12/01/2014, 00.00
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Elections in Taiwan, the Kuomintang collapses: Too close to the powers that be (and China)

by Xin Yage
The municipal elections punish the ruling party, guilty of having ignored young people’s demands and of bowing to the wishes of Beijing. Prime Minister resigns, President Ma announces "changes" in national politics. The Democratic Progressive Party takes power ahead of the presidential elections in 2016.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - The Prime Minister of Taiwan, Jiang Yi-Huah, has resigned after the defeat suffered by his Nationalist Party (currently in government) in the municipal elections of last November 29. Results show that the Kuomintang (KMT) lost control of several districts across the island, including the capital Taipei. The weekend elections were considered by many analysts a sort of "litmus test" on rapprochement with mainland China led by the incumbent government.

In Taipei the independent candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) - supported in the election race by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, 民進黨) - defeated nationalist, Sean Lien (連勝 文). Among the large municipalities the KMT only won in the city of New Taipei (新 北市), while in the south and especially in Kaohsiung (高雄市) the DPP mayor, the charismatic Ms. Chen (陳菊), literally trounced all other candidates.

Several commentators speak of a "new generation of voters", the "young generation" (年輕 世代) as having surprised the KMT even at the polls, and not only in the occupation of Parliament. The young electorate, between the ages of 20 and 40, voted en mass in the elections. An economics professor at National Taiwan University (國立 臺灣 大學) says: "There is much discontent, because currently the salary of more than three million employees of that age don't reach 30 thousand Taiwanese dollars (about $ 950). Analysts suggest that this is one cause: economic discontent. The KMT promises of improvement don't work. The trade agreements with China are the result of six years of KMT power, but the party seems to have lost the confidence of the majority of the electorate".

Mr. Chen, a journalist and political analyst, told AsiaNews after the publication of the results: "The media victory is clearly smartphone voters over television voters, in other words the social media most used by the young population". The KMT's campaign was based on the fact that "Korea thanked Taiwan" (韓國 謝謝 台灣) for being in the lead in trade agreements with other countries, while the island has stalled in recent months in signing pacts with Beijing (the subject of protests by young people, who occupied Parliament, last March). Official rhetoric which, in many cases, no longer works because there are many ways to avoid it.

The Internet is increasingly important, especially for new voters. Moreover, voters are tired of the traditional political divisions. Professor Chen says: "Perhaps the most profound lesson is that the young voters no longer believe in the blue or green division (KMT against DPP) but wants a new form of political participation that makes them protagonists of their own future and not puppets of the great economic interests. "Young people seem to be saying: "No matter who is in power, the important thing is that they respond to the interests of the electorate. Otherwise, people don't care what party they are, if voters are unhappy they will find a way to express discontent without listening to official lines". There is no real advantage if the big companies are doing well and conquering the Chinese market if wage earners can barely survive.

The nationalist president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) "will not resign" but promises to reform the party "to meet the electorate signals and prepare for future challenges." Both for the government and the opposition, in fact, these elections are an important indicator in view of the presidential elections of 2016.


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