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Date: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 04:34:47 +0800
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: E Phillip Lim <alsona@PACIFIC.NET.SG>
Subject: Re: Taiwan election results / KMT win marks end of ethnic rift

KMT win marks end of ethnic rift

By Ching Cheong, The Straits Times, 7 December 1998

Party’s victory signals the beginning of a New Taiwanese identity, say politicians, observers and the media

TAIPEI—The success of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in last Saturday’s three-in-one elections marks the end of ethnic politics in the island and the beginning of a New Taiwanese identity.

This was the consensus among politicians, observers and the media after KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou won a hard-fought battle to wrest the Taipei seat from incumbent mayor Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Yesterday, Mr Ma said his victory signified the end of an ethnic rift that has marked Taiwan’s politics over the past five decades.

The victory of Ma Ying-jeou is an important symbol and a new milestone of ethnic integration. I hope all ethnic issues will become a part of history and will not continue to haunt the people of Taipei, he told a press conference yesterday. He garnered 51.13 per cent of the vote as compared with the 25.89 per cent his party took in the last mayoral race in 1994.

Mr Chen took 45.91 per cent, up from the 43.76 per cent he bagged four years ago in Taipei’s first direct mayoral elections.

The vote share for KMT’s splinter right-wing New Party (NP) shrank to only 2.96 per cent, a steep drop from the previous 30.17 per cent.

Seen as a shiny example of the New Taiwanese generation, Mr Ma, a mainlander, defined the new concept: The notion of New Taiwanese is mutual tolerance and mutual respect. No matter when you came to Taiwan, no matter where you came from, you are the New Taiwanese as long as you love Taiwan and are willing to struggle for Taiwan.

Almost all major newspaper analyses and TV talk-shows agreed that President Lee Teng-hui was the greatest victor in the polls to elect a new legislature as well as mayors and city councillors for Taipei and Kaohsiung.

They claimed that the KMT’s ability to recover Taipei owed much to his concept of New Taiwanese.

President Lee’s New Taiwanese notion is instrumental in bringing about the victory of Ma, said the island’s Central Daily News.

His proclamation that this generation should say goodbye to their sorrowful past was the most touching call and the comment effectively became the most significant rallying point for the electorate.

Political observers have also credited him with boosting the New Taiwanese identity by wooing back disgruntled right-wing supporters who handed KMT victories in hard-fought elections.

The so-called Lee Teng-hui complex—a mindset of native-born Taiwanese who identify themselves with the first native-born President but not necessarily with his party—has worked to gain their backing, they said.

Political Science Professor Wu Yu-shan of the National University of Taiwan said: The independence aspiration of the DPP has created for itself a formidable coalition between the New Party and the KMT.

A sizeable share of NP votes thus flowed back to the KMT in support of Ma.

According to NP campaign manager Jaw Shao- kang, the poll results showed the New Taiwanese concept had wide support.

If it takes root, it will change the sense of identity of the majority of Taiwanese who until now still considered themselves both Taiwanese and Chinese.

He cautioned: If this group of people, which is the majority, is converted to the New Taiwanese identity, there will be fewer and fewer people who consider themselves Chinese and it will render unification all the more difficult.

Taiwan’s stock market is expected to see sharp gains on the first day of trading today, financial newspapers here said yesterday.