Elections and the Electoral System in Taiwan

Elections are important symbolic events that have acted as milestones, points of contestation and concession throughout the course of Taiwan’s political development in the last three decades. Since democratization processes began in earnest in the mid-1980s, and even before that in limited local elections during one party rule, most elections have been strongly contested by political parties and candidates, with the campaigns and results keenly felt by their supporters. Elections, and the campaigns that precede them, are an impressive and inescapable feature of Taiwanese democracy at the national and local level. Following reforms in the 2000s to simplify an unnecessarily complicated system, all elected officials now serve four-year terms. Since 2012 elections for national office (President/Vice President and the Legislative Yuan) are held concurrently. Reflecting further streamlining, multiple local elections (mayors and councilors at the municipal, county, and township levels) are also now held concurrently at the midpoint between national elections. Local elections were held in late November 2014, with national elections to be held in 2016. Direct national level elections for the entire Legislative Yuan and the presidency were held for the first time in 1992 and 1996 respectively, and constitute major milestones in Taiwan’s democratization journey. Contemporary Taiwan has a competitive, multi-party political system in which two major parties, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), are preeminent. The media environment is highly developed, relatively liberal and provides a substantial amount of political coverage. Taiwan enjoys a dynamic election culture sometimes resembling “democratic festivals” (Fell 2011: 56). This chapter will first provide an overview of elections as Taiwan progressed from one party rule to liberal democracy. Second, it will review the voluminous literature on various aspects of elections in Taiwan. Then it will provide a summary of the issues and results of presidential, legislative and local elections. The chapter will next address the issue of vote buying, before concluding with an assessment of the freedom and fairness of Taiwan’s elections. Read full paper here.