Taiwan ruling party hit by major losses in mayoral polls | News | DW | 29.11.2014
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Taiwan ruling party hit by major losses in mayoral polls

Taiwan's ruling party, Kuomintang, has suffered a landslide defeat at the island's local elections. The vote has been widely seen as a litmus test ahead of presidential elections in 2016.

The ruling Kuomintang in Taiwan on Saturday suffered major losses at local elections, notably losing the capital, Taipei, to independent candidate Ko Wen-je (pictured above), who announced victory ahead of the release of official results.

If confirmed, the win will break the 16-year hold by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) over the capital, with preliminary results showing Ko well ahead of KMT candidate Sean Lien, who has already admitted defeat.

Ko, a 55-year-old trauma surgeon, has received backing from the pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Major losses

The incumbent mayor of the other key Kuomintang stronghold of Taichung, Jason Hu, has also conceded his loss to DPP candidate Lin Chia-lung in Saturday's local polls, which saw 18 million people eligible to elect mayors and councillors for a record 11,130 seats across the island.

The DPP has retained its seat in the southern municipality of Tainan, with television counts showing the party also ahead in two of the remaining three municipalities.

New Taipei was the only one where the KMT kept a slight lead.

Taiwanese premier Jian Yi-huah has meanwhile announced his resignation, saying that he took "political responsibility" for the KMT's poor showing at the elections.

Fears of China

The mayoral elections have been widely seen as a litmus test of the confidence placed in the pro-Beijing government of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou ahead of presidential elections due in early 2016.

Since the island introduced direct presidential elections in 1994, every Taiwanese president has been a former mayor of Taipei.

Policy toward China is likely to be a major issue at the 2016 election, amid increasing public anxiety over the Beijing's influence on the island, which separated politically from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.

Enhanced relations

Beijing still claims the island as its territory and says it wants eventual reunification - by force if necessary.

Ma's rule since 2008 has seen a warming of what had been frosty relations between Taipei and Beijing, leading to growing concerns among some of the island's population that China could be tightening its grip.

Proposals for a trade pact with the mainland triggered massive protests earlier this year that included the occupation of Taiwan's parliament.

tj/msh (AFP, Reuters)