Tag Archives: party-nomination

Taiwan – Presidential Election 2016: Nominating the Candidates

Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for Taiwan in January 2016. With just six months of electioneering ahead, the races – particularly the presidential race – appear muted, due in no small part to the lack of competition for the party nomination. This lack of intraparty competition seems surprising, given that the two-term incumbent, President Ma Jing-yeou, is hugely unpopular. For the opposition, a nomination – particularly in light of the landslide elections against the governing party in the nine-in-one local elections in November, 2014 – provides unprecedented tailwinds to a presidential campaign. For the ruling party, the unpopularity of the incumbent president provides an opportunity to steer an independent direction that departs from well-worn tracks. Given such promising beginnings, the dearth of candidates is curious. At the same time, it also calls attention to the candidates who are currently in or expected to run in the presidential race.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officially nominated party-chair, Tsai Ing-wen, as presidential nominee on April 15, 2015. Tsai was the only candidate to throw her hat in the ring for the party nomination; as a result, the party skipped party primaries altogether. Tsai contested the presidential elections in 2012 but lost to the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate, Ma Jing-yeou. This time round, her odds look considerably better: as an indication, strong contenders for the DPP party-chair race in 2014 – Su Tseng-chang and former premier Frank Hsieh – dropped out of that race to essential cede the position to Tsai. Su was expected to contest the DPP presidential nomination, as was Tainan mayor, William Lai Ching-te; however, neither came to pass. Indeed, the popular Tainan mayor advocated for the party to unite behind Tsai’s candidacy on a facebook post.

On the KMT front, two hopefuls threw in their names by the party primary registration deadline: Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu, and former Health Minister Tang Chih-liang. Only one, Deputy Speaker Hung, passed the party threshold of 15,000 votes to proceed to the next phase of the party nomination, the opinion polls, where she will need to receive at least 30 percent support in order to be nominated as party candidate. If Hung fails to pass that threshold, then the party may draft a candidate for the party nomination directly. Two possible contenders, if that should come to pass, are: Legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and New Taipei City Mayor and party chair Eric Chu. While Chu had steadfastly rejected the possibility of running for the presidency, Wang has been coy: on May 15, a day before the party primary deadline, he “thanked and apologized” to supporters without explicitly rejecting the possibility of a presidential run.

Besides candidates from the two main parties, an independent candidate – former DPP Chair Shih Ming-teh – has announced his candidacy. The former opposition leader, a political prisoner for 25 years, is rumoured to have talked to former presidential candidate for the 2012 elections, James Soong, about a possible joint-ticket. The independent has already vowed to form a coalition cabinet if successful. Shih will need 270,000 signatures as endorsement to be eligible as presidential candidate.

Taiwan – Party-nomination, Local Elections, and the Presidency

With a highly unpopular President at the helm of the country, the prospects for the opposition pan-Green camp led by the opposition DPP party to recapture the presidency with a concurrent a legislative majority – the latter has proven elusive so far for the pan-Green camp – appear probable. The KMT captured the Presidency and a significant majority in the legislature in 2008, raising concerns that the formidable largesse of the party may pave the way to a one-party dominant system. Fortunately for the country’s political development, those concerns proved unfounded: there has been a steady move back to viable competitive elections, although the KMT managed to retain the presidency and the legislative majority in the 2012 elections. But the progressive erosion of popular support for the KMT and President Ma has not ebbed, as evident in the low points of 2014 captured by the 24-day student-led occupation of the legislature and campaigns initiated to recall legislative members supportive of President Ma’s agenda.

Under these conditions, it is probably not surprising that many see – or hope to see – the 2014 November local elections as the bellwether for the 2016 national elections. In this context, the DPP and pan-Green camp has sought to identify and field viable candidates for the local elections to capture a victory-sprint towards the presidential and national races. In a recent development, physician Ko Wen-je bettered DPP-candidate Pasuya Yao in the second stage of the pan-Green primary process for the Taipei city mayoral race and will likely be supported by the DPP for the election.

Interesting or competitive or controversial cases tend to draw attention, and a highly-watched race such as the Taipei mayoral elections is no exception. Unfortunately, problems are particularly evident under scrutiny, and the usual suspects of strategic voting or weak-party identification pepper the two-stage nomination process in the pan-Green camp. As a result, it may be useful to point out a larger picture of transparency or accountability in the party nomination process.

Since the late 1990s, the DPP has implemented a two-stage primary process that pitches DPP-aspirants who win in telephone polls in the first-stage against independent pan-Green candidates in the second-stage. While that process has been criticized – most recently, former Vice-President Annette Lu withdrew from the primary, citing failure of DPP “integrity” and raising the prospects that she may run as an independent for the mayoral race of Taipei City – it has, at a minimum, brought greater transparency to the nomination process in the pan-Green camp.

Transparency is important: party-candidate nominations have come under significant criticism in several East and Southeast Asian emergent democracies, including South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with many viewing the process as the root of corruption in politics. Given the tepid party-identification in these emergent democracies, party-institutionalization needs to balance candidate-centered campaigns that bring popular support – but which are liable to become personality-oriented rather than party-oriented – with party-building efforts that focus on broadening the party-base. Having a clean nomination process is an important step in this process, and should be emphasized as one of these party-building efforts.