DPP gets election boost but more challenges ahead
Central News Agency
2009-12-06 05:14 PM
Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) received a major boost when it retained three of its magistrate seats and retook the significant Yilan County in Saturday's local elections.

Even though the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) won 12 out of the 17 mayor and magistrate seats up for grabs, its support base was weakened in several localities. The ratio of votes won by the KMT this time was lower than the 50.96 percent it won in the last elections of 23 magistrates and mayors in 2005.

In comparison, the DPP's Yilan victory, along with the retention of its other three seats and the major gains it made in the KMT's traditional strongholds of Penghu and Taitung, were seen by the party as affirmation of the leadership of DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who took over the party helm in May 2008 at a time when the party was in disarray in the wake of the snowballing corruption scandal surrounding former President Chen Shui-bian.

Given the fact that the DPP also saw its share of the vote increased from the 41.95 percent it won four years ago to 45.32 percent, compared with the KMT's 47.88 percent, this could mean that the party is now out of the shadow of the disgraced ex-president, according to DPP sources.

Tsai has successfully stemmed the party's slipping popularity, but her real challenge will be a DPP chair election next May, municipality elections in late 2010 and even the party's strategy for the 2012 presidential election, a party official said.

With Saturday's "minor victory, " the party official said, more people will be interested in joining the race in the municipality elections set for next year.

Even before Saturday's elections, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu and Kaohsiung Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing had reportedly been bickering, as both are known to be interested in running in the 2010 election, when the city and county will be merged into a single municipality.

Tsai mediated between the two prior to Saturday's election, requesting them to "put party unity on the pedestal," but their fight for the candidacy is expected to start again.

The usually low-key Tsai was obviously happy late Saturday about the party's performance, saying that she was "gratified about the growth, but the outcome has not changed the basic structure of the electorate." She described the elections as "the people casting a no-confidence vote against the performance over the past 18 months of the President Ma Ying-jeou administration." She attributed the KMT setback to its "wrong policy," saying that the Ma administration's rapid China-tilt policy has led to uneasiness among the people.

Another reason, she went on, is the Ma administration's poor efficiency and ability.

Tsai also said that the retaking of Yilan shows that the DPP has "regained the trust of the voters." In other localities, even thought DPP candidates did not win, the ballots they garnered were often not far behind those of their KMT rivals, which was a "tremendous boost" to the party, she added.

She said the challenge for the party now is not to beat the KMT but to become the "best and the most trustworthy" party in Taiwan.

Tsai also said the party has already begun work to formulate a "10-year policy guideline" to chart the party's blueprint for the nation's development over the next decade.

(By Sophia Yeh, Wen Kui-hsiang and Lilian Wu)

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