Taiwan opposition KMT claims victory in parliamentary polls

( dpa ) - Taiwan's opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won a landslide victory in Saturday's parliamentary elections, giving it a strong boost for the March presidential election.

The victory saw the KMT capturing 81 seats, or 51.3 per cent share of the vote to get an absolute grip of the 113-seat parliament, almost a clean sweep that deals a humiliating blow to the China-hostile policies of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

"We are both grateful and worried about the heavy burden the victory has brought on us," KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung told a news conference.

"We have won the majority of seats in parliaments. We will not abuse this power, but will use (it) to push for stability in our society. We will be more united so that we will not let down the Taiwanese people," he said.

KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou said Monday the KMT had to remain humble and work its utmost to live up to the expectations of the public.

Ma is running for president against his DPP opponent Frank Hsieh in the crucial poll slate for March 22.

Analysts said the sweeping KMT victory would further bolster his chances in the upcoming election.

"This election victory will boost Ma Ying-jeou's chance of winning the presidential election because Ma's image is even better than that of the KMT," said Wang Kao-cheng, associate professor at the Tamkang University.

He said those who have backed the KMT in the parliament election will become Ma supporters in the presidential election.

The independence-leaning DPP, which opts for a hardline policy towards China, a rival of Taiwan since the two sides split at the end of a civil war, won just 27 seats on 36.9 per cent of the vote, suffering the worst setback since it was formed in 1986.

President Chen Shui-bian, the architect of the DPP's hardline China policy and the party's chairman, conceded defeat over the humiliating setback of the DPP.

"I feel deeply ashamed for the worst election setback of the party, and I am willing to take full responsibility and resign as chairman," said a grim-faced Chen, who quickly left the DPP headquarters after offering a deep bow to his supporters.

The DPP is scheduled to re-elect a new chairman on Monday, and DPP presidential candidate Hsieh is expected to be made chairman.

The weekend's polls also saw four independents making it into the new parliament to be inaugurated next Monday under a new election system. The remaining one seat went to People First Party, a splinter group of the KMT.

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. But Saturday's turnout was moderate at 58.5 per cent, slightly less than 59.2 per cent in the elections in 2004.

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

The victory of the China-friendly KMT would help stabilize Taiwan-China ties, scholars said.

"The KMT's win shows Taiwan people are unsatisfied with the DPP and Chen Shui-bian's administration and want the KMT to return to power," Tamkang University's Professor Wang said.

The pro-independence Chen has pushed for the island's separated identity, which has sharply provoked China, which has seen the island as a part of the mainland that must be brought back into its fold, if necessary by force.

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