Greater Taichung mayoral elections much closer than previously expected

By Lydia Lin, The China Post

ANALYSIS In one of the tightest elections in the five municipalities, incumbent Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), emerged yesterday as mayor-elect of the Greater Taichung Special Municipality, although it was hardly a pretty win with less than 30,000 votes over his opponent, former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary-General Su Chia-chuan (蘇嘉全). On Dec. 25, Hu will begin his term as mayor of the new municipality that merges present Taichung City and Taichung County with a combined population of about 2.64 million.

Very few pundits predicted that the votes would be this close, as far from a landslide victory as one can expect of a two-term mayor. Estimated numbers of the official polling results show 51 percent support for Hu over Su’s estimated 48 percent.

The roughly 3 percent margin was much tighter than the last poll conducted prior to the election, with Hu’s support at 47.1 percent and Su’s at 40.1 percent. In previous elections, Hu had over a 20 percent margin over his opponent in the three-in-one elections of 2005 and over 49 percent of votes in 2001. Hu appears to have narrowly obtained the favor of the public, despite suffering a great blow in public image this June when crime boss Weng Chi-nan was shot and murdered by 17-year-old Liao Kuo-hao in broad daylight as unarmed police watched on. In a poll conducted in early November, around 40 percent of Taichung residents were unhappy with Hu’s public order performance. Su came in very close, polling very well for a candidate with very little name recognition when he first arrived on the political scene. With an impressive initial showing on the polls, the municipal mayoral election has allowed Su to successfully raise his political profile. Positioning himself as an agent of change, Su appealed to an emerging pan-green population in Taichung County, although his chances were hindered by the public swearing of talk show host Cheng Hung-yi, who gravely insulted President Ma Ying-jeou’s mother when he served as a speaker at Su’s rally. Taichung has a population of around 2,646,481, representing 11.43 percent of the nation’s entire population. The voting results follow the Taichung region’s inclination towards the blue camp, which, with the exception of the 1997 mayoral and magistrate elections that were won by the DPP’s Chang Wen-ying and Liao Yung-lai, respectively, has largely supported KMT candidates.