Is ‘change’ the new normal for politics in Northern Taiwan?

By Yuan-Ming Chiao, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan–When voters go to the polls on Saturday, aside from the presidential and regional legislative ballot, they will be confronted with a party ballot 73 centimeters long and 15 centimeters wide, listing a record high 18 political parties vying for seats in the Legislature. Nowhere will the likely redrawing of Taiwan’s political landscape be more apparent than in the nation’s capital and the Greater Taipei metropolitan area as a whole (Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung) accounting for 21 of the 73 island’s regional legislative seats. This breakdown of the legislative field will flesh out the race’s key themes and highlight emblematic contests that encapsulate them. In 2014, student activists pushed forth the Sunflower Movement, challenging the Kuomintang (KMT) government’s hastened approach to cross-strait trade in services pact, putting footage of the occupied Legislative Yuan worldwide. In 2016, participants of the myriad of social movements emerging since 2013, hope to galvanize society to convert protest into legislative seats.

Aside from symbolizing the continued erosion of KMT influence nationally, the region also presents challenges to Tsai Ing-wen’s ascending Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is confronting a tricky electoral field with new political forces as it seeks a legislative majority. Converting on Ma’s Midas Touch Following the KMT’s resounding defeat in the 9-in-1 local elections of 2014, the ruling party’s political fortunes in 2016 and beyond will be heavily challenged as anti-establishment candidates seek to establish themselves.

Though President Ma has made huge strides in normalizing relations with mainland China, earning him accolades in the international community, converting those achievements domestically have hobbled his administration and dinted the armor of his party. The level of public discontent toward the KMT will decide the party’s fate, and individual races between once invincible political stalwarts against non-household names will be an indicator of whether this trend is ongoing. Three term legislative incumbent Wu, 58, once a loyal Ma lieutenant is up against Lu, the heiress of a DPP political family 30 years his junior having never held public office. Pre-2014, his reelection would have been a shoo-in. Now, Wu is desperately trying to distance himself and change his public image, going as far as saying “I’m not Wu Yu-sheng.”

Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), the former two-term mayor of Taipei City and current vice-chairman of the KMT, has been parachuted into the legislative race for Keelung’s single seat allocation to rally pan-blue morale. A Hau defeat in a competitive four-man race in the port city would also be symbolic of continuing attrition based on the dissatisfaction toward the KMT. Race to Watch: New Taipei District 1 — the DPP’s Lu Sun-ling (呂孫綾) vs. the KMT’s Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇).