After months of fevered speculation over the Democratic Progressive Party’s plans for this year’s Taipei mayoral election, the dust might seem to have settled after party headquarters on Wednesday formally nominated DPP Legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) as its candidate. However, the decision has raised more questions than answers.
Just a day before the party’s announcement, the Chinese-language Apple Daily had a polling center at Shih Hsin University conduct a survey to gauge public support for independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is seeking re-election, Yao and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ting Shou-chung (丁守中).
The poll found that if the election was just a two-candidate race, Ko would defeat both Ting and Yao, though he would do so more comfortably against Yao (by 32.2 percentage points) than Ting (by 3 percentage points).
However, in a three-legged race, Ting just barely edges Ko, 29.1 percent to 29 percent, while Yao had 13.5 percent, the poll found.
In previous surveys, Ko usually came out ahead whether he faced one challenger or two.
A cross-analysis of the Shih Hsin poll found that nearly 60 percent of respondents who identified themselves as leaning toward the pan-green camp said they supported Yao, while about 34 percent said they would vote for Ko.
It is also worth noting that among respondents aged 20 to 29 — the group the DPP has been trying hard to attract and which has shown the strongest support for the party since the 2014 Sunflower movement — Ko was favored by 55.6 percent, while none supported Yao.
It might make some sense for the DPP to field its own candidate if Ko was heading toward a surefire victory, because it would allow the party to show its unhappiness with Ko and teach him a lesson without giving the KMT back the mayorship.
That would also allow the party to appease the growing number of dissatisfied members like Yao, who were asked to take a backseat in the 2014 election when the party chose to endorse Ko to maximize the pan-green camp’s chance of victory in a traditionally blue-leaning constituency.
However, the stakes are higher now. As the latest poll suggests, if Yao takes the largest share of support from pan-green voters, the DPP campaign for Yao would become a campaign for Ting, because it could erode Ko’s pan-green voter base.
Former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) — a key member of the DPP’s former New Tide faction — voiced similar concerns on Facebook on Wednesday evening, writing that Ting stands to gain the most from the DPP’s aim of securing a support rating of at least 20 percent for Yao.
So what could happen if Ting really ends up winning?
First, younger voters who support Ko would no doubt blame the DPP and could vote against it in future elections to vent their anger.
Second, Ko could team up with members from the so-called “third force” to run for presidency in 2020, which would undermine President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election bid.
In either scenario, the DPP might end up the loser. The worst part? It could be all it takes to make the KMT’s comeback possible.
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