Tag Archives: general elections

Taiwan: Presidential and General Elections, January 2016

January 16, 2016 witnessed two historic events in Taiwan: the election of the first female president, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the first legislative majority for the DPP. Tsai was elected to the presidency with an absolute majority of 56.1% of the votes, Eric Chu of the Kuomintang (KMT) received 31 percent of the popular votes, and James Soong of the People First Party (PFP) got 12.8 percent of the votes. Turnout was 66.3 percent, the lowest since 1996 when direct elections of the presidency began.

In the 113 legislative-seat race, the Central Election Commission reported a total of 354 candidates for 73 regional seats, 23 aboriginal candidates for 6 seats, 18 parties with 179 candidates for 34 at-large seats. The at-large seat-allocation for the parties is:

DPP 18
KMT 11
PFP 3
New Power Party (NPP) 2

Source: Central Election Commission

With the election, DPP holds 68 seats of the 113-seat legislature (up from 40); the Kuomintang (KMT) has 35 seats (down from 64), and the NPP, a new party formed in January following the Sunflower Movement where student-led protestors occupied the legislature in protest of opaque cross-straits trade agreements, wins five legislative seats. The other parties to sit in the legislature include three seats for the PFP (no change), 1 seat for the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (down from 2), and one seat to an independent.

Going into election day, Tsai was the consistent leader in the polls, hitting her stride early in the race as the candidate-nominee for the DPP with no other contenders for the nomination. Indeed, Tainan mayor, William Lai Ching-te, who was rumoured to be a possible contender, mayor advocated for the party to unite behind Tsai’s candidacy on his facebook page.

In contrast, the majority ruling party going into the election, the KMT, floundered. The party’s presidential nomination was notable for the lack of political heavyweights contesting the party’s nomination. The party officially nominated Hung Hsiu-chu, deputy legislative speaker, as party nominee at the party congress in July following her success at the two-stage party primary, but the candidate was dogged by lacklustre support within the party. Indeed, key party figures absented themselves from Hung’s campaigns, and party members’ resistance to Hung’s candidacy amplified when the chair of the People First Party (PFP) James Soong, entered the presidential race in August.

Soong’s contestation of the presidential race was not a surprise: the candidate had left the KMT to form the splinter PFP party in 2000 to contest presidential elections then. Soong was rumoured to be approached by former DPP Chair Shih Ming-the, who announced his own candidacy for the presidential elections in late May, about a possible joint-ticket. However, Shih struggled to obtain the 270,000 signatures as endorsement to be eligible as presidential candidate and exited the race in September. Soong’s entry into the presidential race saw him immediately placed ahead of KMT’s Hung. That may have emboldened the candidate, or perhaps it was a standing strategy, but Soong was rumoured to be seeking support from his erstwhile party comrades, a charge he denied even as his visits to former KMT council members became known.

Meanwhile, the KMT – which had maintained publicly of support for the party nomination of Hung – saw increasingly vocal and public party opposition to the candidate. On October 17, the KMT officially cancelled Hung’s candidacy and replaced the party-nomination with Eric Chu, the KMT party chair and Taipei City mayor.

Despite the party-switch – or, perhaps, because of it – Eric Chu never gained ground against Tsai. The party seemed to weaken further with the announcements of the vice presidential candidates: Tsai running mate was Academia Sinica Vice President Chen Chien-jen; Chu selected former labour minister, Jennifer Wang, while Soong’s vice-presidential nominee was Hsu Hsin-ying, chair of the newly formed Republic Party. Of the three vice-presidential nominees, Wang was the most controversial, igniting protests over her labour-rights record.

The presidential inauguration will be held on May 20, 2016. Meanwhile, the president-elect is busy getting her cabinet in order in the presidential-parliamentary system. 1 Optimism – and expectations — run high for the new president.

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  1. Elgie, Robert. “List of president-parliamentary and premier-presidential systems.” August 12, 2014. http://presidential-power.com/?p=1757

Kiribati – What does it take to become President?

2015 shapes as an important year in Kiribati politics as it will be the last of current President Anote Tong’s tenure in office. First elected Beretitenti [President] in 2003, Tong has served the maximum three terms allowed for under the Kiribati constitution and so he cannot contest the next ballot. Taking up where I left off in this post about the profile of Presidents in FSM, here I look back at the people who have been President in Kiribati and cast my eye over possible contenders for the top job this time around.

As outlined here, Kiribati is somewhat unique among Pacific Island countries in that it has enjoyed relative political stability since independence in 1979. There have only been four Heads of Government, for example, which is a marked contrast to other Pacific countries, especially in neighboring Tuvalu or Melanesia. Like nearby Marshall Islands and Nauru, the President of Kiribati is both Head of State and Head of Government. One distinguishing feature is its two-round runoff electoral system in which the Parliament nominates up to four of its members after each election to contest a nation-wide ballot for the Presidency.

All four Presidents of Kiribati are currently still Members of Parliament (MP), although, as I will discuss further below, this may well change at the next election. The first President, Sir Ieremia Tabai, was New Zealand educated and took the country to independence at just 29 years old. On the completion of his three terms his Vice President, Teatao Teannaki was elected, although some commentators believed that Tabai continued to wield considerable influence behind the scenes before and after his appointment as Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum in 1992. Teannaki, who incidentally is much older than the other three (he was born in 1936 whereas the others were born in the early 1950s), was educated in the UK and only served one term as President. His successor, Teburoro Tito, was educated in Fiji and came from the opposite side of politics to Tabai and Teannaki (although the membership of parliamentary coalitions is fluid in Kiribati). He is also the only one of the four to be elected from a Tarawa constituency. Tarawa is the capital of Kiribati and is home to around 50% of the population. Tito was eventually defeated in a no-confidence motion, which led to the election of Tong in 2003 after a brief caretaker period. Educated in the UK, Tong has been especially vocal on climate change issues during his Presidency, which has led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

While the sample is obviosuly tiny, many of the patterns identified in the FSM post are also apparent in Kiribati. Presidents tend to be male, overseas educated from professional backgrounds, which means that even if they are not born in Tarawa they have spent most of their lives living there or overseas. It also means that they have the financial resources to compete in election campaigns. Campaigning is increasingly expensive in Pacific Island countries and the two-round runoff system means that prospective Presidents have to fund both an initial parliamentary contest and then a later nation-wide Presidential campaign. Kiribati is a geographically large country (21 inhabited islands spread across more than 3 million kilometers of ocean) and so having a national profile, often developed by performance in parliamentary debates that are widely broadcast on radio, helps. The backing of local members from each of Kiribati’s atoll constituencies is also important.

Keeping that in mind, who might vie for the top job this time around? The fluid nature of Kiribati politics makes any outcome hard to predict but we might expect that the two losers in the last Presidential campaign, Dr. Tetaua Taitai and Rimeta Beniamina, might contest again. Taitai heads up the main opposition party, of which Tito is a member, while Beniamina is a former government MP but is now leader of his own party. Taitai, who was born in 1947, is of the Tabai/Tito generation whereas Beniamina, who was born in 1960, would represent a changing of the guard. This shift would be especially significant if other independence generation politicians like Tabai, Tito and Teannaki chose to step down or lost at the next election. The current Vice President, Teima Onorio, is another possibility. Hers would be a remarkable result, however, as no women has ever been elected Head of State in the independent Pacific. For this and other reasons her candidacy is unlikely.

No doubt others will emerge throughout 2015. What makes the outcome so difficult to predict, however, is that candidates and their supporters must first win their constituency seats and in a country where political parties have little bearing on voter preferences – family and church allegiances are more important – this is not an insignificant hurdle.

Latvia – General election results confirm ruling coalition’s mandate

On 5 October 2014, Latvia held parliamentary elections whose results will allow the ruling centre-right coalition to stay in office. Following the snap elections of 2011, the elections now followed a shortened legislative term of three years (while the legislative term generally lasts four years, the constitution prescribes regular general elections in four-year intervals) and brought two new parties into parliament.

Party % of votes Seats Change
“Harmony” Socialdemocratic Party (“Saskaņa” sociāldemokrātiskā partija) 23.13% 24 -7
Unity (“VIENOTĪBA”) 21.76% 23 +3
Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība) 19.62% 21 +8
National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!”-“Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”) 16.57% 17 +3
For Latvia from the heart! (No sirds Latvijai) 6.88% 7 new
Latvian Association of Regions (Latvijas Reģionu Apvienība) 6.55% 8 new
Others 4.83% 0
Total 100.00% 100

As in 2010 and 2011, the election winner was the socialdemocratic “Harmony Centre” party, yet as it is strongly linked to the Russian-speaking population and only left-of-centre party, it is unlikely to be included in the government. Compared to 2011, Harmony however lost 7 of its seats in the 100-seat assembly and the runner-up “Unity” of Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma only won one seat less. Unity gained three seats, however, it ran a common list together the “Reform Party” founded by former president Zatlers (both parties still gained a combined seat count of 42 in the 2011 the last elections). Unity’s coalition partners – the “National Alliance” and the “Union of Greens and Farmers” – both increased their seat share as well, so that the coalition now controls 61 seats. The Union of Greens and Farmers had only been included in the government since January 2014 following pressure from president Andris Berzins. While it would be difficult to link Berzins interference with the Union’ political success, its new status as second-largest coalition partner will most likely secure his re-election next year.

The elections also brought two new parties in to parliament. The “Latvian Association of Regions” – created through a merger of two smaller parties – and “For Latvia from the Heart” (a genuinely new party under the leader ship of former state auditor Inguna Sudraba) both gained representation. While the former party – whose candidate for Prime Minister recently suggested to introduce popular presidential elections – still has chances to enter the government, “For Latvia from the Heart”s chances are rather slim. Throughout the campaign the party tried to maintain a neutral stance towards the Harmony Centre and indirectly campaigned for the votes of the Russian-speaking minority.

It is still unclear whether president Berzins will nominate Straujuma for Prime Minister again. Her nomination in January was widely interpreted as a way to put a more uncontroversial figure at the helm of the coalition after the centre-right coalition’s approval ratings had been in constant decline (see also here). Although she was Unity’s official candidate for Prime Minister, she lacks a strong support base in the party. Outgoing EU commission Andris Piebalgs (Unity) appears to have better chances for the job. He had already been a preferred candidate of the president in January 2014 and might – given that Latvia will take over the EU presidency in January 2015 – be the better person for the job.

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More information on the website of the Latvian Electoral Commission (in Latvian and English):
http://sv2014.cvk.lv/index_rez.html?lang=1