Whatever the outcome of the Jan. 14 presidential and legislative elections, one thing is certain; the new legislature will be very different from the current one.
Let’s start with the basics; back in 2008, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won with about 58 percent of the vote. In the Legislative Yuan, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) received about 54 percent of the vote, but disproportionate district representation ensured that the pan-blue coalition received about 76 percent of the seats.
Those days are gone forever and for many reasons.
First, there is the James Soong (宋楚瑜) factor. This time Soong and his People First Party (PFP) is running against the KMT and it will make a big difference.
In 2008, the PFP graciously joined the KMT in co-sponsoring candidates for the legislature, which might well have helped individual candidates garner more votes, but the big loser was the PFP.
When there is co-sponsorship the vote tally accrues to just one of the parties, a necessary factor in apportioning legislator-at-large seats. That party was the KMT and as a result, the PFP was shut out of legislator-at-large seats completely, despite the personal leanings of the individual candidates.
That won’t happen again. The PFP is not only fielding its own legislative candidates, it has also nixed co-sponsorship in areas it held in the past.
Second, Soong is also running for president and while he will not win, he is likely to attract an estimated 8 percent to 11 percent of the vote, and can be expected to convince enough voters to vote for the PFP to ensure it receives the minimum 5 percent of votes needed to qualify for legislator-at-large seats.
Whatever way you look at it, there will be more PFP legislators in the legislature and Soong, as leader of the party, will have an important political voice that will be heard for the next four years.
Some have speculated that Soong would drop out of the presidential race at the last minute to favor the KMT, but such thinking was misguided from the beginning. Despite past cooperation, the KMT has not got along with Soong since he left the party in a huff and he can be expected to return the favor.
The next big factor in the legislative elections is the resurgent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
Tsai has a good chance of winning the presidential election and her popularity will certainly help the DPP as it aims to increase its number of seats in the legislature.
In the 2008 election, the DPP received 38 percent of the vote, but only 27 seats (24 percent). That, too, is going to change. Disproportionate district representation will still favor the KMT, but the DPP will win more individual seats, as well as a much larger share of the vote.
There is even a good chance that the DPP could receive more than 50 percent of the vote and although a majority in the legislature is less likely, the DPP could still end up the majority party, as it was in the 2004 election.
Finally, the KMT is guilty of shooting itself in the foot as far as the legislature is concerned. As a result, the party cannot expect to derive much momentum from Ma’s coattails, because on the basis of his perceived incompetence and lackluster record, Ma is struggling to secure a second term in office.
When the current legislative session ended, the KMT’s 76 percent share of the seats went with it.
Despite the KMT’s sham claims that it is the party of clean government, several of its elected candidates from the past legislative election lost their seats after being found guilty of corruption. The DPP won nine of the districts that held re-elections when the KMT incumbent was found guilty of corruption. Those same DPP candidates have a good chance of retaining those seats in the upcoming elections.
Add to that the fact that Aboriginal candidates, who receive a guaranteed six seats in the legislature, are finding their own voice. Traditionally they have voted with the KMT in the legislature, an alliance that is now wavering.
Clearly, then, the legislature will have a completely new appearance next month and the KMT will no longer be the majority party.
China and the US had better put their thinking caps on and be prepared to deal with this new situation.
Even if Ma is fortunate enough to eke out a victory in the presidential election, he is going to find himself in serious trouble in the legislature. He was unable to achieve much when his party held more than 70 percent of the seats; one can only imagine how useless he will be when the KMT loses that majority.
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.
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