A victory for diversity

I’m really too exhausted to write anything in depth about the election results. So instead of a full recap, let me just touch on diversity and pluralism. Taiwan has set new highs in both the proportion of women and indigenous legislators.

By my count, 43 of the 113 legislators will be women. That makes 38.1%. Around the world, the top three countries for percentage of women in the national parliament are Rwanda, Bolivia, and Cuba. Um, how do I say this politely? Those are not exactly the countries we want to emulate. Let’s restrict the comparison to only countries that are rated as “free” in the latest Freedom House report. Of these, Taiwan now places 10th in the world in the proportion of women in its national legislature. Moreover, of the top 20 countries, only Norway, Germany, and now Taiwan also have a female head of government. This places Taiwan as a world leader for gender equality in the political realm. Moreover, it is notable that Tsai is not from a political family. Unlike almost all other Asian female leaders, Tsai did not inherit her power. In fact, Tsai is not unique among female politicians in Taiwan. Former VP Annette Lu, Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, and vice-speaker and erstwhile KMT presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu also rose to very powerful positions in the political structure, and none of them came from a political family.

 

Rank Country % Female Female Head of Government
1 Sweden 43.6
2 Senegal 42.7
3 South Africa 42.0
4 Finland 41.5
5 Iceland 41.3
6 Spain 41.1
7 Norway 39.6 Yes
8 Andorra 39.3
8 Belgium 39.3
10 Taiwan (post-election) 38.1 Yes
11 Denmark 37.4
12 Netherland 37.3
13 Slovenia 36.7
14 Germany 36.5 Yes
15 Serbia 34.0
16 Costa Rica 33.3
16 Grenada 33.3
18 El Salvador 32.1
19 Switzerland 32.0
20 New Zealand 31.4
.
United Kingdom 29.4
Canada 25.8
United States 19.4
Korea 16.3 Yes
Japan 9.5

 

This has been a gradual process. Women have slowly built their share of seats over the past 25 years. This gives me confidence that women are winning real power and that those gains are sustainable.

 

district list all women total seats % women
1992 12 5 17 161 10.6%
1995 19 4 23 164 14.0%
1998 35 8 43 225 19.1%
2001 39 11 50 225 22.2%
2004 32 15 47 225 20.9%
2008 17 17 34 113 30.1%
2012 20 18 38 113 33.6%
2016 25 18 43 113 38.1%

 

This year is also a milestone for indigenous representation. In addition to the six legislators elected from indigenous districts, two others were elected on the DPP and NPP party lists. Eight indigenous legislators is not a record in the absolute sense, but does mark a new high in the percentage of seats held by indigenous legislators.

district list all indigenous total seats % indigenous
1992 6 0 6 161 3.7%
1995 6 1 7 164 4.3%
1998 8 1 9 225 4.0%
2001 8 2 10 225 4.4%
2004 8 1 9 225 4.0%
2008 6 1 7 113 6.2%
2012 6 0 6 113 5.3%
2016 6 2 8 113 7.1%

 

In most countries, if there are seats reserved for indigenous people, the goal is to allow them to be represented in numbers proportional to their share of the overall population. In other words, the goal is to prevent them from being underrepresented. Taiwan has made a different choice. In Taiwan, voters with indigenous status make up about 1.5% of the population, but they now hold over7% of the seats in the national legislature. Taiwan has chosen to significantly over-represent indigenous people.

This effort to give voice to women and minorities speaks to the pride that Taiwanese have in their diverse and pluralistic society.

 

 

On a related note, the DPP has set a party record for performance in indigenous districts, and by quite a margin.

DPP valid vote share seats won
1992 3769 113164 3.3% 0
1995 3555 130769 2.7% 0
1998 9676 136387 7.1% 0
2001 10048 155888 6.4% 0
2004 14149 144827 9.8% 1
2008 10130 149880 6.8% 0
2012 9968 214843 4.6% 0
2016 33710 207572 16.2% 1

Since we’re talking about DPP records, they set a new high for presidential elections in all of the 22 cities and counties. In fact, they beat their previous high for any type of election (presidential, mayoral, legislative) in 11 of the 22 cities and counties.

prez % Any race % 2016
Taipei 2004 43.5 1998 mayor 45.9 52.0 **
New Taipei 2004 46.9 2001 mayor 51.3 54.8 **
Taoyuan 2004 44.7 1997 mayor 56.2 51.0 *
Taichung 2004 50.0 2014 mayor 57.1 55.0 *
Tainan 2004 62.0 2014 mayor 72.9 67.5 *
Kaohsiung 2004 56.9 2014 mayor 68.1 63.4 *
Yilan 2004 57.7 2014 mayor 64.0 62.1 *
Hsinchu County 2004 35.9 1989 mayor 51.1 42.5 **
Miaoli 2004 39.3 2004 prez 39.3 45.5 **
Changhua 2004 52.3 2014 mayor 53.7 56.5 **
Nantou 2004 48.8 1995 LY 50.7 52.2 **
Yunlin 2004 60.3 2009 mayor 65.4 63.4 *
Chiayi County 2004 62.8 2014 mayor 63.1 65.4 **
Pingtung 2004 58.1 2014 mayor 62.9 63.5 **
Taitung 2004 34.5 2009 mayor 47.4 36.9 *
Hualien 2004 29.8 1997 mayor 43.2 38.4 *
Penghu 2004 49.5 2014 mayor 55.3 50.8 *
Keelung 2004 40.6 2014 mayor 53.2 48.2 *
Hsinchu City 2004 44.9 1997 mayor 56.1 51.2 *
Chiayi City 2004 56.1 2004 prez 56.1 59.9 **
Kinmen 2012 8.2 2012 prez 8.2 18.0 **
Matsu 2012 8.0 2012 prez 8.0 16.5 **

*DPP record high for presidential races; ** DPP record high for any election

 

I’ll dig more into the results over the next few days. For now, let me just say that this was a tremendous electoral victory for the DPP and a devastating defeat for the KMT.

 

 

 

 

16 Responses to “A victory for diversity”

  1. anon9999 Says:

    It is worth noting that, unlike the European cases with List-PR systems, many Taiwanese women have won in SMP’s, especially with the current electoral system. It would be helpful to indicate the breakdowns by the tiers, though, to illustrate that dimension more clearly.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      Nice to hear from you again! I’ve been wondering about you.

      I had it broken down by tier in my original table. However, wordpress doesn’t like wide tables, so I cut out those columns. Women won 25 of the 79 (31.6%) district seats (including 23 of 73 (31.5%) SMP seats). If you just consider nominal tiers or SMD systems, that puts Taiwan in extremely select company, and way above the USA, Canada, Korea, Japan, etc. I’d have to go and do some more investigation, but it looks like Germany and UK might be roughly as good as Taiwan at electing women in SSDs.

  2. csempere109 Says:

    Was it more about low pan-blue turnout than shifting loyalties? It looks like a bad night for the KMT but not necessarily anything permanent.

  3. Shelley Rigger Says:

    Thanks so much for choosing to devote your first post-election post to this theme. I hope lots of people read it and are moved to reflect on what it says about Taiwan.

  4. Daiwanlang Says:

    Love to get your take on the Tzuyu flag apology fiasco and if it really affected voter turnout or even turned a few legislature seats.

  5. Irwin Says:

    One thing that really jumped out when you scan the election results – KMT only won a handful of districts with a majority (50% + 1 vote). Most of the KMT districts are in fact right around 45% with a few near 40%

    Is this a sign of blue camp splitting or something structural? One would think DPP or NPP will try to flip some of them next time with better candidates.

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