by David Parmer / Tokyo
Taiwan voters delivered a stunning defeat to the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party on November 24. The local elections could be considered much like the US midterm elections, that is, a referendum on the ruling party; in the US the Republicans and in Taiwan the DPP.
According to a Channel News Asia report, the KMT opposition party won 15 of 22 local seats, including those in the traditional DPP strongholds of Kaohsiung and Taichung.
As a result of the defeat Tsai Ing-wen resigned as DPP party chair but will remain president of Taiwan for another two years. Analysts say the turnaround was a result of voter displeasure with Tsai’s government performance particularly on domestic reforms and relations with the PRC.
In addition to electing KMT candidates, voters also rejected same-sex marriage and changing Taiwan’s designated Olympics name of Chinese Taipei. This too, in addition to the overall results, was taken as a positive sign by the Beijing government.
What is very interesting about these election results is how they reveal the “temperature tolerance” of the Taiwan electorate. If the political temperature gets too “warm” vis-a-vis Beijing the voters don’t like it. They voted out the KMT in 2016 largely on the perception that the government was getting too close to Beijing. However, it also seems that if the political temperature becomes too “cool” i.e. distance from Beijing becomes too great, they adjust the temperature by voting in the opposition as we have just seen on Nov.24, 2018.
The question now is how will President Tsai govern for the next two years in the light of this stinging defeat by the KMT? Another question is how this will affect Taiwan’s increasingly warming relations with the United States and the Trump administration.
With the resurgence of the KMT it is likely that we will also see the re-emergence of former president Ma Ying-jeou and the possibility that he will again run for office in 2020.
In the short term will relations with Beijing improve? Will Tsai Ing-wen be unable to govern effectively? What will happen to Taiwan-American relations?
Please let us know your thoughts on these questions
Photo: CSIS via flickr