Despite accounting for just 1.2 percent of the national voting population, Chiayi City has been of great significance in charting the country's democratic course -- and last night, for the first time in decades, a non-independent candidate won the mayoral race.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) upset Mayor Chen Li-chen (陳麗貞) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The result was even more surprising since the city's voting record has not favored the KMT for quite a while.
The major independent camp in the city, the so-called Hsu Band (許家班), was established by Hsu Shih-hsien (許世賢), a former mayor who is famous for resisting KMT authoritarian rule and fighting for democracy during the Martial Law era.
Hsu and her two daughters, Chang Po-ya (張博雅) and Chang Wen-ying (
Chen Li-chen, who served for quite a while as Chang Po-ya's deputy, was affiliated with the camp before she joined the DPP in 2003.
Chen Li-chen had hoped to win re-election by winning over the supporters of both the DPP and the Hsu Band, but she was faced with the burden of representing the DPP, said Chen Cheng-kuan (陳政寬), chairman of the local KMT chapter.
"Chen Li-chen was encumbered with the DPP's negative image from recent scandals, and the city's people think highly of the integrity of their mayor, which is Hsu's key legacy. Chen Li-chen and the DPP, however, disappointed the voters," he said.
He said that Chen Li-chen had also been hurt by the bad blood between the DPP and Chang Po-ya in recent years.
On Thursday, Chang Po-ya had asked her supporters to withdraw their backing for Chen Li-chen.
Chen Chang-kuan said that the KMT victory in Chiayi City, which used to be a hotbed of anti-KMT sentiment because of widespread killings during the 228 Incident, meant a lot to the party.
Lin Hung-chan (
It was like losing the locomotive of southern Taiwan, where people have been strongly backing the DPP for years, Lin said.
Lin, however, rejected the suggestion that the DPP had proved to be a burden for Chen Li-chen.
"Chen Li-chen was a senior civil servant for 18 years, but not a politician with a lot of election experience," Lin said. "This put her at a disadvantage when it came to defending herself and attacking her rival during the campaign."