Strategic voting was a crucial factor in President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) surprisingly comfortable re-election victory on Saturday, but Ma will not enjoy a one-party dominance as he did in his first term because of a different legislative makeup, academics said yesterday.
“It was plain and simple. People First Party [PFP] Chairman James Soong’s (宋楚瑜) vote share was the deciding factor of the presidential election,” in which Ma cruised to a 6 percent lead over Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Soochow University political scientist Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said at a post-election forum -organized by Taiwan Thinktank.
Soong, who entered the race as a late third candidate, secured only 2.77 percent of the total votes, despite polling at more than double that prior to the election.
The Ma camp successfully created a sense of crisis for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the pan-blue supporters, who opted to abandon Soong at the last minute out of fear of a Ma loss, he said.
Hsu said a DPP internal poll conducted one month before election day showed that Tsai’s support rate trailed Ma by 2 percentage points — 47 percent to 45 percent — while Soong received 8 percent.
If Soong had won 7 percent of the votes or more, Tsai could have won, Hsu said.
The DPP’s expectation of a landslide win in southern Taiwan and stronger support from urban voters did not happen because of those swing votes, Hsu said, adding that the DPP had no strategy to counter strategic voting.
However, Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, will not be able to dominate the legislature as he had during the past four years, when his party controlled three-quarters of the 113 seats, after the opposition made gains in the legislative elections.
Despite the KMT retaining its majority in the legislature with 64 seats, the DPP and its ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, won 40 seats and three seats respectively, accounting for 38 percent of the total seats.
Ma’s mandate will not be as strong because support for the KMT dropped in both elections, said Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), director of Taiwan Thinktank’s foreign policy studies.
“Ma will have to increase dialogue with the opposition, since the KMT will not be able to dominate the policymaking and legislation process,” Lai said.
Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), former representative to the US and Mainland Affairs Council minister, said the DPP “has some soul-searching to do after the loss” about its candidate, campaign theme and its China policy.
However, there are other questions to be asked, he added, such as the important role that Chinese interference had played in Taiwan’s politics and the danger of an authoritarian regime influencing a democracy.
The most sensitive and important question, Wu said, is whether Ma will regard his 51.6 percent of the vote as a strong enough mandate to start political negotiations with Beijing in his second term.