Monday, January 14, 2008

Opposition Kuomintang leads in Taiwan polls

Opposition Kuomintang leads in Taiwan polls

Taipei (dpa) - Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) was leading Saturday in the island's parliamentary elections seen as a crucial indicator ahead of the March presidential race.

Two hours into the vote count at 6 pm (1000 GMT) with about 40 per cent of the votes counted, initial results showed the KMT was leading in various of the 75 constituencies across the island. There are 79 district seats and 34 party seats in the 113-seat parliament.

Twenty-eight KMT candidates, including Wu Den-yih, the party's secretary general and an incumbent parliamentarian, declared victory in their constituencies.

Only one candidate from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) declared victory in the southern county of Tainan.

Two other independent candidates also claimed victory.

The fierce campaign saw the KMT and its major rival DPP fighting for the 79 district seats in the new parliament, which was cut from 225 seats to 113 under a revision of the election system.

The remaining 34 at-large seats allotted to political parties according to their winning percentage would be known after all the votes were counted. So far, the KMT was leading at 844,091 votes.

Some 17 million Taiwanese were eligible to vote in the election using the new system that permits a vote both for individual candidates and the political parties. In the past, voters were given only one choice of candidate.

Voting passed smoothly at the 14,377 polling stations, despite reports of attempted vote-buying by certain candidates.

The final outcome was expected at 10:30 pm (1430 GMT), the Central Election Commission said.

But the final results could be delayed by two referendums - one on recovering the opposition's illegally obtained assets and one on condemning the ruling party's corruption - held alongside the parliamentary one.

President Chen Shui-bian cast his vote at a Taipei primary school. He called on the Taiwan people to participate in and to treasure Taiwan's democracy.

"China will not allow Hong Kong to hold elections until 2017. That is 20 years after China took back Hong Kong (from colonial power Britain). Taiwan people should treasure their democracy and safeguard Taiwan's democracy," Chen said.

Chen of the independence-leaning DPP has come under pressure to step down over a string of graft scandals linking him, his family and government, but he has managed to survive.

In 2004, the DPP captured 89 of the then 225-seat parliament, 10 seats more than the KMT. But the KMT forged an alliance with the People First Party (PFP) to obtain a slim majority in the chamber.

A total of 12 parties have fielded 427 candidates.

17:46 Jan 12, 2008

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