DPP gains in Parliamentary Elections

Ruling Kuomintang loses popular majority, but maintains Parliamentary edge

The results of Taiwan's December 2 parliamentary elections show that China's bullying, bluff, and bluster didn't impress the island's voters. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) actually increased its share of the popular vote to some 33 percent, a gain of at least two percent over the 31 percent share it received in the 1992 elections. This translates into 54 seats in the 164-seat parliament, an increase of four.

This increase in support for Taiwan's largest opposition party shows that China's menacing threats and military intimidation did not sway the island's voters away from the pro-independence party, but on the contrary, solidified its support.

The big loser was the ruling Kuomintang, which saw its popular support drop from 53 percent in the 1992 elections to 46 percent now, the first time in its history that the KMT has dropped below 50 percent in parliamentary elections. However, through clever maneuvering in the multi-seats districts, the KMT was able to hang on to a razor-thin majority in the Legislative Yuan: it now holds 85 seats, down 11 from the 96 seats it obtained in 1992.

The elections also finalized the split in the ruling party between the pro status-quo followers of President Lee Teng-hui, and the pro-unification New Party, a right-wing group which split off from the KMT two years ago. The New Party obtained some 13 percent of the vote, winning 21 seats in the Legislative Yuan at the expense of the Kuomintang. The New Party mainly consists of Chinese mainlanders, who came over with Chiang Kai-shek in the late 1940s. The remaining eight percent of the votes went to un-affiliated candidates, not aligned with any of the parties. Four of these candidates were able to win a seat, down from 14 seats in 1992.

The gain of the New Party is thus simply a shift of pro-unification diehards from within the Kuomintang to outside the party. Without these elements within its ranks, the ruling Kuomintang will thus be able to move much faster in the direction of the DPP. During the past few years the "Taiwanization" of the traditionally mainlander-dominated KMT has moved them much closer to the democratic opposition party.

The DPP is primarily made up of native Taiwanese, who constitute 85 percent of the island's population. The new make-up of the Legislative Yuan will make it necessary for the Kuomintang to work more closely with the democratic opposition in order to get legislation through. Because of their new-found "Taiwan-consciousness", they will in general align with the DPP. Together they can easily outvote the minority New Party.

Elections in Taiwan have come a long way: from the tightly KMT-controlled system that was still in place in the early 1990s, to an open free-for-all. One thing we know for sure in Taiwan: it's a freedom that doesn't exist in China.

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