Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Taipei mirrors the great political rift

SPLIT OPINION Contrary to the international trend, voters in Taipei City tend to be staunchly conservative, while those in Taipei County are more progressive

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Supporters of KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan and PFP vice presidential candidate James Soong wave flags during a campaign meeting in Erchung in Taipei County yesterday.

PHOTO: YEH CHIH-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The presidential campaign in the capital of Taiwan will be a battle between people upholding the idea of the Republic of China (ROC) and those who see Taiwan as their mother country, according to Lee Ming-yung (李敏勇), a political commentator.

"The results of the 2004 presidential election in Taipei City and Taipei County will mirror the split in political opinion that exists between people in southern counties and their counterparts in the north," Lee said.

Lee's observations are based on the history and culture of Taipei City and County, which accounted for a quarter of the electorate in the 2000 presidential election.

In previous elections, the majority in Taipei City have voted in favor of the pan-blue alliance consisting of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), People First Party (PFP) and the New Party.

The pan-blue advantage in the capital was revealed in the last presidential election. The results showed that 62 percent of the city's 2 million voters had voted for KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰) and the maverick candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜), while President Chen Shui-bian, (陳水扁), representing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was supported by only 38 percent of voters in the capital.

The pan-blue camp also displayed its voting advantage in Taipei City with the victory of Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the 1998 mayoral election. Ma was a dark horse representing the KMT and announced at the last minute that he would challenge Chen, who was then mayor.

Despite polls showing wide support among city residents for Chen's efforts to improve the quality of life and administrative efficiency, 54 percent of the city's electorate voted for Ma as their next mayor, outnumbering the 46 percent who wanted to keep Chen for another term.

another defeat

In the legislative election that was held a year after Chen became president, the DPP suffered another defeat in the city. The DPP, along with its tiny pan-green ally the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), garnered only 39 percent of votes cast in Taipei City, while their pan-blue rivals won 61 percent of the votes cast in the city.

The DPP absorbed a heavy blow in Taipei City last year when its mayoral hopeful, Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), failed to unseat Ma.

The KMT mayor won the support of 64 percent of voters to defeat his DPP challenger.

Lee believes that Taipei City voters are different from voters who live in the capitals of other countries.

"In `normal' countries," Lee said, "voters in the capital are more likely to oppose the conservative party and conservative politicians since they have had more contact with the international community and have more modern notions about democracy."

"But Taipei City is an exception to this rule, due to the fact that the city is home to 30 percent of the country's population of immigrants from China, and because of the historical influence of the ROC government on the city's development," he said.

Lee himself is registered to vote in Taipei City.

He believes that Taipei City's unique characteristics lead to its voting differently from neighboring Taipei County, whose voting patterns he characterizes as more cosmopolitan. Lee attributes this to the fact that Taipei County's population is comprised of people from elsewhere in Taiwan, along with people who grew up there.

A significant part of the city's electorate staunchly supports the pan-blue camp partly because a large number of them were once ROC government officials or government employees, and were educated under the KMT's educational system, Lee said.

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