Taiwan's Cabinet quits after electoral thrashing
TAIWAN'S Cabinet resigned en masse yesterday after the ruling party suffered a massive defeat in the island's biggest-ever local elections.
The ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) had its power slashed across Taiwan at the key polls last Saturday, with Premier Jiang Yi-huah quitting hours after the disastrous result - seen as a key barometer ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
In the wake of Mr Jiang's resignation, Taiwan's 81-strong Cabinet formally stepped down yesterday morning.
The current Cabinet members will continue to serve as caretakers until a new line-up is selected by the next premier, who is likely to be chosen by embattled President Ma Ying-jeou in the coming days.
"As the Cabinet is now entering the caretaking period, I want to implore you to continue carrying out your roles until the new Cabinet is formed... Hopefully, the period won't last too long," Mr Jiang said in a statement.
Although he defended the performance of his team, he admitted that "voters were not happy".
The KMT has been struggling with growing public fears over increased influence from China, with ties between the mainland and the island warming since Mr Ma took over in 2008.
The world's second-largest economy is both Taiwan's largest export market and a historical foe that claims the island as part of its territory and keeps more than 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan.
A slowing economy and a string of food scandals has also angered voters.
The KMT lost five of Taiwan's six large municipalities - the most hotly contested seats - in its worst-ever polls performance. It also conceded nine of its 15 city mayor and county chief positions.
Its main rival, the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took 47.5 per cent of the votes cast across the nation, with the KMT taking 40.7.
There were 11,130 seats at all levels of local government up for grabs, and 18 million eligible voters. The turnout was 67.5 per cent.
Since Mr Ma came to power on a China-friendly platform, frosty ties between Beijing and Taipei have thawed, leading to a tourist boom of Chinese visitors to Taiwan as well as expanded trade links.
But there is public anxiety with regards to the warming ties. A proposed services trade pact with China sparked mass protests and a three-week occupation of Taiwan's Parliament earlier this year.
"The KMT talks about the economy day and night but voters aren't convinced," said Chao Yung-mau, a political science professor at the National Taiwan University in Taipei.
"They'd rather be a bit poorer but live the lives they want. They don't want the KMT to use economic problems to threaten their political lives."
China has urged Taiwan to "push forward" with cross-Strait relations in the wake of the vote.
An editorial in the state-run Global Times yesterday blamed the KMT's loss on the party's "incompetence in managing Taiwan's economy and society", but said the defeat "doesn't mean the triumph of Taiwan independence forces".
"So far, the DPP has been toeing the line without challenging cross-Strait relations," it added.