Taiwan's ruling party declares victory in legislative elections

Saturday, December 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ President Chen Shui-bian's party declared victory Saturday in Taiwan's legislative elections with 80 percent of the vote counted, a win that ended the Nationalist Party's five-decade control of the parliament.

The victory could bolster the Democratic Progressive Party's effort to forge a coalition government to end months of gridlock and squabbling that have helped sink the island into its first recession in 30 years.

``This is a victory, we have reached our goal,'' said Wu Nai-jen, a top DPP official and strategist. ``After the election, the DPP should lead the effort to form a coalition government.''

The DPP had 37 percent of the votes, while the Nationalist Party had 31 percent, election officials said. The small People's First Party had 20 percent of the votes, and the Taiwan Solidarity Union had 9 percent.

Before the election the Nationalist Party controlled more than half the 225-seat legislature, while the DPP held about one-third of the seats.

The election was the first major vote since Taiwanese made history last year by electing Chen, the island's first president from an opposition party.

Chen's inexperienced minority government has struggled to cope with a slumping economy. Chen has also been hampered by the powerful Nationalist-led opposition, which refused to work with him.

Voting at a Taipei police station, businessman Lu Wen said he supported the president's DPP because he thought a smaller opposition would mean less legislative chaos.

``We elected Chen as the president, and I think we should support his party and give him a chance to run the country,'' Lu said.

In races for a total of 23 mayoral and county seats, the DPP won nine seats _ three fewer than it had before the vote. The Nationalist Party also won nine seats, one more than it previously had. Small parties and independents won the rest.

The once-mighty Nationalists party, also called the Kuomintang, or KMT, held a majority in parliament for the past five decades. Some analysts have predicted the party will crumble if it loses that grip.

But Nationalist leader Lien Chan, a former vice president, told reporters on Saturday before results came in that he was ``cautiously optimistic'' about the election.

Voter Han Kuo-yu, an office worker, said he voted for the Nationalists because the party presided over Taiwan's rapid evolution from a poor agricultural economy to an industrial juggernaut.

``We had stability and economic prosperity when the Nationalists were in power,'' Han said. ``I miss the good old days.''

Some analysts have predicted that turnout will drop to a record low because the campaign has been devoid of issues and dominated by name calling. None of the parties is satisfied with the status quo and they have blamed each other for the island's economic woes.