Incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, 61, candidate of ruling the Kuomintang (KMT), was re-elected for another four-year term on January 14 by winning 6,891,139 votes, accounting for 51.6 percent of the total votes.
In a short victory speech in front of his supporters, President Ma declared: “This is not a personal victory, but a victory for the people of Taiwan!” He said the success of his re-election was mainly the result of the people’s appreciation of his government’s efforts in tackling corruption, reviving the economy, and striving to ensure peaceful cross-strait relations. Taiwanese people have given him a clear mandate: let him continue his policy line, the Taipei-based China Times reported.
His strong competitor, Tsai Ing-wen, the first female presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), garnered 6,093,578 votes, 45.63 percent of the total valid votes. Tsai announced her resignation as DPP chairwoman directly after the election defeat. The third-placed candidate, James Soong of the People First Party (PFP), received 369,588 votes, about 2.77 percent.
Pan-Blue dominance in the north, pan-Green in the south
Among Taiwan’s 23 million residents, there were 18.08 million eligible voters in the presidential and legislative elections. The voter turnout was 74 percent.
The United Daily News reported President Ma beat Tsai with over one million votes in northern Taiwan, where the KMT used to dominate while Tsai only won by 530,000 in southern Taiwan where the DPP used to win. In the final count, the key to the victory of the pan-Blue camp including the KMT and PFP this time was to achieve a “big win in the north and a modest loss in the south.” Overall, the DPP won majorities only in six counties in the south and in Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan while the KMT won the remaining 15 counties.
Out of a total of 113 seats in the legislative elections, the KMT took 64, losing 17 from the last election, while the DPP won 40 seats, an increase of 13 over last time. The PFP won three seats, an increase of two. The strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), considered as a member of the pan-Green camp, won three seats. In an analysis, the Liberty Times wrote that although the KMT still maintains an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan and will continue to dominate in the executive and the legislature in the future, while the opposition including the DPP and the TSU control 43 seats, passing the one-third threshold, and are in a position to act as a viable opposition bloc.
The China Times said in a comment that the KMT has only five legislative seats in southern Taiwan while taking almost all seats in the north. Such a fortification of the division between the pan-Blue dominance in the north and the pan-Green’s hold on the south will further regionalize Taiwan’s parliamentary politics, sharpening the discrepancy between South and North.
“Thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese know what human dignity is like.”
The United Daily News reported that this was a tough presidential race. In the latter stages of the election, the “1992 consensus” became the focus of the presidential debate. Although facing criticism from opposition groups, Ma won the election, meaning that debates around the “1992 consensus” had also been won.
The “1992 consensus” between Taiwan and China, refers to the understanding reached by the two sides at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong, where the issue of “one China” was discussed. The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it as meaning the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote exchanges and interactions.
The United Daily News commented that President Ma’s government has made some concrete achievements in cross-strait policies, such as opening of direct flights between Taiwan and China, allowing mainland Chinese tourists to travel to Taiwan, and in 2010 signing a free trade-like agreement with Beijing called the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). In contrast, the DPP has no clear-cut policy on cross-strait issues, and stresses the issue of independence for Taiwan. In the final stages of the election campaign, the US government announced that Taiwan would be included as a candidate country to enjoy visa waiver status, and Taiwanese business tycoons like Terry Gou of the Foxconn Group, Chang Yung-fa of the Evergreen Group, and Cher Wang of HTC came out in support of the “1992 consensus.”
According to an analysis from NOWnews, Taiwanese people have a stereotype impression of the DPP’s cross-strait policies because President Chen Shui-bian’s administration (2000-2008) maintained a hostile stance toward China, creating tense relations with Beijing. After the signing of the ECFA, voters have seen the economic benefits of such an agreement with China. They worried that should Tsai be elected, that unstable cross-strait relations would re-emerge. Due to a fear of lost business and jobs that could have resulted in increased uncertainty, they backed Ma rather than Tsai.
The Commercial Times reported that Zhang Nianzi, dean of the Shanghai Institute of East Asian Studies, said that this election was a test and a review of China’s policy direction with regard to cross-strait relations, the commitment to the “1992 consensus,” and an expression of whether Beijing’s goodwill towards the island since 2008 has been appreciated by Taiwanese people. The election results give China “a lot of encouragement,” he said.
NOWnews reported that all the four major internet portals in China, including Baidu, Sina, Netease and Tencent gave headline news coverage to Taiwan’s presidential election on election day. This is the first time this has happened since Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. However, China’s news media still use the term “leader of the Taiwan region,” instead of “President.”
Wang Weinan, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, who specializes in the study of Taiwan issues, told the Central News Agency that Chinese people very much admire the Taiwanese democratic voting system, adding that Taiwan sets an example for the Chinese people to follow. He said that this not only inspires the mainland people to change, but also is a rebuke to the Chinese government.
Liang Chunxiao, vice president of Alibaba Group, told the United Daily News “The Chinese are touched, saddened and appreciates the Taiwan election. We have no more excuse to say that Chinese people are of poor quality, and are not suitable for democracy.” Chinese economist Han Zhiguo said: “thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese community knows what human dignity is like.” Tientien Wuwei, a commentator for Jilin TV said: “Taiwan’s presidential election is in full swing, and 1.4 billion Chinese people can only be spectators. I support either Ma Ying-jeou or Tsai Ing-wen whoever wins because it is the result of democratic elections.”
The Want Daily reported that it is a disgrace to the Taiwanese if you compare Taiwan’s presidential election with the forthcoming election of Hong Kong’s chief executive on March 25, because according to “the Basic Law,” Hong Kong’s chief executive is elected by the votes of 1,200 members of the electoral college. These members are chosen by some 500,000 rich people or those with administrative powers. The seven million citizens of Hong Kong can do nothing to decide who is the next leader there.
Three major challenges ahead
President Ma Ying-jeou and his running mate Wu Den-yih (Taiwan’s current premier) will be inaugurated on May 20. The 113 elected legislators (75 males and 38 females, with an average age of 52) will be inaugurated on February 1. Both the president and the legislators will serve four-year terms in office. The China Times learned that current Vice Premier Sean Chen will very likely be promoted as the new premier. After President Ma’s recent victory, three major challenges awaits his administration.
The Want Daily noted that this election was a victory for those who support the KMT’s economics-oriented policy over those who emphasize the DPP’s ideology-based policies. One of the top priorities Ma’s administration must carry out is to strengthen support from those “economics-oriented voters who benefit from his cross-strait policy.” However, the Commercial Times said over 70 percent of Taiwan’s economy depends on foreign trade and electronics products account for almost 30 percent of total exports, and most of the electronics industry is overly concentrated in OEM models. This is why every time there is a global financial slowdown, Taiwan suffers much more than Japan or South Korea. The global economy has been dangerously affected by the financial slowdown and European junk bonds with no possible solution. Taiwan’s industrial structure has not changed much in the past four years. This is the weakest point for Taiwan’s economy. President Ma’s government should do its best to adjust the industrial structure and strengthen the quality of Taiwan’s economy.
Income gap issue
Since 2001, Taiwan has had a positive GDP, but the income gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen. The United Evening News commented that President Ma has not solved the wealth gap in the past four years, but he must deal with the issue in the coming four years. The government’s coziness with large enterprises has created dazzling statistics of economic growth, but it does not bring substantial benefits for Taiwan’s regional prosperity, job creation or and raising wages in real terms. So President Ma’s future government must rectify the allocation of resources and address the policy issues relevant to small and medium industry. The government must help such enterprises, which are the backbone of Taiwan’s economy, to flourish, so as to achieve a relatively equal distribution of national income.
Lawyer Chen Chang-wen said in a commentary to the China Times that, through this election, the “1992 consensus” can be recognized as the people’s political view in Taiwan. It is very difficult to criticize the consensus as lacking a popular mandate, or lacking legitimacy. Taiwan can not simply hope to benefit from the other side, without thinking of what “Taiwan can do to the mainland (or Chinese)?” Chinese internet users observing the Taiwanese election described it “as if a smell of barbecue coming from the other side of the strait.” China is bound to carry out political reforms, and can learn much from the reform process Taiwan has experienced. This is the special value Taiwan can contribute to the Chinese mainland.