In a three-way race marked by strategic voting and with cross-strait relations looming large toward the end of the campaign, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was re-elected yesterday, with swing voters believed to have played a major role, analysts said.
With People First Party presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) failing to get more than 3 percent of the vote, the election turned into a “blue versus green” affair, said Eric Yu (俞振華), assistant research fellow of the Election Research Center at National Chengchi University.
“In this scenario, most people voted along the blue-green line, which was a determining factor in the election,” Yu said.
Ma of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) received about 51.60 percent of the vote, against Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) roughly 45.63 percent, he said.
Liao Da-chi (廖達琪), a professor of politics at National Sun Yat-sen University in Greater Kaohsiung, said the election could be seen as a “referendum” on the so-called “1992 consensus,” the basis of Ma’s cross-strait policy, which Tsai rejected because of its emphasis on a “one China” framework.
In the run-up to the election, businesspeople voiced their support for the “1992 consensus,” while the US sent signals that it preferred Ma in terms of his handling of cross-strait relations, Liao said.
These two developments had an impact on voters, she said.
Washington repeatedly denied it had a preference in the election.
“People know that the acceptance of the ‘1992 consensus’ and the continuation of the ECFA [Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement] and other cross-strait deals, which would not have been signed without the formula, was the linchpin of Taiwan’s economic development as clearly expressed by its proponents,” she said.
Although Tsai tried to present herself as a moderate and pragmatic leader, “it’s questionable how many independent voters really got the point of her cross-strait policy and the ‘Taiwan consensus,’” Liao said.
“It seemed illogical to many people when she said that she would continue with the current process of cross-strait developments, but refuse to accept the ‘1992 consensus,’ which the 16 cross-strait agreements so far signed were based on,” she said.
Wang Yeh-lih, (王業立), head of the department of political science at National Taiwan University, said repeated appeals for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait appealed to voters who had no affiliation with the two major parties.
Another reason for the outcome was the DPP’s inability to disassociate itself from the previous DPP government, which is widely perceived to have been plagued by corruption. KMT ads at the end of the election campaign highlighted the fact that many of the people staffing Tsai’s campaign also served in the earlier DPP administration.
Liao said Tsai made another strategic mistake by bringing up the idea of a “coalition government” so late in her campaign.
“The ‘coalition government’ proposal was aimed at winning support from independent voters, but she should have introduced the concept earlier to give voters more time to understand and accept the proposal,” Liao said.
“The lack of any successful coalition government in the nation’s history only led people to think of the failed experiment of the ‘Tang Fei (唐飛) Model,’ Liao said, referring to former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) first premier, who was from the KMT.