What to expect in the Taiwan elections

Photo credit: A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rally in Taipei on January 10. Photo by Katharin Tai.

Taiwan heads to the polls tomorrow, January 11, to vote for a president (with vice president on the same ticket) and legislature (all 113 seats).

Pundits almost universally believe that incumbent Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) will win a second term, and that her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will retain its majority over the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Legislative Yuan.

But that doesn’t mean Tsai and DPP supporters are resting easy, which is apparent if you trawl Taiwanese social media. Because Taiwan doesn’t allow for absentee balloting — people must vote in person at their registered precinct — “Go back to vote” has become a common refrain. For more, see Katharin Tai’s reporting from Taipei for SupChina.

So why doesn’t Taiwan have online or mail-in balloting? “We have had discussions about introducing absentee voting before, but it never turned into a bill — probably because both major parties are trying to calculate how much they can gain,” says Wei-ting Yen, a professor in political science at Franklin and Marshall College.

According to official numbers, 5,328 overseas Taiwanese registered to vote in the 2020 election — more than twice as many as 2016’s 2,420 registered overseas voters.

We have two other stories about Taiwan on SupChina from earlier this week:

“China” or “Chinese Communist Party”? Does the distinction matter when talking politics? Yes, say many in Taiwan. As Tsai and the DDP push back against Beijing’s influence, people are wary to not let their disdain of official rhetoric turn into resentment toward mainland citizens. Nick Aspinwall has the story.

In 2016, the DDP won a majority of seats in the legislature for the first time ever. What can a DDP-led legislature achieve with another four years in charge? Ralph Jennings investigates.

—Anthony Tao