Taipei’s Police Department said they have assessed the security risks and made precautionary plans ahead of Saturday’s mayoral election. Leading candidates were to stage rallies and hold vote-canvassing parties in last-minute efforts to gain votes on Friday evening, ahead of the poll on Saturday.

With incumbent Mayor Ko Wen-je and his rival Pasuya Yao from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party planning simultaneous rallies close to each other in downtown Taipei, police were concerned over the potential for clashes between opposing groups of supporters on Friday evening.

The capital city’s riot squad, armed with tear gas and rubber bullets, was on standby. Impromptu traffic control measures may also be enforced, depending on the length of events and their turnouts.

The police stressed they would maintain a professional neutrality throughout the election weekend. Even though the police force is part of the municipal government, Ko will no longer be in a position to give direct instructions to the force after he delegated authority to his deputies to focus on the election.

Taiwan’s national security agency and its military police have also said that they would step in if necessary to assist the regional government in maintaining social order and public safety.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je after winning the mayoral election in Taipei on November 29, 2014. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Taipei’s incumbent mayor Ko Wen-je is tipped to retain his top job in the capital city.  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, police had also beefed up security at various key locations around the city. These included the Presidential Palace, President Tsai Ing-wen’s private residence, the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan complexes as well as the municipal government building.

Leave had been canceled for all 9,900 police officers, and auxiliary police in the city have been told to work overtime or take shift duties until after the election result is announced early next week. Voters will be subject to security checks at all polling stations in the city.

Ko is tipped to retain the mayoralty as his approval ratings are consistently well ahead of his competitors. Meanwhile, Yao’s campaign team has reportedly set a goal of gathering 100,000 supporters to shore up Yao’s popularity.