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2014/11/30 Press Release: Interpreting the Nine-in-One Election Results

The nine-in-one election results were released. KMT was trounced as their governing territories shrank from 4 municipalities and 11 counties to only 1 municipality and 5 counties. On the other hand, DPP made a surprising victory. They won power in 3 municipalities and 10 counties. Furthermore, Ko Wen-je won the most attended Taipei City mayoral election by nearly 854,000 votes and became the first ever non-partisan Taipei City mayor in Taiwanese history. Taiwanese people have made their positions crystal clear through voting. After the election, president Ma, also the chairman of KMT, bowed to apologize; Premier Jiang Yi-hua and the General Secretary of KMT Tseng Yung-chuan both resigned.

What kind of changes will occur between and within the political plates of pan-blue and pan-green parties after the outcome of the 2014 nine-in-one election? What kind of impacts do the Sunflower Movement and the emerging “third political forces” have in this election? How will the election results influence the 2016 presidential and legislative election? And, what are the opportunities and challenges for Taiwan’s cross-strait relations and external relations in the future? Those are some of the key political issues Taiwan is facing after November 29th, 2014. Taiwan Thinktank hosted an international conference about the trajectory of the post-election political development by bringing together Taiwan’s renowned academics and political observers including Huang Wei-feng (Associate Research Fellow at Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica ), Lin Wen-cheng (Professor of Political Science at the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific, National Sun Yat-sen University), Wu Chi-chung (Associate Professor of Political Science at the Department of Politics, Soochow University) and Shih Cheng-feng (Professor of Political Science at the Department of Indigenous Development and Social Work, National Dong Hwa University). This conference was chaired by Lai I-chung (Vice President of Taiwan Thinktank).

Huang Wei-feng: this election was a big defeat of KMT

Huang Wei-feng pointed out that this election is a second order election, where turnout rates tend to be lower; voters turn out to protest against the ruling party; election is involved with issues of national significance.

First of all, unlike the first-order election where election results will change the power configuration of national administration, in the second order election, people vote with their heart against the mainstream parties. Second, low turnout rates usually benefit those parties with many grassroots supporters, which in Taiwan's case tend to be KMT. But this time, KMT local management did not perform well ─ even its factional candidates lost their bids for county magistrates and city mayors. What's worse, if adding up total votes of county or city councilors for each party, we found a trend that KMT vote share is in decline (dropping from the all time high of 44% in 2009) and DPP vote share increases 37% this year, which almost equaled to that of KMT. In short, the KMT machine is rusty, which may indicate a long term decline of KMT unless it changes its ways of campaigning. Third, the election was fought, not with local candidates' platforms, but with issues of national importance, such as tainted food oil problem, stock income tax, rise of electricity and fuel costs, income equality and class divide, and about all Ma administration's competence.

On the other hand, what voices did the voters seek to convey to politicians? It depended on the candidates' interpretation about the election results. Huang gave his reading based on the viewpoints above. First, it was a clear rejection of President Ma's administration, as you can see a nation-wide swing of at least 10 percent votes from KMT to DPP. But the election results should not be interpreted as a net gain of votes of DPP, though DPP was a clear beneficiary of anti-Ma votes. Second, the “Sunflower Effect” is not diminishing and still exists, as youth voter turnout seemed to be exceptionally high, and we need to further analyze post-election poll data to fully reveal the impact of youth voters on this and next election. Besides, the way Beijing handled Hong Kong's "occupy the central" protesters might be the spur for young Taiwanese to come forward and save their own country again.

Finally, this election was not necessarily a total rejection of cross-strait rapprochement, but voters seemed to reject a certain type of cross-strait relationship, one that is dominated by large enterprises, princelings, and cross-strait brokers. Beijing needs to find ways to deliver cross-strait bonus to people on low-to-middle income, small and medium enterprises, and people from the central and southern parts of Taiwan. To do so, Beijing needs to reach out 13 DPP mayors and magistrates without any pre-condition. There is no need to emphasize the "1992 consensus" when engaging exchanges with DPP mayors and magistrates. Huang thought Beijing will be pragmatic enough to do so, given that Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu and Tainan mayor William Lai visited China without agreeing the so-called "1992 consensus."

Lin Wen-cheng: KMT will face a bitter struggle in 2016

Lin Wen-chung said this election was regarded as the skirmish of 2016 presidential election, and both the election results and the changing trend between and within the political plates of pan-blue and pan-green parties are all beneficial to DPP toward 2016 election. First, DPP gained 47.55% vote share during the mayoral / magistrate election, which was way beyond KMT’s 40.70% vote share, especially when the young generation has awaken and is extremely disappointed in KMT. In order to teach KMT a lesson, the young generation turned to support DPP. Next, the political plate which was called “north-blue and south-green” was broken. DPP’s ruling territories are not only among the south of Chuo-shui River, but also includes Taichung and Taoyuan. Those two cities possessed high strategic importance of presidential election. Third, KMT’s local factions and spuds will gradually disintegrate due to the loss of local political power. Fourth, there are only less than 14 months before 2016 presidential election. In fact, after next Lunar New Year, campaigning activities will begin immediately. Taiwanese people are extremely disappointed with Ma government’s performance right now, and Lin believes this won’t change in a short period of time. Hence, the overall situation is in DPP’s favor.

Even so, there are still many factors that will influence the 2016 election results. For instance, being disappointed in Ma government does not mean people will spontaneously turn to DPP. DPP should propose ideas and policies that can win people’s endorsements. At the same time, DPP should resolve internal differences in the process of presidential primaries. Also, the electoral defeat this time may generate a sense of crisis in KMT. KMT may thus introduce major reforms to re-unite the pan-blue supporters. In addition, KMT’s defeat may raise Beijing’s concerns as well, therefore strengthen interference to Taiwan’s presidential election. Last but not least, the U.S. does not trust DPP, and this is definitely the negative factor that DPP must strive to resolve.

Shih Cheng-feng: President Ma used outsiders to strike party political opponents

Shih Cheng-feng believed President Ma Ying-jeou used outsiders to strike political opponents of the same party during the nine-in-one election, including Lien Sean Wen, Chu, Li-luan and Wu Chih-yang. Shih also predicted that the decision-making process of presidential candidate will be the third struggle between pro-Ma and anti-Ma camps. They have already fought twice in “Political Fight of September” and “Sunflower Movement.” Perhaps in 2016, there will be two candidates on behalf of pan-blue running for president. Moreover, KMT’s struggles will not only take place at the central level of the party, but also at the local level. KMT will spare no effort to tame, incorporate and suppress the local factions.

On the other side, DPP nominated their candidates with a very conservative attitude in this election, especially on the nomination of councilors. Shih thought DPP and KMT had a tacit agreement on joint monopoly. The current electoral system of county councils is SNTV. In this system, candidates are sensitive to changes in public opinion and the election results may easily reverse. However, DPP is negligent in managing grassroots, and their attitude toward outlying islands, Hualien and Taitung are full of defeatism.

Last, how will so-called “the third force” develop in the future depends on their leaders. Do they just run for legislators, or even aim at nominating presidential candidates such as Lin Yi-hsiung?

Wu Chi-chung: international communities should pay attention to the influence of Taiwan’s democracy

Wu Chi-chung emphasized that Taiwan’s two-party system democracy is maturing. There will be no longer the one-party dominance situation. KMT controlled all administrative resources and dominated politics in Taiwan but suffered a major defeat in this election because they introduced a series of wrong policies and nominated wrong candidates to run for mayors and magistrates. KMT’s political advantage is probably losing fast and that will normalize Taiwan’s democratic political competition and transition of political parties.

On cross-strait relations, Beijing is facing dilemma now. At the beginning, Beijing might insist that DPP must first recognize the “1992 consensus” to maintain contacts. However, doing so will only worsen cross-strait relations. Take Hong Kong for example, just dealing with nominal economic problems does not improve their relations. The Sunflower Movement and nine-in-one election results clearly showed that Taiwanese people are deeply concerned about the present cross-strait economic and trade cooperation pattern. That is why if Beijing and KMT continue to ignore Taiwanese people’s dissatisfaction and doubt toward current cooperation pattern, cross-strait relations will be growing further apart, and KMT will suffer more serious defeat in the future.

Wu stressed that political changes in Taiwan usually have significant impact on the development in Asia. Sunflower Movement in Taiwan influenced Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong; democratic elections in Taiwan also gain envy from many Chinese people. Many analysts believe DPP and Ko Wen-je won the nine-in-one election because they took full advantage of the power of the internet. And because the power of internet is without borders, it may impact other Asian countries such as China. Finally, DPP’s victory also showed that the viewpoint of keeping distance with China has been strengthened. Hence International communities have to reevaluate Taiwan’s future development, and China should review their policies of blockading and compressing Taiwan’s external relations. 

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