Big gains for the Kuomintang in Taiwan’s local elections will not necessarily translate into KMT success in the 2024 presidential election but Beijing is certain to welcome the results, observers said. After four years of repeated electoral setbacks, the main opposition party had much to celebrate on Saturday night, winning in Taipei and three other key municipalities, as well as nine other smaller cities and counties on the island. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party , on the other hand, suffered its worst defeat in 36 years, holding on to just two key municipalities – its traditional pro-independence strongholds in Tainan and Kaohsiung, as well as three other local seats. It was the DPP’s worst performance since it first fielded candidates 36 years ago, with the elections framed as a vote on patriotism and President Tsai Ing-wen ’s administration. Analysts said the KMT’s gains were less of a win for the party and more of a vote of disapproval for the government, including failures to handle Covid, unemployment and business shutdowns. Voters tended to judge the ruling party by higher standards because it had greater responsibility, they said. “Frustrated voters are not going to be pro-status-quo, pro-incumbent voters. This means low voter turnout on the DPP’s side,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a lecturer at the Australian National University. While the KMT victory might not mean voters approved directly of the KMT, the results would help build the party’s confidence. “Victory heals all wounds. The local election results will help the KMT rebuild itself and consolidate its leadership over the entire opposition, earning back its viability for a solid 2024 run,” Wen said. However, a KMT victory in the 2024 presidential race was still no certainty, according to Liao Da-chi, a professor of political science at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung. “Though [KMT chairman Eric Chu Li-luan] has led the party to score a victory, party infighting over who should represent the KMT in the 2024 poll is expected,” Liao said. She said there were other heavyweights who might want someone like popular New Taipei mayor Hou Yu-ih to run in 2024 and the KMT’s chances could be sabotaged if any infighting became unmanageable. Former KMT deputy secretary general Tsai Cheng-yuan said the KMT needed to maintain unity and those interested in the island’s top post must come together to avoid a party split. A KMT source said that apart from a DPP candidate, the KMT’s nominee could also face competition from outgoing Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je , who might team up with Foxconn founder Terry Gou to run on a third ticket in 2024. Taiwan’s local election contenders line up with one eye on 2024 While Saturday’s elections were purely local government races, Beijing and Washington kept a close watch on the outcomes. In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said the results “reflect the mainstream opinion on the island to seek peace and stability and a better life”, and the mainland would continue to work with people on the island to promote cross-strait peace and counter separatist efforts. Alex Lo, executive director of the Taipei-based Taiwan International Strategic Study Society, said Tsai was increasingly becoming a lame duck and it was unlikely she would adopt a drastic cross-strait policy to counter Beijing. “The KMT has diluted its position but is traditionally known as a pro-mainland China party so the outcome of Saturday’s polls should be welcomed by Beijing, given it would rather have the party win than to see a victory for the pro-independence DPP,” Lo said. Lo said Washington was also keen to see whether the KMT would stick to its so-called pro-US policy. Since becoming KMT chairman in September 2021, Chu has adopted an approach of “staying close to the US, on friendly terms with Japan, and engagement with the Chinese mainland”. He reopened the KMT representative office in Washington and increased the party’s contact with American officials and think tank scholars. “The US is expected to watch closely the cross-strait situation as well as political and economic development in Taiwan with less than two years of Tsai’s remaining term,” Lo said. Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in New Taipei, said factional matters rather than national security were expected to be the most urgent matters for the DPP now. “Extending an olive branch, if not making concessions, to China from a position of weakness is highly doubtful,” he said. “As her authority weakens … Tsai has nothing to gain from dealing with Beijing … it may enrage Washington … and would not be rewarded by Beijing,” Huang said.