While the Democratic Progressive Party’s narrow win in Saturday’s legislative by-election in Caotun Township (草屯), Nantou County, is not expected to have a substantive impact on the political map, the party is nevertheless hailing the result as a major victory.
Voters in the farming community — Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) hometown — gave DPP candidate Hung Kuo-hao (洪國浩) a win with 19 more votes, ending a series of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) victories in the predominantly pan-blue region.
Hung’s victory was a blow to Wu and other KMT figures, who had made a last-ditch effort in the past few weeks to drum up support for candidate Chien Ching-hsien (簡景賢).
Reports said the KMT had defined the vote as a “hometown protection battle” for Wu.
The KMT candidate was a favorite in the early stages of the by-election for the seat held by former Caotun mayor Chou Hsin-li (周信利) of the KMT, whose position was rescinded in June last year after Chou was found guilty of bribing voters in 2009. Both the Nantou County commissioner and the county’s two legislators also belong to the KMT.
Commenting on the election, DPP spokesperson Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said the plan to tie the local elections to the premier appeared to have backfired and exacerbated the ramifications of the loss on the Cabinet and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.
“Clearly, voters did not side with the KMT’s slogans and the final tallies highlight the public’s disappointment with Ma’s performance,” he said.
“There were also a lot of other reasons behind the KMT loss — and defining it as Wu’s battle was one of them,” Cheng said.
A factor behind the sudden shift in votes, with the amount garnered by the KMT almost falling by half compared with 2009, was DPP politicians’ show of unity during the elections, Cheng said.
Senior party members, including DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), defined Caotun as a priority area and made frequent trips to drum up support.
Cheng said these moves “definitely helped increase the DPP’s visibility,” adding that this suggested DPP politicians still had a certain amount of sway in rural areas — which could be crucial for any hopes of a DPP comeback in the legislative elections later this year or the presidential election next year.
While media reports immediately defined the result as a “precursor” to 2012, Cheng said it was “too early to tell.”
The by-election, though demonstrating a shift from pan-blue to pan-green, cannot be assumed to reflect the mood nationwide, he said.
“We do not think it should be raised to the level of a [national election],” he said. “What [Saturday’s poll] will do, however, is give us a boost as we steadily head into the legislative elections.”
Despite the slim margin, Chien’s campaign office said he would not ask for a recount. Chien’s campaign director Lee Ming-ken (李銘根) said Chien had “congratulated Hung on his election.”
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