Asia Minute: Taiwan’s Election Results Not Leading to Radical Change

Jan 14, 2020

Taiwan’s president was re-elected by a wide margin over the weekend. The election results were not a surprise, but they are significant on a number of levels.

President Tsai Ing-wen got more votes than any candidate has in a Taiwanese presidential election since they were first held in 1996. She was the choice of more than 8 million voters — nearly 60% of those casting ballots.

Her closest rival took less than 40% of the vote.

Turnout was at a level many in the U.S. and in Hawaii would find embarrassing by comparison. 75% of Taiwan’s eligible voters cast ballots — that’s almost nine percentage points higher than the last presidential election four years ago.

Based on Taiwan’s demographics, that also points to a high turnout among young people.

It was a dramatic turnaround from a year ago — when Tsai’s popularity was at a low point. Since then, the protests in Hong Kong and the official reaction to them helped drive up her poll numbers.

Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party is politically liberal, and often described as “independence-leaning.” But the party and its leadership are very careful about not advocating a direct split, for fear of the reaction that would draw from the Beijing government.

After the election, China’s Foreign Ministry tersely underlined its own policy consistency in a statement saying, “No matter what changes there are to the internal situation in Taiwan, the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change.”