A Tragic Hero? Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party











Taiwan has concluded its 2012 presidential election. In a three-way race, the incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) won re-election. His main challenger, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), lost the election by a substantial margin, 800,000 votes out of the 13 million votes cast. In her concession speech, Tsai asked her supporters “to recall the despair of four years ago” when the DPP suffered a terrible defeat after the disastrous 8-year rule of the DPP under President Chen Shui-bian. “We moved forward step-by-step,” she said, “[t]his time, we just came up short of reaching the peak by one mile.” In the aftermath of the election, observers and pundits, including some in her own party, concluded that the DPP’s cross-Strait policy had failed. Such an assessment may be able to explain why the DPP lost the 2012 presidential election, but it does not give the DPP and its cross-Strait policy the proper credit because, paradoxically, Taiwan has benefited from this “failed” policy in recent years.

The issue of cross-Strait relations has always been at the center of Taiwanese politics. The 2012 presidential election was no exception as the debate focused on the so-called “1992 Consensus” or the “one China with respective interpretations.” The Consensus is a tacit understanding reached by Beijing and Taipei in 1992 which allows both sides to recognize the concept of “one China” as the basis for cross-Strait interaction but also to finesse the uncomfortable details. Along with the three-no policy of “no unification, no independence, and no use of military force,” this “agree-to-disagree” formula has become the basis of Ma’s engagement policies with China. Beijing leaders have responded positively to Taipei’s rapprochement approach so far and Taiwan’s relations with China have improved substantially since 2008. During the subsequent three years, the Ma administration has deepened cross-Strait economic ties and has signed more than a dozen agreements with Beijing, including a landmark trade deal: the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

Ma’s policies have received the approval of the majority of the electorate but his backing comes mainly from KMT supporters and “centrist voters” (zhongjian xuanmin). A recent public opinion poll shows that more than half of Tsai’s DPP followers disapprove of the “one China with respective interpretations” formulation as the basis of cross-Strait interactions. To their way of thinking, the “1992 Consensus” merely sugar coats Beijing’s version of the “one China principle” and masks its intention to annex Taiwan. They expressed concern over the deepening of cross-Strait interactions fearing that the island’s increasing dependence on the Chinese market would threaten Taiwan’s economic autonomy. Tsai’s objection to the ECFA reflects this sentiment. Prior to the signing of the accord, she argued publicly that the proposed trade pact would erode Taiwan’s sovereignty as it would be based on the “one China principle” at Beijing’s insistence. The agreement would also harm Taiwan’s small and medium enterprises and its farmers and workers as the island would become a dumping ground for low-priced goods from China.

Beijing has been watching these developments very closely. Chinese leaders learned from Taiwan’s 1996 and 2000 presidential elections that coercive policies are counterproductive to their cause of unification. They thus have increasingly relied on the policy of “placing hope on the Taiwanese people.” To cultivate friendly positive attitude toward China, particularly in the southern part of Taiwan where the DPP’s main support lies, Beijing made a series of concessions to Taipei during the negotiation of ECFA. It agreed that the proposed trade pact would be a strictly economic arrangement and not a political one in order to quell the DPP’s concern that the ECFA would erode Taiwan’s sovereignty. It also made many “profit concessions” (rhangli) including favorable tariff treatments for more than 500 types of Taiwanese goods, whereas Chinese companies only got preferential tax breaks on about 260 items. To appease citizens in southern Taiwan, the accord also includes more than a dozen farming and fishing categories on China’s part, with no reciprocal liberalization by Taiwan. As a result, Taipei under Ma’s leadership was able to obtain a trade deal that provided much economic advantage for Taiwan without having to confront the tricky subject of the “one China” principle. All of these “advantages” were acquired by Taipei’s negotiators because, as one Taiwanese official who was involved in the negotiation process commented to this author, Beijing had “[DPP’s and its supporters’] concerns in its mind” at the negotiation table.

In the aftermath of the election, the DPP has been doing some soul-searching, reflecting on the Party’s policy towards China. It has recognized that Tsai’s cross-Strait policy as packaged under the proposal of “Taiwan Consensus” was devoid of specifics and failed to provide the island citizens a sense of certainty and stability. Ma’s policy, by comparison, has a proven record of engaging China and has received positive reviews from Washington. As a result, some in the DPP believe that the Party should accept the “one China with respective interpretations” as the basis of cross-Strait interactions, while others reject the idea. It is too early to tell what exactly the DPP’s future cross-Strait policy will become, but it is unlikely that the Party will openly abandon its pro-independence position as it has the strong backing of its core base known as the “Deep-Green Supporters.” Estimated at about 10% of the electorate, Deep-Green supporters have exercised substantial influence within the DPP. Indeed, their unswerving anti-China stand was the main reason for Tsai’s ambiguous “Taiwan Consensus” proposal in the 2012 presidential election.

Traditionally, neither the KMT nor the DPP can claim an enduring majority in island-wide elections even though the former has enjoyed a structural advantage. To win a general election, both parties need the support of their core base plus that of centrist voters. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Tsai needed to retain the backing of her Deep-Green base. But in order to win, she also needed the support of centrist voters who are not in favor of unification but want to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and policies that could lead to cross-Strait tension. Tsai was caught in the dilemma of how to appeal to the Party’s pro-independence core supporters while not alienating more moderate centrist voters. Ambiguity became the optimal course of action but Tsai’s “Taiwan Consensus” failed to present itself as a credible alternative to the “1992 Consensus.” Even if the DPP, after considerable soul-searching, decides to accept the “1992 Consensus” as the basis for cross-Strait interactions, the Party is likely to add a pro-independence twist in it, which will be difficult for Chinese leaders to accept given Beijing’s steadfast insistence on the “one China principle.” If so, history may repeat itself in 2016 as the DPP cross-Strait policy may again fail to give the majority of the Taiwanese citizens, especially centrist voters, a sense of certainty and stability.

The Ma administration needs to continue its exploitation of the DPP’s misfortune. Observers generally believe that Beijing is likely to press Taipei for political talks during Ma’s second term. Although Ma’s rapprochement policy is based on an “agree-to-disagree” formula, it is considered to be by far the most positive response on the part of Taipei to Beijing’s position in the past decades. Considering that Taiwan has regular and democratic elections, Chinese leaders may try to take advantage of Taipei’s current friendly policies lest a future elected government be less forthcoming. They could employ their political and economic resources to force Taiwan-China relations to a tipping point that would lead to eventual political unification. Should this occur, the Ma administration will need all the help it can get to resist the enormous pressure from Beijing. In this scenario, concerns represented by the DPP and its followers might become crucial for Taipei. Unless Beijing can convince the majority of the Taiwanese people, including those identified with the DPP and the cause the Party represents, that political unification is desirable, the “my hands are tied” argument may be the best negotiation tactic for the Ma administration. For the DPP, the irony is that its misfortune may contribute to Taiwan’s most important defense against Chinese pressure in future cross-Strait talks.

T.Y. Wang is Professor of Political Science, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA. He is the Co-Editor of Journal of Asian and African Studies. His personal website is accessible here.

Wrapping up Taiwan 2012

In the end, the result of the combined presidential and legislative elections looks like a comfortable and routine win for Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT. Sitting presidents who successfully steward an economy through a global crisis and reduce pressing security threats, seldom fail to be re-elected. Yet, those who have followed the campaign closely will know that this reduction hides a range of issues and complexities that have been documented on this blog since November 1st.

Whether you interpret it as a mandate, a signal of increasing opposition, or the result of various peculiarities, voters granted Ma another four years, with a legislative majority, to continue implementing his policy programs. The direction of cross-Strait relations has been set, but the pace of detente across the Strait is likely to slow. A strong losing effort from Tsai and the DPP means that Ma and the KMT have less latitude to implement their rapprochement policies at will.

The low hanging fruit in cross-Strait economic interactions has been harvested, and further advances will necessitate much trickier negotiations. The CCP is preoccupied with its own domestic problems and upcoming leadership transition, which is likely to lead to a holding position for the rest of the year. Thereafter, pressure may build on Ma to get serious about talking politics with Beijing. Given the strength of popular support for maintaining the status quo, and a rejuvenated opposition (despite the loss and Tsai’s resignation from the DPP leadership), Ma will face more pressure than in his first term. Assuredly, Taiwan’s political situation will continue to demand our attention.

This is the final posting on the Taiwan 2012 blog. Ballots and Bullets will continue to operate (covering various issues in international politics), and I will post here periodically, on both Taiwan and China. I will also contribute to the China Policy Institute’s blog.

The period covered by the Taiwan2012 blog has been difficult, as my wife was seriously ill after our daughter was born in October. It has therefore been particularly gratifying to have been able to share an interest in Taiwan with so many people. Between November 1st and this final post, the blog has generated 60,000 page views, including well over 4000 on Election Day. I would like to thank the following people for their contributions and support, and to everyone who has commented and read the blog during the last 12 weeks.

Thanks to Steve Fielding, Phil Cowley and Steve Tsang at the University of Nottingham for supporting this initiative. Students Scott Pacey, Shih-Hsin Chen, Chris Agass, and Esther Tseng have been a great help. For initial technical support, thanks to Sajhd Hussain and Cemal Burak Tansel.

Especial thanks to the following good people who have written posts for the blog (in some cases, multiple posts): Paul Katz, Sigrid Winkler, Dafydd Fell, Michael Turton, Jens Damm, Mikael Mattlin, Sheng-chih Wang, Julie Chen, Linda Arrigo, Gunter Schubert, Harry Wu, Chris Wang, Muyi Chiu, Dalton Lin, Tim Rich, Malte Kaeding, Sasa Istenic, Chun-Yi Lee, Julia Famularo, Wang Hong-zen, Jeremy Taylor, Bonnie Glaser, John F. Copper, Scott Simon, Cal Clark, Lin Pei-Yin, Ko-hua Yap, Jerome Soldani, Tony Liu, Michal Thim, David Blundell, Ann Heylen, Daniel Lynch, Youann Goudin, Steve Tsang, Esther Tseng, Myron Chiu, Stephane Corcuff, Edward Friedman, Mau-kuei Chang, TY Wang, J Michael Cole, Alex Tan, Stefan Fleischauer, Martin Aldrovandi, Bo Teddards, Gerrit van der Wees, Portnoy Zheng. I think that’s everyone, if I’ve missed you off, please mail me to rectify!

The winner of most-viewed guest post is Paul Katz, for his brilliant pastiche “And by their friends ye shall know them“.

Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the word, for example these good folks on Twitter: @TimMaddog, @Taiwanderful, @davidonformosa, @chungiwang, @Koxinga8, @KeepTWfree, @TaiwanCorner, @taiwanreporter, @filination, @Brownlaoshi, @blickpunktaiwan, @Portnoy, @TaniaBranigan, @kerim, @ChinaLetter, @paulmozur, @samgeall, @Oscar_Wang, @116East, @ChinaMehmet, @markmackinnon, @fravel, @taiwanreporter, @riceagain, @alicemuwu, @Brianglucroft and many others to whom I also extend my thanks.

My thanks to Michael Turton at the View From Taiwan for publicizing the blog throughout, to TJ Cheng for his similar support in the US, and to Dalton Lin of Taiwan Security Research and the many other blog owners who linked to linked to the blog (if your name should be here, please let me know).

Finally, hope to see you all in 2016, if not sooner. Happy Lunar New Year everybody, 恭喜發財。Jon

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com

The 8th Legislative Yuan and the blue-green divide

The joint presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan are over and it is time to sum up the results. Without doubt, there will be plenty of opinions why the result turned out the way it did. The presidential election seemed to have overshadowed the legislative ones in terms of visibility, but the legislative elections were equally important. As Dafydd Fell pointed out in November, the legislative elections were neglected, especially in media, but as the Chen Shui-bian era showed, having a presidency “besieged” by a Blue-dominated legislature was no big gain. The discontent with the DPP that resulted in resounding defeat in 2008 can be partly attributed to administrative inefficiency while perceptions of DPP’s presidency as corrupt helped the KMT avoid its share of responsibility. In the light of this experience, it is surprising that the DPP did not put more effort in to trying to secure a legislative majority. A Ma Ying-jeou checked by DPP-dominated legislature would have been a better outcome for the DPP than Tsai Ing-wen as president with a “hostile” KMT legislative majority.

There are few basic facts about the elections: the KMT won and the DPP lost. The KMT performed worse than in 2008 but that was generally expected. The DPP performed far better than in 2008 (and that was generally expected too), but not well enough to secure the presidency and/or legislative majority. The People First Party (PFP) was very near to total failure in its pursuit of some seats in the Legislative Yuan, while scoring only slightly over the 5% threshold on legislators-at-large list (PR district) that secured them 2 seats (in addition to 1 seat in districts). However, what has been largely left unnoticed is the surprisingly good performance of the Taiwan Solidarity Union  (TSU), with support for the nationwide party list reaching almost 10%.

Support for respective political parties on legislators-at-large list serves as an important indicator for the real party preference in Taiwan’s society. The first reason is that single nationwide district that is big enough (34 seats in this case) generally produces fairly proportional results even if there is an entry threshold, which in Taiwan is 5% of votes, provided that not too many votes are “wasted” below the threshold. According to the CEC, this was the case for only slightly more than 6% of votes. The second reason is that single-mandate (FPTP) districts, through which 73 (or 2/3 of total LY seats) legislators are elected, typically produces significant disproportion and so they did this time, although to a lesser extent than in 2008. Additionally, smaller parties, including PFP and TSU, did not compete in single-mandate districts on large scale because of their slim chances of getting elected. The PFP did field a few candidates, but failed, and their only seat from districts is 1 of the 6 reserved for aborigines that are selected under the old SNTV system. The following table offers a breakdown of the legislators-at-large results.

The table shows what the overall results (that take into account the total allocation of mandates) are hiding. In terms of total number of seats, the KMT still enjoys a comfortable majority with 64 legislators (57 out of 113 is needed for a majority), although during last election term several KMT legislators lost their seat for vote-buying and other violations. Should that situation repeat, KMT will have serious reason to worry. However, the main message is that the pan-green camp is back in legislature and that when support in votes is considered it is almost as strong as the KMT. In 2008, DPP was left alone in despair and its junior partner TSU disappeared from the LY benches. Yet, in 2012, the TSU made an impressive 9.6% return.

Further research on the election results will most likely reveal that TSU made it to LY because a significant number of DPP supporters split their votes between the DPP (presidential elections, FPTP districts) and the TSU (PR district). The TSU is the more radical of the two parties in the green camp when it comes to the independence issue and growing concern on the part of the population that Taiwan is getting too close to China could be a contributing factor for casting a ballot for TSU. DPP voters also heeded the call from Tsai Ing-wen after she expressed support for the TSU and hoped that the party would exceed the needed 5%. In any case,voters that supported TSU took a leap of faith since it was far from certain that their votes will not get lost under the threshold. This is very different from strategic voting on the part of PFP supporters who voted for Ma knowing that their presidential candidate had no real chance. It is a question whether the DPP benefited from the TSU’s performance or not. However, as long as the pan-green coalition remains united, it is less relevant whether DPP could have had 3 seats more.

On a blue-green divide axis, it seems that the green camp re-emerged united in the LY whereas cooperation between the KMT and PFP cannot be taken for granted. The KMT does not need the PFP and the PFP will gain little from cooperation with the KMT unless it is ready to concede defeat and let itself absorb (back) into the KMT. An important lesson for the green camp is that both parties can benefit from mutual cooperation. In this regard there is a striking contrast between TSU and PFP that alienated its pan-blue partner by fielding its own candidate for president, hoping it would boost its performance in the LY elections only to end up with the same number of seats as the remarkably less visible TSU.

Michal Thim is currently enrolled in the International Master‘s Program in Asia-Pacific Studies (IMAS) at National Chengchi University in Taipei and research fellow at the Prague-based foreign policy think tank, Association for International Affairs.

Experiencing the Taiwanese Campaign Rally

This is the second Taiwan Presidential election I have had the pleasure to observe on site. In 2008 I spend more than two weeks on the road and managed to watch rallies and election related events in Pingtung, Kaohisung, Tainan, Changhua, Taichung, Taoyuan and Taipei. This time my trip was shorter and the election observation already began with a disappointment. The flight from Hong Kong was delayed so I missed all the great action on Super Sunday. Unfortunately Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT did not plan any large scale events such as election rallies in the last week of the campaign until the night before the election. So I decided to follow Tsai Ing-wen from the DPP to Southern and Central Taiwan.

I have to point out that what I present here is purely anecdotal evidence. Yet as many contributors to this blog have already pointed out, the election campaign started very late to get into full swing and there is a significant decrease of printed campaign advertisements and campaign literature. Thus on-site observations of campaign rallies contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of this year’s election campaign.

I attended the central rallies of the DPP in Kaohsiung on Wednesday night and in Taichung on Thursday night. I can only comment on the atmosphere and the speech given by Tsai Ing-wen in Kaohsiung. Ninety percent of speeches were made in Taiyu which I unfortunately do not understand and thus relied on very brief summaries from fellow attendants. In Taichung the situation for Mandarin speakers was slightly better. In Kaohsiung the rally began with representatives of agricultural and fishery bodies endorsing Tsai Ing-wen and proceeded with a first introduction of the Legislative Yuan candidates for Greater Kaohsiung. The Legislative Yuan candidates were introduced at the beginning in Taichung as well each giving short speeches. In Taichung the focus was on representatives from the cultural sector, particularly individuals with important positions in the music scene came out to voice their support for Tsai. Their addresses appeared to be bit long and many in the audience began to talk among themselves while a music professor went on about the positive attributes of Tsai.

The second stage in the rally was as music performance which catered more to the young participants. In Kaoshiung and Taichung the crowds appeared to be very satisfied with the two hip hop acts. In Taichung the satisfaction of the attendants was even greater as the performers incorporated a classic ‘graduation song’ into one of their pieces which the crown happily sung along.

Another round of endorsements brought party heavy weights like Hsieh Chang-ting and Chen Chu in Kaohsiung and Yu Shyi-kunand Su Tseng-chang to the stage. The crowds cheered them enthusiastically: this was particularly the case with Su Tseng-chang who seemed to be very pleased by the response. He played with the audience and swung between Mandarin and Taiyu in his address. An interesting novel element was the string focus on successful women from different sectors such as business and education who gave endorsements to Tsai, highlighting that Taiwanese women have proven their leadership qualities in various key positions. The endorsement section concluded at a high with the appearances of Vice-presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan who forcefully addressed the audience in Taiyu. In Taichung this was preluded by the appearance of Nobel Laureate Lee Yuan-tseand a large group of intellectuals and university professors supporting Tsai. When Lee entered the stage the crowd went mad.

The third act of the rally was a slower musical number in anticipation of Tsai’s arrival. The musical acts were well-known Taiwanese singers which connected very well with the audience. In Taichung two classic Taiyu songs frequently employed by the DPP such as 伊是咱的寶貝 were performed and the audience went to sing them along for the entire time.

Then finally Tsai arrived, slowly forcing her way through the masses, greeting everyone and shaking hands. People went crazy. Yet in Kaohsiung, once she was near the stage many people began to leave. The exodus from the ground continued when she began to speak. Asking people why they left, most answered that they have seen enough and the event would be over soon anyway. Certainly many people wanted to avoid the usual traffic chaos after mass rallies, but the reaction from the crowd during Tsai’s speech was also significantly less enthusiastic compared to the appearances of Hsieh, Chen or Su. One important reason might be that she was speaking mostly in Mandarin and is less of a campaign performer. In Taichung it appeared that significantly less people left the site.

In her short speech Tsai Ing-wen focused on the importance of democracy for Taiwan and linked it to the Kaohsiung Incident. In Taichung she mentioned local issues such as transportation and  stressed the importance to come out to vote, as in the Greater Taichung mayoral election the DPP missed a victory just by a little bit. She also stressed the importance of democracy with regard to cross-strait relations. She answered the KMT claim with her as President cross-strait relations would suffer and less mainland tourists would come to Taiwan, by stating that without democracy Taiwan would be not unique and mainland tourists would not find Taiwan interesting. The reaction of the crowd in Kaohsiung to this line of argument was less enthusiastic than in Taichung. Tsai proceeded to criticise the government for its unfair economic policies and stated that happiness means first and foremost a stable job, a home to return to and a warm meal. Shortly after her speech the rallies concluded.

In comparison the participants in the south appeared to be a bit less enthusiastic about Tsai as a candidate but strongly committed to the DPP as a party. It is also important to note that it seemed to be a larger proportion of young and middle age people attending the rallies than in 2008. Both observations support the perception that Tsai might be able to attract support beyond the hard core basis of the party who would come out for the DPP no matter what.

Finally a short remark to last night’s KMT rally with the memories still fresh and less organised. Basically the rundown of the rally was similar to those of the just described by the DPP and also the 2008 rallies. Again a mixture of musical numbers and performances by dance groups catering to the youth, the introduction of Legislative candidates and endorsements by key KMT politicians. Among these were in Taipei Eric Chu, Hau Lung-pin and Lien Chan. It was telling that a sick Lien Chan with an almost disappearing voice did give a more forceful performance than Hau. Hau praised Ma for his contributions to Taipei during his mayor-ship but went into tiny details about waste water management and other issues and how much the city has saved thanks to the visionary policies of Ma. The audience had to be constantly cheered up by the two hosts at the rally. Yet over-all the atmosphere was very good. The speeches in the rally were mostly given in Mandarin, but Chu and Legislative Yuan candidates spoke in Taiyu as well, constantly reminding the audience to come out to vote. An interesting element was the comparatively strong presence of the ROC national flag. This was key ingredient of the 2012 KMT campaign and it was highlighted by a hip hop dance performance with the ROC flag as central feature.

The turn-out was very impressive with the entire Kentagalan Boulevardand its adjacent streets packed with people from different age groups. One of the highlights of the rally was a video link in which Ma, who was in Taichung at the time, spoke to supporters in Kaohsiung and Taipei. He re-uttered his classic statement that he is strongly committed to Taiwan’s future and like all Taiwanese drinks Taiwan’s water and eats its rice. He criticised Tsai and her policies as not well thought through and immature. In his speech, as well in his address to the crowd in Taipei later, he frequently switched between Taiyu and Mandarin and  delivered a forceful and convincing performance. In my opinion his performance was better than in some rallies in 2008.

Overall the traditional campaign elements employed in rallies by DPP and KMT were dominant and the parties achieved their goal to mobilise large amounts of people and energised them before voting day.

Malte Kaeding is Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Surrey

The Flying Reporters: Out of Taiwan into China

For those of us academics based in Taiwan, keeping a close watch on the elections was not too much of an effort, although I agree with the observations in some of the earlier posts having very little feeling that there was an election of significance taking place in January 2012. I also support the opinion that campaign materials only started decorating the street view at a fairly late stage, and that political achievements of the ROC alternated with the bitter-sweet having your cultural feel about Taiwan next. Regardless, we have been pretty well exposed to the stories, debacles, incidents and other election related performances over the past couple of months.

With the elections in close sight, the foreign press desks and correspondents started flying in. Early last week, the Beijing-based boys from Belgium – Flanders desk – landed at Taoyuan International Airport. The night before, I received their polite email for an interview on the update of the upcoming elections. All went well, very professional as usual, but I was totally not expecting an interview dominated by “China”: What was at stake in these elections? What was China’s opinion? How important is the role of China? To what extent does China influence these elections? Could there be a possible conflict be in the making should Tsai win? I felt like standing on a “vast wasteland” for a moment.

Through the interview I stepped into the place called television, and I became an accomplice to a world that keeps defining Taiwan in terms of China. It does not matter how strongly I may feel and argue with the reporter that the election coverage does not benefit from the China-emphasis-syndrome. But at that moment I am not supposed to challenge Television’s center of meaning as that nucleus around which ideas, values, and shared experiences are constructed. I am sure that the Taiwan election coverage reportage will be very informative. The viewing experiences of the audiences back home may or may not result in fabricating a synthetic identity and stereotype of Taiwan as another location where China is dictating the way to go.

In hindsight, as much as we are exposed to look at Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq through American lenses, the flying reporters do the same in looking at Taiwan through the China lens, turning it into a symbolic China spectacle. I’d better picked a mainland Chinese tourist tour bus as the interview spot! But I selected the Presidential Office Building on Ketagalan Boulevard. In the social context I found myself, not a bad position after all. With television’s popularity comes a union of public acceptance and the expression of power. In that sense, I choose the location well because the Presidential Office Building as a historical monument equally embodies symbolisms linked to important social values and a highly visible centrality. From now on, I will be adding another dimension to the symbolism of the place: expressive of the modern architecture built during the Japanese colonial days, its modernity today contextualizes notions of fiction, fragmentation, collage and eclecticism, steeped with a sense of ephemerality and chaos in our televised foreign landscape.

Ann Heylen is associate professor at the Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature and Director of the International Taiwan Studies Center at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU)

5 Reasons I Overestimated Tsai Ing-wen’s Chances

1. The DPP had too much ground to make up.

The only DPP presidential administration to date, Chen Shui-bian 2000-2008, was characterised by severe governance problems (some of its own making, some because of KMT obstructionism in the legislature), permanent ideological mobilization, gridlock across the Strait, increasing international marginalization and, ultimately, corruption scandals that went right to the top. Fatigued and dis-ilussioned, voters in 2008 gave presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou a landslide victory and the KMT a huge legislative majority. Subsequently jailed for corruption, Chen’s fall from grace left the DPP in disarray. For a time it looked as if the party would never get back to being a viable opposition, let alone challenge for power. From the ashes of these setbacks, Tsai Ing-wen slowly emerged as a figure that could re-unify a party riven by factions and who could become an electorally viable candidate. Although she failed in her bid to become Mayor of the new municipality of Xinbei, she was highly competitive. Indeed, the DPP candidates in the 2010 Municipal elections (the equivalent of mid-term elections) performed above expectations, suggesting the party had come through its challenges and was once again competitive electorally. In hindsight, the DPP’s performance (they won two of five positions) was more symptomatic of a mid-term dip for the Ma administration, which despite its landslide victory, had gotten off to a slow start. Furthermore, the DPP has always performed better in local and municipal contests than it has in national executive and legislative elections. From where it came from in the aftermath of 2008, it was unrealistic to think that Tsai, as good as she was, could do something that no DPP presidential challenger had ever done before and get 50% of the vote.

2. Its very difficult to defeat an incumbent.

In democracies the world over, it is difficult to defeat an incumbent leader, unless he or she has done an exceptionally poor job. But even then, electorates are not wont to change willy nilly. Think how unpopular George W. Bush and Chen Shui-bian were during their first terms, and yet they were still re-elected. Indeed, no sitting ROC President has ever failed to secure a second term. Lee Teng-hui was non-elected incumbent President in 1996 and was elected (in a landslide) to another four year term in the first direct election for president. In 2004, despite all the problems caused by divided government and the poor performance of his government, Chen was able to convince voters to give him another term. Ma Ying-jeou has not been a universally popular president during his first term. The speed of his détente policies have worried many Taiwanese. The relative failure of his promised economic programs has put focus on the ungeneralized distribution of the benefits of ECFA, his major policy achievement. Yet, many of the economic problems that Taiwan suffered in the last four years are common to economies around the world; for all its political isolation, Taiwan’s economy is heavily integrated into the global economy. It is unrealistic to expect it to completely avoid the fallout from a global economic crisis. Furthermore, Ma has overseen, and directly driven, a policy that has warmed cross-Strait relations to a historical high. Given that the majority of Taiwanese acknowledge China as Taiwan’s major economic and strategic opportunity/threat, we shouldn’t under-estimate Ma’s record on this issue. Of course, incumbency is not only about policy performance, and I have written here previously about the incumbency advantages that Ma enjoyed, some common to all incumbents, some specific to the incomplete dismantling of political structures from the one party era. The endurance of these features should not be ignored. At the same time, it is not at all unusual for political parties to cultivate and enjoy the support of big business, influence media or channel resources to influential supporters.

3. Campaigns don’t make that much difference

Decades of research (although primarily on the US), shows that campaigns are not usually critical determinants of electoral outcomes. There are naturally exceptions, e.g. Korea’s “internet election” in 2002, but in general, the majority of voters make up their minds before the campaign even begins. This is probably especially true of polities where the campaign period is relatively short, although this observation is dampened by the emergence of “the permanent campaign”. Tsai Ing-wen ran a brilliant campaign. She was disciplined in staying on message, developed a persona of real presidential bearing, and took maximum advantage of Ma’s missteps. She performed well in the debates and didn’t make any major mistakes. Ma’s campaign on the other hand was a series of disasters. It handed the DPP a fundraising windfall (the piggybanks), was clumsy in its attacks on Tsai’s Hakka roots, and was involved in a highly unseemly Watergate-type scandal. Despite a focus on the economy and stable relations with China, Ma’s campaign quickly and frequently strayed off message, getting involved in unnecessary and unsavoury marginalia. Ultimately, many observers, including myself, bought into the momentum of the Tsai campaign, and forgot that short-term factors like what goes on during the campaign, do not normally decide the outcome of an election. I should acknowledge that some contributors to this blog were not so easily fooled. In particular, Gunter Schubert’s analysis was spot-on.

4. Cross-Strait relations were more salient than and indivisible from other issues.

This election was about many things, including a range of economic issues (income disparity, unemployment, young people’s prospects, cost of housing, etc.) and Ma’s performance on the job (in terms of policy and personal effectiveness). But ultimately, these and many other issues, could not be separated from the issue of relations with China. Although the national identity aspect of cross-Strait relations was not anywhere near as salient as in past elections, the speed and unchecked nature of Ma’s cross-Strait détente appeared to have spooked the median voter (who unequivocally wants the status quo to endure). Ma badly misread public opinion with his Peace Accord idea, which coincided with a drop in poll support and was hastily removed from sight. The benefits that Ma promised would follow ECFA have not been generalized—big business and professionals have benefited, small businesses, farmers and blue collar workers have not. But in the latter part of the campaign, differences between the two candidates crystalized around the ‘two consenses’. Ma supports the “1992 Consensus” (one China with different interpretations) which has proven itself to be a workable platform from which to engage China. Tsai proffered the idea of a “Taiwan consensus” (there must be bipartisan agreement before further moves toward economic and other relations with China). The former is a proven basis for engaging China; the latter appeared to me to be an abstraction that was doomed to failure in its means (since when have the two blocs been able to agree on anything?) and end (acceptance of 1992 is China’s bottom line for cooperation). Ultimately, Ma was able to boil the election down to a choice between 1992/stability vs. Taiwan consensus/instability. This is a variation on a theme that the KMT, the CCP (and implicitly, the US) have been telling Taiwanese voters since 1996. And as in 1996 (Lee vs. Peng), voters choose the devil they know over the potentially risky alternative. We should also acknowledge that Taiwanese have long wanted to enjoy a role in international society commensurate with Taiwan’s status as a global economy and liberal democracy. And although it has been necessary to accept the Chinese Taipei designation to achieve it, Ma has increased Taiwan’s participation in international society. Many readers will complain that this has necessitated unacceptable sacrifices in terms of ROC sovereignty, and that what I call compromise is equivalent to selling out. But given China’s intractable bottom line (and the increasing influence that it is able to mobilize), compromises of this nature are the only choice that Taiwan has. The alternative is the melancholy marginalization of the Chen era.

5. Years of unreliable polling.

As I discussed previously, Taiwanese media polls have a poor record, with apparently “systematic idiosyncrasies” leading to consistent over-representation of support for the KMT. The last couple of elections also saw the emergence of a seemingly better alternative, the XFuture/National Chengchih University election market. Throughout the campaign there was a substantial discrepancy between the “blue-friendly” media polls and the “more neutral” election market. Based on prior bad experience with the media polls, it seemed only natural to give greater credence to what the election market was showing instead. In the event, the “unreliable” media polls were spot-on. The 4-8 point gap they consistently gave Ma from months before the election, prefigured Ma’s actual 6 point victory. This is a black eye for the election market and temporary, “vindication” of the media polls.

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com

The Fall of Great Orators and Rise of the Prompter

As promised in an earlier post, I kept notes from the field on the language practices of the campaigning candidates, and there is much to say!

First, as an observer of how the candidates frame the issues for voters, it is equally interesting to stress the importance of silence. Indeed, the most important and widely commented on language act of this campaign was when Tsai Ing-wen remained quiet during the national anthem on January 1st. What also rings loudest to me is another kind of silence; the newly adopted low profile President this year, who merely walked the streets shaking hands with the electorate. This was in stark opposition to the once challenging and often flaming Ma Ying-jeou, a candidate who used to juggle languages for hours.

Second, as soon as they delivered their speeches, we were able to infer the same observations as we did in the field since 2005 over four electoral campaigns:  during Taipei and Kaohsiung mayoral elections in 2006, 2008 presidential bid and Five Special Municipalities in 2010. Once again, I propose the existence of a linguistic habitus compelling the candidates to perform in Taiwanese languages during electoral rallies independently of factors such as language proficiency, ethnic background, political leanings, geographic location etc.

This recollection underscores one of the main elements of this campaign; that is, the breaking of this electoral linguistic field. Indeed, when Taiwanese languages were supposed to be required for electoral performances, I was struck by the prevalence of Mandarin. This language shift is not only a result of the lack of proficiency or ease in these languages, but rather the fact that Ma and especially Tsai read texts rather than “performed” speeches. The former had sheets on his lectern, while the latter also introduced a new tool in the Taiwanese electoral space: the tele-prompter. My point here is that the act of reading is socially conditioned by schooling experiences, which in the R.O.C.—or at least when the candidates were in school— is exclusively in National Mandarin Language.

These facts are contrasted by all other observations. On the one hand, the old lion James Soong although he has lost his proficiency in Taiwanese languages, definitely belongs to the former generation that was able to perform 40 minute long speeches haranguing the crowd without notes. On the other hand, the eldest lion of all, the former President and for many the father of democracy in Taiwan,  Lee Teng-hui, now 89 years old, is able to read in Taiwanese in spite of the fact that it is not his mother-tongue nor the language he had to learn at school. However, he was able to render the Banciao Stadium into raptures.

Beyond these two political heavyweights, I want to stress the relevance of the existence of the electoral linguistic field with a newcomer on the stage, Lee Yuan-cheh. Indeed, it is interesting to note that in spite of his Nobel Prize and his previous position as President of the Academia Sinica— the highest authority in Academia and in which only the Mandarin language is legitimate— , he performed his very first speech on stage at an electoral rally mainly in Taiwanese. Of course, this is his mother tongue, but also the language he thought appropriate in this context. In addition, the parallel legislative campaign stresses this “contradiction” between academic curriculum and language practices during campaign activities. Indeed, the candidates loudly proclaim their legitimacy by underlining their academic background– mainly their Ph Ds and often faculty positions –but lead their campaign mostly in Taiwanese languages.

Last but not least, my final observation is that reading, as well as the use of Mandarin, was almost exclusively reserved for the presidential candidates. Even their partners for the vice-presidency performed in Taiwanese. Lectern notes and texts that were probably written by speech writing aides were the exclusive purview of Ma and Tsai, while the tele-prompter was solely for Tsai.

Preliminary interpretations point towards a constantly rising control of the communication of the candidates running for presidency by spin doctors and campaign advisers at campaign headquarters. They may be highly-educated and specialized professionals, trained mainly in western universities where multilingualism is not as much an issue as it would be if these advisers included in their framework the sociolinguistic reality of the Taiwanese society and the linguistic background of the electorate. Instead, they are conditioned by a co-lingualism of Mandarin Chinese and English, which is already present in academia, the media and the top ranking institutions of the ROC to which they all belong to.

If the Taiwanese democracy is still characterized by its vibrant multilinguism, it seems that this language pluralism is endangered by the specialized and newly cosmopolitan professionals within the campaign staff. The question then becomes, is the accomplishment of the more and more ineluctable monolinguism process of the Taiwanese electorate a step towards the “ROC-ization” of society,  and/or a first imagined “re”unification with “Chin…ese”?

Yoann GOUDIN is a Ph. D Candidate in Didactics at INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales) in Paris. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute of Linguistics at Academia Sinica, and recipient of the TFP (Taiwan Fellowship Program) awarded by the Center for Chinese Studies, ROC.

Taiwan Elections: Good for Democracy and Stability


Taiwan has just had a set of good elections. President Ma Ying-jeou and his Kuomintang (KMT) have won a second term with a convincing majority. But the elections had been tightly fought and the result of the presidential contest uncertain right until the end. A genuinely competitive election confirms that the democratic process is healthy and strong.

The presidential candidate who lost, Ms Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), proved herself a totally credible standard bearer for the DPP and gave Ma a real run for his money. This was no mean achievement as the DPP suffered a resounding defeat in both the presidential and legislative elections last time round, in 2008. It appeared so crippled then that many speculated that it would be a very long time, at least a decade, before the DPP could make a return. Under Tsai’s leadership, the DPP made itself a credible choice for the electorate this time. By making such a strong show she has done democracy in Taiwan a great service.

In line with the DPP’s long standing convention, Tsai resigned from the Chair of the Party. But let’s hope that she will return to mainstream politics in the not too distant future. Taiwan’s democratic politics will be poorer without her.

The strong showing of the DPP, which also significantly reduced the KMT’s huge majority in the legislature, is good for Taiwan, as no democracy can be strong if the party in opposition is ineffective and ineffectual.

What we now have in Taiwan is a clear mandate for another four years for Ma and the KMT – with a reminder that they should not take the electorate for granted. Exactly how it should be in a healthy democracy.

Why did Ma win so convincingly (with a 6% majority) even though polls before the elections suggested the race would be too close to call? It was probably due in a large measure to tactical voting. A key source of uncertainty for the presidential election was the impact of a third candidate, James Soong, on the floating voters. He commanded over 12% support at one stage, which fell back to about 6% in the week before polling day. In the end he garnered only 2.8% of the vote. Since Soong is a charismatic politician who broke away from the KMT, most of those who indicated support for him in the earlier stage of the electoral campaign were disgruntled KMT supporters. Once it became clear that Ma could really lose to Tsai, these voters would have to decide if they should act on their dissatisfaction of Ma and let Tsai win or vote tactically. The calculated risk Ma and the KMT took paid off in the end. Most of them must have voted for Ma.

The tightness of the presidential race also galvanized a large number of Taiwanese business people who work and live in China to return to vote. The number who did so is estimated at 200,000. This group did not previously make such an effort to return to vote in anything like such a large number. Most of them have investments in China or their careers are dependent on Taiwan maintaining good relations with China. It means a significantly larger percentage of them would vote for Ma as their business interests required them to vote for a candidate committed to keep relations with China on an even keel. With the prospect that Ma might lose becoming menacingly real, an exceptionally high number of them returned to vote for Ma. This did not figure in the pre-election polls.

The mandate Ma and the KMT has received is not one to move closer to unification with China. It is one to maintain a good and mutually beneficial working relationship with China and to steer Taiwan through the economic turbulence expected for 2012. Beijing will be well advised to see it for what it is, and not put too much pressure on Ma in the next four years to strike political deals over relations between Taiwan and China. Ma does not have a mandate to open political talks, just to keep cross-Strait relations on an even keel.

As for Taiwan, Saturday was a good day for its democratic consolidation.

Steve Tsang is Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies, Director of the China Policy Institute and Director of its Taiwan Studies Programme at the University of Nottingham.

Reflections on election night

Last night, Friday 13th January, the candidates rallied their respective supporters – President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) in front of his office in Taipei, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Banciao at New Taipei City Hall, and James Soong of the People First Party (PFP) in Taichung.

For the rally with candidate Tsai, former President Lee Teng-hui (b. 15th January 1923) joined her on stage giving an endorsement worthy of a legendary politician. He was the heir of the KMT Chiang Ching-kuo presidency in 1988 and the first president elected by the Taiwan public in 1996. Lee’s appearance with Tsai and her running mate, Su Chia-chuan, was heart warming. He said, “I am standing here for Taiwan, the land I love so much.”

Leading up to the election in the past week – the candidates did the best they could to reach out to their potential voters. Tens of thousands of Taiwan citizens arrived from China to cast their ballot (it was reported 385 additional flights were scheduled from China). Young people becoming newly eligible for this election were able to participate. For the candidates, these ‘arriving’ voters were making the difference.

It was last weekend, Saturday 7th January, a unique event happened. Former president Chen Shui-bian was permitted to give his last respects to his mother-in-law, Wu Wang-hsia, who passed away a week earlier, 31st December. Six hundred police and officers escorted Chen to the Tainan funeral home. As the minivan arrived at 8:50 am, Chen immediately emerged and threw himself down on the red carpet and crawled to show his humble respect. Then given a microphone, and televised, in soliloquy he said, “When we met last, I told my mother-in-law that I did not shame my country. During my administration, three great achievements took place 1. the ‘Snow Mountain Tunnel’, connecting Taipei to Ilan, 2. Taipei 101 [world’s highest building at the time], and 3. the high speed rail service – all contributing to making Taiwan a modern efficient country.” Chen referred to himself as unfilial for not attending to her before she passed away. He gave his appreciation to his mother-in-law for supporting his marriage to her daughter, Wu Shu-jen, who provided him with a sense of “Taiwanese consciousness.” Continuing, he said, “His wife requested him to accept only half his presidential salary. She was not greedy for money as people said.” The former president seemed healthy, and his political will unabated.

For most Taiwanese the conviction and imprisonment in 2009 of the former president and his wife seemed harsh. Some opposition leaders called his treatment by the KMT, “a new white terror” referring to the way people were treated under martial law from 1949 to 1987. Yet, Chen entrapped himself by enacting stringent laws to be used again his perception of a corrupt KMT party that abused its power against the people. And in turn the KMT used the new laws to ensnare Chen.

During 2011 the KMT government utilized national funds to celebrate a hundred years since the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) by Dr Sun Yat-sen. On government buildings slogans read “100 Republic of China (Taiwan).” President Ma instituted academic seminars, trade and security conferences, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss the accomplishments of the ROC as the continuum of the 1911 revolution and its hope of liberty for the Chinese nation. Much pride echoed at these events.

An in-office president has the dual advantage of holding the reins of government, and its national legacy of pride. The opposition has the out-of-office disadvantage of finding fault with its own governmental institutions. As the KMT and ROC are so closely tied together, it is difficult to separate the two entities. And, the people of Taiwan have been educated to feel proud of their country associated with greater China. President Chen tried his best to replace the Chinese legacy with a Taiwan-centric policy, with some success, and then was ultimately blocked by the KMT ruled legislature.

For Tsai, her party attempted to localize nationalism for the Taiwanese. Yet, how can you ignore China, and the overlapping claim the ruling KMT has with China?

This evening Saturday 14th January, the election outcome showed Ma at 51.6%, Tsai at 45.6%, and Soong 2.8%. A jubilant Ma arrived on stage to declare he would continue to keep Taiwan safe. He further said that during the election he listened to the opposition parties, DPP and PFP, about their grievances and learned from them, such as the widening disparity between the rich and the poor, and the other issues raised concerning the public. For these questions, he would be vigilant and gather the leaders of the opposition parties to attend a meeting every six months “to find out what is best to do for the country.” Ma said, “I will use my life to guard the identity of Taiwan.”

Tsai addressed her people who were weeping in the Taipei rain to say she took responsibility for the election outcome, and she would resign from her DPP chairmanship. Yet, she said the party has come a long way since its ineffectiveness and near collapse four years ago. Tsai stated, “Our opposition has a powerful role to play in keeping the ruling party attending to our people’s needs.”

David Blundell is Professor of Taiwan and Asia-Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University

Election Day Live-Blog

Welcome to the Election Day live blog. Whether you’re in Taiwan or observing from elsewhere, please check in with your thoughts. Mail me at Jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk or Tweet me @jonlsullivan.


Wrapping up the live blog. Look out for regular posts from Sunday. Thanks to everyone who wrote in, commented, tweeted and joined me cover Election Day in Taiwan 2012. Tsai Ing-wen fought an excellent campaign and offered a plausible alternative to incumbent Ma Ying-jeou. She delivered the DPP’s second best showing in a presidential election, and the best by a non-incumbent DPP candidate. Her concession, and resignation from the party leadership, was extraordinarily dignified. Taiwan loses, not just the DPP, if she doesn’t play some kind of political role. Ma won more than 50% of the vote and the blues will control 70/113 seats. That is a decisive victory (don’t compare to 2008)-given the record Ma has to defend and given a strong opponent. The election proceeded peacefully and without major incident. The votes were counted quickly and transparently. The winners celebrated and the losers commiserated–peacefully. The nature of electoral competition is that there are winners and losers- my congratulations to KMT supporting readers, commiserations to DPP supporters. Finally, the Taiwanese people should be very proud for smoothly conducting this election under the watching eyes of the world.


Here are all the stats for legislative election result and president. In terms of presidential voting, with the exception of Ilan County, the whole of northern Taiwan is blue. Moreover, winning in central Taiwan means the blue has pushed the green into a far southern enclave.


TV reporting Legislative seat distribution (I don’t think that’s official yet, but TV’s pretty accurate): KMT 64, DPP 40, PFP 3, TSU 3, Ind. 3. In effect that’s 70 blue seats and 43 green. Greens have improved on the massacre in 2008 (27 seats), but still, Ma will have a relatively comfortable ride. 64 seats is pretty much the best KMT could have hoped for.


The remaining 34 at-large legislative seats are distributed to party list candidates on basis of the national vote, which currently looks like this: KMT 48%,  DPP 36%, TSU 9%, PFP 5%


Update on the legislative count. The 73 constituency based seats plus 6 seats reserved for Aborigines are distributed as follows: KMT 48, DPP 27, Others (blue) 4.


Turns out, the much maligned “Blue” Taiwanese media polls were spot on


Prof Gary Rawnsley commented: “I would have been surprised if the incumbent did not win. At this stage in Taiwan’s democratic consolidation a one term presidency is unlikely.” Many prognosticators, including myself, were hoodwinked by the momentum Tsai built up during her campaign and by the Ma campaigns ineptitude; turns out it didn’t decide the result.


Presidential result is now official: Ma 6,891,139 (51.6%), Tsai 6,093,578 (45.6), Soong 369,588 (2.8%)


Tsai Ing-wen’s 45-46% is the DPP’s second best showing in a presidential election. Chen Shui-bian won the presidency with 39% in 2000, and was re-elected with 50.1%. This is further reason why I say this should be interpreted as a Ma victory: the DPP fielded a first rate candidate, ran an excellent campaign, mobilized dissatisfaction with Ma’s record over the last 4 years, and yet Ma still won with more than 50%. This was not a case of the DPP shooting itself in the foot. And it wasn’t a case of voters not knowing what they’re going to get with Ma in power for another 4 years. Granted, 46% of people opposing what he’s offering is substantial, but a majority are in favour.


Coverage coming in from global media. WaPo goes with “Taiwan’s pro-China president wins reelection”


Blogger Ben Goren (citing Sinica research fellow Nathan Batto) says that this is a ‘bad win’ for Ma given his performance in 2008. I respectfully disagree. First, there’s no such thing as a bad win. Second, comparing vote share in 2012 to 2008 is comparing apples and oranges: the context of both elections is completely different. Such was the disillusionment with Chen Shui-bian in 2008, that any candidate standing against Frank Hsieh would have won a landslide. Furthermore, in 2008, Ma did not have four years’ of governing history to defend, this time he did. And despite all of the dissatisfaction with his record that we talked about before the election, he still won with more than 50%. Third, Tsai Ing-wen was a more effective candidate than Frank Hsieh (although the hand he was dealt was very disadvantageous its true). And yet Ma still got 52% or thereabouts. Fourth, unlike in 2008, voters this time round knew with much more certainty what Ma was about–they had four years’ of presidential experience to go on. This was the opportunity to reject what he was offering-and not enough people saw fit to.


Tsai Ing-wen: “we’ll be back, we won’t give in, will keep fighting for Taiwan”


Tsai Ing-wen demonstrating how to lose with grace–moving and v impressive message


Tsai Ing-wen making her concession: “Taiwan can’t not have an opposition voice”


Going to do BBC World Service Newshour. Back here in an hour. The presidential result looks pretty definitive to me. Remaining question is how many seats can DPP secure in Legislature. Obvious improvement on the 2008 massacre, but Ma is likely to have another smooth ride in next four years


DPP was hoping for 50 seats in Legislature; that is not going to happen (by some way).


This in from Ben Goren:

“Looks like the DPP will regain many of the Legislative Yuan seats they lost in 2008 but lose the Presidential election by 3-4%.  A bad victory for Ma given his 17% margin of victory in 2008.  I’m predicting about 40 – 45 seats for the DPP”



TV reporting 11 million votes; Ma’s lead 700K


79 Legislative seats declared: KMT 50, DPP 25 (4 others incl. 3 Ind. 1 PFP =Blue+4)


Ma ahead in CEC 


Ma camp already congratulating themselves at HQ


TV has Ma ahead by 700K on 10 million votes


Now having got counts on 5.2 mil, CEC has it tied (to two decimal places!)


DPP figures on TV are utterly downcast


Those of you hoping the TV is wrong, and holding onto the lead CEC is giving Tsai, there is no conspiracy here. The TV is reporting on a much larger number of votes–as they are counted. The CEC has to wait for the polling station to send its figures in


Disparity between CEC reporting and what you see on TV. On approx 3 million votes counted CEC gives Tsai 50%. On approx. 8 million votes TV gives Ma 52%. I believe the disparity is in the TV calculating votes as they are announced at the count, whereas CEC waits for poll station count to be completed. But I could be wrong.


Ben Goren checking in: “CEC website says Tsai is in front but all TV stations are reporting Ma ahead.  Didn’t we see this trend in 2004 and 2000.”


Mild surprise: Soong is already irrelevant. If Ma showing so far is indication of equal dominance in legislative election, Soong’s political career is finally finished


Collection of photos from WSJ showing Ma and Tsai voting


Paul Katz checks in with this: “At this point, it looks like Ma will coast to a 7-8 percentage point win. This is quite surprising, as is the total evaporation of Soong’s support. Based on the outpouring of popular enthusiasm for Tsai, I had assumed that Taiwan’s voters might have been able to overturn the stereotypical notion that Asian voters prefer stability over change (ever notice how “安定” sounds so similar to “唯穩”?) It looks like I was wrong.”


This might be more of an issue than we thought: Richard Kagan comments on why the US should support Taiwan and seek to slow integration with China.


In Hakka strongholds, Ma is polling double number of Tsai votes


The election commission reports that voting went smoothly, bar a couple of incidents of people tearing up their ballots and activists electioneering at polling stations without permission.


“I slept well last night, I am in a good mood and I feel very confident,” Tsai told reporters after casting her ballot near Taipei. Pic of Tsai casting her ballot here.

“I am happy to see some sunshine today. This will help the turnout rate. I hope everybody will go to vote early,” Ma said as he cast his ballot in Taipei.


v. early count Ma 950K, Tsai 800K, Soong 50K. Don’t over-interpret


Early counts are being reported, but far too early to say anything about it. Ma is leading and Soong’s support looks to have collapsed. BUT don’t read anything into it yet.


All the data you need from past presidential and legislative elections is available here (in Chinese). Previous results should give us a quick indication of how competitive Tsai is going to be


@michalthim writes on Twitter: CEC estimates that around 5pm 10-20% of votes will be counted, official results around 10pm (that’s 2pm UK time)


Polls close in 10 minutes! Any reports of queues/hold-ups/people unable to vote?


DPP’s Li Ying-yuan is on. He ran against Ma Ying-jeou for Taipei Mayor in 2002. Ran a brilliant advertising campaign, but Ma was far too strong. Li’s campaign had a bunch of “Ma is ineffective” ads, a frame that resurfaced in 2012.


Images I’m seeing on Taiwanese TV, of huge crowds of people watching the news channels on big screens, is reminiscent of the World Cup!


These are the 5 main things I’m looking for as the results unfold


If you’re new to Taiwanese elections and are joining late, you might want to check out my 101 guide to what’s happening today.


Nick Dobson (@riceagain) has some good pointers for results day resources


The hectoring style of the political talking heads on Taiwanese TV is incompatible with an early morning start; but I shall persevere. Watching here http://bit.ly/zRnSUT. Guy did make a nice point though: when Tsai Ing-wen went to cast her ballot she lined up behind others like a regular voter would. Shouty guy asked rhetorically: can you see Ma Ying-jeou lining up?


Good morning and welcome. Its cold and dark here in England, but 6000 miles away, Taiwanese are voting for their next president and members of parliament. I’ll be here from now until all the votes are in (polls close 4pm in Taiwan) and counted (with this first combined election, this could go on for quite a while), with analysis. Its pretty lonely on campus right now, so if you have something to share about Taiwan 2012, please join me.