KMT failed political test, Taichung mayor says
The results of Taiwan's local elections show the opposition Democratic Progressive Party has transformed itself into a more rational and moderate political force, which the ruling Kuomintang has overlooked, Taichung Mayor Hu Chih-chiang said yesterday.
Hu, 61, said his KMT party should undergo a comprehensive self-criticism after Saturday's elections in 17 cities and counties.
The results, seen as a midterm test of the popularity of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, showed the KMT had won 47.8 per cent of the vote and the DPP 45.3 per cent. Even though the KMT retained 12 seats and the DPP had four (one seat went to an independent), Hu saw the narrow gap in vote percentages as significant.
'I should recognise that the KMT definitely suffered a serious defeat in yesterday's elections of city mayors and county magistrates,' Hu said in Hong Kong. 'The gap ... is less than 3 per cent ... If such a result took place in a presidential election, it would be a disaster.'
As a close ally of Ma, Hu said the Beijing-friendly president's mainland policy should not be blamed for the 'serious defeat', but stressed that the KMT's underestimation of DPP chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen was the main cause.
'I have reiterated that we should not underestimate 'Little Ing' and the DPP,' he said, referring to Tsai by her nickname. 'The DPP has given up its emotional and extreme style, and transformed into a rational and centrist political party over the past two years, and such a change helped it to win a lot of shifting votes, but the KMT never woke up to it.'
Hu said Tsai had successfully led the DPP out of the shadow of former president Chen Shui-bian, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption but is appealing.
'We are not sure [the DPP] is entering the era of Tsai Ing-wen ... but we have no doubt these results have consolidated the base of Tsai's leadership in the DPP.'
Hu, a native of Jilin province, was actually born in Beijing. He moved to Taichung with his family in 1949 when the Communist Party defeated the KMT. He earned a doctorate at Oxford University in 1984 and returned to Taiwan.
Thanks to his sense of humour, he helped the island win a lot of sympathy worldwide after the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996, when he was appointed the island's official representative in Washington and minister of foreign affairs from 1996 to 1999.
He once described Beijing as a giant black bear who claimed Taipei as a brother, when the mainland launched military drills and fired dozens of missiles into the Taiwan Strait when former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui advocated the 'two countries' theory in 1996.
'I think today's 'giant black bear brother' is not an unreasonable monster at all, but is still very big and powerful,' he said.
'Of course, Taiwanese people, whether green [DPP] or blue [KMT], should realise that it's a fact that the mainland now is much stronger and developing better than Taiwan. Cross-strait economic dealings will benefit both sides. Only communication can ease misunderstandings and hostilities.'
He suffered a stroke in the US in 2002, leaving some paralysis on the left side of his face and in his limbs. But he won the Taichung mayoral election in 2005. A year later, his wife lost her left arm and suffered partial memory loss in a car accident.