Category Archives: Taiwan


Taiwan – Vote of no-confidence fails

In Taiwan, the government of PM Sean Chen (Chen Chun) has survived a vote of no confidence.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been thinking of tabling a motion for a number of months, but it was finally held on Saturday.

In the legislature the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party has 64 seats, the DPP has 40 seats, both the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and People First Party (PFP) have three seats, the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union has two seats, and there is one independent.

The no-confidence motion was defeated by 66 votes to 46. All of the KMT supported the PM, despite a lot of unhappiness with his term in office. Interestingly, in addition to the DPP and TSU, the PFP party also supported the no-confidence motion. The PFP had been an ally of the KMT.

I am willing to stand corrected, but I think this is the first no confidence motion for some years and perhaps only the second since Taiwan became semi-presidential in 1997. In March 1999, a motion of no-confidence against PM Vincent Siew was defeated. Famously, there was no no-confidence motion from 2000-2008 when the DPP was only a minority government and when the KMT and its allies could have brought the government down at almost any time, but feared what would happen to the party at the subsequent legislative election and so never tabled a motion.


Taiwan – New PM

Newly re-elected Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan has appointed a new prime minister. The previous PM, Wu Den-yih, was elected as Vice-President on President Ma’s ticket.

The new PM is Sean Chen, a financial expert. Taipei Times provides some details about the new cabinet.

The election of VP Wu required the appointment of a new PM. Moreover, the new session of the Legislative Yuan is about to start very soon. However, because the date of the presidential election was brought forward to allow concurrent presidential and legislative elections last month, President Ma’s second term does not formally begin until May.

Taiwan – Presidential and legislative elections

Taiwan held presidential and legislative elections on Saturday.

There were three candidates at the presidential election, which is a one-ballot contest. Here is the result:

Ma Ying-jeou (Kuomintang), 51.6%
Tsai Ing-wen (Democratic Progressive Party), 45.63%
James Soong Chu-yu (People First Party), 2.77%

So, President Ma has been re-elected.

The legislative election went as follows:

The so-called Pan-Blue coalition won 67 seats
Kuomintang – 44.55% (64 seats, -17)
People First Party – 5.49% (3 seats, +2)
New Party – 1.49% (0 seats, unchanged)

The so-called Pan-Green coalition won 43 seats
Democratic Progressive Party – 34.62% (40 seats, +13)
Taiwan Solidarity Union – 8.96% (3 seats, +3)

Others won 3 seats
Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (2 seats, -1)
Independents (1 seat, unchanged)

So, President Ma will have a comfortable majority in the legislature.

Taiwan – Online resource

Taiwan has presidential and legislative elections coming up in 2012. Both elections are scheduled for 14 January.

In that context, I wanted to signal the existence of a really good online English-language resource for Taiwanese politics in general and the upcoming elections in particular.

It is a blog called Frozen Garlic. (I’m not convinced about the name, but then who am I to talk?) There are regular articles about the campaign as well as a long time-series for opinion polls.

Taiwan – Presidential poll

There is an interesting poll in Taipei Times concerning the upcoming presidential election in Taiwan.

The polls show the following figures:

Tsai Ing-wen (Democratic Progressive Party – DPP): 39.6%
Ma Ying-jeou (Kuomintang – KMT): 38.7%
James Soong (People First Party – PFP): 11.7%

The poll is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, Taiwan has a plurality electoral system. There is no second ballot. So, on this poll, the DPP would win. Secondly, President Ma, the incumbent, may lose, but it is feasible that his party could win or at least may not lose the legislative election, which is being held concurrently. If so, then there may be a repeat of the 2000-2008 situation where the DPP president should have cohabited with the KMT, but refused to do so.

New publication

I have a new book out. It is called: Semi-Presidentialism. Sub-Types And Democratic Performance. It is published by Oxford University Press. The opening chapter of the book is freely available here.

The book examines the relationship between semi-presidentialism and democratic performance. It operationalises Matthew Shugart and John Carey’s distinction between president-parliamentarism and premier-presidentialism to show that president-parliamentarism is more likely to be associated with a poorer democratic performance than premier-presidentialism. The evidence is based on a mixed-method strategy, including large-n comparative statistical studies and case studies.

The book includes in-depth case studies of Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Portugal and Senegal. There are also indicative case studies of Poland, Russia and Taiwan.

Taiwan – Electoral Commission decides concurrent elections

Taipei Times via Ballots and Bullets is reporting the decision of the Taiwanese Electoral Commission to schedule legislative and presidential elections concurrently.

Previously, the terms of office were different, so the presidential election was held at various times during the legislature’s electoral cycle (and vice versa!). The length of each institution’s term was then harmonised. However, the legislative election took place a few months prior to the presidential election. So, the last legislative election was held on 12 January 2008, whereas the last presidential election was held on 22 March 2008.

Now, the elections will be held concurrently. Moreover, it is likely that they will be held on the date of the next legislative election in early 2012, creating a four-month gap between the presidential election and the presidential inauguration.

The other semi-presidential democracies with scheduled concurrent elections are Mozambique, Namibia and Peru. The last concurrent elections in Romania were in 2004.

Taiwan – Mayoral elections

On Sunday, five mayoral elections were held in Taiwan. They were seen as a test of the incumbent Kuomintang (KMT) government’s popularity and of President Ma Ying-jeou. The vote was so significant because the five districts comprise 60 per cent of Taiwan’s population.

The result was not decisive. The KMT party won three of the five contests, notably Taipei. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the other two contests, notably Kaohsiung in the south.

While the KMT won more contests, Taiwan News reports that the DPP won more votes. The DPP is reported as winning 49.9 per cent, whereas the KMT won 44.2 per cent. Independents won the rest. Support for the DPP was up by about 6 per cent on its 2008 presidential performance. The next presidential election is in 2012.

Guest post – Tsai Jung-hsiang on Taiwan

I am delighted to be able to devote this space to another guest post. This time, the guest blogger is Tsai Jung-hsiang (Joseph Tsai) from the National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan. Joseph is an expert on Taiwanese politics and also shares a passion for semi-presidentialism, having published an article on sub-types of semi-presidentialism in French Politics. Here are his thoughts on recent developments in Taiwan.

Tsai Jung-hsiang

In 2008, Ma Ying-jeou won a landslide victory in the presidential election gaining almost 60% of popular vote and coming to power at a time when his party, the Kuomintang (KMT), already held three-quarters of the seats in the legislature (Legislative Yuan). Without any effective opposition in the parliament, President Ma and his government had free rein to decide policies and reforms. However, the situation soon changed. President Ma’s popularity has been declined steadily in the first two years of his term to the extent that he has now become a lame-duck president. How do we explain this puzzle?

First, the political orientation of the premier (prime minister) is equivocal. According to Taiwan’s Constitution, the premier is nominated by the president without any confirmation from the legislature. President Ma has the power to decide the premiership at will. But the paradox here is that the president needs to name a capable leader, but at the same time the premier has to avoid stealing president’s thunder. With re-election already in mind, the president chose a loyal lieutenant rather than a potential successor. When certain policies failed, the premier became the scapegoat and was forced to step down as a way of defusing the political crisis. These factors have tied the hands of the premier.

Second, crises are a good test of political leaders’ mettle. The inefficient and slow response of the government to natural disasters such as Morakot Typhoon in August 2009 meant that the public lost faith in the government. Crises such as these are difficult to predict, but when they arrive a capable government has the opportunity to engage in successful damage control. This did not happen.

Third, deputies from the ruling party openly defied the president and placed a ban on controversial beef imports from America. The president had supported this policy for diplomatic considerations. The clashes between the president and his own majority in the parliament have meant that the public has questioned President Ma’s ability to act as a successful party chairperson.

Fourth, President Ma adopted a policy of rapprochement towards China after he came to power and expected to sign an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). While such an agreement may promote more cross-Strait economic exchanges and stimulate the economy as claimed, it may also create difficulties for the agricultural sector and for the labor market because of outsourcing problems. The government has tried to reach out the people and explain the benefits of this agreement, but the whole issue is very complicated and is full of technical terms. It is a hard deal to sell to the public.

Finally, it remains to be seen what President Ma will do with the rest of his term and it may be an uphill battle for him to win reelection. It is now crucial for him to capitalize on his unified government and focus more on domestic reforms in Taiwan than on amicable relations with its large neighbor. Doing so does not guarantee the success of reelection, but it may prevent him from being a one-term president.

Tsai Jung-hsiang
Assistant professor of political science
National Chung Cheng University

Taiwan – Legislative Yuan by elections

This is not a repeat post! In January the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party in Taiwan lost three by-elections to the Legislative Yuan. On Saturday, it lost three more!

On 27 February four by-elections were held. They took place because because the deputies that had previously held the seats had been elected as county magistrates and cumulative office-holding is forbidden.

In the elections, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DMM) won the seats in Hsinchu, Taoyuan and Chiayi counties, while the KMT retained its seat in Hualien county. It is not entirely clear to me whether the three DPP seats were all gains from the KMT, but there is a report that says that the Hsinchu and Taoyuan seats used to be KMT strongholds, suggesting gains there at least.

In Taoyuan the result was relatively close with the DPP’s candidate winning 45,363 votes compared with 42,600 for the KMT. However, in Hsinchu and Chiayi the DPP had big majorities. In Hsinchu the DPP won 71,625 votes compared with 56,342 for the KMT, while in Chiayi the results was 57,451 to 27,138 respectively. In Hualien the KMT’s victory was comfortable, the party’s candidate winning 39,379 votes to 33,249 for the DPP. Source: Central Election Commission of Taiwan.

The results were another blow to the KMT and to President Ma, who was elected in 2009.

According to Taiwan News the KMT now has 75 seats in the Legislative Yuan (including 4 seats for two other parties), the DPP has 33 seats, and there are 5 independents.