As the Taiwanese went to the polls on 26th November 2022, to elect leaders for its 22 Counties and village representatives, China’s claims over the Island and the domestic performance of the incumbent government are indicators that may influence their choice of vote.
The election, which holds once in four years and is described as “Taiwan’s Midterm” will test, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) popularity and support ahead of the Presidential election slated for 2024.
The election is the first national vote since the escalation of tension between China and Taiwan over China’s claims that the Island nation is part of its territory, resulting in massive military exercises. China has vowed to reclaim Taiwan by force if need be, forcing the United States to state clearly that it would come in defense of Taiwan should China invade the Island nation.
What is the stand of the two main parties on China’s threat?
Pro-independence party candidates have signed a pledge of “no surrender” to China while the ruling DPP and President Tsai Ing-wen urged voters to use the election to stand up against China and prove to the world, that the country will not succumb to threats against her democracy.
However, Taiwan’s main Opposition Kuomintang party (KMT), believed to be pro-China, has avoided campaigning on issues related to China’s threat, since the start of campaigns. It rather based its campaign on domestic issues such as social welfare, housing, and energy. The Premier of Taiwan, Su Tseng-Chang while accusing the KMT party of indifference said:
“The whole world is watching whether Taiwanese people will choose a pro-China political party or a party that defends democracy and supports Taiwan’s sovereignty and independence”.
According to political analysts, the people would be more focused on the government’s domestic performance than on “the cross-strait tensions” with China.
“This election will show whether the DPP’s China threat is facing diminishing Marginal returns over time” Wen-Ti Sung, a political analyst at the Australian National University said.
The opposition KMT is favourable to win more local seats than the ruling DPP pre-election polls indicate. This is because their campaign tends to focus more on local issues than Taiwan-China relations, Jeremy Huai-Che Chiang, a Taipei-based analyst opined. Other analysts believe that KMT’s victory may not “necessarily shift policies in favour of Beijing”. The election will also include a referendum on a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at dropping the voting age from 20 years to 18 years for the first time. More young Taiwanese are pro-independence and enthusiastic about democracy.