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Asia-Pacific
Taiwan opposition gets poll boost
Local elections seen as test of president's policy of engagement with China.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2009 07:11 GMT
Analysts have called the poll a proxy referendum on President Ma Ying-jeou's performance [AFP]

Taiwan's pro-independence opposition has received a boost in local elections, holding on to all three of its magistracies  and winning back one from the ruling party.

Saturday's elections, which were to select positions such as county magistrates and city mayors, were seen by analysts as the first test for Ma Ying-jeou, the president, and his policy of engagement with China.

Ma said the outcome was "not as good as we'd hoped".

Tsai Ing-wen, the chairwoman for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), described the poll as a resounding rejection of Ma's policies.

"The people have cast a vote of no confidence in the Ma government. They think his government's economic policies are failing, the nation's dignity is hurt and high-ranking officials are indifferent to public opinion," she said.

The elections saw contests in 17 counties and cities and involved only 38 per cent of the electorate.

Reduced majorities

Polling followed 174 arrests covering more than 2,400 cases of vote buying and election-related violence, the Taiwan justice ministry said.

Ma's Nationalist Party (KMT) won in 12 counties and cities in the poll but with severely reduced majorities in several locations.

An independent candidate was the winner in one county.

The DPP's rule of Taiwan from 2000 to 2008 brought serious tensions with China, which claims the island as its territory despite having had no control there since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The relationship has improved dramatically since Ma became president, but his push for better ties has prompted suspicion among a sizable part of the island's electorate.

Ma's government has also come under fire for its handling of August's devastating Typhoon Morakot, and for a decision to import more US beef products despite health concerns.

Ma, whose popularity fell to an all-time low of 16 per cent during the typhoon crisis, has defended his policy of boosting ties with China as leading to future prosperity for the island.

Source:
Agencies
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