Taiwanese Presidential and Legislative Elections 2024: Last Chance to Cast Ballots

The highly anticipated presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan have begun, and the first results are anticipated to be published later on Saturday. Voters have already cast their ballots in both events.

This year’s presidential election features an unexpected three-way contest between three candidates: Hou Yu-ih, a former mayor of New Taipei City and a member of the more conservative Kuomintang (KMT); and Ko Wen-je, a candidate from the Taiwan People’s Party and incumbent vice president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

There are three competing visions for Taiwan’s democratic future: the DPP’s persistence in seeking greater recognition abroad as a de facto independent state, the KMT’s pledge of closer links to China in exchange for better economic relations, and the TPP’s unproven but novel approach to bridging the gap between the two camps.

There are 113 members of Taiwan’s unicameral legislature, and their composition is also up for grabs. One list is based on geographic constituency, while another is based on a party’s vote percentage. For Indigenous Taiwanese, there are six seats set aside.

Whilst the DPP narrowly won a parliamentary majority in the previous election, they face stiff opposition from the KMT and TPP in numerous local contests, making a repeat performance highly unlikely.

Based on data from public transport, it is anticipated that a large number of eligible voters, totaling around 19.5 million, will cast their ballots.

The island-wide rail service can get quite busy in the lead-up to elections because Taiwanese are required to vote in person at the place of their household registration, which is usually their hometown.

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Predictions made by the Taiwan Railway Administration on Friday indicated record-breaking ticket sales of 758,000, surpassing all prior elections.

According to Brian Hioe, a prominent observer on Taiwanese politics and creator of New Bloom Magazine, it was a surprising turn of events after a rather dull campaign season centred around domestic issues.

“Rarely before there was an unexpected upturn, train ticket sales weren’t performing very well,” he explained. “It exemplifies the volatility of Taiwanese politics, in my opinion.”

A sense of impending national disaster is often aroused in the days leading up to the election. X candidate’s election or an unexpectedly huge turnout at a single event has people worried, according to Hioe. “That inspires a sense of urgency.”

A couple of major occurrences, according to Hioe, may have scared away some voters this week. First, despite his party’s relative inexperience, third-party candidate Ko had a tremendous turnout of 350,000 people at a rally on Friday, proving to voters that he was a serious contender.

Two, former president and KMT member Ma Ying-jeou said this week that Taiwan should have faith in Xi Jinping of China.

Although Ma has stepped down as president, he is still influential within his party and voters may be worried about his influence on KMT candidate Hou. “Hioe” remarked.

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Keeping Taiwan’s de facto independence intact is important to many Taiwanese because they are wary of Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a province.

When it comes time for elections, Beijing usually uses a mix of “carrot and stick” tactics to entice and frighten voters into supporting their preferred candidates, which is usually someone other than the DPP.

Early Saturday morning saw a flurry of activity at the polls, according to voters who spoke with Al Jazeera.

The unexpectedly long and diversified queue at 8 o’clock at the polls somewhat derailed Taipei resident Jason Wang’s plans to bring his wife and daughter to the polls early.

“It was unexpected that it wasn’t elderly individuals. According to him, there were many young couples who would spend their Friday nights going all out.

A young DPP fan in his twenties named Guava Lai recounted the night of Friday when his pals were posting in a panic about candidate Ko’s chances of winning.

The night prior, my pals were very nervous. To give some background, the vast majority of my friends would probably vote for the DPP…as well as learning on Friday that Ko Wen-je and Hou Yu-ih each have that many followers, he remarked. “It seemed like everyone was worried and trying to reassure each other on social media. It was a real vibe.”

For the last eight years, President Tsai Ing-wen has presided over Taiwan under the DPP’s leadership.

The KMT and DPP, Taiwan’s two major parties, would normally be on the verge of a power flip in an ordinary election, but Ko has changed the course of events.

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Among younger voters, who express a desire for a change from the traditional two-party system, the outspoken former Taipei mayor has found widespread support.

Among them is 25-year-old Nicky, who, on Saturday, while leaving a Taipei primary school voting station, informed Al Jazeera that she had cast her ballot for Ko. She chose not to reveal her complete name but expressed her admiration for Ko’s track record as mayor, his positive outlook, and his direct speech.

His eight years as mayor of Taipei were mentioned by her. When given a task, he is able to complete it and find a solution. I understand your desire. “My friends felt the same,” she continued.

Even though Nicky didn’t think Ko had a chance of winning, she wanted to demonstrate her support nonetheless because the majority of senior voters in Taiwan lean towards the two established parties.

I believe it’s about time for a shift,” she remarked.

The KMT and DPP, Taiwan’s two major parties, would normally be on the verge of a power flip in an ordinary election, but Ko has changed the course of events.

A Taipei-based lawyer and political commentator named Ross Feingold shared some of her worries.

He stressed that some voters care about things besides China, such as openness in government.

“Voters here want to know that the person who is going to lead them for the next four years is an honest man,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that corruption and nepotism are commonplace in Taiwanese politics, similar to other countries.

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