Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a crushing defeat in the local elections over the weekend.
The sluggish economy and the ruling party’s poor governance are important factors, but above all, the 10 referendum questions voters were asked might be the key factor behind the DPP’s defeat.
Gay rights is the subject of half of those questions. The three referendum questions about restricting same-sex marriage and gay rights initiated by conservative groups were all passed. But the two from LGBT, namely gay rights protection and teaching of gender equality at all school levels, were both vetoed. Results show voters’ overwhelming opposition to same-sex marriage.
As most voters’ stance on this issue contradicts that of the DPP, it’s not surprising that DPP didn’t get their vote.
In another referendum, nearly 60 percent of the voters supported repealing a legislation enacted last year that would end the use of nuclear power by 2025. The support rate among voters aged 18 to 29 even surpassed 70 percent.
This could indicate that Taiwanese, especially young Taiwanese, are more concerned about economic performance, which could be negatively affected if nuclear power is phased out.
This could also explain why, to DPP’s surprise, a referendum question asking whether the island should be referred to as “Taiwan” rather than “Chinese Taipei” at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics didn’t get passed.
In fact, the young generation in Taiwan appears to be feeling closer to mainland China, compared to previous generations, given that they have been under the heavy influence of mainland pop culture in their daily life, from social media to TV programs.
They are also no stranger to hot mainland brands like OPPO and Xiaomi, or e-commerce platforms like Taobao.
And it is said that most young Taiwanese students are wondering if they should go to mainland colleges or find a job on the mainland after graduation. To them, mainland China offers better economic and job prospects.
In sum, a misreading of the public’s conservative attitude towards same-sex marriage, their overriding concerns about the economy, and the youngsters’ more positive attitude toward mainland China has contributed to DPP’s defeat.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 28
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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