Despite a series of scandals that have battered its image, Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party gained a strong majority of votes in local elections today. Opposition candidates made a strong showing in the election for Taipei's city council, but failed to improve their position elsewhere on the island.
The incumbents appeared to profit from superior organization in their election campaign and from a lack of unity among the opposition candidates. Opposition candidates charged that ruling party candidates had engaged in widespread vote-buying to ensure the party's continued domination of the political system here.
More than 70 percent of the island's eligible voters cast ballots for 191 positions among mayors, county magistrates and provincial and city assemblymen.
The Kuomintang captured more than 70 percent of the vote in a showing that equaled the party's performance in the last local elections, held here in 1981.
The Kuomintang has suffered a series of blows to its image during the past year. Late last year, high-ranking Taiwanese intelligence officials were linked to the slaying in California of a Chinese-American journalist, Henry Liu. Coal mine cave-ins led to charges of government negligence in setting safety standards for the mining industry.
In February, the country's largest credit cooperative collapsed, with thousands of lenders unable to recover their funds. The government was accused of ignoring the situation until it got out of control, and the finance minister was forced to resign. In addition, the country has been undergoing an economic slowdown.
But the opposition seemed to be unable to capitalize on the Kuomintang's vulnerabilities on all these issues in the election campaign.
Despite a lack of major issues up for debate, candidates campaigned intensively for votes throughout the island. Personalities were often at issue, with some candidates casting doubt on the character of their opponents.
Both sides were guilty of engaging in gimmickry. In one attention-getting scene, an opposition candidate was carried to a campaign meeting on a stretcher, claiming that he had been poisoned by people hired by the Kuomintang. He was later found to be in perfect health.
The opposition in Taiwan is prohibited from forming political parties. It is a loose coalition of diverse personalities and tendencies that has been weakened by internal bickering.
Despite its weaknesses and the restrictions that have been imposed on it, the opposition has been able to adopt some of the functions of a political party. But it has not been able to maintain discipline in its ranks.
In recent years, elections here have grown more open and competitive, but the campaigns are restricted in a number of ways.
Only 10 days are allowed for campaigning, and there are restrictions on where posters may be put up and on the number of loudspeaker trucks candidates may deploy. The president and holders of other top-level central government positions are not elected directly.