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Year 2004 Legislative Yuan Elections

No change in uneasy legislative balance

On 11 December 2004, Taiwan held elections for the 225 seats in the Legislative Yuan. It was a hard-fought campaign, pitting the "Pan Green" coalition of President Chen's DPP plus the Taiwan Solidarity Union supported by former President Lee Teng-hui against the "Pan Blue" coalition of Mr. Lien Chan's Kuomintang Party and James Soong's People's First Party.

In the present Legislative Yuan, elected in 2001, the pan-blues had a slight majority, which enabled them to block most of President Chen's initiatives during the past four years. Mr. Chen thus hoped that in these elections, he would be able to get a majority for his DPP plus the junior TSU partner.

This was not to be the case: the elections results show that the pan-green versus pan-blue balance remained virtually the same, with the pan-greens remaining at around 100 seats in the 225-seat legislature, and the pan-blues holding on to their slim majority of around 114.

The DPP did gain two seats to a total of 89, but the TSU lost one seat, and dropped to 12. On the other side of the fence, the KMT gained 11 seats for a total of 79, but this gain was at the expense of its junior partner, the PFP, which dropped from 46 to 34 seats.

One of the reasons for the lack of gain on the pan-green side was the fact that the TSU campaigned hard to become a party in its own right and to push the "Taiwan" agenda, but in doing so they started to make inroads in the core support of the DPP, which threatened to take seats away from the DPP.

In order to counter the TSU upsurge, President Chen became more "green" and neglected to try to win over people from the political center. The end result was that both DPP and TSU stayed more or less where they were in terms of number of seats.

Another reason was the overconfidence on the TSU side: they fielded 40 candidates, and in Taiwan's multi-seat district system, this meant that they spread themselves too thin.

Parliamentary gridlock to remain

The president quickly conceded defeat, congratulated the opposition and urged all parties to work together. "People have made their choices. Let's take it as a starting point for cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties," Chen said, "Let's turn our competition into a force for pushing the nation forward."

But it seemed unlikely that there would soon be an end to the intense political feuding: Chen's election in 2000 ended the Nationalists' five-decades of repressive rule on Taiwan, and the vindictive Nationalists have not been able adapt to their role as opposition.

President Chen's support for more Taiwan-centric policies and his efforts to rid the island of anachronistic Chinese influences angered the old-guard Kuomintang, whose supporters include many mainlanders who fled China when the Communists took over. The KMT also maintained its influence in the newsmedia, and has been able to hang on to much of its financial wealth, much of it gained illegally during the many decades in power.

Wu Tung-yeh, political science professor at National Chengchi University, called the result "a defeat for President Chen. This means the general public, although identifying with Chen's sovereignty claim over their country against China, are more concerned about rising unemployment and sluggish economic development," Wu said.

Some 16.5 million people were eligible to vote and election authorities had forecast a turnout around 66 percent. But despite bright blue skies and balmy temperatures, turnout at 59.16 percent was lower than in March presidential polls.