Doctor and financier in dramatic contest for post of Taiwan mayor

Doctor and financier in dramatic contest for post of Taiwan mayor
Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je greets supporters ahead of the local election in Taipei November 27, 2014.

It is the most dramatic contest of Taiwan's biggest-ever local elections - a high-flying surgeon takes on the man whose life he helped save after he was shot in the head on the campaign trail.

Emergency doctor Ko Wen-je led the team which operated on financier Mr Sean Lien after Mr Lien was attacked at a rally in November 2010.

Now they are rivals in the intense battle for the influential post of Taipei mayor. Voters go to the polls tomorrow.

Mr Ko, 55, an independent candidate, has surged ahead of Beijing-friendly Mr Lien, 44, who is running for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party.

The doctor's lead in opinion polls reflects disenchantment with the KMT government over fears of increased Chinese influence, a slowing economy and a string of food scandals.

PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

Polls show the KMT is likely to take a beating in the elections, which will see 20,000 candidates contest a record 11,130 seats and are an important barometer for a presidential vote in 2016.

Both candidates looked back to the dramatic shooting which shocked Taiwan.

"If the bullet had struck me just half a centimetre higher, it could have taken my life... I am still here," Mr Lien told AFP. "Because of my strong sense of purpose, I chose to embrace the crowds again."

Mr Lien was at a Taipei rally supporting a KMT candidate when he was shot. The gunman, a local gang member, was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempted murder. The attacker said he had been targeting the candidate over a personal dispute, but hit Mr Lien by mistake.

Mr Lien thanked his rival at a pre-election press conference for "helping me through my life crisis", but added "he was probably not the most vital person" during the procedure.

The comments are typical of the thinly veiled animosity between the two. Mudslinging between both camps have reached fever pitch as the election draws near.

Mr Ko has positioned himself as a champion of social justice while Mr Lien is pledging to attract foreign investment and "internationalise" Taipei.


This article was first published on Nov 28, 2014.
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