Taiwan’s ruling nationalists will find out how much support it has lost with its pro-China stance when citizens go to the polls on Saturday to elect local officials.
The election for city mayors and local councilors is seen as a test of Kuomintang (KMT) strength two years before a presidential election, Reuters reported Thursday.
It will be the first chance for the island, which Beijing views as a breakaway province, to make its views known since March when thousands of young people occupied parliament in an unprecedented protest against a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing.
A record 11,130 seats are up for grabs in municipalities, counties, townships and villages, with the key battleground the capital, a KMT, or Nationalist Party, stronghold for nearly 20 years.
Every Taiwan president was once the mayor of Taipei including incumbent Ma Ying-jeou.
“This is the skirmish before the presidential battle,” said Liu Shyh-fang, a senior member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“We have not had any chance to beat the KMT [in Taipei]. Now it will be a little victory if Dr Ko can win,” he said, referring to independent candidate Ko Wen-je, who is backed by the DPP.
Opinion polls show the DPP slightly ahead in tight races against the KMT in Taipei and Taichung, another KMT stronghold in central Taiwan.
Confidence in the ruling party has been worn away this year by a food safety scare from a tainted oil scandal, missteps in education reform and perceptions of class and income inequality.
The KMT, the party of Chiang Kai-Shek that retreated to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war in 1949, is pushing the trade deal with China that lays bare larger anxieties, especially among the young, about Taiwan’s identity.
Taiwan’s pride in its democracy helps reinforce the unwillingness of many to be absorbed politically by China, which has not ruled out force to ensure unification.
Many Taiwanese look with nervousness at China, where the Communist Party has rebuffed calls for political liberalization.
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