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Critical Vote: A Taiwan Post-Election Roundtable

January 13, 2020

On January 13, 2020, the UW Taiwan Studies Program held a public roundtable on the Taiwan presidential and legislative elections that had taken place two days earlier. Three experts on Taiwan electoral politics made presentations: Dr. Kharis Templeman, Professor Margaret Lewis and, and Professor Dennis Lu-Chung Weng  Director-General Alex Fan of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) offered brief remarks on the significance of the elections and their significance for US-Taiwan relations.

The roundtable presenters discussed the landslide re-election of incumbent President Tsai Ing-Wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the successful bid of the DPP to maintain its legislative majority. The presenters discussed the ins and outs of the Taiwan electoral system, the key players and rising stars of various political parties, and the outlook for these parties going forward. Against the backdrop of the Hong Kong protests, Taiwan’s election results seemed to send a loud message that for the Taiwan voters, the question of sovereignty trumped concerns about the economy.

Dr. Kharis Templeman led off with a short course on the Taiwan electoral system, the electoral results, and the major issues. He also discussed the demographic trends that are working against the Nationalist Party (KMT).  Professor Dennis Lu-Chung Weng continued with an account of the competition between the DPP and the KMT in the recent electoral cycle. Weng also highlighted rising and falling political stars, and explained how the sovereignty issue came to overshadow economic populism. Professor Margaret Lewis raised the important social issues that have political impact, including same-sex marriage and the death penalty. Lewis, a law professor, also provided an analysis of the potential impacts of Taiwan’s new Anti-Infiltration law.

The audience Q&A led to a discussion of the effects of the election on Taiwan’s place on the international stage. Among the questions: whether the elections constituted a rejection of global populism; whether the overarching problem of China’s challenge chokes off debate about more normal policy issues; and the inroads of the DPP among indigenous voters. The election results suggest that the China-friendly “1992 Consensus” is not electorally viable, with implications for the future platform of the KMT.

The video recording is now available on Youtube.

About the Speakers

Kharis Templeman is an advisor to the Hoover Program on Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific at Stanford University, where he previously served as the program manager of the Taiwan Democracy Project at the Freeman Spogli Institute. His recent work has included research on Taiwan’s parties and elections, defense budgets and security strategy, indigenous minorities, and the strengths and weaknesses of Taiwan’s democratic institutions in the face of Chinese influence campaigns. He holds a B.A. from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan.

Dennis Lu-Chung Weng is an assistant professor of political science at Sam Houston State University, deputy coordinator of Conference Group of Taiwan Study (CGOTs), and the international research fellow of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Dr. Weng’s research and teaching interests are in the fields of comparative politics, East and Southeast Asia Politics, political behavior, and survey research. Dr. Weng has published more than 15 scholarly articles in edited volumes and peer-reviewed journals. His op-eds have appeared in many Asian news outlets.

Maggie Lewis is a professor of law at Seton Hall University. She has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar at National Taiwan University, a visiting professor at Academia Sinica, a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow with the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Before joining Seton Hall, Professor Lewis served as a Senior Research Fellow at NYU School of Law’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute.