Supporters of Taiwan's ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) at a campaign rally ahead of local elections in Taipei.

Beijing keeps a watchful eye on Taiwan's weekend elections

Beijing is keeping a close eye on Taiwan's weekend polls, which will see a record 11,130 public servants selected for nine types of offices, ranging from village wardens to municipality mayors.

Beijing is keeping a close eye on Taiwan's weekend polls, which will see a record 11,130 public servants selected for nine types of offices, ranging from village wardens to municipality mayors.

Despite the local nature of the island's elections, Beijing can by no means ignore the results as the impact would most likely affect the 2016 presidential election and hence cross-strait relations, analysts said.

Various opinion polls have indicated that the mainland-friendly ruling Kuomintang would suffer setbacks in key races as a result of growing disappointment with President Ma Ying-jeou's administration.

The unfavourable poll results have prompted the KMT to try to mobilise some of the 700,000 mainland-based Taiwanese businessmen to return to the island to vote, Ho Hsi-hao, former head of the Taiwanese Businessmen Association in Zhangzhou , said.

KMT vice-chairman John Chiang Hsiao-yen held a rally attended by 2,000 people in Dongguan on November 23 to garner support for Taipei mayoral hopeful Sean Lien Sheng-wen, son of KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan, and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu Chih-chiang, who is seeking re-election.

"President Ma and Lien were seen through videos seeking the businessmen's support," Ho said.


While he said a number of businessmen there had expressed their support by promising to return to Taiwan to vote, Liao Wen-lung, the president of the Taiwanese Businessmen Association in Zhangzhou, said few businessmen were really interested in doing so.

"If there were 200,000 businessmen returning to Taiwan to vote in the 2012 presidential election, it would be pretty good if 50,000 would return this time," Liao said of the local elections.

The attitude of Wu Li-fang, a Taiwanese businesswoman who operates a garment manufacturing company in Dongguan, is probably typical of many of her countrymen on the mainland. "I would give it a miss this time as we have to tackle our year-end orders," she said.

Wu said she believes the KMT should be taught a lesson for a series of food scandals that have haunted the island since September and for its failure to improve people's livelihoods.


Scandals involving Taiwanese companies using or selling lard or oil unfit for human consumption had also been seen as a reason the KMT was not doing well in the local polls, analysts said.

"Things have looked to be unfavourable for the KMT, but it is hard to say how big the loss will be or whether it would directly affect the 2016 presidential election," said Yang Lixian , a researcher at the mainland-based National Society of Taiwan Studies.


He pointed out that the polls can be gauged as a "test of the Taiwanese public about what kind of cross-strait relations they want and whether they want the relations to step backward".

Compared to the KMT, which opts for cross-strait stability, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, predicted to make gains in the polls, has adopted a pro-independence platform.

Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a part of the mainland subject to eventual reunion, finds this unacceptable. The two sides have been bitter rivals since the end of a civil war in 1949 but relations have improved after Ma became president in 2008.


Analysts said a big DPP victory would increase its chances in the 2016 presidential poll.

Mainland officials in charge of cross-strait relations admitted that they were concerned about the Taiwan elections, but would not do anything to affect them.

In a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, Ma Xiaoguang , spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office under mainland's State Council, said it would not comment on Taiwan's elections.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Beijing keeps a watchful eye on island elections