Find a Security Clearance Job!


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 womens 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 KMTs candidates), Chen Shui-bian (the DPPs), Li Ao (the New Partys), Soong Chu-yu, and Hsu Hsin-liang (an independent candidate). Chen Shui-bian, DPPs 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.

Taiwans 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 Partys 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.

Join the mailing list