Featured Image Photo Credit: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images
As the election gets closer, we take a look at the events leading up to this three-way battle between three experienced parties: the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rising to power after being absent for eight years, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) maintaining its dominance, and the People First Party (PFP)’s re-entry to this battle. This article serves to highlight major events that could have an impact on the upcoming 2016 presidential elections in Taiwan. Here are some of the big events that we think you should know about for the upcoming showdown!
Below are the key events leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election:
- DPP Nominates Tsai Ing-Wen (4/15/15)
- Tsai Visits 6 US Cities and Meets with Officials and Supporters (5/29/15 – 6/9/15)
- KMT Nominates Hung Hsiu-Chu (6/15/15)
- Soong Announces Candidacy (8/6/15)
- KMT’s Nomination Transferred from Hung to Chu (10/17/15)
- Ma-Xi Meeting in Singapore Suspected to Impact Taiwan Elections (11/7/15)
- Chu Visits 4 US Cities and Talks to Officials and Supporters (11/10/15 – 11/16/15)
- Tsai Ing-Wen Nominates Dr. Chen Chien-jen as Running Mate (11/14/15)
- Chu Declares Jennifer Wang as Running Mate (11/18/15)
- Soong Announces Hsu Hsin-ying as Running Mate (11/18/15)
- Televised Debates (12/26-12/27/15, 1/2/16)
- The Big Day: Presidential and Legislative Election Day (1/16/16)
April 2015 – June 2015: DPP Creating Foundation
DPP Nominates Tsai Ing-Wen (4/15/15)
The only candidate to run in the DPP’s presidential nomination primary, Tsai Ing-wen was nominated as the party’s 2016 presidential candidate. In her acceptance speech, Tsai vowed to establish “a government that puts the people first, [which] holds the people’s need and dignity as the starting point for determining the country’s policy direction”. She called for solidarity in order to bring about decisive change in Taiwan, and she emphasized that “the DPP’s basic principle for managing cross-strait relations is to ‘maintain the status quo’.”
Tsai Visits 6 US Cities and Meets with Officials and Supporters (5/29/15 – 6/9/15)
As part of her campaign for the 2016 presidential election, Tsai met with officials and scholars on her twelve-day, six-city tour of the US to discuss her vision for the future of Taiwan. Throughout her speeches, she pledged that “protecting the ‘status quo’, as the people of Taiwan define it, namely a democratic way of life, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, will be the principal objective of [her] cross-strait agenda, one which reflects the expectations of the Taiwanese people”. She also promised to create legislation “to establish a comprehensive set of rules for overseeing the cross-strait exchanges and negotiations” (a key demand of the Sunflower movement) and emphasized communication with the Taiwanese public and the US. Additionally, she envisions increasing cooperation between Taiwan and the US on all fronts, shifting Taiwan towards an innovation-based economy, and having Taiwan join regional trade agreements, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
June 2015 – November 2015: Pan-Blue Camp Stepping Forward
KMT Nominates Hung Hsiu-Chu (6/15/15)
Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-Chu (洪秀柱) passed the 30 percent approval threshold necessary to be considered for nomination as the KMT presidential candidate. As she was the sole candidate for the position, she was officially nominated as the KMT presidential candidate at the KMT’s national convention on July 19.
Soong Announces Candidacy (8/6/15)
James Soong announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election on August 6. His campaign goals are to resolve the complicated issues that Taiwan has debated for years and to push for constitutional reforms to create a stable foundation for the nation. In some polls, Soong was actually placing ahead of the KMT before he even announced his candidacy, and he’s expected to gain the support of a small portion of KMT supporters, undecided voters, and people who dislike both the DPP and KMT. Soong’s campaign criticizes the current government, saying President Ma is incompetent: “If I am elected, then get only a 9 percent approval rating, I would resign. When the citizens do not trust the government, how can it continue its rule?” He promises to focus on liberty and democracy and to improve the job situation for middle-income families and small businesses.
KMT’s Nomination Transferred from Hung to Chu (10/17/15)
Due to polls showing low support for Hung, the KMT decided to change its presidential nominee to Eric Chu. Hung’s proposed policies are similar to President Ma’s, which remain deeply unpopular. Through an extralegal process which involved amending the KMT’s charter and holding an emergency meeting of the party’s congress (first in KMT history), Hung’s nomination was repealed and given to Chairman Eric Chu. When the nomination votes for Chu were tallied, he was confirmed to have received over 90% of the vote. In his acceptance speech, Chu stressed party unity and the need to reform. He also apologized to the residents of New Taipei City for reneging on his promise to complete his term as New Taipei City Mayor. Chu had been on the radar for the presidential election for quite some time, even after Hung was nominated in July. Since the election was just three months away, speculators thought of the switch as an attempt to reverse the KMT’s flagging prospects in both the presidential and legislative elections. While Chu seems to be the moderate candidate, it may not be enough to reverse the trend of support for DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen.
Ma-Xi Meeting in Singapore Suspected to Impact Taiwan Elections (11/7/15)
While not directly affecting the 2016 elections, the meeting was speculated to be an attempt by Ma to sway the presidential elections. Announced by the ROC presidential office on 11/4/2015, this meeting was the first between leaders from opposing sides of the Chinese Civil War since the ROC’s departure to Taiwan. After giving opening statements, both leaders proceeded to meet behind closed doors for 50 minutes and then attended separate press conferences. While nothing of substance came to fruition, this historic meeting of President Ma Ying-Jeou and President Xi Jin-ping in Singapore may have set the tone of future ROC-PRC relations.
Chu Visits 4 US Cities and Talks to Officials and Supporters (11/10/15 – 11/16/15)
Eric Chu visited the United States in early November 2015, meeting with government officials, overseas ROC citizens, academics, and the media. Much of his itinerary was not disclosed, but his primary motive was to discuss the KMT’s China policy and his view on international relations with other countries in the region, including the United States. He visited New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. During his visit, he voiced support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and international organizations, wrote an editorial that was published by the Washington Post, and attended sessions held by Brookings Institution and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. Chu’s closed-door meetings contrast with DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s visit, for which much of her itinerary was open to the public.
November 2015: Vice President Announcements
Tsai Ing-Wen Nominates Dr. Chen Chien-jen as Running Mate (11/14/15)
Tsai announced Dr. Chen Chien-jen as her Vice Presidential candidate for the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Chen is an expert in molecular and genomic epidemiological research and is the vice president of Taiwan’s highest ranking academic institution, Academia Sinica. Dr. Chen has previously served in several government positions, including the Director General of the Division of Life Sciences (1997-1999), Deputy Minister of the National Science Council (2002-2003), Minister of the Department of Health (2003-2005), and Minister of the National Science Council (2006-2008).
Chu Declares Jennifer Wang as Running Mate (11/18/15)
Eric Chu announced Jennifer Wang (王如玄) as his Vice Presidential candidate for the 2016 elections. As a woman who worked in the social sector, Jennifer Wang formerly was the Minister of Labor Affairs from 2008 until 2012, when she resigned over the proposal to increase the minimum wage. She has worked in several other gender and labor-related areas beforehand as well as across the aisle, having been an advisor for DPP officials on women’s rights issues. As a registered independent, her candidacy shows Chu’s desire to bring in people outside the party and present a united front to the Taiwanese people. Wang currently faces intense scrutiny over her real estate investments in military housing.
Soong Announces Hsu Hsin-ying as Running Mate (11/18/15)
On the same day as the KMT’s Vice Presidential candidate announcement, Soong announced the Minkuotang’s (民國黨) Chairwoman Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩) as his vice presidential running mate. Similar to Soong, Hsu is a former KMT member but left to found the Minkuotang in March. Hsu cited the KMT’s lack of reforms over the years under Chairman Eric Chu as the reason for her decision to leave the KMT.
Televised Debates (12/26-12/27/15, 1/2/16):
Announced on the 18th of December, televised debates will be held for the upcoming Presidential election. Two rounds of debates amongst Presidential candidates will be held on December 27th and January 2nd. The debate for Vice-Presidential candidates, meanwhile, will be held on December 26th.
The Big Day: Presidential and Legislative Election Day (1/16/16)
Two important governmental bodies will be decided on this day. The next President (and Vice-President) of the ROC will be chosen by simple majority of the vote. On the same day (and ballot), the Legislative election for the 2016-2020 term will also be decided.
Written by Jeffrey Tsai, Alicia Lee, Charles Chuang
First Edit by Jeffrey Tsai
Second Edit by Alicia Lee