The results of Saturday’s legislative election showed that Taiwanese politics is still dominated by the nation’s two largest political parties.
Although younger Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians have asked KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to assume responsibility for the party’s defeats in the presidential and legislative elections and step down, the outcome was by no means a crushing blow to the party.
In terms of party votes, the KMT gained two legislator-at-large seats from four years ago to tie with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at 13.
This means that the standoff between the pan-green and pan-blue camps at the Legislative Yuan in the past four years is likely to persist. The KMT, with its sizeable caucus of 38 lawmakers, is expected to maintain an obstructionist stance against bills introduced by the DPP.
That President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) beat Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the KMT’s presidential candidate, by almost 2.65 million votes raises the question of why the DPP did not perform similarly with regard to party votes.
The answer might lie in the rise of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), led by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), which raked in 11.2 percent of party votes and landed five legislative seats, supplanting the New Power Party (NPP) as the nation’s third-largest party.
The TPP fared better than expected: Critics and opinion polls had predicted that it would win four seats.
The result suggests that a sizeable number of voters still believed in Ko, who managed to siphon off not just floating votes, but also some borderline “green” votes, despite him lashing out at Tsai and the DPP, and his remarks about pro-democracy movements in China, which had been labeled “pro-China.”
The loyalty that Ko’s diehard supporters have shown is unsettling. He has on numerous occasions proclaimed the matter of independence versus unification a non-issue, saying that the government should instead focus on providing people with comfortable lives.
Ko has made a U-turn regarding his cross-strait stance from his days as a political novice, leading to the accusation that he “lacks a central belief.”
His penchant to pit the issue of the nation’s right to self-determination against prospects of a financially more comfortable life sounds dangerously like KMT rhetoric.
The TPP is to have five legislative seats and the NPP three — similar to the NPP’s five seats and the People First Party’s (PFP) three at the beginning of the current legislative term.
However, just as the NPP could not become a “decisive minority” party due to the vast difference between the number of seats held by the DPP caucus and other caucuses, the TPP is not expected to hold much sway over the DPP either.
Furthermore, the ratio of seats held by minor parties to the total number of legislative seats remains the same, the only difference being the PFP’s exit.
The overall legislative landscape is largely unchanged. This would allow the DPP to push its policies.
However, the DPP should remember not to introduce unpopular policies, like when it amended the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) for a second time in 2018.
It would be interesting to see whether the TPP could boost its popularity and what the NPP does to stay relevant.
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