Outlook for the Greater Taichung mayoral election

By Lydia Lin, The China Post

The Greater Taichung Special Municipality, which will be a merger of present Taichung City and Taichung County, poses an extreme challenge to any leader elected as mayor, ambition and experience notwithstanding. Due to the sheer vastness of the consolidated area (almost 2215 square kilometers), and the divergent views and needs of the largely pan-Blue city versus a county with subtle pan-Green inclinations, the intense election run to govern central Taiwan — which has witnessed some surprising about-faces — will likely be dwarfed by the onerous tasks that lie ahead. In the running are incumbent Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), who is on his second term as mayor seeking re-election, and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全). In a race initially deemed by observers as the most stable for the KMT, the narrowing gap between the two candidates now has scholars and voters alike seriously weighing the consequences of either politician as mayor, although Hu currently still leads in the polls. Hu is a political heavyweight often praised for upping Taichung’s public safety reputation; during his city mayoralty, the number of licensed “special businesses” has been reduced from 392 to 278, with known unlicensed special businesses down from 399 to just eight. Su served two consecutive terms as Pingtung County Magistrate and later became the Minister of the Council of Agriculture (COA). As COA chief, Su kick-started the innovative New Agricultural Movement, revitalizing local agricultural industries and promoting the sector’s international competitiveness.

In early November, a poll conducted by the pan blue-supporting China Times Group showed a 10 percent margin, with 43 percent of respondents supporting Hu while 33 percent went for Su. Another poll conducted by the pan-green Liberty Times showed Hu’s support at 34.85 percent and Su’s at 30.04 percent, a tight closing of the gap.

Taichung has a rough population of 2,642,677 according to the latest count in November 2010. With the exception of the 1997 mayoral and magistrate elections, won by the DPP’s Chang Wen-ying and Liao Yung-lai, respectively, the Taichung region has been largely dominated by the KMT camp, with mild and balanced pan-Blue inclinations, although Taichung County has in recent years shown a higher percentage of DPP supporters. The biggest issues of voter concern in the Central Taiwan region are education, the job market, transportation and most glaringly, the persisting problem of public safety and crime.