Sun, Dec 06, 2009 - Page 2 News List

2009 ELECTIONS: ANALYSIS: DPP performance must not be overestimated: experts

TSAI PREVAILSYilan, where both parties’ leaders spent a lot of time and energy stomping for their candidates, was a big win for the green camp and its chairperson

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The leaders of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had a good night’s sleep last night after meeting expectations that the party would prevail in four counties up for grabs in local elections. Political observers, however, said that yesterday’s outcome was insufficient to pave the way for a pan-green comeback in the 2012 presidential election.

The combined results of yesterday’s elections and next year’s special municipality races will provide a more accurate forecast on the DPP’s chances of re-­entering the Presidential Office, the analysts said.

After the party comfortably secured the three counties of Yunlin, Pingtung and Chiayi, where it held power, Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) did the party extremely proud by snatching Yilan County.

Yilan, a DPP stronghold for more than two decades, suffered a surprise loss to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 2005. Lin beat incumbent KMT Commissioner Lu Guo-hua (呂國華) by more than 20,000 votes yesterday, with a 8.52 percent margin.

The eastern county was considered the most important battleground, with both party leaders — the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT — devoting a lot of time and energy in the past two weeks stumping for their candidates. Both parties said that real victory in the elections hinged on how they fared in Yilan.

The DPP victory in Yilan highlighted the public’s negative perception of outgoing KMT Commissioner Lu Kuo-hua (呂國華) and the KMT, but it was not necessarily a sign of voters’ fondness for Lin, said Chen Chao-chien (陳朝建), an assistant professor of public affairs at Ming Chuan University.

The result shows that Ma is no longer a “ballot guarantor” and confirms that his popularity is fading fast as public distrust in him and his party continues to rise, Chen said.

“People still have fresh memories of the government’s shoddy response to Typhoon Morakot and subsequent rainstorms in Yilan. People are seriously questioning whether the KMT is capable of delivering on its promises of a better life,” he said. “It is clear that Ma has failed in this midterm election, while Tsai passed with a satisfactory grade.”

One caveat for the DPP, however, is that its taking back Yilan does not necessarily mean that voters are eager for a return to pan-green governance, he said.

“Voting against the KMT was voters’ way of preventing the KMT bad apple from becoming more rotten. It does not mean that they like the DPP. In spite of their dislike for the DPP, however, voters still don’t want to see the pan-blue camp have absolute power,” he said.

Lin Chi-wen (林繼文), a professor of political science at National Chengchi University, was reluctant to use yesterday’s outcome as a gauge for the 2012 presidential election because the local elections involved less than half of the country’s population.

The real clincher will be next year’s special municipality elections, which will involve 13 million voters, he said.

“[Yesterday’s] elections should not be interpreted as the country’s collective view on the Ma administration because they were based on local issues, not national policies,” he said.

He nevertheless agreed that the results in Yilan had elevated Tsai’s status within the DPP.

Michael You (游盈隆), a professor at Soochow University and former vice chairman of the Strait Exchange Foundation, said the county chief election was comparable to the gubernatorial race in the US — a litmus test for the administration’s performance in the run-up to the battle for the presidency.

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