As Taiwanese ushered in the New Year with dazzling firework displays around the nation, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) continued counting down the days to its much-anticipated downfall.
The KMT’s fall from grace began months before the nine-in-one elections in November 2014 in which the once-overweening party lost nine out of the nation’s 22 cities and counties to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and independents.
The unprecedented and disastrous defeat set alarm bells ringing for the KMT. However, it is this month’s presidential and legislative elections that could actually strip the party of its immense power, which has been built upon its total control of the presidency and the legislature.
If the latest poll released by the Cross-Strait Policy Association on Tuesday is an indication, the KMT is set to lose both the presidential office and its legislative majority. The survey found that even after the controversies surrounding KMT vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang’s (王如玄) contentious sales of military dependents’ housing units have abated, KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) support rating has only rebounded by 2 percent. He is still trailing his DPP opponent, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), by an overwhelming 23 percentage points.
It also showed that of those polled, 33.5 percent identified themselves with the DPP, against 22.8 percent who sided with the KMT.
One question springs to mind given the results: What would Taiwan’s political scene be like if the KMT loses its clout and gradually becomes less of a factor? Surely the KMT would remain as the nation’s largest opposition party over the next four years, but its downfall could put an end to the nation’s long-standing political divide.
However, although the DPP seems to be gaining momentum, the prospect of it winning a majority in the Legislative Yuan does not look promising. That is primarily because voters are less likely to put all their eggs in one basket, meaning casting all three of their ballots — one for the presidential candidate, one for a legislative candidate and one for a political party — for the same party.
Taiwanese have learned the hard way that a party can wreak havoc if it has absolute power. Hence, they might vote for nonpartisan candidates or those representing smaller parties in the hope of creating other forces to check the powers of the DPP and the KMT in the legislature.
In addition to the People First Party (PFP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union, whose attempts to gain enough seats to form party caucuses look like a surefire success, a few other smaller players are also expected to enter the legislature this year. They include the Republican Party, whose chairperson, Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), has joined PFP presidential candidate James Soong’s (宋楚瑜) ticket; the Green Party-Social Democratic Party Alliance; and the New Power Party, which is targeted at young people.
Such changes in the political arena could see more new parties emerge in rapid succession.
While the DPP stands to be the biggest winner in the potential post-KMT era, it should be mindful that a relatively large proportion of its supporters are young voters and those who have switched from the KMT because of what they see as President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) failures to live up to expectations and factor public opinion into his policymaking.