KMT seen as the loser despite victory in capital
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
With the ruling party in deep distress the opposition should have won by leaps and bounds, says one analyst, while others point to campaign flaws and say result will put Ma Ying-jeou under pressure
The Kuomintang managed to hold on to power in Taipei's mayoral election, but lost narrowly in Kaohsiung. For the main opposition party that represents a defeat, analysts say.
They say the outcome will affect the presidential bid of KMT leader Ma Ying-jeou, whose leadership will come under scrutiny in the wake of the vote.
'At a time when the DPP is in deep distress because of corruption scandals, the KMT should have won by leaps and bounds, but it was not only defeated in Kaohsiung, it has failed to hold on to the 64 per cent [share of the] popular vote it won [in Taipei] four years ago,' said political analyst George Tsai Wei, of the Institute of International Relations.
Hau Lung-bin, 54, the KMT's standard bearer and a former environment chief, captured 692,085 votes, or 53.81 per cent of the popular vote in Taipei, winning by a wide margin over his ruling Democratic Progressive Party opponent, former premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting.
Mr Hsieh, 60, also a former Kaohsiung mayor, garnered 525,869 votes, 40.89 per cent of the popular vote and 5 percentage points more than DPP candidate Lee Ying-yuan won four years ago in the capital. But it was not enough to take a city dominated by opposition supporters.
In Kaohsiung, the KMT's candidate, 65-year-old scholar-turned-politician Huang Chun-ying, a former deputy mayor of the city, lost his second campaign for mayor by just 1,120 votes.
He garnered 378,297 votes, or 49.27 per cent of the popular vote, but it was not quite enough to defeat his DPP opponent, Chen Chu, 56, a former labour chief and political prisoner.
Mr Huang lost four years ago by some 25,000 votes.
Analysts said that although it might appear the political landscape had not changed - with the pro-independence green camp keeping the south and the pan-blue opposition securing the north - the KMT was the loser from the vote.
The DPP, which used to boast about its reform-mindedness and clean politics, has been hit by a string of corruption scandals levelled at President Chen Shui-bian, his family and government in the past year. Last month Mr Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, was charged with corruption. Prosecutors said they had enough evidence to indict Mr Chen but did not do so because of his presidential immunity.
Analysts said the DPP was better at running election campaigns than the KMT. 'All opinion polls had showed Hau Lung-bin was leading by at least 20 percentage points over Frank Hsieh. But the election outcome showed he was only 13 percentage points ahead. This indicates the KMT had problems in campaigning,' said political commentator Hu Chung-hsin.
He said Mr Ma, who described the mayoral polls as a confidence vote, would come under scrutiny from within the party.
'His leadership will be challenged and party members will criticise him for not being willing to sacrifice for the sake of the KMT,' he said, referring to Mr Ma's reluctance to resign after he was investigated by prosecutors for alleged embezzlement of special government allowances as Taipei mayor.
The unexpectedly strong showing for Mr Hsieh 'definitely is a plus for his presidential bid in 2008', Mr Tsai said.
Hau Lung-bin (KMT) 692,085 (53.81%)
Frank Hsieh Chang-ting (DPP) 525,869 (40.89%)
James Soong Chu-yu (People First Party) 53,281 (4.14%)
Li Ao (Independent) 7,795 (0.61%)
Ko Shih-hai (Independent) 3,687 (0.29%)
Clara Chou Yu-kou (Independent) 3,372 (0.26%)
Chen Chu (DPP)379,417 (49.41%)
Huang Chun-ying (KMT)378,303 (49.27%)
Lo Chih-ming (Taiwan Solidarity Union)6,599 (0.86%)
Lin Ching-yuan (Independent) 1,803 (0.23%)
Lin Chih-sheng (Taiwan Defence Alliance) 1,746 (0.23%)
Source: Taipei City Election Commission, Kaohsiung City Election Commission