TAIPEI • Taiwan’s main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) was routed in a key mayoral by-election yesterday, a vote overshadowed by turmoil in Hong Kong and cross-strait tensions.
The China-friendly KMT, under its youthful new leader Johnny Chiang, has been trying to reinvent itself since being trounced by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in January’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
The by-election in the southern city of Kaohsiung was called after its KMT mayor Han Kuo-yu was removed from office by a massive margin in a recall vote in June.
Mr Han’s opponents charged that he had little interest in governing Kaohsiung as he took months off for his presidential campaign, just months after winning his mayoral election in November 2018.
The DPP’s Chen Chi-mai, a former vice-premier, won 70 per cent of yesterday’s votes, thrashing KMT candidate Jane Lee, though only about half of electors turned out.
Kaohsiung, at the centre of Taiwan’s struggle for democracy in the 1970s and 1980s and home to an important port, is normally firm DPP territory, and the party was taken aback when Mr Han unexpectedly won in 2018. In that mayoral race, Mr Chen lost to Mr Han, who received 53.86 per cent of eligible votes to Mr Chen’s 44.8 per cent.
“The election result proves one thing – a victory for democracy,” Mr Chen told supporters yesterday.
While the campaign focused on domestic issues like Kaohsiung’s heavy debt load, China grabbed the domestic spotlight in the run-up, with the arrest in Hong Kong of media tycoon Jimmy Lai and Chinese military drills near Taiwan.
Ms Lee’s campaign was not helped after she became embroiled in a plagiarism scandal a few weeks before the vote, accused of copying much of her master’s thesis. She tearfully told reporters last month she was going to give up her degree. REUTERS