In a recent announcement, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has announced that she will be stepping down as the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The resignation follows the recent defeat of the DPP in the Local Elections on Saturday, which saw the victory instead of the Kuomintang (KMT) party in two of the major mayoral posts. These were the cities of Kaohsiung and Taichung, both of which place the number of cities that the DPP controls at 6, while the KMT holds influence in 15 out of a total of 22, putting the party’s prospects of being re-elected in the 2020 election into jeopardy.
The recent turn of fortune for the party has not gone unnoticed by Al-Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, who believes the DPP’s push to turn away from Beijing played a role in their defeat. In an interview, he stated that “What really upsets them (Beijing) is her refusal to back the ‘One China policy.'” However, not everyone has agreed with the assessment that it was related to the decision to oppose the policy that led to the shift of power. Monash Universities Emeritus Professor J. Bruce Jacobs had an alternate theory on the swing towards the KMT, believing that it was simply “young people and older people voting to improve the economy,” Jacobs stated in Al Jazeera.
The recent developments indicate that there is significant dissatisfaction with how the DPP has been running Taiwan. The swing towards the Kuomintang party may likely be attributed to Taiwan’s economic disparity between itself and its neighbours that were reported earlier this year. There has been a notable slowdown in the economic sectors for this quarter, with predicted product per capita for this year said to be around US$ 25,997, which is 26% less than South Korea’s forecast of US$32,775. This is exacerbated by the wage earnings within the country, in work industries outside of electronic component manufacturing, which is an issue that has been plaguing Taiwan for years.
The KMT differs from the DPP in one area of policy — an area that can be identified as much of the present economic woes that are afflicting the nation — and that is its turbulent relationship with mainland China. The DPP has been firmly against the One China Policy, which would place Taiwan as being under the same territory as mainland Taiwan. This disagreement on whether Taiwan should remain as part of China has led to threats from Beijing, which in turn has resulted in Taiwan seeking to increase its current military arsenal and plan for future retaliation from their neighbours.
The current sway of political sentiment within Taiwan is primarily in response to the current economic conditions, which has led to many viewing the opposition as a preferable alternative in order to stabilize the current economic climate. With the pension cuts, labour reforms and the tensions with mainland China, it is only natural for uncertainty and dissatisfaction with current leadership to surface in the time of the local election. Due to stepping down as party leader and the current holdings of the KMT party, it appears unlikely that the DPP will emerge triumphant in the later election. However, for the time being, President Tsai Ing-wen is still the leader of Taiwan. Even if she has chosen to leave the DPP behind her, this will have no bearing on the daily operations of government.
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