Yesterday's election was billed as a must win for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as an unfavorable result would raise the prospect of challenges to his leadership emerging in the pan-blue camp in the lead up to the 2008 presidential election, political analysts said.
The result -- retaining the mayoral position in Taipei but failing to challenge the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Kaohsiung -- did not provide the unambiguous result Ma needed, they said.
Taipei has usually been considered a pan-blue city, with two-thirds of voters favoring the pan-blue camp -- consisting of the KMT, People First Party (PFP) and the New Party -- in previous elections.
As electoral behavior in Taipei hasn't changed much in recent years, the KMT's re-election was predicable, said Liu I-chu (劉義周), a political science professor at National Chengchi University.
"Because we had candidates that were incapable of drawing voters from the other side, and a string of scandals had dissuaded swing voters from casting ballots, the election was basically determined by diehard pan-blue and pan-green voters," Liu said.
In this regard, the indicator needed to gauge how convincingly the KMT won Taipei was not Hau Lung-bin's (郝龍斌) level of voter support but the number of votes PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) obtained, said Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University.
According to the Taipei Municipal Election Committee, Soong garnered 4.14 percent of the vote, much lower than the party's 17.6 percent showing in the 2002 city councilor election and 17.11 percent it won in the 2004 legislative election.
The "dump save" tactic of the 1998 Taipei mayoral election -- in which the New Party candidate ran a distant third with 2.97 percent of the vote, one-tenth of what the party received in 1994 -- emerged again.
"The result will make KMT-PFP relations, which were already damaged due to their deep rifts ahead of the election, even worse," Chao said. "With Soong receiving few votes, the drag effect that PFP has been exerting on the KMT would be significantly reduced."
Liu shared a similar view, saying that the election had proved that smaller parties or independents have little chance of winning elections, especially in polls where only one seat is being contested.
"The PFP will be gradually weakened in the face of the 2007 legislative election, which is going to employ the single member-district, two-vote system,'" Liu said.
Considering this, Liu said the gauge of the KMT's victory this time should be the Kaohsiung mayoral election, which is also of significance to the party's development.
"At this time when the DPP's support rate is at an historically low, Ma needs to explain why the KMT was unable to beat DPP," said Chiou Chang-tay (丘昌泰), a former director of the Research Center for Public Opinion and Election Studies at National Taipei University.
Chiou said that while the southern city has been the stronghold of the pan-green camp, standard electoral behavior provides an insufficient explanation of the KMT's failure in Kaohsiung.
"The failure would surely pose a challenge to Ma's leadership of the KMT. On the one hand, Ma's acceptability in southern Taiwan is still questionable. On the other, failing to defeat a DPP embroiled in multiple troubles was a frustration to the KMT," Chiou said.
While Ma has been widely viewed as a shoo-in for the 2008 presidential election by pan-blue supporters, a small group of ethnic Taiwanese lawmakers are not so confident.
About 30 lawmakers, who are on good terms with former KMT chairman Lien Chan (
"The DPP's election could provide encouragement to the KMT's pro-localizational faction, empowering them to make more demands of Ma on issues of concern to them," Chao said.
For the KMT as a whole, Chiou said the party should take it as a "warning."
"Over the past six years after losing power in 2000, the fact that Hau didn't garner as many votes as expected and KMT candidate Huang Chun-ying's (黃俊英) loss to DPP candidate Chen Chu (陳菊) suggests that the party hasn't extended its supporting basis through reform," he added.
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