Political Realignment on the Island of Taiwan

Background

This past Saturday, Taiwan held one of its largest turnout mayoral elections. Historically, Taiwan’s always been controversial and heated, with the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) which is pro-China and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who advocates for independence. As many may know, Taiwan’s political status in the world is still shaky, with the ominous presence of People’s Republic of China claiming Taiwan as their 23rd province. Yet many Taiwanese have began to swing to a more pro-independence stance.

Around March of this year, Taiwanese students had launched a peaceful protest in the Taiwanese assembly against the new economic agreements that the mainland-friendly President Ma (KMT) had pushed for. Along with many other factors, the incumbent has fared so poorly among the people in Taiwan that his approval rating has and is currently in the single-digits (9.2% or less). As a result, the Democratic Progressive Party has begun to gain traction among the young voters who aspire for change and more development of Taiwanese identities.

Political Realignment

In last week’s elections, with six of Taiwan’s directly controlled municipalities (similar to PRC’s direct municipalities and the United States’ District of Columbia), the DPP took down 5 out of 6 municipalities, nearly crushing the KMT. Such certainly proves the Taiwanese peoples’ dissatisfaction with the ruling KMT that had reigned over Taiwan for the majority of Taiwanese history. (They were the party that founded the so-called “Republic of China.”)

The political realignment, however, does not stop at political dissatisfaction; it also broke geographic barriers. Previously, Taiwan had largely been shaped by a phenomenon, similar to the American situation in the 1890s referred to as the “Republican North and Democratic South.” Nevertheless, in this current election, the DPP broke free into the north and claimed the capital with an independent candidate with ties to the DPP.

So does the KMT serve as a harbinger for the upcoming 2016 presidential election for Taiwan? Would the DPP truly begin a new era for Taiwan? One would have to see…

Lessons to be learned

The overall turnout rate for this election was about 70-80%, an overwhelmingly high number compared to the recent midterm election turnout of 36.6% in the United States. Some cite mistrust in government as the reason for such a low voter turnout rate. Others blame the unreasonable regulations and burdens like complicated voter registration processes and voter-ID laws inhibiting mass participation. But currently, as seen with Taiwan’s example, the people have been extremely disappointed with their president and the KMT party. And so they did the opposite from America. They voted. If the United States utilizes our burgeoning youth, involving them in politics and the government, then the election turnout would not be as low as it is now.

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