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November 2014 megacity election preview

On 30 October, the ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch together with ICRT. The event featured a lively panel discussion on the prospects for the metropolitan elections to be held on Saturday, 29 November 2014, to elect the municipal mayors, municipal councilors and ward chiefs of the six special municipalities or megacities (Taipei, Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Taoyuan). Panelists were Shen Fu-hsiung, Political and economic commentator; Joanna Lei, CEO, Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank and Joseph Wu (Jau-shieh), Secretary-General, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The panel discussion was moderated by Gavin Phipps from the ICRT News Department.

On the subject of the mayoral race in Taipei City, Joanna Lei said that while both candidates have little or no political experience, they are both running very traditional types of campaigns. Independent (and DPP-supported) candidate Ko Wen-je is running a campaign for change while his opponent Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Sean Lien is running a "future campaign".

Both Shen Fu-shiung and Joseph Wu predicted a comfortable win for Ko in the race. Joanna Lei, however said that opinion polls do take sufficient account of the high number of "undecided" voters. It is Lei's opinion that, while these voters are listed as undecided, most of them should rather be categorized as "undeclared" because, on voting day, given the fact that Taipei is still a KMT stronghold, the majority of these voters will vote for Lien. In addition, she said that because Ko is a bit of a "loose cannon", fear of the unknown will push many voters to choose Lien.

Wu noted that the general climate in Taiwan is currently unfavourable to the KMT. Internal strife within the KMT, recent corruption scandals, the Sunflower movement and the recent protests in Hong Kong are all negative for the KMT. While Wu is confident of a win for Ko, he admitted that Ko's relations with the city council (where the KMT is expected maintain its majority) would be tested. Shen said that Lien will not be able to win because he does not have enough support from voters who would ordinarily vote for the KMT. He also said that the future Ko administration would be unpredictable and this is not necessarily good for the DPP.

Turning to the races in southern Taiwan, all panelists expect comfortable wins for the DPP in Kaohsiung and Tainan. Besides winning mayoral races, Wu expects the DPP to increase its majority in city councils. Shen made the point that many city councilors in these cities do not have strong party affiliations so mayors do not get automatic support on all issues. Lei expressed the opinion that the KMT had made a strategic error in not choosing strong candidates to run in the south. Even if they are likely to lose, fielding a weak candidate sends the wrong message to the party's support base.

On the Taichung race, Shen is sure that the DPP's Lin Chia-lung will beat incumbent Jason Hu. Wu was also fairly confident that Lin will win while Lei admitted that Hu has an uphill battle. Panelists generally agreed that Hu, while an effective and popular mayor, has been in office too long and voters are eager for change.

On the Keelung race, panelists agree that it looks like the DPP will win given the recent corruption scandals involving the KMT. However, Shen and Wu agreed that races in Penghu and Changhua are too close to call.

As to the impact of this year's elections on the 2016 presidential and legislative elections, Shen said that the DPP's wins at the local level will not necessarily translate into wins at the national level since people vote differently at the national level. Wu's answer was different. He said that recent electoral trends showed a rising level of support for the DPP and the winner of the 2016 presidential election will depend to a large extent on the candidates. If, for example, the KMT puts forward current Vice President Wu Den-yih or current Premier Jiang up against the DPP's Tsai Ying-wen, the DPP would win. However, he conceded that the race would be much tougher if the KMT selected current New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu as its presidential candidate, since he is very popular. Lei agreed with the view that Chu was a bright prospect for the KMT, saying she expects him to win re-election as mayor of New Taipei by a wide margin.