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KMT sweeps Taiwan local elections
Updated: 2005-12-04 09:39

Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party on Saturday won a majority of the races in island-wide municipal elections, putting party leader Ma Ying-jeou in a strong position ahead of the 2008 election.

KMT sweeps Taiwan local elections
Ma Ying-jeou (L), chairman of Taiwan's main opposition the Nationalists Party (Kuomintang) expresses his thanks to supporters after the party won the elections for local government chiefs December 3, 2005. [Reuters]

The Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), won 14 out of 23 county magistrate and city mayor positions, compared with six for Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The People First Party won one seat and the New Party got one seat. Both are KMT allies. Independent candidates won one seat.

On Thursday, Ma dramatically raised the stakes in the municipal elections, saying he will step down as Nationalist chief if his party fails to win half the 21 major races.

In municipal elections four years ago, the Nationalists and their allies won 13 of 23 counties and cities, while Chen's Democratic Progressive Party and its allies took 10.

Chen and the DPP's approval rating has dived due to a corruption probe into a subway project in the city of Kaohsiung involving the Chen Shui-bian former deputy chief of staff.

The election loss is likely to weaken Chen's mandate in the remainder of his term, which ends in 2008, analysts said. Chen did not make a public appearance on Saturday.

"Many voters, even DPP supporters, are disappointed at the government's performance. This is a very poor mid-term report card for the DPP," said Lo Chih-cheng from the Institute for National Policy Research, a prominent private think tank.

In the KMT camp, opposition party leaders celebrated their landslide election victory.

The KMT triumphed this time even in traditional DPP strongholds like Taipei County, Taiwan's biggest constituency where the DPP has ruled for 16 years.

"The KMT did not beat the DPP. The DPP was defeated by itself," said KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, widely expected to be the opposition's standard bearer in the 2008 Taiwan election.

"The people have cast a vote of no-confidence in the DPP government," Ma told a cheering, flag-waving crowd at the KMT's imposing headquarters facing the "presidential office".

Taiwan's election commission said nearly 8.9 million people cast ballots, or 66 percent of eligible voters.

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