Using ICLP’s Pre-Election Lectures to Analyze the Taiwanese Election Results
Using Last Week’s Lectures to Analyze the Taiwanese Election Results
English Translation of Chinese E-Bulletin Article by James Smyth
Featured on Front Page of ICLP Bulletin 061 (Jan. 18, 2012)
Accomplished political scientists gave lunchtime lectures at ICLP on both January 6 and 8 about the Taiwanese Presidential and Legislative Election on the 14th. Now that the election has passed, we can use these professors’ ideas to analyze the results.
Professor Wang Yeh-li, the Chair of the National Taiwan University Department of Political Science, focused on the 2008 electoral reform’s influence on the makeup of the Legislative Yuan. Before the reform took effect, most legislators were elected from multi-seat constituencies with non-transferable votes, but afterward, most were elected from single-member districts. This changed the foundation of the electoral system from proportional representation to majoritarianism. For example, in the 2004 election, the Kuomintang received 34.90% of the votes and 35.1% of the seats in the legislature, while the Democratic People’s Party won 37.98% of the vote and 34.9% of the seats. In the post-reform 2008 election, however, the KMT took 51.2% of the votes and 71.7% of the seats while the DPP won 36.9% of the votes and 23.9% of the seats. This year, however, the gap between votes received and seats won was much smaller: the KMT received 44.55% of the former and 53.5% of the latter while the DPP took 34.6% of votes and 35.3% of seats in the legislature. It seems, then, that the DPP has adapted to Taiwan’s new style of competition.
Dr. Wang also told us that Taiwanese voters often used midterm legislative elections to check the ruling government: for example, the DPP took over 50% of the vote in the March 2004 presidential election, but the opposition Pan-Blue parties won the December 2004 Legislative Yuan election, and in 2006 a KMT candidate almost won the mayoral election in Kaohsiung, a DPP stronghold. Because the presidential and legislative elections are now on the same day, however, Dr. Wang thought it was possible that less voters would split their tickets. The election results indeed bore this out, as the KMT won control of both branches of government.
Dr. Wang also stressed that while politicians without party affiliations play strong roles in local politics, they have much less standing in national politics. This year was no exception: after the ‘01 and ‘04 legislative elections, unaffiliated candidates belonging to neither the Blue nor the Green Alliance held 4.44% of seats in the legislature, after the ‘08 and ‘12 elections, they had just 2.65%.
Dr. Shelley Rigger, Chair of Political Science at Davidson University, said that large corporations unified in support of President Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election campaign because they believed a Tsai Ing-wen victory would be bad for business. They encouraged employees working abroad to fly home and vote for the incumbent president. American media also reported this phenomenon: Foxconn, for instance, gave 5000 employees vacation time and helped them buy plane tickets to Taiwan so they could exercise their right to vote.
Dr. Rigger also explained that the main difference between the two candidates was in their views about the 1992 Consensus with China. President Ma supported this agreement, which contains the statement “There is only one China.” This doesn’t necessarily mean China and Taiwan must unite, and the agreement doesn’t clarify how this unification would come about, but the People’s Republic of China has firmly maintained that the 1992 Consensus is the sine qua non for relations between the two states. Tsai Ing-wen didn’t agree. She criticized the ‘92 Consensus because it was not approved by Taiwanese citizens themselves, who she argued would first have to come to a “Taiwan Consensus” (but she never clearly explained how such a consensus would be created). After the elections on the 14th, many Taiwanese newspapers, like Dr. Rigger, said that the 1992 Consensus was the focal point of the election : for example, the United Daily News’s post-election headline was “’92 Consensus Wins”; the Want China Times wrote that Ma Ying-jeou’s victory was the Consensus’s victory, and the Commercial Times editorialized that the concept of the Taiwan Consensus was empty and meaningless.
Dr. Rigger also said that the Chinese government supported Ma’s reelection, but it tried not to do so too loudly because it was afraid that would backfire and turn the Taiwanese people against Ma. After the election, however, the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, editorialized that “this result shows that the pursuit of peace, development, and stability is mainstream on the island of Taiwan and that our Taiwanese brothers wish to further develop the cross-strait relationship and create even more mutually beneficial relationships” and that “naturally, a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship cannot depart from the ’92 Consensus, the foundation of bilateral negotiations.”
It’s easy to see that these two lectures greatly aided ICLP students’ understanding of the election.