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DPP defeat shows desire for peace

By Xie Yu | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-02 07:45

The Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, Southeast China's Taiwan. [Photo/Xinhua]

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party suffered a heavy defeat in Taiwan's local elections on Saturday. Of the 21 county and city chief positions contested, the opposition Kuomintang won 13, the DPP won five, the Taiwan People's Party won one, and the remaining two went to independent candidates, according to the island's election affairs authority.

Geographically, the DPP wins were confined to the south of the island. The DPP won Tainan, Kaohsiung, Chiayi, Pingtung, and Penghu, which together account for approximately one-fourth of the island's population.

The causes for the DPP's poor showing are its poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, public anger at its cronyism and fielding candidates who have been accused of plagiarism in their academic theses. The constant scandals have led to the bankruptcy of the DPP's credibility, and the accumulation of public grievances has eroded its support. The election results reflect Taiwan residents' growing dissatisfaction with the administration of Tsai Ing-wen.

The DPP election campaign focused on the confrontational stance it has adopted toward the mainland, which failed to gain traction with voters who are more concerned about peace, stability and better livelihoods.

With the DPP trailing in the polls before the vote, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen began aggressively promoting "defending Taiwan against the mainland" during the campaigning, although the local elections traditionally pay more attention to the qualities of the candidates and local livelihood issues.

After the Ukraine crisis, Tsai stepped up her efforts to lean on the United States for support in her confrontational approach toward the mainland, straining cross-Straits tensions. With the DPP repeatedly buying weapons from the US, this sparked anxiety among Taiwan residents about a potential military conflict across the Taiwan Straits, especially after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 in September.

The election results have once again proved that most Taiwan residents are not interested in cross-Straits confrontation. They want peace and stability and better lives.

Tsai resigned as head of the DPP late on Saturday, as she was forced to take responsibility for her party's poor performance in the elections. She is set to be a lame-duck leader for the rest of her term, which will be her last as she cannot stand for leadership in the next election having completed two terms. The DPP will soon be entering the "post-Tsai era".

The KMT fared well in the local elections mainly because former Kaohsiung mayor and KMT politician Han Kuo-yu set a really good base four years ago. The party won two-thirds of the county and city chief positions in the 2018 local elections. Tapping the simmering discontent against the ruling DPP, the KMT has surely consolidated its position in the local elections. But the KMT's strong performance in the local elections doesn't mean it will necessarily seize power in 2024.

After all, these were local elections. Cross-Straits ties will have a bigger say in the island's 2024 leadership election. A vote against the DPP in these local elections cannot be construed as a vote of confidence in the KMT. The DPP's poor performance in the local elections could even prompt it to push its "defending Taiwan against the mainland" strategy even harder as a gamble to win the leadership election two years later.

However, "Taiwan independence" has no future. Regardless of the outcome of the 2024 leadership election, only cross-Straits reunification can guarantee peace and stability and the long-term well-being of Taiwan residents.

The author is director of the Center for Taiwan-Related Affairs Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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