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November 2018 municipal election preview

The ECCT hosted a Premium Event lunch together with ICRT on the outlook for the November 2018 municipal elections. The event took the form of a panel discussion, which was moderated by Gavin Phipps from the ICRT News Department, featuring the panellists Shen Fu-hsiung, Political and economic commentator; Jason Hsu, Legislator for the KMT and Ross Feingold, Senior Adviser for DC International Advisory. At the event panellists discussed and analysed some of races, the candidates, their election prospects and the implications for the political climate, business and trade, depending on the outcome.

On the outlook for the mayoral elections, Ross Feingold said that while, based on past voting patterns, the ruling party usually does well in the municipal election following the presidential election, there are a number of factors to consider in this election, including performance in terms of local governance as well as other factors, such as cross-Strait relations.

Both Shen Fu-hsiung and Jason Hsu predicted that the KMT would retake several municipalities this time around. Jason Hsu said that he sees a shift in central and southern Taiwan in favour of the KMT, especially the party’s charismatic candidate for Kaohsiung, who is invigorating voters. Dr Shen predicted that the DPP would lose six of its current 13 municipalities while the KMT would pick up seven, including Taichung and Kaohsiung Cities to increase its total to 13 municipalities while independent candidates would win two races. He added that the KMT’s wins would help to spur reforms in both the KMT and DPP, which he said would be a good thing.

Jason Hsu said that the DPP has tried recently to shift the focus onto issues such as cross-Strait relations in order to shift the focus from the ruling party’s unimpressive record.

On the question as to which way young voters are leaning, Dr Shen said that young people are more enthusiastic about specific candidates rather political parties and they would turn out to vote for their favoured candidate. He added the caveat that since many opinion polls do not take into account young voters, it is difficult to gauge exactly how they will vote.

Jason Hsu said that he believed that the DPP has lost support among the youth, although this did not mean that they would necessarily vote for the KMT. More likely, they would either vote for the New Power Party (NPP) or independent candidates or abstain. Ross Feingold made the point that the NPP has not put up enough candidates to make much of an impact.

Dr Shen said that the traditional notion that northern Taiwan is generally pan-blue while southern Taiwan is generally pan-green no longer applies since the traditional divide is now more fragmented. Shen also said that money is not much of a factor any more while smear tactics are not very effective. These are both positive developments for Taiwan’s democracy.

Shen made the point that, although President Tsai has taken on tough reforms, she had not been effective in communicating with the public and explaining the rationale to those who had been negatively affected, such as civil servants whose pensions had been cut.

On the subject of the several referendums being voted on at the same time as the elections, all panellists made the point that, with the exception of the three referendums being promoted by the KMT, neither of the major parties have expressed their views clearly on the referendums. This could be problematic because if referendums pass, they will have to be implemented and this could lead to deadlock if they are at odds with the party’s platform.

On a question as to what would happen if the DPP loses major municipalities, panellists said that it would be depend on the extent of the losses. If losses are heavy, President Tsai could be compelled to resign as chair of the DPP. Other responses could come in the form of a cabinet reshuffle. However, whatever the response, the DPP still retains control of presidency, executive and legislative branches, which means that it will still be in control at the national level.