Gap between Taipei mayor candidates closing

Buildings of Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Independent candidate Ko Wen-je continues to be the frontrunner in the Taipei mayoral race, but his lead over major rival Sean Lien from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has narrowed, a recent survey has shown.

Ko received 33.4 per cent of support compared to Lien's 27.3 per cent, according to the survey commissioned by the KMT.

But 30.4 per cent of respondents to the survey, conducted on Aug. 22 and 23, thought Lien would win the election, compared to only 28.6 per cent who thought so about Ko.

Some KMT legislators were quoted by the United Evening News suggesting that the narrowing gap between the pair is an indication that support within the pan-blue camp is consolidating.

The KMT has won back some confidence from voters after its mayors in Taipei and New Taipei demonstrated tact in managing the crisis triggered by the chaotic 12-year education programme.

Lien's appointing of Legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan as his campaign manager is seen by the KMT as a plus. Tsai's caustic criticisms for the opponent have come as a morale booster within the KMT camp, legislators were cited as saying.

Meanwhile, Lien and Ko continued to trade verbal blows as they separately took part in public events to promote their campaigns.

Lien met with reelection-seeking KMT New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu in a bid to form an alliance to boost the campaigns of both.

In response to the meeting, Ko, who has the blessing of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said that such an alliance might not work for Lien because a candidate can rely only on himself or herself.

"If a candidate does not have the capabilities and has to rely on someone else, that'd be very troublesome," said Ko. "You couldn't ask Eric Chu to come act as Taipei mayor, could you?"

But Lien dismissed Ko's skepticism about his capabilities by asking: "Is he (Ko) talking about himself?"

While Lien is fighting an uphill battle, Chu stands a good chance of winning a second term.

The meeting touched on various possibilities of joint-development for Taipei and New Taipei in transportation, cultural creative industries and more under a twin-city concept.

Earlier, Lien talked more about his idea to relocate the First Funeral Parlor from downtown Taipei to the suburban Shanchuku area.

He said he would employ internationally respected designers to design the new funeral parlour, with the area to be turned into a "cemetery park."

He previously said that the present site of the funeral parlour would become the site of public housing projects after the relocation, but the idea has met with ridicule, with many saying that no one would want to live in a former funeral parlour.

But Lien has vowed to build 20,000 units of public housing in Taipei for low-income families if elected mayor.

Ko talked about equal opportunities in education and medical services during one of his public activities.

He said Taiwan's GDP has grown over the past 10 years, but salary levels have remained stagnant in the last 16 years. He said this is even worse than a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, because in Taiwan, the wealthy would always remain wealthy and the poor would always remain poor.