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Ko Wen-je wins Taipei opposition polls
Final word is up to June 18 DPP meeting
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-13 02:12 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Independent physician Ko Wen-je defeated Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Yao Wen-chih in opinion polls to determine who would represent the opposition in the Taipei mayoral election, the main opposition party announced Friday.

The opinion polls, conducted by three groups Thursday evening, formed the culmination of a long process to find a common candidate to take on Kuomintang nominee Sean Lien in the November 29 election. The DPP’s Central Executive Committee still has to ratify the result at a regular meeting next Wednesday.

Both contenders arrived at the DPP headquarters for the official unsealing of the poll results Friday noon. After the ceremony, Ko, 55, said he had still a hard task ahead forming an opposition alliance which could win the election. Yao said that after the battle, no matter who had won or lost, both had won over Lien.

The precise results of the surveys were not made public, but both candidates received more votes than Lien, though Ko won by a bigger margin, the DPP said. It was not known whether Ko was more than 3 percent ahead of Yao, a distance named by some as a key necessity for the doctor to be approved by the DPP.

In the run-up to the opinion polls, the two opposition contenders held live debates and made television appearances.

In theory, the DPP will still have the room to discuss a coalescing between the programs of the party and of Ko, a popular traumatology expert who has repeatedly refused to join the main opposition party. He has maintained a populist image as a common man close to the public and with no background in traditional politics.

Yao still defended his case after the results were announced, emphasizing he had been running ahead of Lien as well. There was still a need to discuss values, policies, ideals and a campaign framework before the Central Executive Committee could make a decision on June 18, Yao said.

The DPP first held an internal poll comparing the chances of three of its contenders against Lien. Even though prominent attorney Wellington Koo had often been mentioned as the frontrunner, Yao defeated both him and legislators Hsu Tain-tsair, a former mayor of Tainan City. Earlier, former Vice President Annette Lu announced she would not take part in the DPP polls because she opposed the way the party was handling the selection process to accommodate Ko. On Friday, she repeated her assertion that she held on to the right to run in the election.

As a result of Ko’s victory, former DPP legislator Shen Fu-hsiung announced a separate candidacy. Shen, who disappeared out of the opposition mainstream several years ago, said over the past few weeks that if the choice were between Lien and Ko, he would enter the race as an independent. After the poll results came out, he confirmed his intention.

Shen complained about Ko’s inexperience while he described Lien as unfit to run for mayor because he lived in one of Taipei’s most expensive residences and made a high salary while common citizens were concerned about the rising wealth gap and the cost of housing.

As the son of former Vice President and current KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan, Sean Lien has been repeatedly attacked as a man of privilege from a wealthy family. The younger Lien is a member of the KMT Central Committee, but gained prominence as chairman of the Taipei Smart Card Corporation. He has focused his campaign on plans to rebuild the impoverished western side of the capital.

After the DPP announced the poll results, Lien said he hoped the mayoral race would be fought between gentlemen. Lien himself became the KMT nominee by defeating several rivals in opinion polls and in a vote by party members. His closest rival was prominent lawmaker Ting Shou-chung.

Since direct mayoral elections were reintroduced in 1994, then-winner Chen Shui-bian has been the only opposition candidate to win. He served one term before being defeated by later President Ma Ying-jeou in 1998.

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