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Ma wins Taipei; Hsieh holds Kaohsiung

Both incumbent Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won reelection in Taiwan's two largest cities yesterday.

Ma was able to retain the position owing to his exceptional personal popularity and his performance in the past four years as well as the all-out support from members two other opposition parties — the People First Party (PFP) and the New Party.

The mayor thanked the two other parties in the same "pan blue" alliance and independent voters without party affiliation for their support that made his reelection possible.

In the 1998 election, Ma won 780,000 votes, compared with the 680,000 votes garnered by then Mayor Chen Shui-bian. He significantly widened his total votes to over 873,102 against 488,811 for DPP challenger Lee Ying-yuan. Ma's ballots gave him an overwhelming lead of 64.11 percent of the total votes over Lee's 35.99.

For the increase in the number of total ballots, Ma thanked supporters from the DPP and its political ally Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) for the vast shift of votes from the "pan green" alliance of the DPP and the TSU.

Ma stressed that his campaign should have set an example for electioneering in Taiwan. He insisted on refraining from using his personal banners or hiring loudspeaker trucks.

He also declined to use smearing and mudslinging campaigns to attack his opponent. He said he is proud of playing by the rules as proven by the fact that his mass rally at the municipal stadium on the eve of the election ended before the 10 p.m. deadline set by the Taipei Election Committee.

On the other hand, the DPP rally for its candidate dragged about half an hour over the prescribed time.

The incumbent emphasized that he and his team at the city government will exert greater efforts to accelerate progress in the service for citizens of the city.

Speaking to reporters after the election, Ma's wife Chou Mei-ching jokingly called for more stringent supervision of the mayor in the next four years, so her husband doesn't get too proud of himself.

The landslide victory lifted Ma's political standing even higher after he survived collective battering from President Chen Shui-bian, former President Lee Teng-hui, Vice President Annette Lu, Premier Yu Shyi-kun, and a host of other senior government officials.

Ma led Chen Shui-bian in previous mayoral race by taking seven out of the 12 administrative districts in the capital city. Chen led in only five. But Ma led challenger Lee in all 12 districts this time.

Shrugging off the dogged questions about his possible shot at presidency in 2004, Ma repeated his pledge made before the launch of his reelection campaign that all his energy would be focused on the municipal affairs in the next four years.

Although conceding in the Taipei race, the ruling DPP claimed that Lee's race can still be regarded as a success since the party retained the basic support of 35 percent of all eligible voters.

Yet the DPP found consolation in Mayor Hsieh's reelection in Kaohsiung and the increase of its seats on the city council in the largest city in southern Taiwan.

Hsieh won 386,384 votes or 50.04 percent of all ballots cast, compared with challenger Huang's 361,546 or 46.82 percent, though the incumbent's lead in opinion polls continued shrinking with the approach of Election Day.

Huang, a management expert who had served as deputy mayor under former Mayor Wu Den-yi of the KMT, started official campaigning relatively late as the "pan blue" alliance wasted valuable time before unanimously endorsing his candidacy.

Efforts to combine forces with two other independent candidates — former Interior Minister Chang Po-ya and former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh — also weakened Huang's campaign drive. Chang and Shih took away over 22,000 votes in the mayoral race.

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