The Election in Taiwan: What happened? Why? and What does it matter?
Expert panel, Tuesday, March 23, at noon in the Sequoia Room, Faculty Center
Published: Monday, March 22, 2004
Just about every aspect of this election has been sensational and controversial.
A roundtable forum sponsored by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies on the hotly contested and still challenged March 20 presidential election in Taiwan. Participants will be:
- RICHARD BAUM (Director, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, and Professor of Political Science)
- STANLEY ROSEN (Professor of Political Science, USC)
- JAMES TONG (Professor of Political Science, UCLA)
On March 20 Taiwan held a presidential election and a referendum. The election would have made world news in any event because of Taiwan’s pivotal position in the security equation in Asia. China was enraged by the referendum, which it saw as a further step in the direction of independence for Taiwan, and both President Bush and French President Chirac (as well as other world leaders) had spoken against the referendum.
Within Taiwan, the campaign leading up to the election was extremely energetic . . . and heated. Then, one day before the election, the incumbent Chen Shui-bian, of the Democratic Progressive Party, and his running mate (and incumbent Vice President) Anette Lu, were shot. The assassination attempt failed: Chen and Lu suffered superficial wounds.
Despite the shooting, the voting was held according to schedule. The result of the presidential election was razor thin: Chen Shui-bian was reelected by a margin of around 30,000 votes, out of over 13 million cast. However, the two referenda, sponsored by Chen, were defeated, to the delight of the communist government in Beijing, and of Chen’s opponent, Lien Chan, of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), who had urged voters to boyott the referendum portion of the ballot.
The election has created explosive controversy in Taiwan and beyond. Official spokespersons of the opposition Kuomintang have declared the shootings “suspicious,” and Sissy Chen (no relation to the president), popular talk-show host and Kuomintang legislator, has declared that they were staged by Chen to assure his relection. Just before the election -- and the shooting -- some polls showed the challenger, Lien Chan, slightly ahead of Chen Shui-bian. Other polls, however, showed Chen in the lead.
As of the moment (Monday, March 22 at noon), it is unclear who shot President Chen and Vice President Lu. No suspects have been identified.
In any case, Lien Chan and his running mate, James Song, have declared the election “unfair,” and have demanded a recount. Ballot boxes have been sealed, and Taiwan’s high court has apparently agreed, although it is not yet clear when or exactly how ballots will be recounted.
Professors Baum and Rosen were in Taiwan for the election. They travelled to Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, the hotbed of support for Chen Shui-bian, and then went to Taipei, the center of support for Lien Chan, for election day. Professor Rosen was in Tainan (the scene of the shooting) when President Chen and Vice President Lu were shot. Professors Baum and Rosen also monitored Taiwan’s first exit poll, conducted by U.S. poll takers and TaiwaneseTVBS-TV. As it turns out, TVBS-TV did not release the results of the exit poll. Why? That too is part of the controversy swirling around this election. In a private communication, a TVBS-TV producer has said that the exit poll showed that Lien Chan had won, 53% to 47%.
Just about every aspect of this election has been sensational and controversial. Many commentators are asking: Can democracy in Taiwan survive? In the roundtable professors Baum and Rosen will be joined by Professor James Tong. All three are noted experts on contemporary China and Taiwan. They will seek to shine some light on the election, to uncover the reasons for the emotionalism that surrounds politics in Taiwan, and to circumvent the sensationalism by elucidating the fundamental issues involved.
Please join us for this important panel discussion:
Noon, Tuesday March 23, 2004
Sequoia Room, Faculty Center, UCLA
The Asia Institute has a special section on their website about the election.
The Taiwanese government has set up a remarkably thorough website on the election: www.gio.gov.tw/elect2004/