Chiang Kai-shek’s great-grandson declared victory in the race to be mayor of Taiwan’s capital, as the ruling party suffered a resounding defeat in island-wide local elections a little more than a year before a new president is chosen.
Chiang Wan-an of the opposition Kuomintang will become, at 43 years old, the youngest-ever mayor of Taipei, a position that can serve as a springboard to the presidency.
“Everyone, we did it,” he told a crowd of several thousand people outside his campaign headquarters Saturday night. He didn’t mention simmering tensions between the U.S. and China over the democratically ruled island’s autonomy in his brief remarks.
According to Central Election Commission, KMT won 13 out of 21 cities and counties, while DPP only managed to secure five cities in the southern part of Taiwan, the least since its founding in 1986. KMT candidates took 50% of votes in the contests, versus 41.6% for the DPP, 11.39 million votes counted as of 11:53 pm in Taipei, according to the official election website.
That prompted President Tsai Ing-wen to step down as party leader, saying in televised remarks: “In the face of these results, there are many areas where we need to engage in self-reflection.”
The elections represented the last major test of Tsai’s DPP before her second and final term draws to a close and Taiwan picks a successor in early 2024. The KMT, or Nationalist Party, hopes the gains in local races will help it mount a comeback after defeats in presidential elections in 2016 and 2020.
The results will be closely watched in Washington and Beijing, since the DPP’s rise to power has prompted China to cut off communications with Taiwan and ramp up diplomatic and military pressure on the island. The KMT, which favors eventual unification with China, had previously overseen a historic expansion of ties with Beijing, easing travel, trade and investment across the Taiwan Strait.
The outcome Saturday “would count as a major victory for the KMT,” said Chang Teng-chi, professor of political science at National Taiwan University.
The strong showing could help KMT party head Eric Chu and New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih in any run for president, Chang added. Hou was poised to win reelection.
“Eric Chu will take credit for the win, and will be qualified to run for presidency for sure,” Arthur Wang, secretary general of Asia-Pacific Elite Interchange Association, said. “However, New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-Ih is long favored as the next candidate in the party. Which of the two strong figures will stand out is yet to tell.”