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September 22, 2017

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DPP election loss suggests party should rethink focus

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) may now regret the significance it attached to the legislative by-election in Taichung. Its candidate lost.

The party touted the race as the nation's first step to mounting a recall campaign against President Ma Ying-jeou over his poor governance. DPP leaders were all out stumping for its hopeful, Chen Shih-kai, an incumbent city councilor.

It turned out, however, that the young and inexperienced rival, Yen Kuan-hen, from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) managed to win by a razor-thin margin yesterday.

There may be many reasons behind the close call. Voter discontent for the Ma administration probably played a major role.

But if the Taichung election could serve as an indicator of support for Ma and give a gauge for the chances of a successful recall against him, the DPP have reason to be disappointed: The president would survive.

Of course, the DPP was amplifying the significance of the election in order to raise its candidate's chances. Chen did stand a good chance against the political novice from the KMT, but the battle was not between the people and DPP on one side and Ma and the KMT on the other.

It was actually a race pitching the DPP against an influential political family in Central Taiwan. The by-election was held because the seasoned politician, Yen Ching-piao — the KMT candidate's father — lost his legislative seat due to imprisonment. Those who voted for the KMT candidate were actually giving support to the father, rather than the KMT, or Ma.

The DPP, of course, might argue that had it not been for the family factor, Chen would have triumphed, showing how voters would have shunned Ma and the KMT. But that's just a theory.

The point we're trying to make here is that bundling different issues — related or unrelated — into one single campaign may blur the focus and come back to undermine the campaign itself. Now the DPP will have to explain how the Taichung by-election outcome will not undermine their recall campaign against Ma.

The DPP should rethink their strategies. They can't simply tie everything to Ma's poor governance. The nuclear issue should be tackled in a more rational and environmental perspective, instead of being abused as part of a political plot.

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