The New Power Party (NPP) won five seats in yesterday’s legislative elections to become the third-largest party, representing a triumph for the new “third force” party founded by civil activists associated with the 2014 Sunflower movement.
The NPP scored two legislator at-large seats, winning 6.1 percent of the legislator at-large party vote, in a sharp drop from pre-election polling after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) issued calls for pan-green voters to concentrate their votes to protect the “safe” seats on its legislator-at-large list.
However, DPP endorsements helped push some of the party’s district candidates to victory, with former Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) winning New Taipei City’s 12th district, Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) — who is best known for speaking on behalf of her bereaved family after her younger brother, army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), died in July 2013 under controversial circumstances only days from being discharged — winning Taichung’s third district, and metal band Chthonic’s lead vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) winning a tight race for Taipei’s fifth district in a surprise upset.
The DPP endorsed Huang, Lim and Hung in a bid to topple Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) incumbents in what were previously considered pan-blue districts.
The party’s other district candidate, human rights lawyer Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智), was defeated by former DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) in a three-way race for Hsinchu City’s legislative district after refusing to drop out of the race in response to DPP pressure.
The NPP’s success came as the Taiwan Solidarity Union’s (TSU) support crumbled, losing all three of its legislator-at-large seats.
Pairing with the pro-independence leftist activist group Radical Flank (基進側翼), whose Chairman Chen Yi-chi (陳弈齊) headed the party’s legislator-at-large slate, failed to ward off a sharp drop in support, with the party winning 2.5 percent of the at-large vote, falling short of the 8.96 percent it won in 2012.
National Taiwan University political science professor Wang Yeh-lih (王業立) said the rise of the NPP was the main factor behind the TSU’s decline.
“The NPP stems from the leadership of the Sunflower movement, which opposed a trade in services agreement with China, so they attracted a substantial portion of voters dissatisfied with China. These voters mainly voted for the TSU in the election four years ago,” National Taiwan University political science professor Wang Yeh-lih (王業立) said. “As TSU’s candidates were not as well-known as the NPP’s, and the NPP is skilled at using new media, the NPP was able to achieve much greater visibility than the TSU.”
The Green Party-Social Democratic Party Alliance won only 2.52 percent of the legislator at-large vote, also failing to win any district seats.
The Social Democratic Party, which was founded by many long-standing social campaigners, had competed with the NPP to carry the “third force” banner after a split within the movement, joining forces within the Green Party after integration talks broke down over relations with the DPP.
While the NPP endorsed DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and — with the exception of Chiu — competed only for districts where the DPP “made way,” the alliance did not coordinate with the DPP.
The People First Party (PFP) received 6.52 percent of the legislator-at-large vote, holding on to its two legislator-at-large seats.