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DPP under pressure to improve mainland ties
By Xing Zhigang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-05 05:28

Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) face mounting pressure to improve ties with the mainland following the crushing defeat in weekend local elections, analysts said yesterday.

Chen, who is serving his second and final term, had sought to boost his candidates' chances with "pro-independence" and anti-mainland rhetoric, in contrast with the opposition parties' more conciliatory tone toward Beijing.

"The 'mainland card' failed to work this time because most people are fed up with his anti-mainland mentality," said Li Jiaquan, a researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"What local people want is peaceful and stable cross-Straits relations instead of confrontation and hostility between the two sides."

Li stressed that the only way for Chen and his "administration" to regain people's faith is to heed the voice of the majority and promote better relations with the mainland.

In Saturday's local government polls, the DPP won only six out of the 23 mayoral and country magistrate posts, down from 10. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) secured a landslide victory by gaining 14, an increase of six, while its allies landed the other three.

Compounding the damage for the ruling party was its loss in Taipei county the island's biggest constituency where the DPP has ruled for 16 years as well as its two strongholds of Ilan County and the city of Chiayi.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-Chang immediately offered his resignation late Saturday while admitting the election outcome was "a severe setback for the DPP, also a warning from the people to the DPP."

Taiwan "legislators" said Saturday's elections, widely seen as a mid-term test of Chen's popularity, should teach the "pro-independence" DPP a lesson.

"Chen must seek breakthroughs in relations with the Chinese mainland, or his last two years in office would be very rough," independent "lawmaker" Li Ao said yesterday.

KMT "lawmaker" Wu Yu-sheng urged Chen to work out a "broad-minded" mainland policy, backing away from the "pro-independence" stance to create a better atmosphere for cross-Straits dialogue.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou said the Taiwan people had handed a "no-confidence vote" to the DPP "administration," which took power under Chen in May 2000.

"The KMT did not beat the DPP. The DPP was defeated by itself," said Ma, who favours closer ties with the mainland.

Taiwan's "central election commission" said nearly 8.9 million people, or 66 per cent of eligible voters, cast ballots in Saturday's polls.

Among the 901 seats for county councillors, the KMT won 408, the DPP 192, the People First Party (PFP) 31. Others netted in the rest.

Among the 319 positions for town mayors, the KMT won 173, the DPP 35, the PFP three, the TSU one and independents 107.

(China Daily 12/05/2005 page1)

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