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:
|New Power Party (NPP)||2|
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.
- Elgie, Robert. “List of president-parliamentary and premier-presidential systems.” August 12, 2014. http://presidential-power.com/?p=1757