After years of being dominated by the Chinese Nationalist Party, known as the Kuomintang or KMT., the results of Taiwan’s most recent elections mark a great political shift, and the world is taking notice.
“Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s pro-China strategy took a harsh rap,” says Bloomberg View’s William Pesek, of the election results. “In island-wide local elections,” explains Pesek, “young voters came out in force to reject Ma’s efforts to develop closer ties with the mainland.” The outcome of these elections resulted in the KMT party losing nine of its 15 city mayor and chief positions, and Ma himself losing much of his mandate to promote ties with China.
Pesek points out that the biggest defeat occurred in the Taipei mayoral race, where Ko Wen-Je, backed by the Democratic Progressive Party, came out on top. Sean King of Park Strategies told Bloomberg that the win is the equivalent of “Republicans losing Texas” in the United States. Ko Wen-Je, a 55-year-old doctor, actually ran as an independent, but his platform promises a shift towards democracy, which many young voters identified with.
As Taiwan experiences a great political shift, the rest of the world is standing by, anxiously wondering what could come next. “There’s a role for the West here, too,” says Pesek. “The U.S. should welcome Taiwan into its Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 12 governments currently negotiating the trade pact – including Japan, Australia and Singapore – represent the 35 percent of Taiwan’s trade,” of the significant connection Taiwan has here. Pesek suggests that it would be wise for Obama to reach out to Taiwan now in this time of political change, capitalizing on the economic possibilities that are becoming more prominent there.
“Beloved citizens, we have set in motion the power of love to return the feeling of greatness in this city,” said Ko Wen-Je in his victory speech. “The result of this Taipei mayoral election is a manifestation of Taiwan’s democratic values and Taipei citizens’ determination to pursue progress.”
Time will tell how Taipei’s newfound democracy will influence local politics, economy, and foreign relations. For more on the recent elections, visit Austin Ramzy’s report for The New York Times.