The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s Lin Ching-yi today won a seat in parliament by a sizable margin in Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city. The seat was previously held by Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP)’s Chen Po-wei, who was ousted last October. She secured 51.8% of the votes, surpassing the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Yen Kuan-heng’s 47.2%, at a turnout of around 58%.

Lin, an obstetrician, was an elected member of the Legislative Yuan from 2016 to 2020 on the basis of proportional votes for parties. Her victory reflected the voters’ approval of her call to “end the politics of corruption (black gold),” which the DPP has made a central part of her campaign platform. Lin Chia-long, former Minister of Transportation and the leader of Lin’s campaign, described the result as “the returning of power to the people.”

“Thank you, all the young people who love Taiwan,” Lin Ching-yi said in a speech after expressing gratitude to the DPP and Chen, who was involved in her election campaign. “Only when all the pro-Taiwanese parties [referring to the DPP and TSP] unite can we be responsible for our voters.”

Behind Lin’s win in Taichung’s second electoral district is demographic change, experts say. Shen Yu-chung, professor of political science at Tungtai University, told the Central News Agency that many young people have been moving into the area, becoming a deciding factor in elections.

台中立委補選電視政見會  林靜儀自評有80分

Photo Credit: CNA

Lin Ching-yi in a press conference after a televised debate December 30, 2021, Taichung, Taiwan.

Today’s by-election was held as a result of Chen’s recall in October 2021. In 2020, to the surprise of many, he narrowly won the seat for the southwestern region of Taichung, defeating the KMT candidate, Yen Kuan-heng, who had held it since 2013. The Yen family, thriving on gravel and casino businesses, has wielded a powerful influence in the electoral district since the early 2000s, when the father Yen Ching-piao was elected to parliament.

Yen Kuan-heng led the campaign to recall Chen, which succeeded by a slim margin, but he failed to complete a comeback, with his family’s poor reputation becoming much more relevant to this campaign. Recently, they have been found to have owned a huge swathe of land around a proposed MRT station in Taichung, which called into question the family’s relationship with the KMT-led city government.

In a speech after the result, Yen thanked both those who voted and didn’t vote for him, but asked the former to “wipe their tears.” “We are still going to work and school tomorrow,” he said. “Call me later when you need me, I will be there because I’m a local kid.” He has stressed his roots in the local community several times, notably by accusing Chen of being an “outsider for his constituency.”

The Yen family has been enormously influential in the region along the Coast Line, operated by the Taiwan Railway Administration, in Taichung, including the towns of Dajia and Shalu. The KMT candidate’s father Yen Ching-piao is the head of the Dajia Jenn Lann Temple, a well-established religious organization with tens of thousands of followers and control of at least NT$3 billion, and the Dajia Mazu pilgrimage, Taiwan’s largest religious festival. Shalu is the town with the largest population along the Coast Line.

Yen Ching-piao was a lawmaker from 2002 to 2012 until being barred from holding office due to criminal charges of corruption. Before entering the national stage of politics, he was elected a member (and later, speaker) of the Taichung City Council while serving a 12 year sentence in prison for corruption, attempted murder, and possession of firearms.

Yen Kuan-heng’s failure to return to the parliament came as a huge blow to the KMT, following the results of the referendum in December. Taiwanese voters didn’t cast the ballots on the import of American pork, energy policy, and environmental protection as the party expected. KMT’s chairperson Eric Chu has said the results have “come as a detriment to Taiwan’s democracy.”

A spokesman for the KMT today said Chu wouldn’t attend the press conference responding to today’s elections, both Taichung’s by-election and Taipei’s recall election for Freddy Lim, before the results were revealed. Voters in favor of Lim’s recall surpassed those against, but the vote count fell short of a threshold that would require him to step down.

Around 300,000 are eligible to vote for one of the five candidates, including Yen and Lin, in this election.

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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