UPDATE 1-Taiwan local polls test pro-China party after shooting

(Adds ballot counting begins, quotes)
TAIPEI, Nov 27 (BestGrowthStock) – Taiwan began
counting ballots on Saturday in tense races to choose mayors
of the island’s biggest cities, a test of the popularity of
the China-friendly ruling party ahead of the 2012 presidential
race.

Whichever party wins most of the five races will have a
clear shot at the presidency, and a strong performance by the
anti-China opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could
stoke concern in Beijing. Results will be announced later in
the day.

Voters cast ballots after the son of a former Taiwan vice
president was shot and wounded during a ruling party campaign
rally near Taipei late on Friday. But media reports said a man
arrested for the shooting was a member of a criminal gang and
did not appear to have a political motive.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan for
six decades and since 2008 has been discussing economic issues
with the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT). Beijing hopes those
talks will lead eventually to political unification.

“Some people will bear in mind the China issue today,”
said voter Liao Shao-an, 27, of Taipei. “Their judgment isn’t
too objective, either. They’re guided by rigid party-line
views.”

Taiwan financial markets may slip in the short term if the
DPP wins big on fears that the opposition’s new clout might
extend to the presidency and threaten trade deals with
economic powerhouse China.

China and Taiwan are due to talk next year about new
import tariff cuts following an economic cooperation framework
(ECFA) signed in mid-2010.

“Election results could weigh on sentiment,” said Joanna
Tan, economist with Forecast Ltd in Singapore. “ECFA is due
for further talks next year, so that could delay the process.”

A majority win for the KMT on the other hand would give
President Ma Ying-jeou solid odds of winning a second term to
pursue more trade ties with China.

Friday’s shooting incident could generate sympathy votes
for the KMT as Ma urged quick police follow-up on the case and
called it an attack on Taiwan’s 23-year-old democracy.

Opposition ex-president Chen Shui-bian won by a thin
margin in 2004 after a bullet grazed him and his running mate.
The KMT said that incident was staged to win votes.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings, editing by Andrew Marshall)

UPDATE 1-Taiwan local polls test pro-China party after shooting