The by-election in Greater Taichung’s second electoral district today is “a critical election that could shape the national and local political map in the next few years,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
A senior legislator, Ker made the comment with good reason, and many DPP members and political analysts agreed with the observation.
On the surface, a win for DPP candidate Chen Shih-kai (陳世凱) over Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恆), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidate who is trying to fill the void left vacant by his soon-to-be-imprisoned father, Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), would only increase the DPP’s legislative seats to 41 — still 16 seats short of a majority.
However, the race is the first legislative by-election since DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) took over the party helm in May last year, said a senior DPP aide, who wished to remain anonymous.
That is why it is considered a must-win, “especially when you think about the string of DPP victories in local legislative by-elections in 2009 under the leadership of former chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who could be Su’s rival to represent the DPP in the next presidential race, and how those victories lifted the party from its lowest point,” the aide said. “Su will definitely be motivated to win this one.”
If Chen won, the DPP would also tie with the KMT in Greater Taichung’s eight electoral districts with four legislators each, which would benefit the party’s local organization, mobilization and community works ahead of the Greater Taichung mayoral election next year and the 2016 presidential election, said Chen’s campaign manager, Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全).
Very few DPP members may be as knowledgeable, or frustrated, about Taichung as Su Jia-chyuan, who lost the mayoral election in 2011 by only about 30,000 votes and, as a vice presidential candidate when the DPP lost to the KMT in last year’s presidential election.
Greater Taichung is again expected to be the mostly hotly contested mayoral seat among the six special municipalities come election time next year and a critical battleground in the 2016 presidential election.
Political analyst Chang Kuo-cheng (張國城) said the legislative by-election would be seen as “the first test of how Su [Tseng-chang] has run the DPP since assuming the chairmanship and whether the party is able to win people’s hearts with its policies.”
Chang was somewhat skeptical about the impact of a Chen victory, saying it was unlikely to dramatically redraw the local political map in central Taiwan, where the KMT has long dominated.
The DPP won several local by-elections, such as Taoyuan County, when Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was the party chairperson, but it failed to beat the KMT in those constituencies in the presidential election last year, Chang said.
However, the latest developments in central Taiwan could favor the DPP as several KMT heavyweights have been embroiled in corruption scandals.
Aside from Yen Ching-piao, who was convicted of corruption, former Nantou County commissioner Lee Chao-ching (李朝卿) has been detained on corruption allegations, while Changhua County Commissioner Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) has been hurt by corruption allegations against his younger brother.