Sun, Nov 07, 1999 - Page 1 News List

Independent wins in Yunlin

COUNTY COMMISSIONER ELECTION Many are worried that victor Chang Jung-wei's shady background means a strengthening of Taiwan's notorious `black gold' politics

By Lauren Chen, Oliver Lin and Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTERS , IN YUNLIN

Independent candidate Chang Jung-wei and supporters celebrate his victory in the Yunlin County by-elections at his campaign headquarters.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

The results of yesterday's Yunlin County commissioner by-election appeared to surprise no-one, as independent candidate Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) walked away with a victory -- albeit by a narrow margin.

While Chang singled out president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) for praise -- despite being an independent candidate -- the DPP predicted the victory would give organized crime leaders encouragement to become increasingly involved in future elections in Taiwan.

The victory appeared to be a vindication for Chang Jung-wei, who lost out in the 1997 commissioner election to the KMT's Su Wen-hsiung (蘇文雄), by only about 3,000 votes. This time, he won the by-election by gaining 137,106 votes (37.6% of the total), comfortably ahead of the DPP's Lin Chung-li (林中禮) on 129,271 votes (35.4%), and the KMT's Chang Cheng-hsiung (張正雄), who received only 96,334 votes (26.4%).

On the face of it, the defeat was humiliating for the KMT, which sent down its top brass to campaign on behalf of its candidate. Accordingly, John Chang, the party's secretary-general, announced he was prepared to tender his resignation.

After receiving news of the defeat last night, Chang visited President Lee, the party chairman, at his residence to offer his resignation.

Lee, however, rejected the offer. A statement released from the KMT spokesman's office quoted the president as saying the Yunlin by-election was local in nature, and that there "were many related influences" in the result.

The statement added Lee had urged Chang to stay on, and hoped he would "take a rest for a couple of days."

Meanwhile, the independent candidate was raising a few eyebrows down in Yunlin by singling Lee out for appreciation and praise, especially for his "promotion of democracy."

Confirming the victory around 6pm last night -- two hours after ballot-counting began -- Chang Jung-wei vowed that he would cash in all his so-called "platform checks," or campaign promises, to build up Yunlin County during his two-year period in the commissioner's post.

Speaking amid cheers and applause from supporters, with his daughter and wife present at his headquarters in Touliu, Chang was quick to credit the chairman of his former party.

"We are preparing to give Yunlin residents their dignity back. And I have to thank President Lee, because the president carried out democratic reforms and therefore gave me the opportunity to campaign in this election," he said.

Chang's spokesman, Kao Meng-ting (高孟定), stressed that residents helped by expressing their antipathy toward those "non-local politicians," referring to political stars such as DPP presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his KMT counterpart Lien Chan (連戰), who campaigned in Yunlin for their parties' respective candidates. "We estimated that Chang would get 135,000 votes, and yet residents showed even more support," Kao said.

At the same time, down the street about 600 meters away, DPP candidate Lin Chung-li led his campaign's staff members in a deep bow to supporters.

Bringing up the issue of vote-buying, which he had continually warned against throughout the campaign, Lin said he worried about the future of Yunlin, where the problem of gangster involvement and "money politics" would only worsen.

"Only the DPP campaigned on the basis of a `clean election with integrity.' We neither bought votes nor got involved with gangsters," Lin said. "Yet we still were beaten by `black-gold,' and I am therefore worried that organized crime groups may increase their power."

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