By Mo Yan-chih / Staff Reporter
Sun, Nov 21, 2010
The neck-and-neck race between the two Taipei mayoral candidates, coupled with a sizable group of undecided voters in the city, has made the Taipei mayoral election the most hotly watched battle in Saturday’s special municipality elections.
As the nation’s capital, Taipei City has been a stronghold for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which has governed the city for the past12 years — since current President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won the mayorship from then-mayor Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1998.
Ma won the race by garnering 50.13 percent of the vote compared with Chen’s 49.1 percent. In 2002, Ma won re-election with a margin of 28 percentage points over his DPP challenger Lee Ying-yuan (李應元).
Although Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) continued the KMT’s governance of the city by winning the election in 2006 with a margin of 13 percentage points over the DPP’s Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), the KMT did not consider Hau’s win a solid victory since he received 180,000 fewer votes than Ma, and the pan-blue support base could shrink even more in this election as DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) looks to narrow the gap.
“The number of undecided voters, who previously supported the KMT, has increased significantly. The tendencies indicate that as voters in Taipei become more rational, the traditional hard-line campaigns that call for blind party loyalty become less effective,” said political analyst Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), who is a professor at National Dong Hwa University.
Public frustration over the poor performance of Ma’s administration was a key factor behind Hau’s low support, Shih said. Municipal administration problems are also adding to Hau’s woes and making the outcome of the race unpredictable.
Hau and his team have been scrambling to handle a corruption scandal related to the Xinsheng Overpass renovation project, which damaged the city government’s reputation, especially after prosecutors listed Hau’s top aide, former Taipei City Secretariat director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安), as a defendant last month.
The city government’s problematic purchases of flowers for the Taipei International Flora Expo, a six-month event that is costing the city NT$9.5 billion (US$290 million), also tarnished the public’s perception of the mayor’s leadership and judgment.
National Chengchi University political science professor Wang Yeh-lih (王業立) said the large number of independent voters, which should be the determining factor in the race, shows that the political alignment of the city is changing, and the Hau camp should take it as a warning sign.
The non-traditional campaign strategy of the Su camp, he said, has successfully attracted younger voters, who tend to care much less about political affiliations.
Although Su is a DPP heavyweight and a possible presidential candidate, he largely abandoned the “deep-green” rhetoric in his campaign and avoided commenting on the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and other cross-strait issues.
Instead, the 63-year-old candidate has used popular online social networking services like Facebook and Plurk to address municipal problems and he has replaced large-scale campaign activities with hip-hop concerts and frequent visits to local districts.
With the race remaining a toss-up, Hau admitted that the battle is “critically dangerous.”
National Taiwan Ocean University international affairs professor Wang Kung-yi (王崑義) said the top priority for Hau’s campaign should be getting traditional KMT supporters to vote for the mayor.
The KMT is slated to hold a large-scale march today to boost support for Hau. Facing a tough battle in Taipei, the KMT has focused its final campaign efforts on consolidating support for the mayor.
Ma, in his capacity as KMT chairman, and KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) will spend more time canvassing the streets with Hau in the final week of the campaign.
In previous Taipei mayoral elections the KMT has suffered from low turnout, Wang Kung-yi said.
Su has a chance to take the city for the DPP and end the KMT’s 12-year rule in Taipei if the KMT fails to convince enough blue supporters to vote, Wang Kung-yi added.
* 《Taipei Times》2010/11/21。