Taiwan Voters Move Away From Chen's Agenda

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

TAIPEI — Taiwan's opposition parties defeated the pro-independence coalition in the country's legislative elections. The result means President Chen Shui-bian may have trouble pursuing his agenda of distancing Taiwan from mainland China.

Election officials say the Kuomintang-led opposition coalition will end up with 114 seats in Taiwan's 225-member Legislative Yuan - one more than it had going into Saturday's vote. The coalition favors stronger ties with mainland and leaving unchanged Taiwan's political status. The pro-independence coalition led by President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party, failed again to secure control of the legislature. It captured 101 seats.

The election was seen as a referendum on the president's efforts to distance Taiwan from mainland China and move toward greater separation. Taiwan and mainland China split in 1949 after a civil war divided the country. While the People's Republic of China was established on the mainland, the Nationalists fled to Taiwan and continued to cling onto the Republic of China. While Taipei moved away from its claim of being the sole legitimate government of China in the 1990s, Beijing continues to consider the island its territory and says Taiwanese independence moves would be considered grounds for war.

President Chen may find it difficult to push forward his key platform issues. They include legislative approval of an $18 billion arms purchase from the United States; renaming state enterprises and foreign offices that bear the name "China" or "Chinese" to bear the name "Taiwan," and a referendum on a new constitution.

Hsiao Bi-Khim, a member of the president's Democratic Progressive's Party, says those issues are important for his country. "These issues, they're actually reflecting the popular sentiment here and are a pragmatic step forward," said Hsiao Bi-Khim. "It's a process of natural evolution here in Taiwan."

Beijing says the proposals could provoke Chinese intervention but Ms. Hsiao says the president will not push Taiwan toward formal independence. "President Chen has laid out what we will not touch upon, and mainly issues related to sovereignty, independence and national name change, these issues will not be dealt with in the constitutional reform process," she said.

Washington "does not support" independence for Taiwan. Neither does it categorically oppose it. It does oppose any unilateral changes in the present situation. Saturday, it appeared that by leaving control of the legislature in the hands of the president's opposition, Taiwan's voters did just that.


  1. Benjamin Sand. "Taiwan Voters Move Away From Chen's Agenda" — Voice of America, December 11, 2004