After failing to make gains in last month’s special municipality elections, local Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilors are now attempting to push their agenda on another front — by vying for local council speakers.
DPP city councilor candidates unexpectedly leveled the playing field with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), securing as many seats as the KMT — or 130 each — in the five city councils.
At present, none of the five city councils have a DPP council speaker or vice speaker. However, the party’s increase of 12 seats puts the party within reach of securing at least two speaker positions in Greater Kaohsiung and Greater Tainan, and possibly in Greater Taichung.
In Greater Kaohsiung, a resurgent DPP caucus is expected to nominate one of the four city councilors who have expressed a desire for the position. Two others have also said they were willing to run separately for vice speaker.
Despite taking two seats less than a combined tally from the KMT and People First Party (PFP), the inclusion of two --pan-green-leaning independents, including Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), son of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), will even out the vote for both parties, with 30 each.
The final vote will likely depend largely on the six -uncommitted independent councilors, although local party officials say the overwhelming vote cast for Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s (陳菊) -re--election is expected to sway at least a couple of these votes for the DPP.
The elections in Greater Tainan are expected to be more straightforward, with the DPP and two pan-green-leaning independents taking 29 of 57 seats, against the KMT’s 13. Four potential nominees are jockeying for the DPP nomination, set to replace a post held by an independent in Tainan and by the KMT in Tainan County.
A speaker position in Greater Taichung, a municipality where DPP mayoral candidate Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) came within 2.5 percent of Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), is also, for the first time, within the realm of possibility.
Together with an additional seat from the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the DPP holds 25 seats against the KMT and PFP’s 28. The DPP is pinning its hopes on 10 independents and a lack of coordination from two KMT speaker hopefuls.
However, the DPP acknowledges that in Taipei and the soon-to-be formed Sinbei City, which both elected KMT mayors, the local council speaker elections are expected to contain no surprises.
The KMT holds a majority in Taipei, with 31 seats against 23 for the DPP. Five other seats are controlled by pan-blue parties, including the PFP and the New Party. And while the DPP holds 28 seats in Sinbei City against 30 for the KMT, most of the eight independents have pan-blue sympathies.
Council speakers are traditionally a product of grassroots support and it is not uncommon for city councilors to cast ballots for speakers from opposing parties, although party officials have been attempting to curb this practice in recent years.
DPP Legislator Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) ran into trouble last week after reportedly asking DPP city councilors in Greater Tainan to sign agreements promising that they would resign if they failed to cast a vote for the DPP speaker nominee. A lawsuit charging that the move was illegal was filed against Chen on Wednesday.
The speaker and vice-speaker elections will take place on Dec. 25, the same day the newly elected city councilors assume their positions.