Sun, Jan 13, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Legislative elections and referendums: ANALYSIS: DPP defeated by a new electoral system: analysts

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A staff member of the Democratic Progressive Party updates election data at party headquarters in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

The nation saw a dramatic shift in power yesterday after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in legislative elections.

While the south is traditionally considered A DPP stronghold, the party fared poorly in Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County and garnered just one seat in central Taiwan. The party had set a goal of capturing 35 district seats and 15 legislator-at-large seats, but ended up securing only 13 district seats and 14 at-large seats.

While opinion polls predicted a DPP loss, the extent of its defeat came as a surprise to some.

Analysts attributed the party's failure mainly to the new electoral system, which they said put the DPP in an unfavorable position.

Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, said that the KMT election machine was efficient and well-organized. It had established a closely knit network with local voting captains during its 50-year reign and had a solid support base.

The DPP, on the other hand, lacked a close connection at the local level, a majority of which is governed by the pan-blue camp, he said.

"Under the new electoral system, there is only one slot available in each constituency. Voters are looking for someone who can give them the best services possible and that costs money," he said.

The second-ballot voting system, in which voters pick the party of their choice, also puts the DPP at a disadvantage, because the biggest party benefits most from the design, Chao said.

"The DPP agreed on the new electoral system because it has its eyes set on two-party politics," he said. "It is well aware that it will take time to get rid of smaller parties and that it has to pay a price during the transitional period."

The game is pretty much set in some constituencies, such as the outlying islands, the east coast and Aboriginal seats, said Hawang Shiow-duan (黃秀端), a political science professor at Soochow University.

Another reason for the DPP's poor showing was public displeasure with the DPP administration's lackluster performance over the past eight years, analysts said.

Hawang said the economy was not as bad as some media outlets had portrayed, while admitting there was big room for improvement. Negative media reporting, however, took its toll and the administration was punished by voters for failing to give the economy a boost.

The DPP's disappointing performance also showed that focusing on identity and ethnic issues no longer worked as effectively as they used to, analysts said.

While the identity issue may stir up the passion of core DPP supporters, it may scare off more moderate voters, said Wu Chin-en (吳親恩), a political researcher at Academia Sinica.

"Those issues are like a double-edged sword," he said. "They have limited effect when they become the central issue in almost every election."

Tsai Chia-hung (蔡佳泓), an associate research fellow at National Chengchi University's Election Study Center, said that his research showed that more and more Taiwanese prefer a vague, rather than a clear, definition of identity.

In other words, more people favor being political neutral and do not want to be identified as Chinese or Taiwanese, he said.

Other factors must also be taken into account, Hawang said. They include the corruption allegations brought against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his family, the anti-Chen campaign calling for his resignation, soaring international oil prices and the rising prices of commodities and raw materials.

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