Taiwan By-Elections: The Voters’ Concerns

Taiwan’s oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won three out of four seats up for grabs in Saturday’s by-elections to the Legislative Yuan. DPP candidates won in Taoyuan County’s third electoral district, in Hsinchu County, and in Chiayi County’s second electoral district. The KMT won in Hualien.

“I need to apologize to our supporters, but we will continue with party reform and stay firm on our principles,” KMT Secretary General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) told KMT supporters.

China’s Sina.Com publishes a Taihai.Net report on the by-elections, conscientiously putting everything from Central Election Commission (中央选举委员会) to Legislative Yuan (立委) into quotation marks, and quotes the KMT’s Secretary as saying that the election results had not been ideal, but the reforms would continue. The Taihai.Net report points out that the DPP’s influence in legislation and passing budgets is growing, but stops short of suggestions mentioned by AFP that the KMT’s latest setback could hurt its chances in the 2012 presidential election. AFP refers to Taiwan’s de-facto independence as a “split” in 1949 – an interpretation of history that favors China’s “renegade province” concept, and one that is frequently contested.

The KMT, in explaining its poor performance in the by-elections, keeps referring to party reform. Indeed, quarrels about the future of the party, and corresponding infighting between different factions, especially in Hsinchu County.

There is little mention of public unease with president Ma Ying-jeou‘s policies toward China. The president’s official slogan that Taiwan’s future must be decided by the Taiwanese themselves would be quite adequate, if these statistics of 2006 are indicative.

But there is wide-spread unease about the KMT’s China policies, including the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with Beijing, and the KMT has apparently has no reassuring selling points in the public debate.

EastSouthWestNorth quoted an opinion poll in December which suggested that 52 per cent of the interviewees felt that the government’s cross-strait policies leant towards China too much. 33 per cent disagreed with that feeling, and 15 per cent had no opinion.

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