Taiwan's governing Democratic Progressive Party scored a decisive upset in legislative elections, winning 87 seats, 21 more than it currently holds, and edging the once dominant Kuomintang into second place. Saturday's vote ended the opposition Kuomintang's half-century absolute hold on the lawmaking body. But intensive bargaining between parties may be necessary to form a sustainable legislative coalition in Taiwan.
The Democratic Progressive Party of President Chen Shui-bian fell short of an absolute majority in the 225-seat legislature. But the DPP's claim that it could govern more effectively with greater legislative representation was affirmed and President Chen's popular mandate has been strengthened.
The Kuomintang, or KMT, having lost the executive branch in elections last year, and now domination of the legislative branch, clearly has the status of an opposition party. Through its control of Parliament, the Kuomintang had hampered President Chen's minority government.
The DPP's gains in this legislative contest came primarily at the expense of the KMT, which lost nearly twice as many seats as the DPP gained. Several years ago, the KMT enjoyed a nearly 20-seat majority, but watched it erode through party defections.
The KMT has spun off two opposition parties, and former President Lee Teng-hui, has been stumping for yet another opposition party, the TSU, which largely consists of former KMT members. Mr. Lee's appeal to voters was that his TSU would gladly form a coalition with the DPP to hand it an absolute majority, but his TSU's 13 seats would leave the DPP short of a majority, even with the support of non-affiliated legislators. In Saturday's election, the KMT lost seats to its largest splinter party, the People's First Party, led by the former governor of Taiwan Province, James Soong. Mr. Soong left the KMT to run in last year's presidential election as an independent, after being denied the KMT nomination.
The KMT remains a significant political force, not only for its second place finish in the legislative contest, but for its gains in mayoral and county races. Two of Taiwan's former foreign ministers in previous KMT administrations won convincingly.
John Chang, received the most votes of any KMT legislative candidate. And Jason Hu, who also served as Taiwan's representative in the United States, and is deputy secretary general of the KMT, scored a landslide victory in Taiwan's third largest city of Taichung, affirming his role as a rising star in KMT ranks. The DPP lost local seats to the KMT and PFP, showing that it is still vulnerable at the local administrative level.
A period of intensive inter-party bargaining is likely before Taiwan's new legislative order emerges.