The Growth of Taiwan Democracy is the Envy of the World


Back in 2014, Google set up a page to aggregate all information regarding the six local elections in Taiwan. With the 2016 presidential elections coming up, Google is at it again.

Setting up a comprehensive data center of all the 2016 election articles, videos and polling, election with Google has all a citizen needs to cast a responsible ballot. It also shows the multiple sides of Taiwan’s election.

Taiwan’s elections might not be the envy of the world, but it is one of the strongest displays of a growing young democracy in East Asia. From the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC) and under its constitution, the National Assembly has always selected the president. Since the people did not elect members of the National Assembly, the people’s voices were not heard.

It wasn’t until 1990, when the Wild Lily Movement demanded the government abolish the National Assembly and allow popular vote, did democracy start taking its roots.

The Wild Lily Movement in 1990 that called for Taiwan to have direct vote for president. In 6 years, their requests were answered.

Birth of Democracy on Taiwan

Starting with the 1996 presidential election, Taiwan placed a foothold to show the world that a country can transit from totalitarian and martial law rule to a full-fledged democratic vote.

The benefit of Taiwan’s young democracy is it’s one designed for a modern society where each vote counts. In Taiwan, every person over 18 years old has a voice and a vote to represent that voice; even a country like the US, which many consider the epitome of democracy, does not have such representation.

In the US, each state represents multiple electorate votes and the majority of each state has these votes. This leads to the silencing of any ballots that hold a minority in individual states. Such events leads to controversies in the US like during the 1996 presidential election (Bush vs. Gore) where despite Gore gaining the majority of American votes, Bush was the one sworn into the White House.


Read more about USA electoral college:


Learning to Vote for a President

From 2000 to 2012, Taiwan’s political scene has been seeing a Newton’s cradle-like swing, changing back and forth between shades of blue and green. The first incident was in 2000 when former governor of Taiwan province (deprecated position), James Soong, broke off from the solid KMT to run as an independent, splitting the KMT votes and placing opposition party presidential candidate, Chen Shiu-bien, into the presidential office.

Towards the end of his eight-year term in office, Chen was investigated for embezzlement. Swinging back on the political cradle, the protest, “Million Voices Against Corruption, President Chen Must Go,” put more than 50 thousand people on the streets protesting against Chen’s embezzlement. With such distaste in their mouths, the electorates stood behind Ma Ying-jeou to land him a seat in the presidential office on the Ketagalan Boulevard.

Apart from Lee, whose ideas are a mixture of the Chinese KMT and the local Taiwanese DPP, no party has ever held the presidential office for more than two terms. This is because the Taiwanese people are learning to exercise their newly found democracy, and vote not for the party, but rather for the candidate.

Discussions about elections are no longer about KMT ideals vs. DPP ideals, but policies of the candidates. Data gatherings like those of Google are responses to Taiwanese people’s wanting to learn about the candidates’ ideals unfiltered. (Or in some cases, through multiple angles to grasp the full picture.)

Google Taiwan’s election page for the 2014 local elections. Screenshot from:

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Waves of Changes

Knowing times have changed from the old-fashioned ideas of a government that fled China, Taiwan politicians have learned that “definition” is their newest direction.

The KMT, after a crushing defeat in the 2014 local elections, has taken time to try to reform their systems. Many second generation KMT politicians believing in the party now declare themselves as the KMT 70 + Youth Connection (國民黨70+青年連線). These new candidates, mostly around 30 years old, hope to breathe new life into an old party.

The DPP, having understood the consequences of antagonizing the PRC, has nominated Tsai Ing-wen with her middle-ground approach to the cross-strait relationship; a stance not as China friendly as Ma, but at the same time not as aggressive as her predecessor Chen.

Freddie Lim, a former rocker, is one of the founders of New Power Party, and is running for legislative office in the 2016 election. New Power Party is said to be birthed to be non-blue, non-green, representing the common people’s voice.

With multiple decades of feuding between the two major parties, many youth are growing tired. This is evident in the 2014 Taipei Mayor election as the winning candidate Ko’s main slogan was, “Not blue, not green. Let’s restart the political machine.

With this strong notion in mind, after the large-scale Sunflower Movement came the birth and rise of a new non-blue, non-green coalition third, the New Power Party.

As millennials flood the streets and Internet, the people of Taiwan hope to see a new government tuned to the fresh voices of the Taiwanese people. No longer do they want to argue about the legitimacy and mission of the old ROC, but the new outlooks for Taiwan.


Come One Come All

Contrasting the large influx of Chinese tourists in 2014, Reuters Beijing reports that Chinese tourists are putting off visiting Taiwan due to the election activities (unknown if caused by CCP government push). From breaking a one-party system to a rising third party, Taiwan election is something everyone in Asia should keep a watch on as an example of a young growing democracy.

Taiwan’s democracy is far from perfect, but as one that is not even 20 years old, it’s starting to walk and will, hopefully, one day run.


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