By Alan Fong, The China Post
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) defeated Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Su Tseng-chang by a significant margin of over 160,000 votes in what was expected to be a hotly contested race, as KMT supporters were energized by the shocking gangster hit on Sean Lien as well as the welcoming weather yesterday, while the recent release of a series of good news supporting the KMT’s policies might have also helped convince independent voters. Hau won 55.65 percent of votes while Su picked up 43.81 percent.
A low turnout of the Kuomintang sympathizers in the nationalists’ traditional stronghold of Taipei had been the main concern of Hau’s camp as the incumbent mayor entered the race. Pundits predicted that general disappointment with the performance of Taiwan’s “main street” economy in the wake of the global crisis and the spate of scandals involving the city government, such as the overpricing probes in the Taipei Flora Expo procurement and the Xinsheng Overpass improvement project, would hurt Hau significantly. The execution-style shooting of Sean Lien, son of former Vice President and KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan and former EasyCard Corp. chairman, by a gang member in a campaign rally in Yonghe, Taipei County (to be upgraded to Xinbei City), drew out potential KMT voters. Although both President Ma Ying-jeou and DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen called for the public to stay calm and not to over-politicize the attack, the fact that the unexpected event took place only 12 hours before the polling stations opened yesterday probably influenced the municipality elections to the KMT’s favor, especially in Xinbei City and Taipei, where Lien is hospitalized. The attack on Lien had a special impact on the Taipei election as he is a senior member of Hau’s reelection campaign team.
Earlier, the Central Weather Bureau’s forecast of wet and cold weather on Election Day was also of worry to the KMT, as it could cause low voter turnout. The clear sky and relatively high temperature probably helped attract potential voters, a majority of them believed to be KMT supporters in the nationalist stronghold, to the voting booth. Also not to be ignored are recent positive news related to the policies of the city government and the ruling party. The Taipei Flora Expo welcomed the 1 millionth visitor yesterday afternoon while Taiwan opened its door to the record 5 millionth tourist in the year late Friday, showing the popularity of the event and Taiwan’s growing attractiveness to foreign visitors, many of them from mainland China, thanks to the warming cross-strait ties. The EU’s decision to grant visa-waivers to Taiwanese nationals on Thursday is also characterized by the KMT government as a vindication of its cross-strait detente-based diplomatic policy. The pan-blue camp, consisted of the KMT, New Party and the People First Party, won 36 seats in Taipei councilor elections while the pan-green camp of the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union got 23 seats.