KMT’s major setback means a huge change in political landscape

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

The Kuomintang’s (KMT) major setback at the conclusion of the 9-in-1 Elections yesterday, in which the ruling party took only six among 22 of Taiwan’s municipalities, could mean a major change of the country’s political landscape in years to come. Before yesterday’s nationwide local government elections, the KMT originally ruled 15 of the total 22, including four of five special municipals, namely Taipei, New Taipei and Taichung, as well as Taoyuan County that will become the nation’s sixth special municipal next month. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) used to hold only six municipalities, mostly in Southern Taiwan, including two special municipalities, Tainan City and Kaohsiung City. However, the ruling KMT lost three special municipalities in yesterday’s elections, namely Taipei City, Taoyuan and Taichung City, which are all seen as traditional KMT strongholds.

It also lost four second-tier municipalities, Keelung City, Hsinchu City and two offshore counties, Penghu and Kinmen, which marks the first time the KMT lost the offshore islands of Kinmen to an independent candidate and Penghu to the DPP. In contrast, the DPP gained Keelung, Taoyuang, Taichung, Changhua, Penghu and Hsinchu and Chiayi cities while keeping Kaohsiung, Tainan, Yunlin, Pingtung and Yilan, meaning it now governs 13 of the 22. The huge victory marks a historic moment whereby the opposition party has moved northbound from the southern parts of the island that are considered traditional DPP strongholds. Reasons for Loss

One of the main reasons for the KMT to suffer such humiliating defeat in the elections is the relatively low approval ratings for the government of President Ma Ying-jeou.

The recent string of food scandals has also dealt a severe blow to the KMT election campaign. Moreover, several candidates for the KMT face particular problems during the campaigns. Taipei Mayoral candidate Sean Lien is perceived as a member of a wealthy and powerful political clan because of his father Lien Chan, a KMT honorary chairman and former vice president. Incumbent Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, who sought re-election after 13 years in office, was also criticized for staying in office too long.

The major KMT defeat in the local elections affects Taiwan’s political landscape and the KMT power structure.

In particular, Ma could be forced to step down from the KMT party chairman post to take responsibility for the humiliating loss. It also means the party is facing a bleak outlook in the upcoming 2016 presidential election while the DPP is seeing a rosier future in years to come if the ruling party does not make some drastic reforms soon.