By E. Dickinson for FFHR
January 12, 2024
On January 13th the young Taiwanese democracy will hold its 8th presidential election since direct universal suffrage began in 1996.
The same day, the people of Taiwan will elect a new Parliament – the Legislative Yuan – which will start its term on February 1st.
President Tsai Ingwen’s second and final term will come to an end in May.
Parties and Candidates
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)
Lai Ching-te and Hsiao Bi-Khim
Last Poll Before Taiwan's 2024 Presidential Elections: 38,9%
About the Party: the DPP was established clandestinely in 1986 to push for democratic reforms and civil liberties, as Taiwan was still a one-party state under martial law. It became the main opposition party as soon as democratic reforms started in the late 1980s.
Lai Ching-te was Born in 1959, he is the son of a coal miner. After completing medical studies in Taiwan, he obtained a degree in Public Health from Havard University. He entered politics in the late 1990s, first as a legislator, then as the mayor of Tainan, and then as Premier between 2017 and 2019, during Tsai Ing-wen’s first term.
Hsiao Bi-khim was born in 1971 in Kobe, Japan, to a Taiwanese father and an American mother. She was raised in Taiwan and the US, where she obtained a graduate degree in political science from Columbia University. Returning to Taiwan in the late 1990s, she made her career within the DPP as director of international affairs, then national security advisor to Taiwan’s first president of the DPP, Chen Shui-bian, elected in 2000.
Kuomintang Party (KMT)
Hou Yu-ih and Jaw Shau-kong
Last Poll Before Taiwan's 2024 Presidential Elections: 35,8%
About the Party:The KMT was established in 1912 in Beijing in the wake of the fall of the imperial Qing dynasty and the proclamation of the new ROC. The KMT ruled Taiwan continuously for 53 years, including forty years of martial law. After the death of General Chiang Kai-shek in 1975, his son Chiang Ching-kuo took over and initiated political reforms, carried on by his successor, Lee Teng-hui, to the advent of
democracy in the 1990s.
Hou Yu-ih is a former police officer born in 1957, he become Director-General of the National Police Agency between 2006 and 2008. In 2010, he took his first political position as deputy mayor of New Taipei City before becoming mayor in 2018.
Jaw Shau-kong Born in 1950, from 1981 to 1996, he was involved in politics, first in the city council of Taipei and then as a KMT legislator. He later cut ties with the KMT to establish a pro-unification party: the “New Party.” In 1996, he quit politics and entered the media industry, establishing and acquiring several media groups.
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP)
Ko Wen-je and Wu Hsin-ying
Last Poll Before Taiwan's 2024 Presidential Elections: 22,4%
About the Party: Established only in 2019, the TPP gained five seats in the Legislative Yuan in 2020 and is the outsider in the current presidential race. Throughout the campaign, it emerged as a serious challenger to the two traditional parties, especially the KMT, which it overtook in some polls on several occasions.
Ko Wen-je was Born in 1959, he is a physician and a renowned surgeon specialized in organ transplants. He was the mayor of Taipei between 2014 and 2022 and is the chairman and founder of the TPP. . In 2014, he was strongly anti-unification. Ko ran for Taipei’s mayorship as an independent candidate. . In 2016, he supported the DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen during the presidential election. Ko Wen-je made a breakthrough during the campaign and gathered broad support, especially among the youth and from dissatisfied light blue and light green voters.
Wu Hsin-ying (Cynthia) born in 1978 is a TPP legislator. She studied in US and UK. Back in Taiwan, she was vice president of Shin Kong Life Insurance, a subsidiary of Shin Kong Group. Wu became a member of the Legislative Yuan in November 2022 after the resignation of TPP colleague Tsai Pi-ru.
Main topics divergenses: Cross-Strait relations and nuclear energy
Taiwan will select one of these three men as their next president on Saturday. From left, Ko Wen-je, Lai Ching-te and Hou Yu-ih. © (AFP/Jiji)
Lai Ching-te will likely pursue Tsai Ing-wen’s policy, as he claimed he would. This means no claim of independence, strengthening economic security through relocation and diversification, rejecting the “1992 consensus” and other notions such as “one China principle” and “one country, two systems”, while remaining open to dialogue.
Hou Yu-ih claimes he would maintain the status quo and promote the “3Ds strategy”: Deterrence (strengthening defense capabilities), Dialogue, and De-escalation (improving cooperation). His position on the “1992 consensus” remains blurry as he does not oppose it, but he claims it should comply with ROC laws. He opposes “one country, two systems” but supports reopening talks on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
Ko Wen-je’s promotes seemingly contradictory proposals. "Taiwan’s sovereignty is in no way acceptable to Beijing; thus, it cannot lead to peace". When he does not reject the “1992
consensus” he proposes to change the name, seemingly implying that the only problem is the wording while avoiding clarity on the issue.
Foreign Policy and Defense
All three candidates either explicitly claim to continue her policy or do not say they would broadly diverge from it. The three candidates do not strongly oppose each other on defense policy either. They support the gradual increase of defense spending to 2.5-3% of the GDP. No one opposes the DPP’s reform of the military service from 4 to 12 months, although the KMT has cast some doubts. They all support the development of asymmetrical capabilities, as well.
All three candidates share the same assessment and propose to lean toward an energy mix of roughly 45-50% natural gas, 15-20% coal, and 27-30% renewables. But they diverge on one controversial issue: nuclear energy.
President Tsai committed to phase out nuclear energy by 2025.
Lai Ching-te stated he would stick to the full phasing out of nuclear (0% in 2025).
Hou wants to inspect and recommission all three power plants and assess the completion of the fourth, with a target of 12% nuclear by 2030.
Ko said he would pursue the decommissioning of the first plant, reopen and maintain the second and third, and assess the completion of the fourth as well, targeting 10% nuclear energy by 2030.
Who will take over? Three Possible Scenarios.
The DPP reaches an absolute majority with 57 legislators or more and has free rein to pursue its policy. However, this is the least likely scenario according to several assessments.
No party gains an absolute majority, and, in this case, the more politically fluid TPP becomes the kingmaker to support or oppose DPP and KMT initiatives. Negotiation becomes the critical factor in this scenario.
The KMT wins an absolute majority and starts a complex balance of power against the hypothetical DPP government. Such a situation would be similar to the two terms of President Chen Shui-bian (DPP) between 2000 and 2008.
Only time will tell.
Elections Belong To The People.
It's Their Decision.
Uses a pseudonym for security reasons