Taiwan's election surprise

Towards a new Taiwanese identity

Taipei, 5 December 1998

Election results

On 5 December 1998, more than 10 million Taiwanese people went to the polls to elect a new Legislative Yuan (parliament) as well as mayors and city councils for Taipei and Kaohsiung.

The results showed some interesting surprises: while Taipei DPP mayor Chen Shui-bian was unseated by KMT challenger Ma Ying-jeou, in Kaohsiung just the opposite happened: DPP challenger Hsieh Chang-t'ing unseated longterm Kuomintang incumbent Wu Den-yi.

In the Legislative Yuan, the ruling Kuomintang held on to about 46 percent of the vote -- the same as in the December 1995 elections -- but the Democratic Progressives lost a few percentage points to the more outspoken Taiwan Independence Party and the newly established New Nation Alliance. Together these opposition groups gathered about 33 percent of the vote.

The big loser in the Legislative Yuan election was the pro-unificationist New Party, which went from 13 percent in 1995 to only 7 percent of the vote in this election. The remainder of the vote (some 13 percent) went to unaffiliated candidates and splinter parties.

The race was seen as an important indication of the willingness of the people in Taiwan to forge along in the direction of a free, democratic and independent existence. While the defeat of Chen Shui-bian slows down his momentum towards the presidency, there was at the same time a strong swing towards a new Taiwanese identity: during the campaign President Lee Teng-hui coined a new phrase "New Taiwanese" -- to appeal to the Taiwanese vote, but at the same time include mainlanders such a Mr. Ma Ying-jeou -- while Mr. Ma's own campaign slogan was "Taiwan first, Taipei first."

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