Taiwan goes to the polls on Saturday to choose city mayors and local councillors in a vote that will show how much support the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has lost with its pro-China stance less than two years before a presidential election. The election will be the first chance for the island, which giant neighbor China views as a breakaway province, to make its views known since March when thousands of young people occupied parliament in an unprecedented protest against a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing. A record 11,130 seats are up for grabs in municipalities, counties, townships and villages, with the key battleground the capital, a KMT, or Nationalist Party, stronghold for nearly 20 years. Every Taiwan president was once the mayor of Taipei.
“This is the skirmish before the presidential battle,” said Liu Shyh-fang, a senior member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). “We have not had any chance to beat the KMT (in Taipei). Now it will be a little victory if Dr Ko can win,” he said, referring to independent candidate Ko Wen-je, who is backed by the DPP.
Opinion polls show the DPP slightly ahead in tight races against the KMT in Taipei and Taichung, another KMT stronghold in central Taiwan. Confidence in the ruling party has been worn away this year by a food safety scare from a tainted oil scandal, missteps in education reform and perceptions of class and income inequality.