Taiwan's 2012 Legislative Yuan Will be Totally Different

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Tuesday December 20, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Whatever the outcome of the upcoming January 14 presidential elections, one thing is certain; Taiwan's 2012 Legislative Yuan will clearly not be in for the same old, same old. Let's start with basics; remember back in 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou won with some 58 per cent of the vote. In the Legislative Yuan, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) got some 54 per cent of the vote but because of disproportionate district representation, and with the aid of its pan-blue coalition it got a totally uncalled for 76 per cent of the seats. Those days are gone forever and for many reasons.

First there is the James Soong factor. This time James Soong and his People's First Party (PFP) are in the running and they will be making a difference. In 2008, the PFP for various reasons graciously joined the KMT in co-sponsoring candidates for the Legislative Yuan (LY); this may have helped the individual candidates get greater vote margins but the big loser was the PFP. When there is co-sponsorship still only one party is given the total vote tally, that specific and necessary factor for getting legislator-at-large seats. The one party that got that tally was the KMT and the PFP was shut out of legislators-at-large completely despite each candidate's personal leanings. That won't happen again. The PFP is not only fielding its own candidates, but it has also nixed co-sponsorship in areas it had in the past.

Second James Soong is also running for president and while he will not likely win, he will not only be drawing an estimated 8X11 per cent of the presidential vote but he should also then be expected to convince enough voters to favor his party in the supplementary party selection ranking to give the PFP the necessary 5 per cent of votes to qualify and gain legislator-at-large seats. Whatever way you look at it, there will clearly be more PFP legislators in the LY and James Soong as godfather to the party will have his voice heard for the next four years. Some have speculated that Soong will drop out of the presidential race at the last minute to favor the KMT, but such speculation is misguided. Despite some past cooperation, the KMT has never treated Soong graciously for a variety of reasons; Soong can be expected to return the favor.

The next big factor in the LY elections of course is the resurgent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai has a good chance of winning the presidential elections and her popularity will certainly be helping the DPP as it aims to increase its numbers in the LY. In the 2008 elections, the DPP got 38 per cent of the vote, but only 27 seats (24 per cent). That too is going to change. The disproportionate district representation will still be there to help the KMT, but the DPP will win both more individual seats as well as a much larger party vote. Its general supplementary party vote has a good chance of being over 50 per cent. The DPP may not get the elusive 50 per cent of the seats in the LY, something it has never had, but it has a good chance of being the majority party in the LY as it had in the 2004 election.

Finally of course, the KMT has been guilty of shooting itself in the foot and doing itself in as far as the LY is concerned. In this regard, the KMT cannot expect any coattails effect from Ma Ying-jeou who because of his own perceived incompetence and lackluster record is struggling to barely keep himself above water. Despite the party's sham claims that it is the party against corruption, already several of its elected candidates from the past LY election lost their seats because they were found guilty of that same crime of corruption. As this current session closed the KMT's previous starting position of 76 per cent majority was gone with the wind. The DPP had gained some 9 seats of those districts that had to have re-elections when the KMT incumbent was found guilty of corruption. Those same DPP candidates have a good chance of winning in the upcoming elections. Add to this the factor that the indigenous people who have a guaranteed six seats in the LY are finding their own voice. Traditionally in the past, they have voted with the KMT in LY matters; that allegiance again is also under question.

Whatever ways one looks at it, the LY will have a totally new look in the 2012 session and a totally new voting bent; the KMT will not be the majority party. China and the USA had better get their thinking caps on and be prepared to deal with a new Taiwan. Even if Ma Ying-jeou would be lucky enough to eke out a victory in the presidential elections, he would be in serious trouble in the LY. He was ineffective in accomplishing much when his party had a 76 per cent majority influence; can one imagine how ineffective he would be when he and his party had no majority at all? It is time to dump Ma to save Taiwan.