Winning a second term won't be enough for Tsai Ing-wen

January 08, 2020 18:52
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen probably stands a big chance of winning the election on Saturday, but her party must also maintain its majority in the legislature. Photo: Reuters

With only a few days left before Saturday's presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, candidates from both the pan-green and pan-blue coalitions are firing on all cylinders in their final scramble for votes.

Although there have been quite a lot of doubts about the accuracy of recent polls, President Tsai Ing-wen, representing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is apparently enjoying a substantial lead in popularity over her major rival, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, who represents the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

Tsai probably stands a bigger chance of winning the election. But even if she does win and get a second term, it doesn’t necessarily mean she can continue to reign supreme in the island's political realm.

That's because while Tsai’s own election prospects look promising, those of her partymates who are running for seats in the Legislative Yuan aren’t as good as hers, which raises the question of whether the ruling DPP can maintain its majority in the legislature.

If the DPP fails to do so, then Tsai and her cabinet will become a minority government, and chances are they will be at the mercy of the KMT and other smaller parties.

So if it wins the presidency but loses the legislature on Saturday, the DPP may find its hands tied as far as governing Taiwan is concerned.

For example, the KMT, if it is able to substantially boost the number of its seats in the Legislative Yuan, could obstruct the enforcement of the controversial anti-infiltration law passed on Dec. 31 or oust any DPP figure who has made some indiscreet remarks.

The DPP, in fact, has already suffered its first “casualty” for this reason: Lin Ching-yi, the spokeswoman of Tsai’s campaign office, resigned because of her controversial remarks made during a foreign media interview that supporting cross-strait unification might be tantamount to treason.

Worse, Tsai had to step forward and explain her position on this highly sensitive matter.

As we can see, if the DPP fails to hang on to its majority in the legislature, Tsai, even if she wins a second term, is likely to be haunted by nightmares.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 7

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal