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DPP likely to lose legislature majority in January polls: Observers

12/06/2023 04:21 PM
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DPP presidential candidate Lai Ching-te, his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim and government officials of the ruling party attend the formal opening of their national campaign headquarters in Taipei Sunday. CNA photo Dec. 3, 2023
DPP presidential candidate Lai Ching-te, his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim and government officials of the ruling party attend the formal opening of their national campaign headquarters in Taipei Sunday. CNA photo Dec. 3, 2023

Washington, Dec. 5 (CNA) The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is likely to lose its majority in Taiwan's 113-seat national legislature in January's polls, opening the way for a smaller party to play a pivotal role in the body's proceedings, observers said Tuesday.

The most likely outcomes for the upcoming legislative elections are either a hung legislature in which the Taiwan People's Party (TPP) holds the balance of power or an outright Kuomintang (KMT) majority, said Nathan F. Batto, an associate research fellow at Taiwan's Academia Sinica, at an event in Washington.

In this scenario, TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who has strong control over his small party, will control the balance of power in the Legislative Yuan, Batto said at a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Taiwanese voters will head to the polls to elect their next president, vice president, and legislators on Jan. 13, 2024.

The ruling party is grappling with several issues after holding power for almost eight years, including "DPP fatigue," making the task of maintaining its majority an uphill battle.

"I do believe the DPP is planning for the scenario that they don't control the parliament in that sense, and so they are expecting perhaps the pan-Blue camp to hold the majority," said Brian Hioe, a Taiwanese political commentator, at the CSIS event.

In Taiwan, blue stands for the KMT, green for the DPP, and white for the TPP, reflecting each party's color.

"And you do see some messaging from even the smaller pan-Green parties such as the New Power Party that emphasizes that this seems to be the likely outcome," Hioe said.

Another speaker at the forum on Taiwan's elections, Kathrin Hille, the Greater China correspondent for the Financial Times, said she had picked up serious concerns from the DPP that they will not be able to win another legislative majority.

In the case of the TPP playing a crucial role, she said it would be interesting to see which people Ko listens to.

"It's become quite clear that he gets very conflicting advice from, well, this really motley crew of advisors and people close to him that he has," Hille said.

"If he ends up playing such a crucial role, it's kind of erratic what advice and what direction he might want to go into."

Ko has fraternized with both of Taiwan's political parties. When he first ran for Taipei mayor in 2014, he allied with the DPP, clearing the way for him to be elected.

In this presidential cycle, however, he considered teaming up with the KMT on a single opposition presidential ticket before deciding to run on his own, making it hard to predict which way his party's lawmakers would swing in a hung Legislative Yuan.

The speakers also discussed how the issue of China could play out in this election.

Whenever Taiwan enters a national election season, warnings about Beijing's potential interference using disinformation are issued, but Batto noted that this can be hard to concretely observe.

"They (Beijing) do things in an opaque matter to make it hard for us to see it, which makes it very hard to collect data on it and to say in any kind of a really rigorous way (that) Beijing is definitely doing this, are definitely doing that, for this purpose, or that purpose," Batto said.

Yet China is a factor in every national election, he argued, but it is a factor in a different way every time.

"Four years ago we were talking about Hong Kong, and that really mobilized a lot of especially younger voters. This time, we're talking more about the choice between war and peace, and that seems to be the dominant way that the China question is coming into this [election]," he said.

Hille, meanwhile, said she was still waiting for the big one to happen or to drop, "because what we're seeing so far is kind of the usual toolbox in play."

The patterns and frequency of military intimidation moves around Taiwan have not been anything out of the ordinary recently, she said.

(By Chiang Ching-yeh and Chung Yu-chen)

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