Taiwan's KMT trounces DPP in legislature poll
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party (KMT) thrashed the ruling DPP in legislative elections on Saturday, strengthening its bid to recapture the presidency in March and heralding better relations with China.
With all the votes counted, the KMT had won 81 seats in the 113-member parliament, or 72 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party won just 27 seats, or 24 percent, the rest going to other parties.
Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's president since 2000, resigned as DPP chairman when the magnitude of his party's loss became clear, saying he should take responsibility for its defeat.
The KMT and its allied People First Party had previously held 49 percent of the seats in the larger 225-seat legislature, while the DPP and its allies held about 42 percent.
Many voters blame the DPP for allowing Taiwan's economy to languish under Chen.
Chen's family members and closest aides have also been embroiled in a series of scandals over the past year, plunging the party into its worst crisis since it was founded in 1986.
"This is the biggest failure since the founding of the DPP and as chairman I should take responsibility," Chen said. "I should shoulder the biggest responsibility ... We will have even bigger challenges ahead," he added, referring to the presidential election in March.
The KMT won its landslide victory "because Taiwanese people have used their wisdom to vote against corruption and incompetence in the government," said Tsai Chin-lung, who won a seat in Taichung for the party. "Taiwanese people are really outraged with what the government is doing," he said.
The result shows that the people of Taiwan want change, said Chao Chien-min, professor at National Chengchi University. "The second thing is the economy: Chen Shui-bian doesn't understand the economy. He always thinks it's OK just to be political."
WAGES, PRICES, JOBS
The newly elected parliament will be half the size of its predecessor, which had 225 seats, to boost efficiency and the accountability of each legislator.
The DPP acknowledged early on that it could not win control of the new chamber, but had been aiming to win 50 seats.
Stagnant wages, rising prices and jobs were among the major issues in the legislative election, whose result could augur well for KMT presidential nominee Ma Ying-jeou, due to face the DPP's Frank Hsieh in the March 22 presidential poll.
Voters also faced two single-issue ballots, but many snubbed them as too partisan.
One asked whether the KMT should return any improperly acquired assets to the government, and the other asked whether parliament should investigate allegations of high-level corruption among government officials.
Each measure needed the support of half the registered electorate to be valid, but neither came close to the threshold.
Voters in March will be presented with a more contentious DPP-sponsored referendum asking Taiwanese whether Taiwan should try to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan. The United States and others have criticized the initiative as an attempt to upset the status quo between Taiwan and China.
The KMT, which once ruled all of China, favors closer economic ties and more dialogue with Beijing after eight stormy years of rule by the independence-leaning DPP.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated KMT forces fled to the island at the end of the civil war in 1949. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan back under its rule, by force if necessary.
(Additional reporting by Doug Young, Argin Chang and Meg Shen; editing by Tim Pearce)
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