Razor-thin win for KMT in Taichung by-election

Yen Kuan-hen defeats DPP by 1,000 votes

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Yen Kuan-hen won an extremely narrow victory for the Kuomintang in the by-election for the seat in Taichung vacated by his father Yen Ching-piao, as the opposition made the policies of President Ma Ying-jeou the key issue in the vote.
The older Yen, for years an influential independent legislator, was forced to give up his seat after a court sentenced him to three years and three months in prison for spending taxpayers’ money on visits to hostess bars.
Yen received 66,457 votes to DPP candidate Chen Shih-kai’s 65,319. A third candidate, Yu Szu-chia of the All People’s Party, received about 1,000 votes, reports said.
At the full Legislative Yuan election in January last year, Yen Ching-piao received 118,000 votes or 59 percent of the total.
Once counting began, Yen and Chen fought a close race, with cable television stations showing repeated changes in who led in the number of votes.
At around 5:30 p.m., before all votes were counted, Yen proclaimed himself the winner, even though televised data showed him trailing Chen by about 1,000 votes or more than 1 percent. The Yen camp said he had won an estimated total of more than 66,000 votes, the minimum considered to be necessary to win, and 1,000 more than Chen.
Yen, 36, went to vote in the company of his father and Sean Lien, the son of KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan. Yen Ching-piao said that even residents working in China had returned home to cast their vote.
Chen, 35, cast his ballot at the Wujih Elementary School in the company of fellow city councilor Chang-liao Wan-chien and other local politicians. The DPP mobilized hundreds of supporters to supervise the voting and to prevent irregularities, reports said.
Both candidates said they were relaxed now that the 40 days of campaigning were over. The final days of the campaign saw DPP leaders from party chairman Su Tseng-chang, former Premier Frank Hsieh and ex-chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen come to Chen’s support.
On the KMT side, Ma was conspicuous by his absence, staying away from rallies and walkabouts. With his national popularity ratings at the rock-bottom level of 13 percent, KMT politicians have been reluctant to invite him to their events, fearing he might damage their public standing, observers said.
The DPP has seen the by-election not only as a test for Ma, but also as a gauge for its own plans to launch recall actions against KMT lawmakers and eventually against the president.
A total of 275,086 residents had the right to vote, and 48 percent used that right, the Taichung City Election Commission said. Earlier figures Saturday put the turnout at between 40 and 45 percent, slightly less than had been hoped for despite the mild weather. By noon, local turnout was estimated at 26 percent in some areas, less than during the national Legislative Yuan elections a year ago, reports said.
As common in elections in Taiwan, voters had from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. to cast their ballot.