2024 Taiwan Election: Ruling DPP emerged with fragile victory

The 2024 presidential election was held on January 13, and the voting rate was pretty close to what we saw in 2020 – 71.86% this time compared to 74.9% back then. Lai Chingte from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a victory, but it wasn’t a walk in the park like in 2020. The Kuomintang (KMT) tried to amp up their game by teaming up “firebrand” Jaw Shawkong with candidate Hou Yu-ih to rally their pro-KMT and conservative support. Despite their efforts, they still fell short, highlighting the ongoing decline of the KMT. On the flip side, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), established just 4 years ago, made a splash with an impressive 26% of the votes in their first shot at the presidency.

Now, let’s dig into how these election twists are shaking up Taiwan’s political landscape and what it means for the working class.

DPP victorious but weakened

The DPP came first, but it’s worth noting that Lai Chingte’s performance was significantly down compared to Tsai Ingwen’s victory in 2020.

Lai secured 5.58 million votes, marking a 17% dip in comparison, and his share of the vote landed at 40.05%. Despite this, he managed to clinch the most votes in all six metropolitan areas, even in places that usually lean towards the KMT, like Taipei, New Taipei, Taichung, and Taoyuan. This is quite a twist from the 2022 parliamentary elections, where the KMT won in most metropolitan areas.

However, it’s not all sunshine for the DPP. They lost control of the legislature, seeing their seats drop from 63 to 51 out of 113. This means the DPP might face more hurdles in pushing through their policies in the future. We’ve seen this kind of scenario before, in 2004, when Chen Shuibian won the presidency, but the KMT dominated in the parliament. A minority government is back on the scene, and it’s likely the new DPP government will be under fire from the KMT and TPP. Winning support through legislative channels might prove to be a tough battle.

Before the election, Lai tried to bring in progressive newcomers into a cross-party “Democratic Alliance” to give off a vibe of progressive reformism, focusing on things like judicial and constitutional changes. But most of the Democratic Alliance candidates weren’t elected. This lines up with our earlier analysis – people just aren’t fully trusting the DPP after their eight years in power. Even though the KMT and TPP didn’t team up, they’re still players in the game, not completely pushed to the sidelines.

The crumbling of Kuomintang

Turning our attention to the opposition, the Kuomintang (KMT), Hou pulled in 4.67 million votes (33.49%), showing a decline compared to Han Kuoyu’s performance in 2020 with 5.52 million votes (38.61%). Even though the KMT secured the most seats in the legislative election, jumping from 38 to 52 with 4.76 million proportional votes, this didn’t translate into support for their presidential candidate. The KMT might appear weak on the national scene still holds strong on the local level. Yet, there’s a growing chance of local factions and leaders shifting over to the White (TPP) camp. Throw in the lack of young voters, and the future for the KMT looks pretty grim.

The rise of the People’s Party

Now, let’s talk about Ko Wenje and the future of the People’s Party (TPP). Ko got a lot of attention in this election, pulling in 3.69 million votes (26.46%). Don’t let the third position fool you – this isn’t a failure for Ko.

For starters, even though the Taiwan People’s Party got wiped out in the single-member constituencies, they still bagged 8 seats from proportional votes – a slight increase from their 5 seats in 2020. Their 3.04 million proportional votes (22.07%) this time around, compared to 1.58 million votes (11.22%) in 2020, makes them a force to reckon with.

Seems like independent voters, especially the younger crowd, voiced their dissatisfaction with the system and their desire for change by supporting Ko. This surge of support doesn’t necessarily mean people are head over heels for the TPP itself – it’s more about working class people being fed up with the other two major parties.

But here’s the twist – this expectation clashes with the TPP’s own development plans. With both the KMT and DPP losing ground, the TPP intends to seize the opportunity to expand and score big in future elections. They aim to attract career politicians from both major parties and bring in capitalists who are left out of the two-party system. However, this creates a paradox because it contradicts the hopes of people dissatisfied with establishment politics. In simple terms, in their bid to grow and even grab power, they will have to let people down and reveal that they are not all that different from the other parties – a party favoring the wealthy.

Moreover, TPP leading members all have different political ideas. This sets the stage for some serious internal conflicts within the TPP.

In a nutshell, this election has opened up a political landscape filled with conflicts among the three parties. The TPP’s rise gives it the potential to go head-to-head with the two major parties as an independent political force, no longer playing second fiddle.

Some conclusions

Taking all of the above into account, the picture that emerges is that the DPP won the election, but with a reduced strength. DPP’s win is related with the fact that the so-called “war anxiety” has receded in recent months. Having lost its majority in parliament, it cannot implement its policies without making concessions to the opposition. That means a weak government.

Under the eight-year rule of the DPP, there has been no significant improvement in the minimum wage and in union density. This has inevitably aroused the distrust of the labor force towards the DPP. The result also shows that the majority of the Taiwanese people want a friendlier attitude towards China, instead of the DPP’s aggressive policies and arms build-up (of course, this does not mean that Taiwanese people agree with reunification with China). In general, the masses’ distrust of the Democratic Progressive Party is wide and is reflected on a number of issues.

The main political difference between the two opposition parties and the ruling DPP is their more pro-China stance. They see the DPP’s rhetoric and strong pro-Western stance as adventurism that threatens peaceful relations with China. Neither of the two opposition parties can be considered “left-wing”, all three parties are clearly bourgeois formations. Their main political difference is their attitude towards China.

Building a workers’ party remains a priority

With Lai taking the reins but no party holding a clear majority in parliament, the upcoming DPP government is bound to be shaky. The opposition, especially the TPP, will play a pivotal role in shaping the political landscape and working on their public image. Both the KMT and TPP, seemingly pacifist and aiming for a balance between the U.S. and China, will throw hurdles in the path of the DPP’s nationalist and militarization policies. However, it’s crucial to note that the opposition isn’t necessarily progressive – they are just opportunistic.

What Taiwan truly needs isn’t just minor tweaks but a left-wing party genuinely standing up for workers and rooted in social movements. As we’ve been saying, the conflict among imperialist powers has made Taiwan more precarious, and the promises from bourgeois politicians often turn out to be empty. The countless contradictions under capitalism, like low wages, skyrocketing housing prices, and overwork, can’t be solved without a real shift. That’s why we keep pushing for a new political alternative, a left-wing party that truly serves the working class.

As Lenin wisely put it:

“The proletariat must not pin its faith in general democratic slogans but must contrapose to them its own proletarian-democratic slogans in their full scope.”

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