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Q&A/Taiwan's 2024 presidential and legislative elections

01/09/2024 02:45 PM
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Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) The Taiwanese people will go to the polls on Jan. 13 to elect a new president and legislators.

The following Q&A, complied by CNA, explains the basics of the electoral process -- who is running, how the ballots are organized, and how at-large legislative seats are allocated:

How is the president elected? What powers do the president and vice president have?

The president is elected by popular vote. The presidential ticket that gains the majority of votes nationwide wins.

According to the Republic of China (Taiwan) Constitution, the president is the head of state, the ROC's representative in foreign relations, and the supreme commander of the country's ground, sea and air forces.

The president has the power to promulgate laws, issue mandates, declare martial law, grant amnesties, pardons or remission of sentences, appoint or remove civil and military officials, conclude treaties, and declare war or peace.

The vice president's sole constitutional duty is to assume the presidency if the president is unable to fulfill the presidential duties.

Who are candidates on the 2024 presidential tickets?

(1) Taiwan People's Party (TPP): Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Wu Hsin-ying (吳欣盈)

(2) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP): Lai Ching-te (賴清德) and Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴)

(3) Kuomintang (KMT): Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) and Jaw Shau-kong (趙少康).

How many ballots will be given to each voter at the polling stations?

Each voter will receive three ballots on election day:

1. Presidential and vice presidential ballot (pink)

2. Legislator ballot: To vote for either a district legislator (light yellow), a mountain Indigenous peoples legislator (light green), or a plains Indigenous peoples legislator (light blue)

3. At-large legislator ballot: To vote for which party should get at-large legislator seats (white)

How are at-large and other legislators elected?

In Taiwan's Legislature, 34 of the total 113 seats are categorized as at-large seats, which are allocated proportionally to each party. To win any at-large seats, a party must gain at least 5 percent of the total votes on the at-large ballots.

In the 2020 election, for example, the DPP won 33.98 percent of the at-large ballots, and the KMT gained 33.36 percent, which meant they were each eligible to obtain 13 at-large legislator seats. The TPP received 11.22 percent of the at-large votes, thus getting 5 at-large seats, while the New Power Party gained 7.75 percent of the at-large votes and received 3 at-large seats.

Notably, because at-large legislators are not directly elected by voters, they cannot be recalled from office during their four-year terms. If an at-large legislator resigns or transfers to another position, however, their seat can be filled by the next person down on their party's at-large candidate list who is not already in the Legislature.

Of the other 79 seats in the Legislature, 73 are for district lawmakers elected directly by voters, and six are for Indigenous lawmakers chosen by Indigenous voters.

How else does the proportion of party votes matter?

Even for parties that do gain 5 percent of the legislative vote, their percentage matters.

For parties that receive at least 1 percent: Individuals and private entities that make political donations to the party can claim those donations as income tax deductions.

For parties that receive at least 2 percent: They will be eligible to nominate at-large legislators in the next three legislative elections.

For parties that receive at least 3 percent: They can receive political party subsidies from the government, which is calculated at an annual rate of NT$50 per vote and paid over a period of four years.

For parties that receive at least 5 percent: They are allocated at-large legislator seats and also gain the right to directly nominate a presidential candidate in the next general election.

What has happened in recent elections?

Following the 2008-2016 presidency of the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won the next two elections by commanding margins, defeating KMT opponents 56.12 percent-31.04 percent in 2016 and 57.13 percent-38.61 percent in 2020.

The People First Party's James Soong (宋楚瑜) ran as a third-party candidate in those elections, taking 12.83 percent of the vote share in 2016 and 4.26 percent in 2020, mainly from voters in the KMT camp.

As for the Legislature, the DPP flipped control of the chamber in 2016 by winning 64 seats, putting it well over both the 57 needed for a majority and the 35 seats won by the KMT.

In 2020, the number of seats held by the DPP slipped to 61, while KMT-controlled seats rose to 38. The TPP, participating in legislative elections for the first time, won five seats, while the NPP and Taiwan Statebuilding Party -- both broadly allied with the DPP -- won three and one seats, respectively. The other five seats were won by independent candidates.

Despite its poor showings in recent national elections, the KMT has shown flashes of strength in the past two local elections, in 2018 and 2022.

In those elections, the KMT won around 50 percent of all votes cast for city mayors and county magistrates, and secured control of 15 (2018) and 14 (2022) of Taiwan's 22 municipalities, compared to only six and five for the DPP.

(By Matthew Mazzetta)

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