Lessons of Defeat and Success: Taiwan’s 2012 Elections in Comparative Perspective

Dafydd Fell, Charles Chen


In early 2011, the Kuomintang (KMT, Guomindang) government appeared to be in danger of losing power in the upcoming presidential elections. The DPP had recovered sufficiently from its disastrous electoral performance in 2008 to pose a real challenge to Ma Ying-jeou (Ma Yingjiu) and had matched the KMT’s vote share in mid-term local elections. Ma also faced the challenge of an independent presidential candidate, James Soong (Song Chuyu), who had come a close second in 2000 and now threatened to divide the pro KMT vote. Nevertheless, the KMT was able to win reduced majorities in both the presidential and legislative elections in January 2012. This article seeks to explain how the KMT was able to hold on to power by comparing the campaign with earlier national-level elections. We are interested in identifying the degree to which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, Minjindang) learnt from its electoral setbacks in 2008 and whether the KMT employed a similar campaign strategy to the one that had been so effective in returning it to power in 2008. Our analysis relies of an examination of campaign propaganda and campaign strategies as well as participant observation and survey data from 2012 and earlier contests.

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