- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 14, 2005

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s ruling party won an election yesterday for a special assembly charged with amending the constitution, in a boost for President Chen Shui-bian’s policy of resisting unification with mainland China.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had won 42.5 percent of the vote, against 38.9 percent for the opposition Nationalist Party.

The result appeared to be vindication at home for Mr. Chen’s independence-leaning policies, after recent visits to the mainland by two opposition leaders put him on the defensive and transformed yesterday’s National Assembly election into a test of strength for his ruling party.

China gave a lavish welcome to the two opposition leaders — Lien Chan of the Nationalist Party and James Soong of the People First Party — who favor eventual reunification with the mainland and have criticized Mr. Chen’s efforts to strengthen Taiwan’s status as a self-governing entity.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a protracted civil war, and Beijing has threatened to take the island by force if it moves toward formal independence.

In the election, voters chose a party list of delegates to consider a package of constitutional reforms — reducing the legislature from its current 225 members to 113, extending lawmakers’ terms from three years to four years, amending the electoral system to reduce the number of lawmakers per constituency, and enshrining public referendums as the only means for approving future constitutional changes.

Mr. Chen’s supporters had urged followers to vote in large numbers, saying that a vote against the DPP was a vote for eventual unification with China.

Vice President Annette Lu of the DPP congratulated the party for its victory, and took a backhanded swipe at China for what she said were its failed efforts to influence the results.

“I would like to thank the Chinese Communist Party, because each time there is pressure from China, the people show that democracy is what people embrace here in Taiwan,” she said.

“One billion, three hundred million Chinese friends on the mainland and [Chinese] President Hu Jintao, you have heard the voice of Taiwan’s people — Taiwan belongs to its 23 million people,” she said.

Both the DPP and the Nationalists support the changes the special assembly is tasked with doing.

Mr. Lien, the Nationalist leader, said the election result didn’t accurately reflect public opinion because so few voters cast ballots.

Turnout was just 23.3 percent, compared with a norm of about 60 percent for national elections, as participants in the north had to contend with torrential downpours and a measure of election fatigue stemming from legislative and presidential balloting last year.

The People First Party garnered only 6.1 percent of the vote, coming in fourth behind the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), a pro-independence party, whose spiritual godfather is former President Lee Teng-hui. The TSU won 7 percent of the vote.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide