Former Taiwanese vice-premier Chen Chi-mai won a landslide in Kaohsiung’s mayoral by-election on Saturday, recapturing the southern port city for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party after its surprise loss two years ago.
“Thank you all,” said Chen as he bowed to his supporters rallying in front of his campaign headquarters.
“I believe the end of the by-election means the start of a new era during which all of us, regardless of different parties and ideologies, will work together to promote Kaohsiung,” he said.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
The by-election followed a vote to recall defeated presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, from the main opposition party Kuomintang, amid voter dissatisfaction over his record and decision to run for president less than a year after he took office as Kaohsiung mayor.
Chen, 55, secured just over 70 per cent of the vote in Saturday’s three-way race that saw a turnout of 41 per cent.
By contrast, the 2018 election saw a turnout of 73 per cent, while the vote to recall Han in June had a 42 per cent turnout.
The number of ballots Chen received, 671,804, was also smaller than the 742,239 votes he garnered two years ago, when he lost to Han from the mainland-friendly Kuomintang.
Kaohsiung has been considered a pro-independence stronghold and had been under the DPP control for decades until Han’s shock victory over Chen in 2018.
The KMT’s Li Mei-jhen, a relatively little-known Kaohsiung city councillor, captured 25.9 per cent of votes (248,478), despite campaign support from Han and other KMT heavyweights, including former legislature speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
Wu Yi-jheng, of the Taiwan People’s Party, took just 38,960 votes or 4 per cent to finish last.
The two conceded defeat before the vote count had finished.
Chen has two years and four months to serve before the next mayoral election is held in 2022.
Observers said that will give Chen little time to tackle challenges such as a large city government deficit, environmental protection and making the city and its industries more competitive.
“In addition to preparing a budget for at least NT$100 billion (US$3.4 billion) in the next two years, the new mayor needs to deal with the NT$330 billion deficit the city government has incurred over the years,” said former speaker Wang when casting his ballot.
“Whoever wins the race must deal with the outflow of hi-tech talent, environmental problems, upgrading the industrial structures in the city and the issue of an ageing society,” he said.
“With the aid of city government resources, Chen’s win in the city is expected to help the DPP secure Kaohsiung, which has long been a stronghold for the DPP, in the 2022 mayoral election,” said Shih Cheng-feng, a political-science professor at National Dong Hwa University’s Indigenous Development and Social Work.
“This, of course, will help the DPP in the 2024 presidential election,” Shih said, but stressed it was still too early to predict the result in four years’ time.
Chen also promised to make it easier for Hongkongers to settle in the city following the passage of a controversial new national security law.
But Ko Wen-je, the leader of the Taiwan People’s Party, criticised the pledge for lacking detail and accused the DPP of using Hongkongers as a “campaign gimmick”.
This article Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party regains control of Kaohsiung with landslide victory first appeared on South China Morning Post