Taiwan - 2012 Elections
The national elections on January 14, 2012 were the fifth direct presidential and the seventh direct parliamentary election. Many have called Taiwan's elections a beacon of democratic practices in Asia. Thus, many other nations in Asia and around the world were watching the Taiwan election process and its outcome very carefully. Taiwan had indeed become more democratic over the past twenty-four years, due to its allowing the existence and activities of opposition political parties and the rapid growth of human rights on the island. Nonetheless, these national elections were not perfect.
Taiwan is surely not alone among countries across the globe in which movements dealing with social and environmental concerns have been followed up by developments focusing on the establishing and functioning of a genuinely democratic system. "People power" movements had also occurred in Eastern Europe and Latin America, and most recently in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Over the previous twenty years, many surveys have been conducted on the identity of Taiwan's citizens. Overall, the numbers who consider themselves solely Taiwanese have increased from 17.3 per cent in 1992 to 54.2 per cent in June 2011. At the same time, the numbers who consider themselves solely Chinese have declined from 25.5 per cent in 1992 to only 4.1 per cent in June 2011. This development continued since Ma become president in 2008. Furthermore, a recent survey shows that 74 per cent prefer independence, if given a free choice, and more than 81.7 per cent refused to accept the ``One country, Two systems'' proposal from China.
Taiwan has much more income equality than most countries today, and according to some commentators is one of the most ``equal societies'' in East Asia. However, inequality has been rising in recent years, so that about 20 per cent of the Taiwan population earns over six times that of the bottom 20 per cent of the population. While the unemployment level remains low by international comparison, it too has been rising, affecting mainly lower and working-class people.
KMT party assets, including their source, use and investments created a huge imbalance in financial resources available to each party. This imbalance distorts everything else in Taiwan's elections, including that which is otherwise fair. These hidden assets also provide huge hidden funds to use for election media and other public relations activities.
President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) was elected 14 January 2012 to a second term, defeating his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) challenger Tsai Ing-wen with 51.6 percent of the vote. "Congratulations, everyone! We have won," Ma told his supporters, who had waited in the rain for nearly an hour. "This is not Ma Ying-jeou's personal victory, but one for the Taiwanese people," he said. "It's also a victory for our direction toward a clean government, prosperity and peace."
The 61-year-old president said the victory is a clear message from the Taiwanese people to continue moving in the current direction. "I want to thank everyone for your support that has given me the opportunity to achieve the changes Taiwan needs in another four years. I will never let you down," he pledged.
According to the Central Election Commission, Ma garnered 6,891,139 votes, giving him an edge of nearly 6 percent over Tsai, who bagged 6,093,578 votes, or 45.63 percent. The third candidate, People First Party Chairman James Soong, got 369,588 votes, or 2.77 percent.
Ma's re-election bid has been a close battle compared with 2008 when he gained 7,659,014 votes, winning by a margin of nearly 17 percent over the DPP's Frank Hsieh. However, Ma beat Tsai in 15 of the country's 22 cities and counties. The DPP came out ahead in Tainan City, Kaohsiung City, Yilan County, Yunlin County, Chiayi City, Chiayi County and Pingtung County. Tsai, who would have become Taiwan's first female president had she won, graciously conceded defeat at an international press conference soon after Ma addressed his supporters. "We admit defeat in the presidential election and accept the decision of the people of Taiwan," she said.
Tsai, 55, also announced her resignation as chairwoman of the DPP. "I would like apologize to all the party's supporters for failing to meet their expectations," she added. She congratulated Ma on his victory and said she hoped he would listen to the voices of the people over the next four years.
Meanwhile, in his concession speech, Soong said, "We accept the decision made by the people." He said his party will take the people's issues seriously and continue to fight for the benefit and well-being of Taiwan. Soong did not congratulate Ma on his victory nor did he answer questions from reporters regarding his next move.
The third defeat at the polls for Soong, 69, is seen as his swan song. In the 2000 presidential election, he finished second, running as an independent after he failed to get the KMT nomination. He managed to split the pan-blue vote, which left Chen Shui-bian of the DPP as the winner with 39.3 percent of the vote. Soong won 36.8 percent of the vote then, with the KMT's Lien Chan trailing with 23.1 percent. Soong ran for Taipei City mayor in 2006, but finished a distant third with just over 4 percent of the vote, behind Hau Lung-bin of the KMT and Frank Hsieh of the DPP. After his defeat in the mayoral election, Soong said he would withdraw from politics, but returned to compete as the PFP candidate in this year's presidential election.
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