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ELECTION 2024/Voting day blog: Taiwan chooses a new president

01/13/2024 04:06 PM
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CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024
CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024

Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) This is CNA's live blog for Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections. Taiwan's 17,795 polling stations have closed and votes are being counted in the three-way presidential race between Lai Ching-te of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang, and Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People's Party. 


Welcome to the CNA live Election Day blog. In Taiwan's presidential election, plenty of questions will be answered? Can Lai Ching-te of the DPP, the party that has governed Taiwan for the past eight years, continue the DPP's hold on power? He was clearly the frontrunner entering the race, having never trailed in opinion polls over months of campaigning. Can the former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je pull a major upset or outpoll the main opposition Kuomintang? Can New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih pull a surprise and regain power for the KMT? 


With Lai expected to win the presidency, and early vote counts posted on local television stations have him in the lead over his two opponents by about 5 percentage points, the more interesting race could be for the 113-seat Legislature. The DPP has held an absolute majority in the body over the past eight years, but expectations are that it will lose that majority in this election. The DPP currently holds 62 seats to 37 for the KMT, five for the TPP, and three for the New Power Party and the rest going to independents.


In Taiwan, votes are counted publicly at each of Taiwan's polling stations and the results are called into the political parties and to media outlets. At present, Lai has maintained a roughly 5-point lead over Hou of the KMT, who only leads the upstart Ko by about 3-4 percent. 


Taiwan has 19.54 million eligible voters. If 73 percent of voters turn out, that means 14.2 million people will vote. TV stations have already posted counts for about 4 million votes and Lai is pulling away with a lead of about 6 percentage points and Hou leads Ko by about 4 percentage points. It was a nice day around Taiwan and younger voters clearly showed up for Ko. The margin at the moment is about 38.6 percent for Lai, 32.6 for Hou and 28.9 for Ko. Those results came from polling stations around Taiwan, and it is hard to believe those results will change much over the rest of the evening.

CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024
CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024


Some polls had Hou giving Lai a closer battle, but Hou had trouble exceeding 33 percent in most of the polls. His strategy in the closing days of the race was to appeal to Ko voters to defect to him to oust the DPP from power, but that obviously has not happened, meaning that the split in the opposition will probably be too much to overcome, handing Lai victory. Of course, very few of the votes have been officially confirmed by the Central Election Commission, but it is hard to see anything changing.


Just over 5 million votes are in on TVBS, with Lai winning 39.1 percent, Hou 33.1 percent, and Ko 27.8 percent. 


With Lai holding a 6-point lead over Hou, the question is will that margin, give the DPP a boost in the legislative vote. Very few votes have been counted in the legislative race, so there is little indication of how the "winds" are blowing, but we'll see if the Ko vote is backing DPP or KMT candidates more. 


In the 113-seat Legislature, 73 seats will be directly elected in first-past-the-post districts, 6 will be elected by Indigenous voters, and 34 will be selected at-large based on a separate vote for political parties. With the presidential votes in many polling districts counted, legislative votes are starting to trickle in. It would appear that if the KMT had hoped to break through and win even one of the 14 seats in the DPP's southern strongholds of Kaohsiung or Tainan, it may be disappointed. 


Lai's lead seems to be widening based on TV votes to about 6.5-7 percent, a bit wider than some polls had predicted. Hou remains about 5 points ahead of Ko.

CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024
CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024


Nothing has changed much in the presidential race. TV stations are showing about 7 million votes counted with roughly the same margins as earlier. Lai should be feeling very confident.


CEC has reported turnout at about 69.8 percent, somewhat disappointing as polls suggested turnout reaching as high as 75 percent. Part of the problem is that Taiwan has no provisions for absentee or early voting. All voters must appear at a polling station where their household is registered, which is inconvenient for people living  even within Taiwan. People whose households are registered in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan but live in Taipei in the north have to return home to vote. And for the estimated 500,000 to 1 million Taiwanese who live overseas but still have households registered in Taiwan, they have to fly home to vote. Makes it hard to get high voter turnout rates.


Have been looking through the legislative races. The DPP looks poised to sweep the 14 seats in Tainan and Kaohsiung, but overall it appears that the KMT and DPP will both get around 50 seats. A rough count for now, with a few close races that could change this. The TPP  is on course for 7 at-large seats, which means it will hold a pivotal role because it will be either to team up with either the KMT or DPP to form a majority. That would be an outcome Ko Wen-je would surely enjoy, even if he will finish a clear third in the presidential race.


The first job for a new Legislature will be to elect a legislative speaker and vice speaker. It will take 57 votes to elect those positions. The TPP, which is very much a party focused around Ko, will basically decide who wins. Ko tried to broker a partnership with Hou to have them share a presidential ticket, but they could not get together on which one would be at the top of the ticket, and which one would be the running mate. As mayor of Taipei, Ko also fell out with the DPP, and during the campaign he said he doesn't like the KMT but dislikes the DPP even more. If the current results hold, Ko will have a chance to make a deal. He once again will be in the spotlight.


While TV stations now are posting counts of roughly 8 million votes in the presidential election, of roughly 13.5-14 million cast, Lai leads Hou by about 6 percent and Hou leads Ko by 6 percent. But as of now the CEC has only counted 2,091,182 votes. Lai has about 42 percent, Hou 33 percent and Ko 24 percent. Still a ways to go.


In the Legislature, right now looking like about 52 seats apiece for DPP and KMT and 7-8 for TPP with a few independents. The New Power Party will not get the 5% of political party votes needed to maintain its presence in the Legislature, representing another party, along with the New Party, People First Party of former presidential candidate James Soong, the Taiwan Solidarity Union supported by former President Lee Teng-hui, that is likely to struggle to gain any traction in the future. 


Though Ko will finish last in the presidential election, his ability to get roughly a quarter of the vote, and his party's ability to get over 20 percent of the vote for political party, has established him as a force to contend with. 


In the Legislature, in Taichung's first electoral district, Tsai Chi-chang of the DPP, and current deputy legislative speaker appears to have eked by in his race. He won the district by 37 percentage points in 2020, but will win his district this year by under 5 percentage points against the TPP's strongest candidate in an electoral district Tsai Pi-ru. The TPP candidate got strong support from the popular KMT mayor in Taichung, Lu Shiow-yen, and it almost gave her an improbable victory. It was one of a number of races that are going the DPP's way. 

Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (third right) gives a victory speech in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Jan. 13, 2023
Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (third right) gives a victory speech in Taichung Saturday. CNA photo Jan. 13, 2023


The CEC has now officially counted 6,936,546 votes. It has Lai with an even bigger margin that the TV counts showed. He has 41.69 percent of the vote, compared to 33.15 percent for Hou and 25.17 percent for Ko. It's pretty clear that the desire to end eight years of DPP governance was not strong enough for voters to coalesce around the KMT's Hou.


Up to date look at the Legislature, right now it looks like 52 DPP, 51 KMT, 1 Independent and 8 TPP in the at-large race. The one seat seemingly still up for grabs is Electoral District 7 in New Taipei. Lo Chi-cheng of the DPP is a veteran politician but he is locked up in tough battle with Yeh Yuan-chih of the KMT. Lo, who previously had a bout of infidelity, has been embroiled in a scandal involving video clips allegedly showing him having sex with different women. Lo said the clips were deep fakes, and accused China of smearing him. With 130 of 182 polling stations in the district reporting, Yeh had a 197 vote lead over Lo, 52,259 to 52,062.


Taiwan bans polls from being made publicly available in the 10 days before an election, but, has just released its final polls leading up to Election Day. In the final 10 days, Hou and Lai continued to fall while Ko made up ground and a few days ago, Lai was at about 35 while Hou and Ko were about even at 23 percent. But Hou looks like he got a small bump at the end, and the final numbers were 35.4 percent for Lai, 24.7 percent for Hou and 19.9 percent for Ko. That translated to 38.9-41.3 percent in the final vote for Lai, 33-36 percent for Hou and 24.5-27 percent for Ko. It was pretty much right on.


With 15,570 of 17,795 polling stations reporting, Lai has 40.67 percent, Hou has 33.27 percent, and Ko has 26.06 percent.


Whatever one thinks of polls, and they were all over the place except for showing Lai consistently leading, the my-formosa tracking poll showed Hou having some momentum showed that this was a race until about Dec. 21, when it was Lai at 37.3 percent, Hou at 33.4 percent and Ko at 17.7 percent.  But by Christmas Day, Hou had fallen 9.5 points behind and never recovered. As much as Hou may have struggled to broaden his support because of his and his party's policy of being more conciliatory to China, which the DPP has branded as sacrificing Taiwan's sovereignty, and the KMT's general lack of popularity with the younger generation, Hou's sudden drop in the polls came around the time he was aggressively attacked for an apartment building his wife owned at Chinese Culture University that was divided up into small units rented to students. The DPP accused Hou and his family of charging high rents and not paying property taxes. Hou and his wife denied the charges, but the damage was done. 


Hou Yu-ih is giving his concession speech. He apologized to his supporters for not being able to achieve a rotation of the party in power, and after congratulating Lai urged him to listen to the voice of the people. 


He also urged the new DPP government to be more transparent and efficient, and safeguard the security of Taiwan's people.

▶ KMT's Hou concedes defeat in Taiwan presidential election

TPP's Ko urges supporters not to lose faith after election defeat


Ko is now speaking. He said his party has achieved many miracles by relying on small donations and that the party doing so well was a positive development for Taiwan's political environment. He told his supporters, "On the journey toward justice, on the path to building a sustainable nation, Ko Wen-je will not give up and I'm asking you to please not give up." 


Ko did not concede defeat nor did he congratulate Lai. He quoted one of his former deputy mayor and one of his at-large legislators Huang Shan-shan as saying, "We don't have time to feel sad, but the country will continue to move forward and we have to go back to work tomorrow." He also said, "The next time, we will definitely be able to take office, certainly win back Taiwan.” 


Ko's party has come a long way since being formed in 2019. But its main attraction has been Ko himself and his position that the TPP is neither the DPP nor KMT. In a position of influence in the new Legislature, however, it will be interesting to see what positions it will take and if those positions will square what its supporters want.

TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je (right) and his running mate for presidency, Lagislator Wu Hsin-ying host a post-election news conference at his campaign headquarters in New Taipei Saturday. CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024
TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je (right) and his running mate for presidency, Lagislator Wu Hsin-ying host a post-election news conference at his campaign headquarters in New Taipei Saturday. CNA photo Jan. 13, 2024


In the presidential vote, with only 261 polling stations yet to report, Lai has 40.15 percent of the vote, Hou has 33.43 percent and Ko has 26.42 percent. Ironically, Ko has done worse in Taipei (with 23.80 percent), the city he used to run, than in the rest of the country, while Lai and Hou are separated there by 340 votes. Hou lost in the city he will still run (New Taipei) to Lai 38.78 percent to 34.96 percent. Ko had 26.26 percent. Lai also won the key city of Taichung by 37.59 percent to 32.37 percent for Hou and 30.05 percent for Ko. Taichung has usually been the best prognisticator of Taiwan's presidential election. In three cities with KMT mayors, Hou simply did not do well enough to have a chance and Ko showed some strength, especially in Taichung.

▶ DPP's Lai claims victory in Taiwan presidential election


Lai is now speaking. He said his victory is significant for 3 reasons: One is that Taiwan will stand on the side of democracy rather than authoritarianism. Second is that Taiwan's people has successfully resisted outside influence in its election. Third is that Lai received the most support and that the country will continue on the right path forward.


In the 73 races, the KMT won 36 seats, the DPP won 36 seats and one seat went to a candidate running as an independent who until recently was a member of the KMT and could still caucus with the party. Yeh Yuan-chih did end up winning his race against Lo by about 2,000 votes. Indigenous seats will remain 3 KMT, 2 DPP, 1 IND, and at-large seats look to be 13 DPP, 13 KMT, 8 TPP. Overall, the KMT gained 15 seats and the DPP lost 11, but the KMT will be disappointed it did not pick up a few more to win an outright majority. It was hurt especially by another poor showing in southern Taiwan, going without a seat out of 19 up for grabs in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Pingtung County, Chiayi City, and Chiayi County. Still, it made gains in northern and central Taiwan, sweeping Taoyuan to gain three seats, taking six out of eight seats in Taichung after holding only two, and adding a seat in Taipei to win five of eight seats. 


Overall, Taiwan's 2024 presidential and legislative elections went pretty much as expected. The DPP's Lai Ching-te won the presidency and the Legislature is split. Because foreign policy is in the hands of the president, Lai will maintain its approach to China, which means Taiwan-China relations will remain standoffish, and relations between China and the United States will become even more important as the U.S. faces a hugely important election of its own in November 2024. Domestically, all eyes will initially be on how Ko will play his cards as head of the TPP.


One last thing to note. Lai and Ko both did about 4 points better than their parties did in the political party vote for at-large seats while the KMT was actually about 1 point better in the party vote, which ended DPP 36.17 percent, KMT 34.58 percent, and 22.06 percent for the TPP. Shows that Hou simply didn't connect with the voters relative to his party's strength compared to his two opponents.


We'll end the live blog now. We'd like to thank all of those who have checked in to follow the results, and please continue to check out our website tonight and in the coming days for more analysis of today's elections.

▶ Click here to read new developments following the polling day.

▶ Taiwan's 2024 presidential, legislative elections: Results

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

Live streaming of Central Election Commission's vote count for 2024 presidential election


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