Fri, May 04, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Mayoral race remains uncertain

In addition to competence and a good policy platform, a candidate’s success is based on charisma, especially for a complicated and highly competitive city like Taipei.

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Ting Shou-chung’s (丁守中) perceived lack of charisma means the Taipei mayoral race remains uncertain — whether within the KMT or other major parties — despite Ting on Wednesday winning the KMT’s primary by a large margin.

Given Taipei’s status as the nation’s capital and its entitlement to the largest share of the central government’s resources, political parties tend to invest most of their energy cherry-picking candidates for city offices and laying out electoral strategies.

There are only about six months left before the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections, but the key piece to the Taipei mayoral puzzle is whether the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will again endorse independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲).

The KMT’s original plan was to wait until more light had been shed on that puzzle to decide its candidate, because if the DPP decides to field its own candidate, it would be a decisive factor in the amount of votes the KMT would need to win the election.

A poll released by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation in late February to gauge Taipei voters’ political affiliations found that neither the KMT nor the DPP enjoys majority support in the city, holding 28.9 percent and 32.3 percent support respectively. A total of 34 percent of respondents identified themselves as swing voters.

Given the numbers, the KMT only stands a chance of taking back Taipei if the DPP nominates its own candidate, which would result in pan-green camp supporters and green-leaning swing voters splitting their support between Ko and a DPP candidate.

The KMT’s chance of winning would significantly drop if it is a two-legged race with Ko, who enjoys the advantage of being the incumbent and whose performance was deemed satisfactory by about 55 percent of Taipei residents in the February poll.

Ting, 64, is unlikely to win in either scenario due to his lack of charisma — and to some, his lack of a prominent background.

Ting is unquestionably the KMT member who has dedicated the most time to understanding the needs of Taipei residents and cultivating his network in the city. He is also one of the few politicians who sees the Taipei mayorship as the final stop of his political career, instead of a stepping stone to the Presidential Office.

However, Ting’s relative lack of memorability is perhaps the biggest hurdle in his nearly 30-year political career, which saw him serve seven terms as a lawmaker.

When you lack charm and charisma, you will inevitably take a back seat to other candidates who make headlines and excite the crowds.

It is unfortunate that the political climate favors political stars over those who are down-to-earth doers, but that is how the game is designed these days and people can either play along or quit.

Ting’s candidacy could also still be on shaky ground, as the KMT has shown it is willing to swap out a democratically chosen candidate at the last minute with someone who can evoke blue-versus-green sentiment and stands a better of chance of winning.

So the dust has yet to settle. Before that happens, the Taipei mayoral race will remain immersed in uncertainty.

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