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Ruling party has electoral edge in Northern Taiwan: analysts

TAIPEI--The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) is seen as having the upper hand in Northern Taiwan ahead of sweeping local government elections scheduled for the end of this year, according to political analysts.

In the Nov. 29 polls, Taiwanese will elect mayors and councilors of special municipalities; county magistrates and councilors; city mayors and councilors; township administrators and councilors; and borough and village chiefs.

Of particular interest are the mayoral elections in the special municipalities — Taipei, New Taipei and Taoyuan (to be upgraded Dec. 25) in the north; Taichung in central Taiwan; and Tainan and Kaohsiung in the south.

All eyes are on the nominations by the ruling and opposition parties for those major races.

The KMT currently holds the local government in all seven regions in Northern Taiwan — the capital Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan County, Hsinchu county and city and Miaoli County — many of them its traditional strongholds.

The combined population of Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung is roughly 7 million people, while the neighboring Taoyuan County hosts 2 million residents. Together, these four areas account for more than one-third of Taiwan's total population.

In the nation's capital — where the mayoral position is often seen as a precursor to the presidency — the KMT hopefuls are lawmakers Ting Shou-chung and Tsai Cheng-yuan; and city councilors Chin Huei-chu, Chung Hsiao-ping and Yang Shih-chiu.

However, Sean Lien, son of former Vice President Lien Chan and a member of the KMT central committee, is scheduled to announce his bid Monday for the party's nomination and is the seen as the KMT favorite.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), meanwhile, last Thursday listed five potential nominees for the Taipei mayor candidacy — former Vice President Annette Lu; lawyer Wellington Ku; lawmakers Hsu Tain-tsair and Yao Wen-chih; and Taipei Council Deputy Speaker Chou Po-ya.

An outspoken independent hopeful, physician Ko Wen-je, has been tipped as a frontrunner, although he has not formally announced his bid.

Since 1994 when the post of Taipei mayor was first put to popular direct vote, the KMT has dominated the elections, winning all except the first one. In 1994, the DPP's Chen Shui-bian was elected Taipei mayor and served until 1998, then went on to become president.

In New Taipei — the most populous municipality in Taiwan — the DPP has not won a mayoral election since 2005, when the KMT prevailed.

The DPP will field former Premier Yu Shyi-kun in the New Taipei mayoral election, while the KMT may make its final decision in May or June. Incumbent Mayor Eric Chu — seen as a likely KMT candidate for the 2016 presidential race — has not yet said whether he will seek re-election.

In Keelung, where the KMT has long held the mayorship, Keelung Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai of the ruling party will run against former DPP Vice Secretary-General Lin You-chang.

In Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli, where the KMT has long enjoyed greater public support than the DPP, Taoyuan Magistrate Wu Chih-yang, Hsinchu City Mayor Hsu Ming-tsai and Hsinchu County Magistrate Chiu Ching-chun are expected to seek re-election on the KMT ticket.

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