Quick reactions

Almost all the votes are counted, but I haven’t really started digging into things yet. These are very, very immediate reactions, so they are probably deeply flawed.


When Tsai and the DPP swept into office four years ago, I assumed that their tidal wave was a unique event. Everything had lined up just right, and they would never be able to match those conditions. Just as Ma couldn’t quite match the 2008 wave in 2012, even if Tsai were to win re-election, her vote would inevitably be lower.

Well, she increased her vote share. In perspective, that seems an enormous surprise. Moreover, she increased her vote total by over a million votes. Four years ago, turnout was low (67%), and many KMT figures groused that the KMT had simply failed to turn out all its supporters. That reasoning won’t work this time. Turnout was much higher. Not everything is final, but it is at least 74.1% plus a bit more for invalid votes. Probably the final figure will be about 74.5%. That is the highest turnout we have had in years. (I can’t check because the CEC elections database of historical results is down, but I think this might be the highest since 2004.)

This is a humiliating result for Han Kuo-yu. He ended up being a drag on the KMT, not an asset.

I can’t be sure yet, but it looks as if Han Kuo-yu ran quite a bit behind most KMT legislative candidates, while Tsai Ing-wen ran considerably ahead of most DPP candidates. In other words, Han was dragging his side down, while Tsai was dragging some to victory. I think the KMT district candidates might have gotten more votes than four years ago. Legislative victory margins for the DPP seemed quite a bit smaller this time throughout the south. Tsai’s margins over Han, in contrast, looked about the same in the south (but a bit larger in the north).



There were several surprising legislative results. Since I specifically wrote that Lai Pin-yu (New Taipei 12) had torpedoed her chances of victory by wearing a cosplay costume in a previous post, let me take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge that I don’t know anything about anything. Hsu Shu-hua (Nantou 2) also dressed up in a costume on election eve, and she also won. I guess now cosplay is a good electoral strategy?!?

Everyone is paying attention to races like Taipei 3 (The Wayne and Enoch Show) and Taichung 2 (Chen Po-wei!). Some results you might have paid less attention to include the DPP winning a mountain indigenous seat, a historical breakthrough for them. Bi-khim Hsiao lost her race in Hualien, which I expected. The significance of this is that she is now free to assume an important spot in the central government (Foreign Minister?) and take a prominent place in President Tsai’s “squad.” I told several people to keep their eyes on Changhua 3, since that was the most likely place (conservative, rural central coast) for a backlash against the same-sex marriage. The KMT did indeed win that race, though there were certainly unique local factors that might have also contributed. I did not expect the DPP to lose New Taipei 1, but the biggest shock was in Taichung 5. A few months ago, I watched the DPP candidate’s event for opening his campaign on YouTube. It looked like amateur hour and a sure loser.

Wayne Chiang’s Taipei mayoral campaign starts tomorrow. Newly elected DPP legislator Kao Chia-yu might think about taking a run at it too.


According to my unofficial count, 46 of the 113 legislators are women. For you those of you who don’t have a calculator app on your phone, that’s 40.7%. [edit: The CEC says it is 47 women (41.6%). I can’t count.] The standard source for women in parliaments doesn’t include Taiwan because … you can guess why. But if it did, Taiwan would slot in at number 15 worldwide. Of course, I’m inclined to ignore a few countries on this list, since Rwanda and Cuba aren’t exactly liberal democracies. I’d prefer to point out that Taiwan is basically at Finland’s level, with over 40% female legislators and a female chief executive. Finland is great!! (This comparison is dedicated to Bruce Jacobs.)


Finally, I’d like to point out that, in spite of everyone insisting that the polls must be wrong because they FELT wrong, the polls were basically right. In my final weighted average, Han trailed by 27%. However, Soong was polling at 7% and only got 4%, so strategic voting shifted about 3% from Soong to Han, which isn’t shocking. And those of us who insisted that we shouldn’t throw out all the polls just because Han asked us to estimated that the effect of Han’s attack on polls could be accounted for by subtracting 3% from Tsai and adding it to Han. That gets you to – viola!!! – an 18% gap. That might be too convenient, but the larger point was that the polls were in the right neighborhood. The race certainly hadn’t closed to within 5%, as some people decided in their alternate realities. For everyone who insisted on looking at the underground betting odds, and breathlessly reported that you had heard about a local bookie setting the odds at Han -500,000 votes, I hope you bet on Tsai. She covered all the spreads that supposedly existed. I wonder if all those people who were spouting off about the wisdom of underground bookies will be talking about why the odds were so wrong on tomorrow’s talk shows.


As you can probably tell, I’m a bit loopy from exhaustion, so I had best stop here. If your side won, go and celebrate a bit. If your side lost, feel free to curse a bit. Either way, isn’t it wonderful that this election was held peacefully and smoothly, that the losers displayed a commitment to democracy by graciously conceding, and that there are no election disputes this year. Democracy is more about the process than about the outcome, and today the process was flawless.

9 Responses to “Quick reactions”

  1. Ching-Chih Lu Says:

    The turnouts of Taiwan’s Presidential election were
    1996: 76.04%
    2000: 82.69%
    2004: 80.28%
    2008: 76.33%
    2012: 74.38%
    2016: 66.27%

    I guess the downward trend stems from the low turnout of the younger generation.

  2. cassambito Says:

    I’d like to quote some wise words that, a few years ago, made my pain almost bearable. It stuck with me ever since:

    “One of my favorite definitions of democracy is that democracy is a system in which political parties lose elections.

    Congratulations. Today the responsibility and honor of shouldering the burden of losing and of making Taiwan a democracy falls to you.

    It is easy to be a democrat when you win. Everyone likes to win. But democracy is not a system that allows you to win every time. It only gives you an opportunity to try to win each time. Sometimes you will lose. When that happens, you have to accept the loss.”

    Source: https://frozengarlic.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/a-message-to-the-losing-side/

  3. Tommyday Says:

    I am happy for Tsai and the DPP. I respect her for standing firm against PRC bullying and threats. She is a brave woman. I think she is a exception, not the rule, with regard to women in politics. I believe there should be fewer, not more, women in government. Your emphasis on this phenomenon in the article us a bit off-putting to me. You seem to think this is “progress” or something. It seems to me to be an indication that men in Taiwan (and in other liberal democracies) are abdicating their responsibility to lead. A sad state of affairs in any country.

  4. Salamander Says:

    A few years ago, a commentator noted that one of the KMT’s biggest assets was the popular perception that it was and always would be the dominant party in Taiwan. Back-to-back landslide defeats in 2016 and 2020 have now perhaps decisively shattered that image once and for all, and the Greens are now perceived as the broad majority. I know it’s trite by this point to exclaim “Is the KMT doomed?” (we had articles about that years ago,) but it really does look now that the KMT may be consigned to permanent minority status.

    A few more thoughts:

    In five out of seven presidential elections thus far, the anti-China candidate won. Lee Teng-Hui, despite being KMT, was the anti-China candidate, and he won in 1996. Chen Shui-Bian won in 2000 and 2004. Tsai won in 2016 and 2020. The sole exception to the trend is the two Ma Ying-Jeou wins.

    Tsai is the only president to win both elections by huge margins. Chen’s two victories were both narrow squeakers. Ma won big his first time, but only narrowly the second.

    It’s disappointing that in an election as intense as this one, turnout still failed to crack 75%. I was hoping for ten percentage points higher than that.

  5. j shey Says:

    Lai Pin-yu Win is attributed to William Lai’s efforts.

    Underground gambling less influence this time due to huge crackdown (US led) effort which the government usually turns a blind eye.

    Han got the retired military, teachers votes this time, boosting his count over previous KMT candidate Chu. KMT legislature also benefitted.


  6. John Says:

    I hope that (after your well-deserved break of course) you’ll write a post about Tsai’s “ROC Taiwan” discourse, which again featured prominently in her victory press conference. Your post about the DPP rally in Keelung drew my attention to it and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

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