In legislative race, polls unclear on whether DPP can keep majority

Taipei-The final polls released in Taiwan ahead of its Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections indicate that President Tsai Ing-wen (???) will easily win re-election, but they offer few clues on whether her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) can maintain its legislative majority.

In 2016, the DPP won 68 of the Legislative Yuan's 113 seats, while the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) won 35, the New Power Party (NPP) won five, the People First Party won two and independents won two.

Of the 113 seats, 73 are elected directly in first-past-the-post races, six are elected in aboriginal constituencies, and 34 are elected as at-large candidates based on a separate vote for a political party.

Final public opinion surveys released before a 10-day blackout on polls takes effect Jan. 1 suggest that the KMT, which had high hopes of regaining a majority in the Legislature after a strong showing in elections for local races in November 2018, has badly hurt itself in the past two months, benefiting the DPP.

Solid edge for DPP

In polls gauging support for political parties in the at-large legislator races, a my-formosa.com poll conducted Dec. 25-26 gave the DPP a 32.4 percent-22.5 percent edge over the KMT.

Another 9.6 percent went to the Taiwan People's Party (TPP) -- a new party created by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (???)-- and 7.2 percent went to the NPP.

Those vote totals would translate to 15 seats for the DPP, 11 for the KMT, five for the TPP and three for the NPP, according to the poll.

Other polls showed a similar edge for the DPP, although it would fall short of the party's 18 at-large seats it won in 2016.

No polls have estimated how many seats the parties will win in the 73 races for directly elected seats, but the DPP also held an edge when voters were asked which party's candidates it would vote for.

The DPP led the KMT by a 33.4 percent-24.3 percent margin in the my-formosa poll and a 36.5 percent-21.7 percent edge in an Apple Daily poll, but many respondents (23.4 percent and 31.2 percent in the two polls, respectively) said they were undecided.

Drop in party support

That could spell trouble for the KMT, which has suffered a precipitous drop in support in the past few months, according to a monthly tracking poll put out by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (TPOF).

In the three months leading up to November 2018 elections, the KMT saw its party rating soar from 24.5 percent to 36.0 percent, while the DPP's stayed flat at around 24 percent, and that was clearly reflected in the election results.

Fast-forward to December 2019 and the situation is reversed.

The DPP regained the lead in favorability over the KMT in March 2019 and widened it to as much as 14 percent in June as the Hong Kong protests erupted, giving credence to Tsai's message since the beginning of 2019 that Taiwan cannot trust China and needs to defend its sovereignty.

But even so, the DPP's edge narrowed to around 7 percent by September, according to the TPOF poll, but has widened dramatically since then.

Major mistakes

The KMT's infighting over its slate of at-large candidates, its seeming divide between presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (???) and other party heavyweights, and lack of a clear message to counter Tsai's view on China lowered its favorability rating to 28.9 percent in December, compared to 47.3 percent for the DPP.

The biggest gaffe came in November, when it nominated retired Lt. Gen. Wu Sz-huai (???) to the No. 4 spot in its slate of at-large legislator candidates, nearly ensuring his election to the Legislature.

Wu, who worked to oppose pension cuts for public employees and military service people, drew harsh criticism for his 2016 attendance at a Chinese government event commemorating Sun Yat-sen and for frequent travel to China, and he was branded a pawn of China by the DPP camp.

Despite that image, the KMT still put him on its at-large legislator list, giving the DPP a focal point for its legislative candidates, who campaigned on the slogan of keeping Wu out of the Legislature.

Even with that 18-point gap, the TPOF poll, conducted Dec. 23-24, only gave the DPP a 33 percent-26 percent edge over the KMT in the party poll for at-large candidates.

But the TPOF said that based on past elections, the strength of voter identification with parties, reflected in the favorability ratings, decide election outcomes.

The DPP said it expects to win 53-61 seats, while the KMT said it still has a chance of gaining a legislative majority with 57 seats, a projection that appears unlikely, given the poll numbers.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel