01:22 GMT +324 March 2019
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    Dancers perform during the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, May 20, 2016

    Why Did Taiwanese Choose ‘Chinese Taipei'?

    © AP Photo / Chiang Ying-ying
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    Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) fiasco in the local midterm elections have led to further changes in the political landscape ahead of the 2020 Taiwan presidential election. The DPP now has only 6 county and city seats, while the remaining 15 are controlled by the Kuomintang. The latter advocates strengthening ties with Mainland China.

    Sputnik has talked to some experts on the region, and they believe that the main reason for the DPP's failure is the unsuccessful policy of Taiwan's ruling party.

    The buzz around the Taiwan elections, that are held every four years similar to US midterms, had appeared two weeks before the actual vote. Mainland China's media emphasised that the ‘one China' principle is inviolable and that other countries should not establish any diplomatic relations with Taiwan. On the other hand, the Western media were throwing out articles saying that Beijing appears to be interfering in the election.

    READ MORE: Beijing Ramps Up Pressure After Taiwan Pro-Independence Party Sees Heavy Losses

    In October, Taiwan's Ministry of Justice even announced that it had conducted investigations into 33 mainland-sponsored candidates.

    Interestingly enough, rumours about the Mainland's intervention in Taiwan's elections had already appeared before the actual election. How can we explain that Tsai Ing-wen's party not only failed in the election, but it has also lost two referendums initiated by the DPP? One was to rename the ‘Chinese Taipei' Olympic team to the ‘Taiwan' team, and the other was to legalise gay marriage.

    It is not really worthwhile to look for any external factors. Renaming the Olympic team would have serious consequences. The International Olympic Committee has already informed the Taiwanese government that it may not allow Taiwanese athletes to participate in the Olympic Games if the referendum decides to change the team's name.

    Taiwan has realised that the chance for the country's athletes to participate in the main event of their lives would depend on their vote, and so most people decide that sports shouldn't be politicised and they could not ruin the career of athletes.

    READ MORE: New Chinese Mainland Dramas Big Hit Among Hong Kong, Taiwan, Overseas Audiences

    As for the LGBT issue, it seems that the views of the Taiwanese are more conservative, this has been proven by the level of support the conservative Kuomintang enjoyed in the election.

    Lin Gang, Executive Director of the Taiwan Research Centre at Shanghai Jiaotong University, believes that the reason for the election failure is the policy pursued by the ruling party.

    ‘The DPP failed because of the failure of certain policies, whether it's the pension reform, regulation of labour relations, or the abolition of nuclear in favour of thermal power generation that leads to significant environmental deterioration. Moreover, it's the fight against the Kuomintang under the pretext of modernisation, when their own people were allocated certain positions. In addition, there's this issue of Guan Zhongmin not being appointed Head of the National Taiwan University. All this indicates management efficiency problems that everyone could see.  There has been much talk about the mounting tensions between the two sides of the strait. As a result, the island's tourism industry and southern agriculture have been deeply affected'.

    Due to the indifference in cross-strait relations, the mainland government has banned mainland citizens from travelling to Taiwan, which resulted in a one-third reduction in the number of mainland tourists. Exports of agricultural products to the mainland have also fallen sharply, while two years ago, Mainland China was buying 20% of the island's agricultural products worth $1 billion. This forced southern Taiwan, which has always supported the DPP, to change its position.

    ‘What I want to emphasise here is the rapid flow of on-the-fence voters, who are 15% to 20% of the total number of Taiwanese voters. Regardless of the fact that originally some of these people supported the DPP, this time they've given their votes to the Kuomintang. This has been most visible in Gaoxiong and Taizhong. By my count, Taizhong's conversion from originally supporting the DPP to the  Kuomintang is 200,000 votes, accounting for 14% of the total number of voters', Lin Gang told Sputnik.

    Lin Quanzhong from Taiwan's Academia Sinica believes that the DPP was too confident of its own strength.

    ‘I think that the main problem of Tsai Ing-wen's government and the DPP is that they have been too confident and thought they could be in power for a long time. They thought they reached political stability in the region. So, they ventured to put in place some rather unpopular reforms, such as the pension one, which has resulted in the dissatisfaction of the party's potential partners, like the military, state officials, or teachers. People thought those reforms were going to half the pensions, so they weren't willing to support such moves. Tsai Ing-wen's reforms are more focused on the young — things like pension reform, abolishing nuclear energy or equality enjoy support among young people. However, other age groups, especially the middle-aged and elderly, haven't supported those kinds of reforms. Therefore, we saw that not only the DPP has suffered a major defeat at the elections, but even the referendums the party promoted have failed. The party's policies have been too radical and there hasn't been much support for it. The DPP's failure is not because the Kuomintang is very powerful and attractive, but it is due to the party's own policies'.

    Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen has resigned as Chairman of the DPP. Lai Jingde, Prime Minister and the DPP member, also intended to resign but has been persuaded to stay on in order to prepare the party for the 2020 elections. Some experts believe that it's going to be really hard for the party to get ready for the upcoming elections, as the DPP has lost almost all of its national support during the local elections.

    READ MORE: ‘No Annexation": Anti-China Independence Protests in Taiwan

    Once the Kuomintang candidate wins the presidential election, we may see a warming of relations with Beijing. At least this will help Taiwan overcome its existing economic problems.

    Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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