Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s defeat is already emerging

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Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je.

Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je. (By Central News Agency)

Looking at the result of last weekend’s by-election in Taipei City, the candidate representing Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), Chen Su-yu (陳思宇), ended up losing badly, showing that Ko is headed for defeat too. As he still has not succeeded in forming a political party of his own, Ko will either have to lean towards the green or the blue camp, but that means he will face serious internal contradictions.

Because the turnup for the election was low and the basic number of voters for the blue camp remained fairly stable, its impact on the political situation and on future elections will be limited, but it will mean a lesson for Ko, since his dream of an entrance ticket to the presidential election will only slip further and further away.

An analysis of the reasons for Chen’s defeat will include her background as member of a political family, in stark contrast to Ko’s image as a political novice and an outsider. In addition, his personal charisma has been difficult to transfer to others. There is no way of replicating his model for victory to help other candidates, so one can predict that if Ko’s current situation continues, he must end up in defeat.

If he wants to keep moving to higher office, there are only two routes he can choose, either form a political party or group of his own, or join an alliance with other political forces.

Considering the first route, Taiwan already has no shortage of political parties. Apart from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), the pan-blues include the New Party and the People First Party (PFP), while the pan-greens also count the New Power Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union. For 10, 20 years, attempts have been made to establish a third force outside the DPP and the KMT, but only the PFP succeeded for a while before fading into the margins.

Even though Ko enjoys the popularity to launch a party, once its doors have opened for business, the group will need money and people, but popularity is not enough to sustain such an effort. In addition, Ko’s political ideas are not distinctive enough, so according to the laws of political marketing, the party will have a hard time attracting voters, and once it will face a real election campaign, Ko’s movement will need to find enough suitable candidates, a serious problem when even the DPP and KMT face a shortage of talent.

So the route that Ko might be more likely to take is the one where he seeks to cooperate with other political forces. However, relations between the green camp and Ko’s “white” movement have already been ruptured, so the DPP is unlikely to make further concessions to the mayor and to cooperate again. While on the other hand Ko’s statements on relations with China mean to some extent that he is moving closer to the blue camp, the KMT is unlikely to damage its own cause, reject its own presidential candidate and hand its resources over to an outsider.