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.
Shelley Rigger is the Brown Professor of East Asian Politics and Chair of Political Science at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. She has a PhD in Government from Harvard University and a BA in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University. She has been a visiting researcher at National Chengchi University in Taiwan (2005) and a visiting professor at Fudan University in Shanghai (2006). Rigger is the author of two books on Taiwan’s domestic politics, Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy (Routledge 1999) and From Opposition to Power: Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party(Lynne Rienner Publishers 2001). In 2011 she published Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, a book for general readers. She has published articles on Taiwan’s domestic politics, the national identity issue in Taiwan-China relations and related topics. Her current research studies the effects of cross-strait economic interactions on Taiwan and Mainland China. Her monograph, “Taiwan’s Rising Rationalism: Generations, Politics and ‘Taiwan Nationalism’” was published by the East West Center in Washington in November 2006.
Eric Chen-hua Yu is an assistant research fellow of the Election Study Center and
jointly appointed as an assistant professor of political science at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Before he returned to Taiwan to serve in his Alma mater in 2009, he has been a research fellow and program manager of Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies since 2006. His research interests include public opinion, electoral politics, quantitative methods, and American politics. He also participates in a number of joint survey projects such as Taiwan Election and Democratization Studies (TEDS) and World Value Survey. Yu recently published academic articles on Taiwan’s domestic politics in Taiwan Political Science Review, Journal of Electoral Studies, Review of Social Sciences, and Japanese Journal of Electoral Studies. Yu received a MS (2000) in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in political science (2006) from Columbia University.