TAIWAN'S ruling Kuomintang scored a big victory in elections yesterday, recapturing control of Taipei and gaining a solid majority in the Legislative Yuan. Ma Ying-jeou, 48, the photogenic former justice minister gained 766,377 votes, or 51 per cent, of the ballots cast in the race for Taipei mayor. The KMT also consolidated control in island-wide politics by capturing 123 seats in the 225-seat legislature. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won 70 seats. This impressive showing has made it difficult for the DPP to clinch power during presidential elections scheduled for mid-2000. The incumbent Taipei mayor, Chen Shui-bian, who lost by 78,305 votes, is the DPP's most charismatic leader and best hope for the island's top job. The DPP gained some recompense when one of its most effective public speakers, Frank Hsieh, pulled off a surprise victory by beating incumbent Wu Den-yih to become mayor of Kaohsiung, the island's second largest city. Mr Hsieh won 387,797 votes, 4,565 more than his rival. In the competition for the Legislative Yuan, the KMT garnered 46.4 per cent of the vote, against 29.6 per cent for the DPP. Speaking at a victory party of more than 30,000 supporters in Taipei, Mr Ma, drenched with sweat and champagne, said he would follow 'President Lee Teng-hui's broad avenue of democracy and reform'. KMT Secretary-General John Chang said the ruling party's solid control of the legislature would facilitate the implementation of policy. 'The ruling party has pushed the democracy process one big step forward,' he told well-wishers, adding that more than 80 per cent of eligible voters had cast ballots. Taiwan analysts said Mr Ma's victory was partly due to the de facto withdrawal of New Party candidates. An offshoot of the KMT, the New Party is vehemently opposed to independence. Individual New Party stalwarts had urged supporters to switch their votes to the KMT to thwart the pro-independence DPP. The New Party won seven per cent of all votes cast during the race for the legislature. Sources close to Beijing's Taiwan policy establishment said Beijing would welcome the disappointing performance of the pro-independence DPP.