Taiwan Presidential Election Results And What It Means

Monday, September 4, 2000 | Tag Cloud

By Dr. Jonathan Chao, Ph.D.
Founder and President of China Ministries International

After nearly eight months of heated competition in election campaigns by five presidential candidates, by 6:30pm of March 18th the victory of Chen Shui-bian and Liu Hsiu-lian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was assured. By 7:30pm the Presidential Election Commission officially announced the victory of Chen and Liu. Chen-Liu won 39.30% (4,977,737) of the total vote, while Song Chu-yu and Chang Chao-hsiung (independent candidates) got 36.84% (4,664,932) and Lian Chan and Sio Wan-chang of the ruling Kuomintang Party only got 23.10% (2,925,513). Candidates of the New Party that consists of those who came out of Kuomingdang, Li Au and Feng Hu-hsiang received 0.13% (16,782), and Hsu Hsin-liang and Chu Hui-liang got 0.63% (79,429).

The turn out for voting was unusually high: 82.69% of the qualified voters went to the poll. As holders of Taiwan ID card, Rebecca and I also went to the poll to vote for our favorite candidates: Song and Chang. Practically all of Song’s supporters were disappointed. But Song congratulated Chen, so did the others who failed. The entire election process went very smoothly in a very civilized manner. Even though Chen’s victory was a great disappointment to 60% of those who voted, yet most people feel that it is a sign of democracy come of age in Taiwan. It is hoped that with the change of party leadership in Taiwan, there will be more authentic reform and greater efficiency under Chen.

Several factors contributed to Chen Shui-bian victory. In the first place, as a Taiwanese (as opposed to Mainlanders and their descendents), he appealed to the rise of independence by the Taiwanese. In the campaign slogans, there are shots, “Let the Taiwanese stand up.” Upon victory, jubilant shots say that for the first time in 400 years the Taiwanese have stood up. This feeling is understandable since until this victory, they have been under the Dutch, under Ming Dynasty General Cheng Cheng-kung who fled from the Mainland, under the Japanese occupation (1895-1945), and until now under the rule of Kuomintang, which, first exercised a military and totalitarian rule from 1948-1987. The political platform and constitution of the Democratic Progressive Party has always claimed to make Taiwan an independent sovereign state. President Lee Teng-hui of Kuomintang has proposed the idea of “two states,” which in Chinese can mean “two nations,” and Taiwan has been wanting to make a reentry into the United Nations.

Secondly, as such, Chen appealed to fellow Taiwanese, a kind of Taiwan provincialism in Taiwan. Hence he won most of the central-south and southern prefectures. Thirdly, President and Chairman of Lee Teng-hui of the ruling Kuomintang Party did not permit a democratic progress for producing its own presidential candidates. He single-handedly chose Lian Chan and Hsiao Wan-chang to be the candidates with rubber stamp by the Central Committee. He did this to keep former provincial governor of Taiwan and former Secretariat of Kuomintang, Song Chu-yu, out of the race. So Song ran as an independent candidate. Song is the most popular KMT candidate, and yet Lee ousted him and excommunicated all Song supporters in his party.

So KMT’s votes were divided, forming a three party competition. The fourth reason is that several of Lee Teng-hui’s heavy weight political supporter switched to Chen just a week prior to the voting date. He received a final push when Nobel prize winner Dr. Lee Yuan-che, Head of Academia Sinica (highest national research institute) declared his support for Chen. Lee hopes to play a role in mediating cross-straight relations and possibly become the premier.

Song actually won 15 out of the 25 prefectures (counties), but he carried mostly those in the central-north, northern, and outlying island districts. Song did a long for the people during his years as head of the province of Taiwan. He has an excellent track record of getting things done and solving the needs of the people. He was a colleague of Lee Teng-hui. When Chiang Ching-guo died, then Song was in line to become the acting president, but he nominated Lee Teng-hui. However, during the last twelve years of Lee’s administration, he gradually gained power and during these years he practically drove out all Mainlanders out of public office and replaced them with Taiwanese. So as head of KMT, Lee actually did what the Democratic Progressive Party has been wanted to do.

KMT’s own candidates, Lian Chan and Hsiao Wan-chang are good, moderate government bureaucrats who lack vision, personal charisma, a clear direction of where Taiwan should go. Their rating was very low from the very beginning. But KMT has money, and so they spent a lot of money doing advertising on TV and placing banners everywhere on the road. A month before the election rumor spread that Lee Teng-hui was “abandoning Lian and supporting Bian [Chen Shui-bian].” Lee denied that and campaigned for Lian and Hsiao. But that seemed to be of no avail. In the KMT campaign, they tried very hard to discredit the name of Song for some money not well accounted during his KMT secretariat. Yet when investigation against corruption by Chen Shui-bian has been discovered, the case is suppressed to this day. Lee never criticized Chen, and vice-versa.

It is for this and other reasons that the next afternoon (March 19th) after the election, several hundred of KMT grassroot members gathered in front of the headquarters of the KMT in Taipei demanding the immediate resignation of Lee Teng-hui. This public protest has continued for three days unabated. Today we learned that similar vehement protest has been organized in Kaohsiung, Taichung, Changhua, and elsewhere. Last night in spite of the urging of Taipei mayor, Ma Ying-chiu, to relate their request to President Lee, the crowd would not leave, not even by 1:30am. Lee was not willing to resign from the chairmanship of the KMT party to show responsibility for his failure in leadership; he stated that he would do so in September after all necessary arrangements have been made. It appears that the masses do not have the patience to wait that long. Different younger members of the KMT party who serve as legislators have also been urging Lee to resign and to begin reform immediately.

KMT lost its credibility because during the last decade, in order to gain local votes, it has linked itself with local “black gold,” or the local Mafia who contributed money and votes for KMT, and hence there have been many miscarriages of justice and unfair dealings within the party. The growing authoritarianism on the part of Lee has caused the younger, especially those of Mainland background, KMT leaders and legislators to leave the party to form the New Party, which is relatively weak in comparison with the old KMT built up by Chiang Kai-shik and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.

When Lee became President of Taiwan, he announced that he would serve only one term and after that he would become an itinerant evangelist preaching the Gospel. But he sought the second term and run. One reason he chose Lian is that Lian is a softer man who followed him like a “Yes-man” whom he can “direct from behind the curtain” (like Empress Dowager used to do). Lee has been a great disappointment to the Christian community, as he visits and pay respect before Buddhist or Taoist temples in order to gain the support of the Buddhist.

Now the most crucial issue facing Taiwan with Chen Shui-bian as the new President is how is he going to deal with the cross-straight (Taiwan and China) relations. In his victory speech he assumed a rather low profile, saying that he will seek a peaceful relations with China; that he would like to pay Jiang Zhemin a visit to Beijing, or invite them to visit Taiwan. He will ask Dr. Lee Yuan-che to form a cross-party committee to come up with a consensus on Taiwan-China relations and let Lee lead the visiting team.

China’s response is that she will wait “to hear Chen’s words, and watch his deeds” for two months before taking any action. China’s “White Paper” published just a week before the election did not seem to have a significant negative effect on the outcome of the election; it might have helped Chen, as the rockets of 1996 helped Lee Teng-hui.

On March 21, Jiang Zhemin said that under the principle of one China, any talk can take place. If Chen does not accept this guiding principle, it is not likely that China will admit Taiwan’s good will delegation, even if led by Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-che. Chen Shui-bian said: “As the 10th President and Vice-President, we will insist and seek the perpetual protection of the sovereignty (chu-chuan, or zhu-quan) of Taiwan; we will pursue the perpetual peace between Taiwan and China. This is our mission and heavenly duty. The Taiwan people cannot accept the idea of ‘one country, two systems, like Hong Kong or Macau.’ Our hope is for governments and people of the two banks to understand that our common goal is good will and reconciliation, positive cooperation, and perpetual peace.”

Chen’s words are sincere, reconciliatory, and peaceful. But, according to the director of the Institute on International Relations in Beijing, Chen avoided China’s basic requirement for a framework of “One China.” The director commented that with KMT, it was one China and two different ruling governments or regimes, not two “sovereignties.” Whether in the weeks to come any side will be able to crack this knot is to be seen.

American, European, Japanese, and other countries are worried about the background and verbal records of Chen Shui-bian’s pro-Taiwan independence position. They also know China’s base line for negotiation. If Chen is going to present a consensus view on cross-straight relations from a coalition committee under Lee Yuan-che that is much softer than the official line of DPP or Chen’s past declarations, both sides might get to sit down to talk. This is likely, because Chen is anxious to re-image himself as the president of the Republic of China and is ready to resign from all positions in the DPP. He has to gain the consensus from his own party, which put him to power to achieve such a consensus.

While China will continue to put pressure on Taiwan with military exercises in China’s east coastal areas, and she will stand ready for war, if necessary, but when considered from many angels, I do not think China’s invasion is likely. First of all, China is on the verge of getting into WTO and securing permanent trading rights from the US that she is not going to risk US and world market plus a breakthrough in her economic structure reform through the impetus of joining WTO. Secondly, if China invites China, U.S., Japanese, and Taiwan investments will be withdrawn or suspended, and this means cutting her life line, and she will dive deeply into economic crisis. Thirdly, US Taiwan Act and the recently to be passed Taiwan Enactment Act can be used to ship more arms to Taiwan and possibly military deployment in a defensive manner. The US government uses rather strong words as: “the use of force is UNACCEPTABLE.” China can say that the invasion of Taiwan is a “domestic affairs,” and that US has no business for intervention. But in reality the United States will not abide by such claims. The US is acknowledging “there is only one China” principle, and is promoting peaceful dialogue between Taiwan and China, but opposed to the use of war.”

For most Christians in Taiwan, they accept the results of the election as permitted by God and that all should pray for the new president elect. There is going to be a peaceful transfer of power at all levels between Lee’s government and Chen’s new government. Heads of the department of Justice and the National Security will probably remain; the rest will be changed when Chen is inaugurated as the 10th president of the Republic of China. The Taiwan Presbyterian Church (TPC) had openly endorsed Chen Shui-bian before the election and stands closely with the new president.

For the early ideological leaders of the DDP were theologians and pastors of the TPC. Christian from Mandarin speaking churches are mostly for Song Chu-yu, though a large group of the middle class and intellectuals are for Song.

Song’s supporters are making preparations for organizing a new party. If that is done, it will become a largest opposition party that is more powerful than KMT. Yet the demonstrators of grassroot KMT people are also calling for Song to come back to lead the KMT after kicking out Lee Teng-hui. There are three critical issues to watch in the next few days or weeks: (1) will Lee Teng-hui step down as chairman of KMT, and if he does, how will it carry out its speedy reform? (2) If a new party is formed, what influence or pressure it will have on Chen’s new government, especially in cross-straight negotiations? (3) Will Chen Shui-bian accept China’s term that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of China? Short of that what will China do?

Let us pray for the peaceful developments of Taiwan. As far as China Ministries International (CMI) is concerned, we will not make any move. I believe God will direct the events in Taiwan towards further reform and democratic development and by God’s grace, a closer relationship most likely will develop between China and Taiwan in spite of the present impasse.

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