Taipei, Taiwan –
Voters went to the polls across Taiwan in a closely watched local election on Saturday that will determine the strength of the island’s major political parties ahead of the general election. system in 2024.
Taiwanese citizens will choose mayors, city council members and other local leaders in all 13 counties and six major cities. There is also a referendum to reduce the voting age from 20 to 18. Polls open at 8 a.m. (00:00GMT) Saturday.
While international observers and the ruling party have tried to link the elections to the long-term existential threat of Taiwan’s neighbour, many local experts do not think China has a role to play. large during this period.
Yeh-lih Wang, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University, said: “The international society has bet too high. They have raised local elections to the international level and the survival of the country. Taiwan”.
At an elementary school in New Taipei City, which surrounds the capital Taipei, voters young and old arrived early despite the rain to cast their ballots.
Yu Mei-zhu, 60, said she came to vote for incumbent Mayor Hou You-yi, to run for re-election. “I think he did a great job, so I want to continue to support him. I believe in him and that he can improve our environment in New Taipei City and infrastructure. our traffic.”
President Tsai Ing-wen also arrived early Saturday morning to cast her ballot, surprising many voters when security and her entourage flooded the campus. She then urged people all over Taiwan to vote.
Tsai, who is also chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, has repeatedly spoken out about “opposing China and defending Taiwan” during the election campaign. But DPP candidate Chen Shih-chung, who is running for mayor in Taipei, only raised the issue of the Communist Party threat a few times before he quickly turned to local issues for not There is much interest, experts say.
During the campaign, there was little mention of large-scale military exercises targeting Taiwan that China staged in August in response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. .
“So I think if you can’t even raise this issue in Taipei,” Wang said. “You don’t even have to consider it in cities to the south.”
Instead, the campaigns are resolutely local: air pollution in downtown Taichung, traffic congestion in Taipei’s Nangang tech hub, and COVID-19 vaccine procurement strategies. of the island, which left the island short of supply during last year’s outbreak.
The candidates spent the final week before the election on a tight schedule of publicity. On Sunday, DPP’s Chen marched through Taipei with a large parade that included dancers in dinosaur suits and performers from different countries. Chiang Wan-an, the KMT mayoral candidate, toured the hardware market, while Vivian Huang, an independent, visited the market’s lunch stalls. All three stopped at the famous night markets of Taipei.
The question is how the island’s two major political parties – the Kuomintang and the incumbent DPP – will turn out. Because both Tsai and National Party chairman Eric Chu carefully select their candidates, this achievement will affect their own place in their party, as well as the strength of the party over the next two years. .
“If the DPP loses many seats in the county, their ability to govern will be greatly challenged,” said You Ying-lung, president of the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation, which regularly conducts public surveys on political issues, said.
Mr You said the election results would also in some way reflect the public’s attitude towards the ruling party’s performance over the past two years.
Observers are also watching to see if the candidates of the Taiwan People’s Party of Ko Wen-je, the outgoing mayor of Taipei, win a mayor seat. A 2024 presidential bid for Ko will be influenced by his party’s political record on Saturday, analysts said. Ko has been campaigning with his deputy, independent mayoral candidate Huang, for the past few weeks.
Food stall owner Hsian Fuh Mei said he was supporting Huang.
“We wanted to see someone international,” he said. “If you look at Singapore, we were better than Singapore before, but we fell behind. I hope we can change course.”
Others are more indifferent to the local race. Sean Tai, 26, an employee at a hardware store, said: “It seems that everyone is almost the same, from a policy standpoint.
Tai declined to say who he was voting for, but wanted someone who would enhance Taipei’s status and provide a better economic outlook while maintaining the status quo with China. “We don’t want a total blockade. I really hope that Taiwan can be recognized internationally,” he said.