The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) suffered a serious setback and humiliation in yesterday’s nine-in-one elections, which saw opposition candidates seize control of significant KMT strongholds, including Taipei, Taoyuan and Greater Taichung, as well as its only southern bastion: Chiayi City.
Before yesterday’s vote, the KMT controlled 15 of the nation’s 22 cities and counties, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held six. The ruling party had three of the five special municipalities — Taipei and New Taipei City in the north, and Greater Taichung in the center — while also governing Taoyuan County, which is to be upgraded to a special municipality on Dec. 25. By contrast, the DPP controlled Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung in the south.
Yesterday’s vote — seen as a barometer for presidential elections in early 2016 — left the KMT with control over a mere six city, county and municipal governments.
A record 11,130 seats at every level of local government were up for grabs, with 18.5 million people eligible to vote in the polls, which saw voters lining up at polling stations nationwide from early morning, jamming roads, trains and buses as they returned to their local neighborboods to cast their ballots.
In Taipei, a crowd of supporters began to gather outside independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) campaign headquarters as the vote counting began at 4pm.
When the count started, waves of cheers and applause arose from the crowd as the numbers were displayed on a large screen onstage, getting progressively louder as the gap between Ko and his main rival, KMT candidate Sean Lien (連勝文), expanded.
With tears of joy and big smiles on their faces, more than 30,000 supporters waved flags as they gave Ko a hero’s reception when he appeared onstage with his family after his landslide win was confirmed.
On the stage, Ko’s parents bowed repeatedly to the audience, as Ko and his wife smiled and waved at the crowd, who chanted: “Hello, Mayor Ko.”
Ko launched his acceptance speech by saying thanks to his supporters, campaign team and family: “Thank you, the great people of Taipei, for your strong will and belief that regaining conscience is the foundation of politics, for your belief in open government and transparency, for your belief in the wisdom of the public over the wisdom of an individual.”
“Because of the power of your belief in democracy based on the citizenry and your belief in moving in a more positive, progressive direction, we can finally make change in Taipei come true,” he added.
The victorious candidate then expressed his appreciation for those who did not vote for him and for his rivals — including Lien — saying: “Because of your criticism, I have discovered my shortcomings and can now seek to improve them.”
Ko singled out fellow independent candidate Neil Peng (馮光遠) for “not only setting an example by his conduct as a candidate, but also proposing many pragmatic policies,” while promising to adopt suitable policies from other candidates.
Ko promised to strive to realize his campaign promises and invited everyone to keep watch over whether he is keeping his word.
“I come from an ordinary background; I will listen to ordinary people,” Ko said. “When I take over the mayorship, you will come with me and we will take charge together, for the driving force for change in Taipei comes from its citizens, netizens and public.”