2020 Elections: DPP faces challenge in stronghold Tainan

Ruling party led by President Tsai Ing-wen faces a challenge in maintaining its stranglehold on the legislative seats in Tainan in upcoming elections, with the opposition aiming to win two of the southern city's six seats.(NOWnews)
Ruling party led by President Tsai Ing-wen faces a challenge in maintaining its stranglehold on the legislative seats in Tainan in upcoming elections, with the opposition aiming to win two of the southern city's six seats.(NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faces a challenge in maintaining its stranglehold on the legislative seats in Tainan in upcoming elections, with the opposition aiming to win two of the southern city’s six seats.

Tainan has been controlled for decades by the DPP, and the party has won every legislative seat contested there since 2008. All five seats representing the city are currently in DPP hands.

With Taiwan’s electoral map redistricted ahead of the 2020 polls, Tainan will have six seats up for grabs on Jan. 11, 2020, and the outlook for the DPP may not be as rosy as in the recent past.

The ruling party is still rebounding from a resounding defeat in nationwide elections for local government offices in November 2018.

It won power in only six of Taiwan’s 22 cities and counties, including Tainan, down from the 13 it held previously, while the KMT won 15 seats, a net pickup of nine.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) appears to have weathered the storm, however, after surviving an internal challenge in the DPP primary.

She seems a near sure thing to win re-election, garnering consistent double-digit leads over opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in the polls.

Whether Tsai’s strength in the polls is more a reflection of an actual resurgence in the DPP’s popularity or the weakness of her KMT opponent is hard to tell, as is whether her edge in the presidential race will carry over to the legislative races, including in Tainan.

One reason for the KMT’s confidence in the southern city was the strong performance of its candidate in the city’s March by-election when Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介) lost to the DPP’s Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) by less than three percent.

Hsieh won 44 percent of the total vote in that election, a significant jump compared to the 18 percent won in the same district four years earlier by another KMT candidate.

Optimistic about the KMT’s chances in Tainan, Hsieh, who now heads the KMT’s Tainan branch, recently told CNA that the party is forecast to win at least two of Tainan’s six seats and could even come away with three or four.

Meanwhile, a DPP source familiar with election campaign, told CNA that the party is still optimistic that it will take at least five if not all six seats next year.

Recent polls show DPP candidates in three districts — Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) in District 3; Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) in District 5; and Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) in District 6 — well ahead, while DPP and KMT candidates are relatively even in the other three.

Of the six races, the one between Wang and former KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) is the one that has caught nationwide attention.

A Taipei-native, Hung decided to move to Tainan and register in the legislative election in August to challenge Wang, a two-term Tainan City councilor who is seeking re-election as a lawmaker.

Though Hung may have little chance in her challenge of Wang, her joining the race in the traditional DPP stronghold was considered a boost to the KMT’s morale in the city.

Meanwhile, a newly formed pro-Taiwan independence party, the Taiwan Action Party Alliance (TAPA), backed by former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), is running a candidate, Lin Chih-wen (林志文), in District 4 that already has KMT and DPP candidates.

Lin, a former DPP member who entered the race after losing the DPP primary for its legislative nominee for District 4, is expected to make the election result in that district more unpredictable.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang and Joseph Yeh)