The election results, including a victory by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in the central city of Taichung, signal that Taiwan’s governing Chinese Nationalist Party, known as the Kuomintang or K.M.T., will be hard-pressed to retain the presidency in the 2016 election.
The Kuomintang’s losses also suggest that Taiwan voters may be turning against party efforts to forge closer ties with China.
As Beijing has moved to enforce strict control over voting reforms in Hong Kong, a policy that has set off protests known as the Occupy Central movement, voters in Taiwan have said their sense of unease toward China has heightened.
“I think the result is a very strong signal not only to the K.M.T., but a signal to Beijing, too,” said Hsu Szu-chien, a scholar of Chinese politics at Academia Sinica, a state-financed research institution in Taipei. “Particularly after the Occupy Central movement, I think the Taiwanese voters are alarmed by the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong.”
In the race for the Taipei mayor’s seat, Ko Wen-je, a blunt-talking political novice, trounced Sean Lien, the scion of a prominent Kuomintang family. Mr. Ko took 57.1 percent of the vote to Mr. Lien’s 40.8 percent, with 97 percent of precincts counted, according to Taiwan’s Central Election Commission.
Taipei, a city of 2.7 million, is a traditional stronghold of the Kuomintang, which has held the mayor’s seat in the capital for the past 16 years.
Mr. Ko, 55, was supported by the Democratic Progressive Party but ran as an independent on a platform advocating transparency and a bridging of the partisan divide. The party, which favors independence for Taiwan, is known as the green camp, and the Kuomintang and other parties that favor closer relations with China and eventual unification are known as the blue camp.
“Beloved citizens, we have set in motion the power of love to return the feeling of greatness to this city,” Mr. Ko said in his victory speech. “The result of this Taipei mayoral election is a manifestation of Taiwan’s democratic values and Taipei citizens’ determination to pursue progress.”
Mr. Lien is the son of Lien Chan, a Kuomintang elder who has served as Taiwan’s prime minister and vice president. But such a legacy, along with Mr. Lien’s personal wealth, was more of a burden than an advantage at a time when the average Taipei resident is worried about housing prices and the gap between the rich and the poor.
Voters across Taiwan chose from nearly 20,000 candidates for 11,130 local seats, electing village chiefs and mayors in six municipalities, among other posts. While the results hinged on local issues and the parties’ get-out-the-vote efforts, the contests also offered an indication of public sentiment ahead of the presidential election in 2016. Presidents in Taiwan are limited to two four-year terms, and the current president, Ma Ying-jeou, is serving his final term.
The wide losses prompted Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah, who leads the executive branch of government under Mr. Ma, to step down. He acknowledged that the results were a display of public dissatisfaction.
Mr. Ma has been deeply unpopular over the past year. Food safety scandals and tepid economic growth have stoked discontent. The president’s efforts to forge closer trade ties with China have raised questions about whether only the wealthy will benefit and whether Taiwan’s sovereignty will be put at risk by increasing economic reliance on China. Student demonstratorsoccupied Taiwan’s legislature for more than three weeks this spring to protest the Kuomintang’s efforts to pass a trade bill with China.
The Kuomintang previously held 15 of Taiwan’s 22 cities and counties, but that ratio was roughly reversed Saturday. The Kuomintang won just six seats, while the Democratic Progressive Party declared victory in 13, including four of Taiwan’s six special municipalities, which make up most of the country’s largest cities.