Taiwan goes to the polls on Saturday (Nov 29, 2014) to elect more than 11,000 public officials, including the mayors of six major cities.
The mayoral election in Taichung is being viewed as a litmus test of support for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) less than two years before the presidential election.
Here's a snapshot of the polls and how the contest is shaping up in the mayoral elections:
Lay of the land:
Taiwan is generally divided into the pan-blue camp (led by KMT, it favours closer ties with China) and the pan-green (led by the pro-independence DPP) camp.
Cities in the north (Taipei, New Taipei and Taoyuan) are blue, while those in the south (Kaohsiung and Tainan) are green. Taichung in central Taiwan is a swing city and is thus viewed as a barometer for overall voter sentiment.
Currently, KMT holds four cities - Taichung, Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan - and DPP holds two - Kaohsiung and Tainan.
However in this election, Taipei has been a surprise, with independent candidate Ko Weng-je, who is aligned with the green camp, consistently leading KMT candidate Sean Lien in polls.
In Taichung, DPP candidate Lin Chia-lung is leading KMT incumbent Jason Hu.
A win in four mayoral races for the pan-green camp will be seen as an undisputed triumph - and a harbinger of how the 2016 presidential election could play out.
Results will have implications on Taiwan's political landscape (e.g. Taiwan's three popularly-elected presidents have all been Taipei mayors) as well as cross-strait relations.
Facts and Figures:
Number of voters: 18 million
Number of candidates: 20,000
Number of seats: 11,130
Number of mayorships contested: Six (Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Tainan)
Other positions contested: From county magistrates and councilmen to township chiefs, ward chiefs and aboriginal district chiefs.
Key battlegrounds - Taipei and Taichung
Current mayor: Hau Lung-pin (KMT)
- Sean Lien (KMT), 44, scion of Taiwan's most famous political dynasty. The son of former premier Lien Chan works in the finance industry; co-founded an investment company.
- Ko Wen-je (Independent), 55, an emergency room doctor and former chairman of the department of traumatology at National Taiwan University Hospital.
Interestingly, both are political novices with no track records in politics.
Situation: Latest poll on Nov 17 shows that 43 per cent support Ko while 32 per cent support Lien. Over 20 per cent are undecided.
Current mayor: Jason Hu (KMT)
- Jason Hu (KMT), 66, has been mayor for the past 13 years
- Lin Chia-lung (DPP), 50, a Taichung legislator who quit his job as director of government information office 10 years ago to contest in the mayoral election - and lost. He has been viewed as an up-and-coming leader of the pan-green coalition.
Situation: It may be second time lucky for Lin, who is now leading in the polls with 44 per cent of voters' support.
3. New Taipei
Current mayor: Eric Chu (KMT)
- Eric Chu (KMT), 53, incumbent mayor for the past three years. The former accounting professor was appointed Taiwan's vice-premier in 2009, becoming the youngest at age 48 then in that position. He has been touted as a possible future presidential candidate.
- Yu Shyi-kun (DPP), 66, former DPP president
- Lin Jih-jia (Taiwan Solidarity Union or TSU), 56, chief secretary of TSU, Taiwan's third largest party.
Situation: Chu is expected to win, with polls showing that around 45 per cent to 50 per cent will vote for him.
4. Taoyuan (currently a county, it will be upgraded to municipal level on Dec 25)
Current county magistrate: John Wu (KMT)
- John Wu (KMT), 45, hails from a line of Taoyuan magistrates, with both his father and grandfather having served in the position.
- Cheng Wen-tsan (DPP), 47, a former government information office minister
Situation: Wu is leading in the polls with around 40 to 46 per cent of voters supporting him.
Current mayor: Chen Chu (DPP)
- Chen Chu (DPP), 64, who was acting president of DPP in 2012, has been Kaohsiung's mayor since December 2010.
The DPP heavyweight has managed to overcome a bad year including the loss of 30 lives when deadly gas explosions ripped through the city in July.
- Yang Chiu-hsing (KMT), 58 Minister without Portfolio in the Executive Yuan, had previously contested in the mayoral race in 2010 but lost to Chen.
Situation: It looks like Yang will lose again, with Chen a shoo-in with 60 per cent of voters' support in polls.
Current mayor: William Lai Ching-te (DPP)
- William Lai (DPP), 55, trained as an expert in spinal cord damage, has been mayor for four years.
Known for his "teflon-like" ability to shrug off controversies, he is viewed as one of DPP's rising stars.
- Huang Hsiu-Shuang (KMT), 53, president of National University of Tainan
Situation: Lai is clearly in the lead, with polls showing that he has 60 per cent of support.