TAIPEI (AFP) – With public fears of Chinese influence growing, a slowing economy and a series of food scandals, Taiwan’s ruling party is facing a rough ride in the island’s biggest ever local elections – seen as a barometer for the 2016 presidential race.
Campaigning is well under way with almost 20,000 candidates contesting a record 11,130 seats, and analysts predict the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang government will take a serious knock.
“The Kuomintang party is very likely to lose ground in the vote, it’s just a matter of to what extent,” said Tung Chen-yuan, social science professor at Taipei’s National Chengchi University.
From mayors of the country’s six municipalities to county chiefs, city councillors and village leaders, the elections on November 29 could see new faces at every level of local government.
One Kuomintang candidate for mayor of Tainan cast herself as a “dark horse” against her more popular DPP opponent – by riding a black horse down the city’s streets.
Meanwhile an independent candidate for mayor in the city of Kaohsiung stripped to his underpants on stage as he drew his candidate number, shouting, “Naked to meet you, honesty is the best policy.”
It was, perhaps, an offbeat nod to allegations of vote buying which have dogged election campaigns in some areas. Government figures say more than 2,400 people are being investigated, both candidates and supporters, mostly in rural locations. Two suspects were detained Friday accused of bribing college students in a county council election.
“The public feels apathetic over the vote, so candidates are resorting to publicity grabbing tactics, rather than focusing on critical issues,” said one Kuomintang official, who did not want to be named.