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The 2012 Taiwan Elections: What Happened and Why?

The 2012 Republic of China presidential and legislative elections to be held on January 14th mark the fifth presidential and seventh national legislative direct elections in Taiwan. Incumbent ROC President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) enjoyed a landslide victory in 2008 over Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Hsieh Chang-ting, winning by over 2.2 million votes. Subsequent revelations of corruption by former President Chen Shui-bian of the DPP and various members of his administration further damaged the DPP's public image and electoral prospects.

In the intervening years, however, current DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen and other members of the DPP have worked to revitalize their party's image, and as chairperson of the DPP Tsai established a special internal investigative committee to root out corruption in the party. A potentially complicating new factor in the race is the first-ever presidential bid by the People's First Party (PFP), led by candidate James Soong. Polling results to date have indicated the potential for a very close race between Ma and Tsai, with Soong also pulling a substantial portion of the vote that may affect the electoral outcome.

On the legislative side, the KMT won 81 out of 113 total seats in the Legislative Yuan in the 2008 elections, a circumstance that has facilitated the passage of various controversial measures supported by the Ma administration, including in particular the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, and a significant shift in the composition of this body is likely to have a pronounced impact.

Regardless of the outcome, the results of the 2012 elections promise to offer much insight into the popular attitudes of the Taiwanese people and the prospects for future democratic consolidation and development in Taiwan. Ten days following the elections, Professors Shelly Rigger and Eric Chen-hua Yu will join us for a panel discussion to analyze the outcomes of these elections and discuss their relevance to the US and the world.

The 2012 Taiwan Elections: What Happened and Why?