“The Taiwanese take great pride in casting their vote and they see it as a way to tell their government how well or not it has performed in the past term.” This is how Ms Frederique Soh characterised the recently held presidential elections in Taiwan.
Ms Soh, a SDP youth wing member, was part of the election observation delegation from the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) that was invited by Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Taiwan.
Participants from 12 different nationalities including Members of Parliament from Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines tour major cities and counties on 5-day visit. The DPP’s candidate Tsai Ing-wen lost to the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang who scraped through with 51.6 percent of the vote.
What struck Ms Soh was that the electoral commission pays out $30NT ($1.50) per vote to each of the political parties if they managed to gain at least 5% of the votes cast. This sum of money can then be used to reimburse their campaign activities.
“Compared to Singapore funding is a major problem for the opposition parties,” Ms Soh said. “The state funding has allowed the contesting parties to conduct very professional campaigns that provide the electorate a good picture of the platforms and policies of the parties. This can only be good for Taiwan.”
Because of this, Ms Soh noted, the DPP is able to mount a good campaign to rival the KMT despite the ruling party’s rich coffers and backing by major corporations.
She added that election boundaries do not change from election to election like it does in Singapore and this helps to make the election system fairer.
“I was told that if such gerrymandering by the PAP happened in Taiwan, the people would revolt the Taiwanese people do not like to be treated like chess pieces by the ruling party for political gain,” she said.
In the end, what stood out for Ms Soh was the Taiwanese people’s passion and interest in politics. She said, “I can see Taiwan leading the way for democracy in Asia.”