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Political Parties

Since the early 1990s Taiwan has moved rapidly toward full democracy. Elections for important posts in the government are held regularly, political parties have matured, and people actively participate in elections. The people of Taiwan now have greater control over affairs of state than ever before. Taiwan's lively politics prove that democratization on the island has progressed considerably. In fact, more posts are filled by election in Taiwan than in many other democratic countries in the world, and an election is usually held every year. Average turnout rates in Taiwan's elections are around 70 percent of eligible voters; lower in comparison to some European countries, but much higher than in the United States.

Voting eligibility is defined broadly: the minimum voting age is 20, and there are no gender, property, or educational requirements. Voter registration is automatic. The government notifies citizens of all impending elections through the distribution of a bulletin or gazette that identifies and describes all candidates and their platforms for every district.

Normally, voting is scheduled on a Saturday. A large number of election workers, typically teachers and other dedicated local citizens, administer paper ballots at convenient polling stations. The workers count the votes accurately and quickly, reporting the results just a few hours after the polls close. By any standard, election administration in Taiwan is honest and highly efficient.

In 1986, under the leadership of President Chiang Ching-kuo, political reform was accelerated. After Chiang passed away, his successor, President Lee Teng-hui, continued liberalization and democratization programs. As a result of these reforms, all senior members of the First National Assembly, Control Yuan, and Legislative Yuan, who had been elected to office in the late 1940s either in China or in Taiwan, were retired. Beginning with the National Assembly election of 1991 and the Legislative Yuan election of 1992, the general public in Taiwan has elected all members of these national legislative bodies.

On March 23, 1996, Taiwan held its first direct presidential election. Four teams of candidates campaigned to become the first directly elected president and vice president. The KMT nominated incumbent ROC President Lee Teng-hui, who picked Premier Lien Chan as his running mate. The DPP, after a fierce primary process, nominated veteran political dissident and professor, Peng Ming-min ^ as its presidential candidate. Peng then chose prominent legislator Frank Hsieh as his running mate. Other candidates entered the race via petition. Lin Yang-kang and his running mate Hau Pei-tsun were both former vice chairmen of the KMT, but decided to run as independents under the endorsement of the New Party. The fourth team was Chen Li-an and Wang Ching-feng, a member of the Control Yuan and the only woman on the ballot. Chen was also a member of the KMT and the president of the Control Yuan, but gave up both of these positions when he announced his candidacy.

The KMT ran a very successful campaign. Almost from the very beginning, the Lee-Lien ticket was well ahead of the other three. Lee Teng-hui, as the ROC's first native Taiwanese president, not only received the backing of traditional KMT supporters, but was also supported by some in the DPP camp. Missile tests off the coast of Taiwan and military exercises conducted by the PRC prior to the election further increased support for Lee by motivating people to "rally around the flag." On March 23, slightly over 76 percent of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots and reelected Lee Teng-hui, giving him an impressive 54.0 percent of the vote. The DPP's Peng Ming-min trailed with 21.1 percent. Lin and Chen obtained 14.9 percent and 10.0 percent of the vote, respectively.

On March 18, 2000, 82.7 percent of all eligible voters went to the polls to elect the new president of the Republic of China. The heated competition among the top three teams was quite dramatic. The PRC did not launch missiles this time, but did severely warn Taiwan voters of the danger of making "Wrong" decisions. However, these harsh words had little effect on the election results. DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian and his running mate Lu Hsiu-lien won the election, ending the Kuomintang's 50-year hold on the presidency in Taiwan. Chen and Lu received 39.30 percent of the vote, followed by the independent James Soong, formerly the KMT provincial governor, and his running mate Chang Chao-hsiung, with 36.84 percent. Kuomintang candidate Lien Chan and his running mate Vincent Siew finished in third place with 23.10 percent of the vote. Independents Hsu Hsin-liang and Chu Hui-liang won 0.63 percent, while the New Party's Li Ao and running mate Fung Hu-hsiang received only 0.13 percent, especially after Li Ao urged his supporters to vote for James Soong.

Chen's victory was a major political comeback. Elected as Taipei's first opposition mayor in 1994, he lost the Taipei mayoral race to KMT challenger Ma Ying-jeou in 1998. Chen Shui-bian, at the age of 49, is the youngest president of the Republic of China under the 1947 Constitution, while Vice President Lu was the highest-ranking woman in the ROC's political history.

As of December 2002, a total of 99 political parties had registered with the Ministry of the Interior. However, most are insignificant in electoral politics. The five significant parties are the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Kuomintang (KMT), the New Party (NP), the People First Party (PFP), and the newly formed Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU). All won seats in the Legislative Yuan election of 2001.

The "pan-blue" camp represented parties which sought to maintain the status quo with a view towards eventual reunification with China, while the 'pan-green' camp encompasses groups that want a formal separation from China. The pan-blue camp was made up of the KMT, the People's First Party led by Mr James Soong, and the much smaller New Party. The pan-green camp consisted of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, the more radical Taiwan Independence Party (TIP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union. In addition, there are more than 100 other registered small political parties, such as the Hakka Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. None of these small parties received more than 1% or 2% of votes in the January 2008 LY election.

once a first-past-the-post system was instituted in legislative races in 2008, smaller parties like the PFP lost most of their seats and struggled to remain relevant since then.

The results of a poll commissioned by the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum and released 11 August 2015 showed for the popularity of political parties, 36.7 percent said they supported the KMT, 32.1 percent supported the DPP, only 2.2 percent supported the PFP, and 1.1 percent supported another minor party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union.

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Page last modified: 29-09-2015 19:10:45 ZULU