Shooting helps lift votes for embattled KMT
Taiwan's Kuomintang barely held on to three of five mayoral posts up for grabs in tense elections yesterday, a day after the son of the party's honorary chairman was shot and badly wounded.
Analysts said the shooting factor added at least 3 to 5 per cent to votes cast for KMT candidates. The incident persuaded a number of supporters disappointed with the ruling party or its candidates to vote, helping secure the Taipei, Xinbei and Taichung cities the KMT controlled.
The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won 49.87 per cent of votes, compared with the KMT's 44.54 per cent. An academic said the results did not augur well for the KMT in the 2012 elections.
'This means a big problem for the KMT, which will be put to the test again in both the legislative and presidential elections in 2012,' said George Tsai Wei, a professor of political science at Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.
The elections, which cover more than 60 per cent of voters in Taiwan, were seen as a mid-term test of President Ma Ying-jeou and his mainland engagement policy.
Tsai said the results would help calm Beijing, which would not want to see any change in the power base of the KMT. 'Nor will it prompt Ma to change its current cross-strait policy, though he could opt for a slower pace in development of relations,' he said.
Lien Sheng-wen, 40, son of party veteran Lien Chen, was shot in the head at close range by a 48-year-old man, identified as Lin Cheng-wei, during a campaign rally for a KMT city council candidate in Yungho outside Taipei on Friday night.
He survived and had emergency surgery to reconstruct his internal facial cavity. But news of the shooting, plus an appeal by Lien Chan for voters to do their duty for the good of the island, moved some supporters.
'With this result, Sheng-wen has given me a big help,' said Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin, who was able to win a second four-year term after beating his strong opponent Su Tseng-chang, a former premier of the DPP.
Hau was running neck and neck with Su and some opinion polls had forecast that the KMT mayor might even lose the race.
Also benefiting from the shooting was Eric Chu, a former vice-premier, who had a tough battle on his hands against DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen in the Xinbei election.
Hau garnered close to 800,000 votes, or 55.65 per cent of the votes cast, to trounce Su, who captured 43.81 per cent. Across the river from Taipei, Chu took 1.1 million votes (52.61 per cent) to win Xinbei, a new municipality expanded from Taipei county.
A relatively calm Tsai, who captured 1 million votes or 47.39 per cent, told a rally that, despite her defeat, she believed the DPP had already done well enough to threaten the KMT.
'We will continue to challenge the [KMT] and win our success next time,' she said amid thunderous applause and shouts from some supporters for her to run for the 2012 presidential elections.
Overall, the DPP did exceptionally well, securing its two strongholds - Tainan and Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, while largely expanding the number of votes cast for the party.
The DPP's Chen Chu beat her KMT and independent challenger by snaring 52.8 per cent of the votes cast, and the opposition party's Lai Ching-te captured 60.41 per cent of the votes cast to sack his KMT opponent.
In the central city of Taichung, the DPP's Su Jia-chyuan, a former Pingtung magistrate, was narrowly defeated by KMT incumbent mayor Jason Hu.
The result even prompted Hu to admit that it signalled a big crisis for both him and the ruling party. Although expecting to win by a big margin, Hu was only able to beat Su by a paper-thin margin of 2.24 per cent.
Total turnout was 71.71 per cent.
Mayoral winners and their vote share
Taipei: Hau Lung-bin 55.65%
Xinbi: Eric Chu 52.61%
Kaohsiung: Chen Chu 52.8%
Taichung: Jason Hu 51.12%
Tainan: Lai Ching-te 60.41%