Wed, Dec 15, 2004 - Page 8 News List

The people have spoken, but what do they mean?

By Hung Yung-tai洪永泰

One obvious conclusion can be drawn from the distribution of votes between the different parties in the legislative elections: there is basically no difference from the results of the elections three years ago.

Whether we look at the number of votes won by the different parties, their proportions of the total vote or the number of seats won by the blue and green camps, the situation remains almost static.

Keeping in mind the upsetting presidential election and the political situation and social unrest that followed, how could this be?

The people most disappointed by the outcome of the the elections are probably two presidents.

Despite former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) touring the country to stump for Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) candidates, the party actually received more than 40,000 fewer votes than in 2001.

The trend was more or less the same in every city and county, nor were there any obvious differences between the north and south.

The blow to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was even greater. In the presidential election, he won 6,470,000 votes, over 50 percent of the total vote, and if the DPP could have held on to only half of the new votes won in that election, they would have had total victory in the legislative elections. This was the rationale behind the DPP's whole election strategy.

Unexpectedly, the strategy failed completely, and the number of votes won was the same as three years ago. Because voter turn-out was low, the final proportion of votes won was 37.5 percent, a small increase of only two percentage points.

Deducting the TSU's 800,000 votes, the total number of votes won by the DPP in the legislative elections was approximately 2.2 million lower than the number of votes won by Chen in the presidential election nine months ago. So what are voters thinking?

Looking at the number and proportion of votes won by each party in different areas, the DPP did not win a majority in any city or county except for Ilan County. In Taiwan south of the Chuoshui River, they saw an increase in Chiayi County, but in other cities and counties, results were about the same as in 2001. Looking at actual votes won, the changes were even smaller.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won 240,000 votes more than in 2001, or about four percentage points, and increased its number of legislative seats by eight. The main differences occurred in Taipei County and City because of a more cautious approach in the nomination process -- to avoid repeating past mistakes -- finally brought results.

The People First Party's (PFP) losses "complemented" the KMT's gains. The party lost 560,000 votes, or almost 5 percentage points, and eight seats. As a result, the blue camp maintained the same number of seats, making the whole election exercise look like a storm in a teacup.

But why didn't the large number of opinion polls published prior to the elections detect this phenomenon?

At least half of the answer to that question is to be found among respondents that could not be included in the telephone queries or that did not respond to the polls.

Although Taiwan is inundated by opinion polls, very few pollsters are willing to spend time on these two categories of respondents, which means that there is still much to learn. Do voters want to slow things down, or do they want to turn the political clock back?

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