The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a surprisingly large defeat yesterday in a presidential election that was expected to be a neck-and-neck race as DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) failed to keep President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from winning a second term.
Tsai, who aspired to become the first female president in Taiwan’s history, garnered 45.63 percent of the total votes, while Ma received 51.60 percent.
At a post-election press conference, Tsai conceded defeat and offered her congratulations to Ma.
Photo: Shengfa Lin, Reuters
“I respect the decision of the people and offer my congratulation to President Ma. However, I urge him to listen to the voice of the people in the next four years and not to let the public down,” she said.
Despite the DPP making progress in terms of its share of the vote and the number of seats the party claimed in the legislature, Tsai said the result showed that the party has a long way to go in central and northern Taiwan.
Saying that she took full responsibility for the loss, Tsai also announced her immediate resignation as party chairperson, before making a speech to thousands of supporters outside her campaign headquarters in Banciao District (板橋), New Taipei City (新北市).
Photo: Shengfa Lin, Reuters
“It’s unfortunate we were not able to complete the last mile. We lost the election, but we also won something — solidarity and the determination to reform. The next DPP chairperson will keep the fire of reform burning,” she told supporters, who chanted: “Stay. Stay.”
Tsai called on her supporters to stick together because “someday, we will be back again.”
The loss was another blow to the party, which lost a landslide presidential election four years ago when its presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) only garnered 41.55 percent of the total vote against Ma’s 58.45 percent.
Photo: Shengfa Lin, Reuters
The 2008 loss came after the DPP’s historic victory in 2000 by then-presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), in which the party ended the KMT’s dominance and achieved the nation’s first transfer of power. Chen also won re-election in 2004.
Tsai was able to pull the party together and she started its journey back to being a competitive party with a number of by-election victories after assuming the chairmanship in 2008 en route to her nomination as the DPP’s presidential candidate in April last year.
She was able to pick up momentum as the campaign progressed with her campaign theme, which highlighted fairness and justice, as well as social and economic issues, such as income inequality and unemployment.
The DPP predicted Tsai would win by 1 percent, or about 100,000 votes, in the hotly contested election in its last survey before the election.
Supporters began to arrive at Tsai’s national campaign headquarters in a confident mood yesterday afternoon for an open-air rally, where a giant screen was set up so people could watch the live telecast of the ballot counting, which began at 4pm.
A few hundred people packed a small area inside the headquarters to watch the telecast. The crowd cheered when the initial vote count showed Tsai leading the national tally in the first few minutes.
However, the mood failed to last after almost every television station showed Ma pulling away and increasing his lead to more than 300,000 votes after about 30 minutes.
Watching the TV broadcast, a DPP aide said he was concerned about the share of the vote of People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), whose share consistently stayed below 3 percent, about half of his support rate before the election.
“That showed that strategic voting has occurred as voters decided to ‘dump’ Soong and vote for Ma,” he said.
Another senior DPP aide, who had been monitoring the official Central Election Commission (CEC) real-time vote tally, said that the tallies shown on television did not reflect the official vote count.
According to the CEC, Ma did not pull his lead out to more than 3 percent until about 7pm, three hours after the beginning of the count, while almost all television channels showed that Ma was in the driver’s seat after the first 30 minutes.
Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) and Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲), the hosts of the DPP’s rally, tried to pump up the crowd, but their announcement of the party’s legislative election victories in local constituencies failed to brighten the mood of supporters, most of whom stood silently in a light shower.
Some young DPP staffers and volunteers hugged each other, sobbing outside the party’s headquarters long before the outcome was announced.
Meanwhile, People First Party (PFP) supporters gathered at the party’s headquarter in Taipei and cheered in consolation for PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), who lost his presidential bid and trailed far behind with 2.77 percent of the vote.
“Go, governor Soong. We are still proud of you despite the failure,” a supporter shouted.
Soong said he did not start considering joining the election until July or August last year, after feeling the need to speak out for ordinary people and improve their lives.
Soong said that his campaign lacked funds and he was thankful that the party was able to gather so many small donations from supporters.
“We accept the people’s decision,” he said.
Additional reporting by Shelley Shan
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