TAIPEI, Taiwan - In Taiwan's political landscape, Northern Taiwan is dominated by supporters of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party while supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) populate the south.
This is especially true in Kaohsiung City, where mayors affiliated with the DPP have governed the city for 16 years. In the mayoral election coming up, the DPP's candidate and the incumbent mayor, Chen Chu, has garnered about 51-per cent popular support, leading her KMT opponent by some 27 percentage points, according to a survey conducted recently.
Chen has stayed in the lead since the election started, and she appears to have adopted the "keep the status quo" strategy. Some have said that Chen will cruise to a victory simply by "lying down" and doing nothing.
In order to gain more public exposure, the KMT-affiliated Yang Chiu-hsing has accepted multiple interview requests. Chen, on the other hand, allegedly has accepted none in the lead-up to the election.
Despite Yang's repeated calls for a televised debate, Chen's camp dismissed the idea, saying that Yang's camp is only interested in smearing Chen and engaging in meaningless squabbles.
While Chen might appear aloof, she has proved herself capable in the governing of Kaohsiung. She enjoys a very high approval rating among residents of Kaohsiung. In one measure, she has more than 615,000 fans on her Facebook page, as opposed to Yang's some 11,770 fans. Yang noted Chen's strength in public relations, which has led to her high popularity. But Chen's strength does not end there.
A Heavyweight in the DPP
Nicknamed "Southern Hegemony", Chen is one of the most senior members of the DPP. In fact, she was one of the prominent dissidents arrested after a pro-democracy demonstration, the Formosa Incident, in 1979.
At that time, Taiwan was a one-party state and the KMT-ruled government arrested main leaders of the political opposition, which later became the DPP. Chen, along with eight DPP heavyweights, including former Vice President Annette Lu, all spent years in jail.
Nevertheless, the Formosa Incident is widely recognised and regarded as a watershed moment in Taiwan's democratization.
Chen assumed the office of Kaohsiung mayor in 2006 after defeating her KMT opponent by just 1,120 votes. She was re-elected in 2010, receiving 52.8-per cent voter support. Chen's wide support is well earned, as she has executed a number of measures to improve the city. The scope of her policies ranges from economy, culture, standard of living, to ecosystem conservation and internationalization.
One of the most touted accomplishments of Chen' government is narrowing the gap between cities and rural areas. In 2010, Kaohsiung County and Kaohsiung City were merged into one administrative district. It was part of the central government's plan to "upgrade the five major metropolises."