The recent local election (mid-term poll) in Taiwan raised many issues including anti-incumbency, and failure by the ruling party in catering to domestic issues but one of the inherent issues that were posed to the electorate was the China issue. A vote for the pro-China KMT would bring Beijing closer to its adventurous action plans of annexing Taiwan. And this was the plea used by the ruling party to distract voters from its failure in addressing domestic issues.
The recent poll in Taiwan, although a local election, is considered as a prelude to the eventual Presidential Elections. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) went on very aggressively firing on all cylinders, well aware of its abject failure in addressing basic domestic problems. It fielded more number of young Turks, who are effectively more pro-independent and are predominantly powerful in arousing public sentiments coupled with nationalistic fervour.
Pro-China KMT came out victorious
The results are out now and the pro-China KMT has dethroned the ruling party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by a handsome margin. As a result, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has resigned as chairman of the ruling party taking the onus of the drubbing at the hands of arch-rivals Kuomintang (KMT). This mid-term poll was considered to be a litmus test for the President who led the Party’s campaign with an anti-China standpoint. The DPP played up its strategy of “resisting China and protecting Taiwan” catchphrase at a time Chinese bullying policy was at its height, in the hope of deriving emotional mileage against the Beijing-friendly KMT.
Chiang Wan the great grand-son of Chiang Kai Shek defeated the ruling candidate
In a closely watched contest, the rising star of the opposition KMT, Chiang Wan-an triumphed, by defeating the independence-leaning DPP candidate in the Mayoral Elections. Immediately after the drubbing, Tsai announced her resignation as chairman of the Part while taking responsibility for the DPP’s poor performance.
Chiang had beaten both the DPP’s candidate, the former health minister Chen Shih-Chung who was the face of Taiwan’s Covid-19 fight, as well as independent candidate Huang Shan, who was the city’s former deputy mayor.
In his victory speech, Chiang, the 43-year-old mayor-elect declared “I will lead Taipei to realise its potential.…. I want the world to see Taipei’s greatness.
This election is a stepping-stone for the 2024 Presidential Polls
This contest was in the limelight, not only because it was for the highest post in the capital city, but also as it has been considered a stepping stone for the Presidential polls which are due in less than two years.
The Taipei Mayoral race was part of the island’s municipal elections where voters elected officials spread across nine levels of administration, ranging from neighbourhood chiefs to city councillors to mayors. More than 19 million Taiwanese, or 82 per cent of the population, were eligible to vote, including 760,000 first-time voters.
In total, the KMT registered victory in 13 of the 21 city mayoral seats and county chief seats that were up for grabs, compared to DPP’s five. Independent candidates took two seats, while the TPP took the Mayorship in Hsinchu.
While these elections primarily focus on domestic issues such as local road improvement work or a city’s recycling efforts, they have important implications for the different political parties as they set the stage for Taiwan’s Presidential and legislative elections in 2024.
The anti-China factor couldn’t convince voters
Although the DPP attempted to bring the China factor into its campaign, the local issues predominantly decided the destiny of the victors and the losers.
Beijing, which considers Taiwan an integral province of China has stepped up its aggressive unification process, by force if necessary, and has stepped up military pressure on the island in the wake of United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in August, which China viewed as an infringement of its territorial integrity.
The much-needed referendum for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 also fell short of the required threshold, a severe blow to the strategy of the ruling Party for bringing more pro-independence young voters into their fold.
Citizens have censured the DPP for its failures on domestic front – time for focusing on citizen-centric welfare measure
The results should act as an eye-opener for the ruling DPP for their failure in containing disgruntled voters, who voted for development and local issues. The warning bells for the ruling party have already been sounded and they have less than 2 years to plug their holes, before the Presidential polls in 2024, and hence they should focus on their failures, provide maximum impetus on good governance and convince the voters with their citizen centric welfare measures. The opposition pro-China KMT with their recent success should also concentrate on developmental-centric issues as the present verdict has given citizen welfare precedence over all other issues including in particular the anti-China rhetoric.
From here onwards a more belligerent China might be seen aiding and abetting KMT for strengthening their ground before the Presidential polls in 2024, while simultaneously firing all its cylinders for an early annexation of Taiwan.