has caused tensions within the party. There are some in the party who believe the DPP should not concede to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) this time.

For this year’s mayoral election, as it was last time, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) calculation has clearly been that as long as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) does not win, it can be considered a victory for the DPP. The reason for this is that Taipei is the capital, and as such its importance cannot be overestimated.

From the experience of previous elections, if the pan-green camp puts forward more than one candidate, the KMT’s pick will win.

Consequently, under Tsai, the DPP changed tactic and, lacking a particularly strong candidate to nominate last time, it preferred not to nominate anyone at all and allow the independent Ko to step in.

In the end, as long as the KMT is kept out of the capital’s city hall then, to a certain degree, it can be considered to be a win for the DPP.

Given this consideration, and since Ko’s reputation is still as strong as before — especially with voters younger than 35, among whom his support remains high — the DPP would prefer to let him stand, especially as it cannot find a candidate that will be more popular than, or even as popular as, Ko.

Furthermore, if the party does float a candidate against Ko, it will essentially be splitting a large part of its vote, and this will almost certainly lead to the KMT getting its hands on the Taipei mayorship.

This is something neither the DPP, nor Ko — who is hoping for a second term — would like to see.

So it has come down to the present situation, with a standoff between the DPP and Ko.

At the moment, Ko has good reason to be relaxed about the situation, as he still has the support, while the DPP is starting to look a bit ruffled, unsure about whether it should cede to Ko or field a candidate, even though it knows all too well that it would be making a rod for its own back.

The truth is that Ko will be worried that the DPP will challenge him and split the vote, making his bid for re-election a steep hill to climb.

As a result, if the DPP is of a mind to force Ko’s hand and get him to join the party, Tsai’s strategy could be to quickly nominate representative figures with a certain degree of popularity, such as Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) or former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), to stand as the DPP’s candidate.

This would put pressure on Ko to talk with the DPP about whether he should join the party. The uncertainty of the situation is not good for internal party morale, and this will not worry Ko.

In addition, if the party decides to procrastinate and only start playing hardball nearer the election, this will be detrimental to party harmony.

Jason Lee is a doctoral candidate at National Chung Hsing University’s Graduate Institute of International Politics.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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