Originally published by the Hong Kong Free Press on 01/04/2019.
For politicos an election never seems far off. When the polls close and the results are announced for one election, the campaigning for the next one begins.
Last month, the country’s Central Election Commission announced that Taiwan’s Presidential and Legislative Yuan elections will be held on 11 January 2020. Yet the campaigning for these races really kicked off last November after the Taiwanese public cast their votes for council and mayoral candidates.
Prior to the November results, the question of who would be elected President in 2020 was significantly less interesting than it is now. Voters gave the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who hold the executive and legislature, a drubbing well beyond the typical kicking an incumbent gets.
The DPP lost half their mayors across the island to a surprisingly resurgent Kuomintang (KMT). The prize of the night for the nationalist KMT was the maverick Han Kuo-yu’s gain in the DPP’s southern stronghold Kaohsiung.
As I explained to friends unfamiliar with Taiwanese politics, this was the equivalent of a Southern populist Republican winning the state of Massachusetts.
Ever since the green wave which brought President Tsai Ing-wen to power, and gave the DPP a majority in the Legislative Yuan for the first time in the country’s history, a quick KMT comeback was written off. November’s results changed this. Moreover, it brought into question Tsai’s re-selection as the DPP’s presidential nominee.
Enter Lai Ching-te, the former deputy of Tsai, who – last month – entered the race to become the DPP’s Presidential candidate. While a run for the presidency was widely expected of him at some point, this challenge came as a surprise to many within the party.
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