The Kuomintang\'s Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) yesterday upset rival Democratic Progressive Party candidate Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) to become the Taipei County magistrate in a victory that returns the county back to the KMT after having been governed by the DPP since 1989.
According to the Central Election Commission, Chou won the election by a surprisingly wide margin. He garnered 988,739 votes, or 55 percent of all votes cast, while Luo received 798,233 votes, or 44 percent.
In 2001, former Taipei County Magistrate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) beat New Party rival Wang Chien-shien (王建煊)with 874,495 votes, or 51 percent of all votes cast.
Chou\'s victory in Taipei County, considered the grand prize in yesterday\'s regional elections, has given the party renewed confidence to win back the presidency in 2008, analysts said.
\"This is a momentous day for the KMT,\" he said. \"We have finally regained control of the county for the first time in 16 years.\"
The new magistrate vowed to set up a clean and efficient team to serve Taipei County residents.
Chou promised that he will push through with plans for cooperation between Taipei City and Taipei County to establish a top international metropolis.
\"It is surprising that the KMT was able to win a majority in Sanchung, Sinjhuang and Lujhou, which are traditionally DPP strongholds,\" he said.
Chou analyzed that he was able to win the battle thanks to the cross-party and cross-ethnic residents, such as Hakka people and aboriginal voters.
He also appreciated that voters did not take his \"mainlander\" identity into account.
More than 1,000 supporters crowded into Chou\'s headquarters at around 4 p.m. yesterday. At Chou\'s headquarters, people cheered and waved flags as they watched the announcement in a live televised ceremony. Supporters waved R.O.C. flags and blew noisemakers as Chou\'s votes pulled ahead. They also set off fireworks in jubilation and cheered wildly as Chou announced his success.
Benson Wang, a Yung Ho resident, said though he was not satisfied with both candidates, he still voted to Chou, hoping the KMT and the new magistrate will reform the county.
\"\"I\'m absolutely ecstatic that we have regained control of the county,\" he said.
Although Chou\'s celebration ceremony was over, more than 300 supporters still remained at the square to revel in the victory.
For DPP Chairman Su, however, the loss of Taipei County, the largest constituency in Taiwan with a population of 3.7 million, led him to vacate the DPP chairmanship. Su on Friday vowed to resign if the governing party failed to win the magistrate slots in Taipei County and at least nine other cities or counties in the three-in-one polls for city and county magistrates, city and county councils and township mayors.
On the eve of the vote, the senior county chief Su and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) lent a hand when Luo was plagued by allegations that he provided \"transportation fees\" for his supporters, but the efforts failed to exert an influence on Luo\'s success.
Luo burst into tears, for the second time in two days, after hearing about his defeat. \"I have tried my best,\" he said. The loser bowed to express his thanks to supporters again and again.
\"Wipe your tears, let Luo\'s smile shine,\" Luo\'s headquarters said. \"We hope supporters can accompany us in our drive for reform.\"
Luo\'s campaign headquarters manager Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) attributed the defeat to the social climate.
\"We tried our best to hold the traditional DPP areas, Sanchung, Sinjhuang and Lujhou,\" he said. \"The headquarters should be responsible for the result.\"
Du Fu-lin, a 56-year-old DPP supporter, said he will not sleep well tonight because of the defeat. He said he could not accept the result and expressed his admiration for Luo\'s acceptance of defeat.
In an attempt to prevent any riots between Luo and Chou\'s supporters, policemen were stationed at both candidates\' headquarters, which are a mere 100 meters apart from each other.
Before the result was declared, Chou\'s headquarters spokesperson Kuo Su-chuan told pan-blue supporters, \"We have dreamed at this moment that we could win the victory for a long time,\" she said. \"We can finally win back the county and let \'blue skies\' appear in the county again.\"