Taiwanese vote this weekend in local elections that are being watched by China for signs the ruling party it prefers to deal with is losing its political grip. In Saturday’s polls for mayors, town councilors, village chiefs and other local positions, political watchers are focusing on the bigger cities, particularly the capital, Taipei, and the central city of Taichung. The cities are usually strongholds for the ruling Nationalist Party, but pollsters put the party, also known as the Kuomintang, or KMT, on shaky ground. A drubbing would position the KMT badly for holding on to the presidency when President Ma Ying-jeou stands down in 2016 and would boost the chances of the opposition, some analysts said.
That’s an unsettling prospect for the Chinese leadership across the Taiwan Strait on the Chinese mainland, the analysts said. Mr. Ma has forged closer economic ties between Taiwan and China, which split from each other in last century’s Chinese civil war. But Mr. Ma’s approval rating has fallen in his second term, to below 20% in some surveys. Meanwhile, Beijing distrusts the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which rejects the eventual reunification China seeks.
If the KMT loses major seats in the local elections and can’t regroup effectively, “they could potentially lose in 2016,” said Chang Ya-chung of National Taiwan University. “That could have a big effect on cross-strait relations, since Beijing’s and Taiwan’s new leaders would have to figure out first if they can trust each other.”
Full Article: China Keeps Wary Eye on Taiwan Vote – WSJ.