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May 27, 2017

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Revelation thickens cloud over Hu in tense lead-up to 9-in-1 elections

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- With November not that far away, there has been a lot of talk and speculation on how the nine-in-one elections will play out.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has decided to throw its support behind nonpartisan Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) in the Taipei mayoral election instead of nominating one of its own, generating a significant amount controversy — and outrage in former Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) case — in the pan-green camp. Incidentally, Ko was the physician who treated Sean Lien (連勝文), the Kuomintang's candidate for the capital, after the pan-blue politician was shot in the face by a would-be assassin.

Meanwhile, New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) still has yet to announce whether he intends to seek re-election, lending greater credence to claims that he is harboring aspirations for the Presidential Office. Chu recently told reporters that media speculations about his future aspirations were completely fabricated while declining to comment on what his aspirations are.


And then there is Taichung, a city that has come to be regarded by some as a barometer for the political climate on this island.

Jason Hu (胡志強) has been mayor of Taichung for 13 years. He served two consecutive terms before Taichung City and County were merged in 2010, and was re-elected to the top post of the newly upgraded city government in the same year.

After a long period of deliberation, Hu announced his re-election bid in February. Several political commentators have expressed pessimism over the incumbent's chances, considering not only the Ma administration's spectacularly low approval ratings and the string of scandals that the ruling party has been caught in, but also the perception that Hu's performance as mayor of the Central Taiwan city has been less than impressive over the past 13 years.

In Taiwan, there are mainly two types of government employees who aren't elected: civil servants (事務官) and political appointees (政務官). The former are recruited through government-held examinations, whereas the latter are appointed to their positions by elected officials. Needless to say, the tenure of political appointees is tied with the tenure of the person who appointed them to their positions.

Recently published reports have been talking about the fact that several political appointees, previously civil servants before the Taichung special municipality was created, under Hu have opted to serve in the capacity as civil servants instead. With a cloud of pessimism hanging over's Hu re-election bid, the revelation only makes matters worse for the incumbent mayor, because unlike political appointees, civil servants remain employed regardless of whoever their boss is. Rumor has it that even Hu's subordinates are not confident about his re-election bid.

Another interpretation is that because a political appointee's duration of service does not count toward his or her pension, these officials made the move in exchange for a better pension.

Regardless of what their motives might be, the incumbent may or may not find himself in need of something drastic to boost the morale of his campaign.

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