Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) Supporters of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) sent a new signal of discontent to the party Saturday, when the KMT managed to win only one of four legislative by-elections, scholars said later that day.
The ruling party suffered a fresh setback after losing in Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County and Chiayi County, with its only victory coming in Hualien County. The by-elections were held because local lawmakers that previously held the seats were elected to serve as county magistrates.
The KMT's supporters sent a clear message by not turning up at polling stations, said Lin Huo-wang, a professor at National Taiwan University who also serves as senior advisor to President Ma Ying-jeou.
"It (the defeat) tells President Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, that he should stop trying to woo voters from the opposition Pan-green camp. A political party will not be able to hold its core support if it drifts further away from its ideals, " Lin said.
The low turnout rate and crushing election results are evidence that the party's supporters staged a "silent protest" by not voting, said Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Soochow University.
The KMT lost three other legislative by-elections last month and also did not fare well in any of the five elections that have taken place since Ma assumed office in May 2008. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , on the other hand, has gained more ground thanks to the elections, boosting its number of seats in the 113-member Legislative Yuan from 30 to 33.
At a post-election press conference, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung conceded defeat for the party but pledged continued reforms, saying that introspection is vital for the party if it wants to win back support in future elections.
The candidate nominations were the key reason behind the defeat, according to legislator-turned-television pundit Jaw Shao-kong, who noted that the KMT neither placed local politicians at the top of the nomination lists nor went with the momentum during the nomination process.
"You have to go with the flow rather than trying to create the specific momentum of your desire, " he pointed out, adding that the KMT needs to find a way to "stop bleeding." The KMT's nomination strategy presented mixed messages, Lo said, because it went with a candidate like Wang Ting-sheng, a university professor who narrowly beat the DPP's Hsiao Bi-khim in Hualien, but compromised with local factions and nominated Cheng Yung-tang in Hsinchu, where he ended up losing.
He noted that the KMT has been having trouble "turning the game around" and said the momentum could cause a ripple effect that will negatively impact its prospects in five special municipality elections at the end of the year that are considered even more important than the two recent legislative by-elections.
"It seems to me that more white-collar workers and middle-class people are supporting the opposition. And bear in mind that there are more voters like this in the five special municipalities, " he said.
There is no such place as a "stronghold" nowadays in Taiwanese elections, Jaw said, because voters are no longer fooled by politicians and political parties.