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September 23, 2017

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Hau demonstrates increasing stature of Taiwan's mayors

Praise from a political rival is a truly rare thing, but Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin of the ruling Kuomintang was praised by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Su Tseng-chang, his former rival in the 2010 Taipei mayoral election, twice in a week late last month.

On Aug. 22, Su called on DPP officials to respect Hau after the Taipei mayor floated his controversial proposal in favor of granting former President Chen Shui-bian medical parole. Four days later, Su again commended Hau, this time for extending aid from Taipei's local fund to typhoon victims in Southern and Eastern Taiwan.

Hau's recent actions were seen by many as part of his high-profile strategy to secure a place in the 2016 presidential election. Ever the shrewd political mind, former President Chen highlighted this view in his praise of Hau as someone ready to be a "national leader."

On Aug. 27, President Ma Ying-jeou addressed Chen's medical parole and Taipei's typhoon aid during an interview with the state-media Central News Agency in an uncharacteristically forthcoming and comprehensive manner. In an apparent snub to his party comrade Hau, Ma emphasized that to grant Chen medical parole is in essence to release him and that extending aid to other regions of Taiwan has long been "a tradition of Taipei." Ma's comments were widely seen as a reminder to the people of his status as national leader in the KMT.

It would be wrong and narrow minded, however, to interpret Hau's recent high-profile comments merely as pre-election power plays. Rather, they are signs that leaders of the five special municipalities, each with a substantial mandate from local electorates, are becoming more assertive in their leadership as many had predicted after the 2010 mayoral elections.

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