Asian Insider

Taiwan votes: Will it herald a budding return to power for KMT?

Taiwan’s local elections in November may revolve around local issues, but their results may have a bearing on the presidential and legislative elections in 2024. Asian Insider looks at what these “nine-in-one” elections are about and what are at stake for the political parties.

Taiwan’s local polls - small issues, big impact

As soon as Taiwanese lizhang (neighbourhood chief) Wu Chien-te leaves his office to make his rounds on the street, residents begin calling out to him.

He waves back, often greeting them by their first name, before reminding them to cast their ballots on Nov 26.

Mr Wu is standing for re-election in the island’s municipal elections, where an estimated 19.3 million Taiwanese are set to head to the polls to vote for 11,023 positions spread across nine levels of administration, including city councillors and mayors.


What are ‘nine-in-one’ elections?

Taiwan’s municipal elections are also known as “nine-in-one” elections because voters cast ballots for local officials spread across nine levels of administration, ranging from neighbourhood chiefs all the way up to city councillors and mayors.

- Previously held at different times, these elections were brought together under political reforms, with the first “nine-in-one” polls taking place in 2014; elected officials hold office for four years.

- This year, an estimated 19.3 million Taiwanese, including 760,000 first-time voters, are eligible to cast their votes for 11,023 positions, according to Central Election Commission data.


Do-or-die moment for Taiwan’s grand old party

This year’s municipal polls in Taiwan are a “must win” for the Kuomintang (KMT), with failure meaning the opposition party may fade into greater irrelevance, analysts say.

If the KMT does poorly at these polls, the personal political fortunes of party chairman Eric Chu, 61, will also be affected.

He would likely have to step down and this would significantly diminish his chances of becoming KMT’s candidate for the 2024 presidential polls, and open up the party’s presidential primary, said Mr Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Washington-based Global Taiwan Institute.


Taipei mayoral poll: Key candidates

The fight for the mayoral seat in Taipei is one of the most watched in Taiwan’s municipal elections on Nov 26. This is because it is not only the highest post in the capital city, but also seen as a stepping stone to the presidency.

With the exception of current President Tsai Ing-wen, every Taiwanese president since the island’s top office was first popularly elected in 1996 had held the position of Taipei mayor: Mr Lee Teng-hui (1978-1981), Mr Chen Shui-bian (1994-1998) and Mr Ma Ying-jeou (1998-2006).

While there are 12 candidates vying for the seat this year, all eyes are on the three front runners who are fighting neck and neck according to the polls, with Mr Chiang Wan-an having a slight lead.


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