5 most popular blog posts of 2012

And by Their Friends Ye Shall Know Them


As the Taiwan presidential campaign enters its final week, one striking development has been an outpouring of support for President Ma Ying-jeou by some of Taiwan’s leading businesspeople, including Evergreen Group President Chang Yung-fa 張榮發 and Far Eastern Group Chairman and CEO Douglas Hsu (徐旭東).

On the one hand, it is perfectly understandable that commercial and industrial heavyweights should wish to speak out for Ma, as KMT rule has witnessed a growing rapprochement with China that has greatly enhanced Taiwan’s business environment. This cozy relationship between the party and big business can be traced back to Republican-era China, and may be best represented by the “Aladdin” classic “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me”. On the other hand, the impact such enthusiastic expressions of support may have the general populace remains to be seen, and reports have already begun to emerge of tensions between management (“suits”) and labor (“shirts”) over which candidate to support. Read the full post…

Who benefits from a Lib Dem collapse?


The Liberal Democrats have now been flatlining at or just below 10% of the vote for nearly two years. The decision to join the Conservatives in a Coalition government looks more electorally toxic with each passing month. It is thus no surprise that bloggers and strategists for both major parties have begun to speculate about the implications of a Lib Dem collapse for their parties. Some have argued that the Conservatives stand to gain disproportionately, owing to the large number of seats in the South East and South West where the Lib Dems compete with the Tories, with Labour a distant third. If Lib Dem votes in the South East and South West head over to Labour, the Tories are the big winners, or so the reasoning goes.

This reasoning is misleading – such arguments focus on where the Lib Dems are most competitive and ignores the fact that they win large numbers of votes in places where they are not electorally competitive at all. For example, there are around 50 marginal seats with Tory MPs and Labour challengers where the 3rd place Lib Dem vote is more than twice the margin of victory. If the Lib Dem vote heads red in these seats, Labour are big beneficiaries. And there are other combinations, such as Lib Dem seats where Labour are the main challengers. Read the full post…

The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions


We’ve been producing end-of-session reports detailing the rebellions of government backbenchers for several years now – but we’ve never had to produce one quite so large before.  The Bumper Book of Coalition Rebellions is available free of charge in pdf format (at the end of this post). It details every rebellion and every rebel. How much more fun could you want on a miserable Tuesday morning? But in case you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to look at more than 100 pages of info, here’s 20 key points about the behaviour of Coalition MPs in the last session.

1.      The last session saw 239 rebellions by Coalition MPs.  This is higher than the number of rebellions by government MPs in any other session in the post-war era.  Indeed, a figure of 239 is higher than in all but three entire post-war parliaments.  And there were more rebellions in the 2010-12 session than in the period from 1945-1966 combined, taking in 21 years, six parliaments and six Prime Ministers. Read the full post…

The Lords vote: notes for a rebellion


One of our rules for studying voting in the House of Commons is that the government usually wins.  No matter how much trouble they appear to be in, they usually get out of it.  Eight years ago, when Tony Blair’s government were attempting to pass the legislation on student top up fees, the whips’ calculations on the morning of the second reading vote still put them behind by more than 20.  In the end, they won by five.  So it is sensible never to under-estimate the ability of any government to get its way.

But still, over House of Lords reform the Coalition look to be in a whole heap of trouble.  The key vote is not the Bill’s Second Reading.  Given Labour support, that will pass fairly easily, no matter how large the government backbench rebellion.  The key vote is the Bill’s programme motion, which sets out its timetable.  Lose that – as looks likely at present, with 70 Conservative MPs calling for ‘full and unrestricted scrutiny’ of the bill – and the government is no longer in control of the timetable of the House, with the possibility of gumming up its entire legislative programme.  The fact of there being two votes gives the government some room for manoeuvre – which we explain below – but it also allows for a lot of chaff to be thrown up. Read the full post…

The Redistribution of Parliamentary Constituencies (and What It Means)


The 2001 and 2005 general election results convinced the Conservatives that they were treated unfairly by the electoral system. Compared to Labour, they got a much smaller share of the seats than of the votes cast. A major reason for that unfairness, the Conservatives reasoned, was that they tend to win seats with larger-than-average electorates. In contrast, Labour tend to win those with smaller-than average electorates. Because of population movements, this difference – and the subsequent anti-Conservative bias – is exacerbated over time (although research shows that other factors contribute much more to that bias than variations in constituency electorates).

To remove this unfairness, revised Rules for Redistribution are to be implemented by the Boundary Commissions, and these are included in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, 2011. The revisions include:

  • The introduction of a UK-wide electoral quota rather than a separate one for each country (Scotland and, especially, Wales – both Labour heartlands – currently have smaller constituencies relative to England);
  • The requirement that all constituencies (with four exceptions) have electorates within +/-5 per cent of that quota (for the current redistribution this is between 72,810 and 80,473), and only within that range could the Commissions take into account factors such as local authority boundaries, communities of interest and previous constituency boundaries (the previous rules prioritised representation of communities over electoral equality – they made no stipulation regarding the permissible range of constituency electorates, which merely had to be ‘as near the electoral quota as is practicable’) Read the full post…

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