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Taiwan - Politics

Chiang Kai-shek
[Jiang Jieshi]
01 Mar 195005 Apr 1975KMT
Yen Chia-kan05 Apr 197520 May 1978KMT
Chiang Ching-kuo20 May 197813 Jan 1988KMT
Lee Teng-hui 13 Jan 198820 May 2000KMT
Chen Shui-bian 20 May 200020 May 2008MCT
Ma Ying-jeou 20 May 200820 May 2016KMT
Tsai Ing-wen 20 May 201620 May 2020DPP

The constitution provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage. The press is free, though at times unreliable, and political debate is unconstrained and vigorous. Critics allege that the authorities increased their placement of advertisements packaged as news reports and programs in local newspapers and television. They said the placement deterred a few media outlets from criticizing the authorities. The authorities deny using advertising revenue to manipulate the media.

Until the mid-1980s the KMT maintained a single-party rule. Martial law, which had been in force since the 1940's, was lifted in 1987. Beginning in the mid-1980's and accelerating in the first half of the nineties, however, the political system has been transformed into a democracy. Until 1986, Taiwan's political system was controlled by one party, the Kuomintang (KMT), the chairman of which was also Taiwan's top leader. As the ruling party, the KMT was able to fill appointed positions with its members and maintain political control of the island.

The peaceful political transition from authoritarian rule to a democracy encouraged the development of a growing number of special interest groups, such as advocates for women’s rights, indigenous Taiwanese, and Taiwanese of Chinese descent to pursue political rights and interests such as democracy, justice, and equality. As these groups have become more willing to participate in political rallies and protests to demand that the government consider their specific interests, they have further demanded that “Mainlanders” (post-1945 Chinese immigrants to Taiwan) should not be the only dominant group in the political structure, and that Taiwanese should join Mandarin as the official languages in Taiwan.

Before the 1986 island-wide elections, many "non-partisans" grouped together to create Taiwan's first new opposition political party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Despite an official ban on forming new political parties, Taiwan authorities did not prohibit the DPP from operating, and DPP and independent candidates captured more than 20% of the vote in the 1986 elections.

In 1987, President Chiang Ching-kuo ended the nearly four decades of martial law under which dissent had been suppressed. Since then, Taiwan has taken dramatic steps to improve respect for human rights and create a democratic political system, including ending almost all restrictions on the press.

Vice President Lee Teng-hui succeeded Chiang Ching-kuo as president upon Chiang's death in 1988, and in 1990 the National Assembly (NA) elected Lee to a 6-year term as President, the final indirect presidential election conducted by the NA. Under President Lee, the Legislative Yuan (LY) passed the Civic Organizations Law in 1989, which allowed for the formation of new political parties, thereby legalizing the DPP. In 1992, the DPP won 51 seats in the 161-seat LY, increasing the DPP's influence on legislative decisions. Chen Shui-bian's victory in the Taipei mayoral election in December 1994 further enhanced the profile of the DPP, which won 45 of the 157 seats in the 1995 LY elections.

Taiwan's first direct presidential elections were held in March 1996. In 1996, the KMT's Lee Teng-hui was elected President and Lien Chan Vice President in the first direct presidential election by Taiwan's voters. In the November 1997 local elections, the DPP won 12 of the 23 county magistrate and city mayor contests to the KMT's 8, outpolling the KMT for the first time in a major election.

In March 2000, there were five candidates in the presidential campaign: Lien Chan (the KMT’s candidates), Chen Shui-bian (the DPP’s), Li Ao (the New Party’s), Soong Chu-yu, and Hsu Hsin-liang (an independent candidate). Chen Shui-bian, DPP’s nominee, defeated the other political parties and won the presidency for a four-year term. In 2004, President Chen won reelection, receiving fifty percent of the vote. These events demonstrated the successful transfer of political power from the KMT, the oldest ruling party, to the DPP, previously an opposition party, and that the democratic process was working.

The Taiwan Sunflower Student Movement, also known as the March 18 Student Movement or Occupy Taiwan Legislatur, was a protest movement that began on March 18, 2014, in the Legislative Yuan and continued to spread. Police and protesters were in a standoff in Taiwan's legislature 19 March 2014 after students stormed the building to demand the government scrap a trade deal with China. The protesters knocked down a large metal gate as they entered the legislative chamber and were using chairs to keep out police. The students said the deal would endanger Taiwanese jobs and increase Beijing's growing influence. The protesters felt the ruling Kuomintang, or KMT, party had bypassed the democratic process.

Taiwan’s ruling KMT party, known for its engagement with old enemy China, suffered a worse than expected defeat in local elections 29 November 2014. The results hurt the Nationalist Party’s odds of holding the presidency in 2016 and may slow talks with Beijing. The elections gave momentum to the chief opposition party, which takes a tougher stance on China.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a research institute under the umbrella of The Economist Magazine in the United Kingdom, released the 2020 Democracy Index on 04 February 2021. Taiwan ranked 11th out of 167 countries and regions rated. It was the top in East Asia. The EIU report praised Taiwan as a "democratic lighthouse in Asia." Taiwan's significant rise from 31st to 11th in 2019 reflects the establishment of positive political and legal developments in recent years. In addition to increasing political party financial transparency, legislative reform has also helped protect judicial independence from political interference. EIU had released the Democracy Index since 2006. The 2020 edition focused primarily on the democratic and freedom impact of the novel coronavirus on the world. The democracy index of the world political system in 2020 deteriorated from 5.44 in 2019 to 5.37 on average. This was the worst number since 2006, when the Democracy Index was first released. Numbers have deteriorated since 2019 in 116 out of 167 countries and regions. Only 38 improved the index. The report points out that "the major topic in 2020 was Taiwan, which had the largest improvement." The Democracy Index describes the degree of democracy as "Full democracy" (8-10 points), "Flawed democracies" (6-7.9 points), and "Hybrid". It is classified into four levels: "regis" (4 to 5.9 points) and "Authoritarian regimes" (0 to 3.9 points). Norway, Iceland and Sweden are the top three democracy indexes in 2020. Taiwan ranks 11th with 8.94 points, but is the top in East Asia. Japan ranked 21st overall with 8.13 points. South Korea ranked 23rd with 8.01 points. Hong Kong is 87th with 5.57 points. China was 151st with 2.27 points. According to the report, many countries, including China, Singapore, and South Korea, conducted strict lockdown and contact history tracking as well as citizen monitoring in anti-coronavirus measures, which is an index in the majority of Asian countries and regions. While saying that it led to a decline, he pointed out that Japan and South Korea returned to "complete democracy" for the first time since 2014, and Taiwan was evaluated as "complete democracy" for the first time.




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Page last modified: 06-10-2021 12:15:14 ZULU