The Dec. 5 elections for city mayors and county commissioners, city and county councilors, and township chiefs was the first nationwide vote since last year’s presidential election, and, because the populous cities and counties of Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung were not included, it could also be called the first nationwide “non-urban” elections to be held in Taiwan since it became democratic. This battle at the polls also marked the emergence of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from the shadow of the corruption trial of former president and DPP chairman Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took office a year and a half ago, his administration’s poor political performance has led to low satisfaction and confidence ratings among the public. This dissatisfaction can be seen if we compare the result of last year’s presidential election with that of the mayor and county commissioner polls on Dec. 5. Counting only the areas where a vote was held this time, the KMT won 3.1 million votes in the presidential election, while the DPP garnered 2.02 million — a difference of 1.08 million. In the Dec. 5 elections for mayors and county commissioners, the KMT’s vote shrank dramatically to 2.18 million — including Hualien County, where the winning independent candidate was expelled from the KMT for running in the election against the party’s wishes.
Speaking just after the election, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said: “We will continue to reform and reflect ... We will take the most humble approach in welcoming this result. Especially, our having regained control of Yilan County is of great significance because it shows that the DPP is gradually regaining the trust of the public ... However, it is only a small step, and we cannot be complacent.”
The DPP should view the poll result rationally and pragmatically and get ready for the next elections. These three-in-one elections covered 17 cities and counties with a total population of more than 9 million, about 40 percent of Taiwan’s whole population. Toward the end of next year, mayoral elections will be held in the two existing and three new special municipalities, whose total population is 13.7 million.
This urban population is the decisive element that will decide the overall winner and loser in national elections. It should also be borne in mind that the makeup of urban and rural populations is markedly different in terms of age, education, employment categories etc.
Looking at the figures more closely, the pan-blue and pan-green camps on this occasion won 47.8 and 45.3 percent of the vote respectively. If we add the 7 percent that went to candidates who broke KMT party discipline by standing in the elections, were expelled and went on to stand as independents, the ratio of votes going to the pan-blue and pan-green camps was still about 55 to 45. Although the DPP’s vote grew in relative terms, which should be affirmed, when it comes to the absolute vote distribution, the green camp is still looking at a gap of 2 million votes. The DPP definitely still has room for growth as it regenerates.
Apart from its core values of clean government and love of the native land, the DPP cannot shirk the challenge of keeping up with the times by putting forward a more concrete policy platform.
The DPP is a growing party that sticks to its Taiwanese values. We in the DPP need to look to the future and think rationally about what direction to take politically, what our core values are and how we can make a new start and win back Taiwan.
Hong Chi-chang is former chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation and a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG