Report on the National Election in Taiwan

Read the full report on the national election in Taiwan on January 14. 2014 here.  The report is written by eighteen (18) observers from seven countries who were invited by the International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan (ICFET) to form an International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) for the January 2012 Presidential and Legislative elections in Taiwan.

TO: International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan
FROM: The International Election Observation Mission (IEOM)
BY:  Woodrow W. Clark, MA3, PhD, Lead Author and Senator Frank Murkowski, Chair and All Members of the IEOM.
Completed on June 8. 2012.
All the listed IEOM members participated in this Report but special recognition is given to Bruce Jacobs PhD, Michael Danielsen PhD, Michael Stainton and Gerrit van der Wees PhD for their contributions and help.


Taiwan is an island nation of 23.2 million people (November 2011) in an area of 35,980 sq. km. The nation has 18.1 million eligible voters, all citizens who are 20 or more years of age.
The winner of the January 14, 2012 Presidential Election, with 51.6 per cent of the vote, was Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, the incumbent and the nominee of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT). Ms. Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) followed with 45.6 per cent and the nominee of the small People First Party (PFP), Mr. James Soong received about 2.8 per cent of the vote (Central Election Commission, Reference & Election Chart, Table 2).
At the same time, voters also elected the 113 members of the national parliament, the Legislative Yuan. The KMT won 64 seats, while the DPP won 40 seats and the PFP, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), and non-partisan independent candidates each won three seats. Compared with the 2008 legislative election, the KMT won 17 fewer seats, the DPP gained 13 additional seats, the PFP won two additional seats and the TSU, with its three seats, returned to the legislature after a four-year absence.

Political Background

Taiwan experienced a long political struggle during the authoritarian era. Democracy in Taiwan only began after the death of President Chiang Ching-kuo in January 1988 and the accession of Lee Teng-hui to the presidency. The political system is not divided between “left” and “right,” though the DPP does place somewhat more emphasis on “social justice.” Instead, “the primary political cleavage between the political parties has been and remains the issue of national identity, often referred to as the ‘unification-independence’ issue” (Taiwan Elections Handbook, 2011: p.13), or between the “pan-blue” alliance (Kuomintang and associated parties) and the “pan-green” alliance (DPP and aligned parties).
Mr. Ma’s percentage of the vote fell from the 58 per cent he gained four years earlier and, as indicated earlier, the new KMT majority in the legislature was much less than the huge victory, which it won in 2008 (Cole, March 9, 2012).

The International Election Observation Mission (IEOM)

Eighteen (18) observers from seven countries were invited by the International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan (ICFET) to form an International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) for the January 2012 Presidential and Legislative elections in Taiwan.  See the list of members of the IEOM below in Table 1.
The group consisted of observers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United States, ranging in experiences from academia, elected representatives, religious groups, businesses, and civil society. As observers, the IEOM members tried to be strictly neutral in all their activities, data gathering, and conclusions.
Most members of the IEOM were in Taiwan from January 10-15, 2012. Members visited locations in Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Taichung. As a group, they met with campaign organizers, staff, and candidates from the three political parties running presidential tickets: the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and the People First Party (PFP). Then, on the day before the election (January 13, 2012) and during Election Day (January 14, 2012), the IEOM split into smaller groups of 2-4 members who observed political rallies, street campaigns, and polling stations, as well as the Central Election Commission counting center on Election Day.
This report consists of direct IEOM observations by its members as well as other sources, including the Taiwan and international press as well as post-election news sources in Chinese and English.
Other observer groups were also present in Taiwan. One other neutral observation group, the Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL), headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, deserves special mention. ANFREL produced an Observers Report (entitled “Credible Elections but a Tilted Playing Field”) after the Election that corresponds with many IEOM observations as well as our Press Release and this Report. The ANFREL report will be cited herein.

The National Election: democracy and identity politics

Over the past twenty years, many surveys have been conducted on the identity of Taiwan’s citizens. Overall, the numbers who consider themselves solely Taiwanese have increased from 17.3 per cent in 1992 to 54.2 per cent in June 2011. At the same time, the numbers who consider themselves solely Chinese have declined from 25.5 per cent in 1992 to only 4.1 per cent in June 2011. This development has continued since Ma become president in 2008 (See Figure 1, ESC, n.d.) Furthermore, a recent survey shows that 74 per cent prefer independence, if given a free choice, and more than 81.7 per cent refused to accept the “One country, Two systems” proposal from China (Danielsen, 2012, pp. 141-142).
Taiwan has much more income equality than most countries today, and according to some commentators is one of the most “equal societies” in East Asia. However, inequality has been rising in recent years, so that about 20 per cent of the Taiwan population earns over six times that of the bottom 20 per cent of the population. While the unemployment level remains low by international comparison, it too has been rising, affecting mainly lower and working-class people.
The national elections on January 14, 2012 were the fifth direct presidential and the seventh direct parliamentary election. Many have called Taiwan’s elections “a beacon of democratic practices in Asia” (Baum and van der Wees, 2012). Thus, many other nations in Asia and around the world were watching the Taiwan election process and its outcome very carefully. Taiwan has indeed become more “democratic” over the last twenty-four years, due to its allowing the existence and activities of opposition political parties and the rapid growth of human rights on the island. Nonetheless, these national elections were not perfect. This is why the IEOM, in its post-election Press Release, labeled them “mostly free but partly unfair” (ICFET, Taiwan Elections, 2012).
Taiwan is surely not alone among countries across the globe in which movements dealing with social and environmental concerns have been followed up by developments focusing on the establishing and functioning of a genuinely democratic system. “People power movements” have also occurred in Eastern Europe and Latin America, and most recently in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Taiwan is also not alone among nations concerned with democracy today. Many western nations face similar problems. Thus, David Kilgour, a member of the IEOM, spoke about election issues in Ontario, Canada in 2005 to the House of Commons Study Group. He noted then that Canada had some similar issues with vote-getting (that is, the process whereby candidates seek votes by offering various forms of financial gains).
Canada’s current “robocall” scandal of voters being directed to non-existent polling station, and revelation of large numbers of non-citizens voting show that serious problems still occur in Canadian elections. But the key principle in Kilgour’s Report (2005) was for elected officials to “face each case ‘without fear or favour’”. This is a principle that becomes an “important goal and valuable service standard … particularly at election time” (ibid. p.1). Canada is not alone. Other western nations, including the USA, France, and the UK, face similar kinds of issues and problems with elections.
Hence the concern for free and open democratic elections is not restricted to nations which have recently become democratic (Economist, 2012, pp.47-48). They are also prominent in western developed democratic nations in the West, like the USA, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK.

Conditions for Free Elections

In the following section, we follow the universal conditions for democratic elections, as set forth by Wolf (1984), which can be applied to evaluate the national elections in Taiwan in January 2012. These conditions are based upon election observations in Nicaragua during which Wolf identified nine “Conditions” that can be applied anywhere in the world (ibid., Preface).Wolf’s nine Conditions are:
1)    Honest watching of each polling station
2)    Total secrecy in casting the vote
3)    Voting: Dates, Residency, Inspection, and Counting
4)    Absence of a climate of coercion and fear
5)    Pre-election freedom of party organization and activity
6)    Institutional freedom of intermediate organizations
7)    Freedom of speech, campaigning, and assembly
8)    Freedom of access to the media
9)    Media financing of cable, TV, social and electronic, journals, newspapers, and others
The IEOM proposes two additional Conditions both for Taiwan and for other nations:
No.10: Elections not determined or influenced by international pressure or informal relationships.
No.11: All Candidates should have equal access to funding for elections.
Overall, the IEOM considers the 2012 Taiwan National Election to have been acceptable for Conditions 1, 2, 4, and 6. However, Conditions 3, 5, and 7 through11 raise issues that should be addressed and corrected in future elections to improve the functioning of democracy in Taiwan.

Condition No. 3:  Voting Date, Residency, Inspecting and Counting

Choice of Voting Date

The date for the election became an issue when the decision was made to combine the legislative election (previously usually in early December) and the Presidential election (always in March). With the combined election, a date had to be chosen before the beginning of the next parliamentary term on February 1, 2012. The Central Election Commission (CEC) chose January14, a week before the Lunar New Year. While generally all parties accepted this date as it had some advantages and disadvantages for all, there were still some controversies about the date.
Taiwan has not yet instituted any form of absentee voting. Thus all voters must travel to the place of their household registration, which is often different from their actual place of residence, from which they work or study. Some DPP candidates argued that the date had two advantages for the KMT. First, the date made it more convenient for Taiwan businessmen in China to return to vote as businessmen could combine voting with taking a family holiday on the Lunar New Year.
Second, most universities had final exams at the end of the semester up until the Friday before the elections (January 13). Students generally have their household registration in their home town or village, and many students from the south who studied in the north were unable to return home to vote, especially since the Lunar New Year holiday began one week later (January 21), when they would return home for the holidays anyway. Making January 14 Election Day forced students studying away from home to return two weekends in a row, with all the expenses and difficulties of packed roads, trains, and buses, in order to vote.


Election observers, in any country, may come in two forms: representatives of contesting parties or candidates, and neutral civil society observers, whether domestic or international. In Taiwan, the first type is provided through law, and all parties sent observers to the polls, which was not permitted during the previous authoritarian period. The second type, on the other hand, is not officially permitted. Activities like this IEOM have taken place without any official status.

Condition No. 5: Pre-election freedom of party organization and activity

Party organization

The Kuomintang’s long history in power has given it ample opportunity to build up local networks, which are made up of block or neighborhood (“lin”) captains, who know every household in their block. Long before the elections, the captains try to visit every household to ensure that the people understand the need to vote for the “right” candidate.

Vote buying

Vote buying in its many forms has a long history in Taiwan, and is deeply embedded in social relationships and political habits. Stainton (2000) provides a historical background and context for this issue in Taiwan. The practice is more prevalent in rural, low income, and especially aboriginal areas, which offer dense networks of personal relationships that ground clientelist political networks and provide the best conditions for vote buying. While there have been attempts to address the problem, it persists today. Yet with democratization, the efficiency of vote-buying has declined considerably as voters no longer feel a moral requirement to support the vote-buyer.
Government agencies and non-governmental organizations campaign against vote buying and there are special phone lines to report cases to the police. A 2005 constitutional amendment replaced multimember, single-vote constituencies at the national level with single-member, single-vote constituencies in part because it was believed that this would reduce the rampant vote-buying used to allocate votes among competing factional candidates from the same party. People with whom the IEOM members spoke generally felt that there was less vote-buying than in the past, and noted that the open-table banquets, considered a form of vote buying, seemed to have disappeared as well (Jacobs, 2008).
Nonetheless, vote buying appears to be a major concern in some electorates. On January 11, six DPP county magistrates issued a statement in response to the “endless stream of reports of vote buying” by the KMT, accusing authorities of not being vigorous enough in following up on documented reports (自由時報 Liberty Times, January 12, 2012, A1).
The Liberty Times 自由時報 (January 12, 2012, p.A1) also reported that the Prosecutor’s Office as of January 11 had already undertaken 401 cases of election law violations in connection with the Presidential poll, involving 562 suspected cases. Eighty-two of these cases, involving 132 suspects, were vote-buying allegations. In the Legislative poll the Prosecutors Office filed 949 cases involving 1,892 suspects, of which 735 cases were vote buying involving 1,566 suspects. Of these, 14 suspects had been detained (ibid., p.A1).
Combining the Legislative and Presidential elections made vote buying more complex and, for the first time, it brought together the vote-buying of legislative candidates with the presidential campaign. The Liberty Times (ibid., p.A1) cites the DPP county magistrates as reporting that KMT votes in Yunlin County were being bought with NT$1000 to NT$1500 while nationally the price varied from NT$500 to NT$2000. On the two offshore island constituencies (Kinmen and Matsu), where voters number only in the hundreds, a price of NT$10,000 was reported.
Most of the cases reported under investigation for buying votes involved KMT or independent candidates. In February (Taiwan News online February 18, 2012) prosecutors indicted two aboriginal KMT legislators, Kung Wen-chi 孔文吉and Chien Tung-ming 簡東明, and filed requests to have their elections declared null and void. Chien’s wife, also charged, is a member of the KMT Central Committee. Nine aides of an independent aboriginal lawmaker, Kao Chin Su-mei 高金素梅, were also indicted for buying votes, but since there was “no evidence that the candidate was aware of the practice”, she was not being prosecuted.

Vote betting

An important form of vote buying is reverse betting on the outcome of the election, a subject that came up in the IEOM meetings in Taichung on January 13. Betting on elections is a widespread, though illegal, pastime in Taiwan, so much so that the odds offered by the illegal gambling operations are among the “polls” cited in the media. In reverse betting, the candidate buying votes launders his or her money through an illegal gambling operation, which then offers voters odds that the candidate will lose. That is, the voter bets that the candidate will win and if the candidate does win the voter collects his bet at the generous odds offered by the “losing” candidate through the betting house.
The attraction of this system is that it not only launders the candidate’s vote buying, but also encourages the betting voter to mobilize friends to vote for the candidate who has funded the “betting” operation. It is also more reliable than vote buying, since the voter will only collect when the candidate has actually won. To utilize this system, a candidate must have lots of money to spend, as well as close links with the gangs who run the betting operation.

The Attitudes of the Parties towards Vote Buying

All parties and all candidates officially oppose vote buying. In this election both the DPP and the KMT had “ghost catcher” flying squads to catch vote buyers from the other side. But both parties generally deny that they are doing it themselves. In Kaohsiung on January 12, the IEOM was told by the KMT Kaohsiung deputy campaign manager, Mr. Tsang, that they “absolutely do not buy votes”, and the reports of the same are “just rumors spread by the other side”. That evening at the DPP Tainan campaign headquarters, during a discussion on vote buying, the DPP briefer, Mr. Lin, affirmed that “it is impossible – the DPP is a party that is against vote buying … if a DPP candidate tried to buy votes the people would not support them”. To his credit, when pressed on this, he conceded that there had been such cases, but that the DPP leadership is against it. But DPP candidates have also bought votes (Jacobs, 2008, pp. 308-312).
Visiting the national KMT campaign HQ in Taipei, the IEOM again asked about vote buying. They admitted it happens, and stated that they “do not encourage it from this office”. Asked what they do when it happens, they explained that if a candidate were convicted in court they would remove him from the party.

Condition No. 7: Freedom of speech, campaigning, and assembly

The IEOM found it vital to focus on the judiciary and the neutrality of the government administrative apparatus. More information is needed for the IEOM to make recommendations about the judiciary, but structural reforms to ensure impartiality of the legal system are a key concern with parties at all levels. The ANFREL and IEOM do believe that the Taiwanese governmental institutions at all levels have an opportunity to assume a larger role in the election process in terms of setting rules, standards and enforcement. While ANFREL is thankful and fortunate to have the support that it did for looking into the elements of this Condition (freedom of speech, campaigning, etc.), the IEOM believes there is still a greater, more substantial role to be played by international election observers to compensate for the weaknesses of the judiciary in dealing with electoral problems.
Freedom of speech could be a totally separate section, but we list it here because of its abuse by interested government officials. For example, newspapers reported embezzlement accusations against DPP Presidential candidate Tsai from the Minister of Economic Planning in relation to the TaiMed Biologics Company. Later these charges were found baseless. However, it is notable that the CEPD minister raised this issue at just the right time to take the momentum out of Ms. Tsai’s campaign in mid-December. In addition, she has now been appointed as Minister of Finance by the presidential candidate who benefited by her revelation.
These are major violations of the principle of administrative neutrality during elections. Hence, IEOM recommends that government offices remain administratively neutral during campaigns, as do the administrative offices in parliamentary systems that go into “caretaker mode” during elections. If this example had been applied in this case, the TaiMed publicity would have been raised when judicially appropriate rather than when politically convenient. The IEOM further notes the need to monitor this issue in future elections.
Furthermore, there was spying on Ms. Tsai done by the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau, and reports were sent to Mr. Ma’s campaign about her election schedules. This is a major violation of neutrality and needs to be monitored and watched carefully in all elections. While there are laws, they are loosely enforced and full of loopholes.

Condition No. 8: Freedom of access to media

Among the major TV stations, Formosa TV and SET TV are not aligned with the KMT or the government. All others generally closely follow the KMT line, including CTS, TTV, CTV, CTiTV, and TVBS. While most TV stations support the KMT, FTV and SET have larger audiences than all of the other news stations combined. Furthermore, in newspapers, the Liberty Times and Apple Daily have 3-4 times as much circulation as the China Times and United Daily News. In short, the mass media is both important and partisan, though both sides of politics have important media support.
Yet the media exhibits aspects of its authoritarian past by frequently failing to distinguish between news and editorial opinion. Thus, the media environment was open and free during the election campaign, but often the various media were also very partisan. Both the IEOM and ANFREL teams observed how one could detect the political affiliation of a particular media outlet almost immediately thanks to the preferential treatment of a particular party or candidates.
Such systemic imbalances have a negative impact on the development of the Fourth Estate and Taiwan’s democracy as a whole. A stable, mature democratic Taiwan needs an independent media without which its democracy will suffer and the political polarization evident in some areas will grow. IEOM members acknowledged and reported that the mass media is also partisan and biased in such Western democracies as the US, Canada, and UK

Condition No. 9: Media financing of cable, TV, social and electronic, journals, newspapers and others

Financial Resources

The financial control of the media is usually a result of a party having funds to pay for media time. In 2010, the dividend income alone from the KMT party assets (not including income from memberships and donations) was reported to be NT$2.89 billion or US$93-94 million. The KMT has stated that its assets are about ten times this amount.
DPP’s assets are about NT$300 million or US$10 million, with fixed assets in land and real estate accounting for about a third of this. It should be noted, however, that most of the land and real estate — including the party’s main office in Taipei — are held as collateral or mortgaged for bank loans. Those figures were prior to the January 14 elections, and the actual amount of money spent on the campaign is not known or verified by objective accounting sources.
As Cole (2012) reports, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) only ran in the legislative elections and is cash-strapped. The People First Party (PFP), which ran in the presidential and legislative elections, fared slightly better, because of the wealthy friends and supporters of chairman and presidential candidate James Soong.
The KMT’s assets are about 100 times those of the DPP. The basic issue is the historical sources and uses of those assets. When the IEOM questioned the DPP, party officials agreed and verified that number. However, when the IEOM went to the KMT Party and asked the Associate Director, he said that he “did not know. You should ask the Administration Budget Office next door.”
Campaign finance expenditures from all parties are of critical importance to both IEOM and ANFREL. Campaigns were clearly very expensive, a fact made evident by the number and size of signs, rallies, and mass media political ads presented before the election. Individual candidates contributed large amounts of their own personal wealth to their campaigns. However, verified data does not exist on campaign financial resources and expenditures. The KMT party clearly has funds vastly exceeding those of the other parties. Thus, for example, advertisements for the KMT dominated the media.
From even the short period observed by ANFREL and IEOM, it seemed likely that campaign spending exceeds campaign finance limits, which exist but have not been effectively implemented, verified, or enforced. A similar scenario exists in the USA, Japan and Canada, though in other nations campaign finance limits are enforced.

Condition No. 10: Elections not determined or influenced by international pressure or informal relationships

Influences from the People’s Republic of China

Virtually everyone agrees that China has a significant influence around the world in almost every area from finance to energy to climate change. In Taiwan, however, China takes on a very different meaning and context with its claim that Taiwan is part of China. Today, increasing “cross-strait” relations between Taiwan and China are producing increased Chinese influence, an influence that weighs heavily on the election process in Taiwan. China puts tremendous pressures on Taiwan’s democracy by attempting to sway Taiwan’s voters to cast their ballots in ways that favor China. A detailed analysis is presented in the article “Chinese shadow over Taiwan’s elections” by IEOM member Gerrit van der Wees (January 30, 2012)
Chinese agricultural purchases
Over the past year, China has sent a number of “agricultural purchasing missions” to southern Taiwan, buying agricultural products in large quantities. Chinese interest groups spread the message that if Tsai were to win, these missions would stop, leading a significant number of traditional DPP supporters in the South to either stay home or even vote for the KMT, as reported in the Taipei Times.
Reduction of Chinese tourism
During the weeks before the election, the Chinese government significantly reduced the number of tourist groups that were allowed to go to Taiwan. Reportedly this had a twofold purpose: a) to reduce exposure of the groups to Taiwan’s free-wheeling, democratic elections and b) to signal to the tour operators and hotels in Taiwan that if Tsai should win, they could easily turn off the tourist spigot, drying up income for the tourist industry that has come to rely on Chinese tourists (Taiwan Times).
Chinese Political Support
Long before the elections, purportedly in order to increase trade, tourism, and cultural exchange between the China and Taiwan, political leaders in China made it very clear that they supported the KMT and its leader, President Ma. Actual Chinese interference in the campaign, however, took many different forms. According to news media, flights from China to Taiwan were discounted by up to 50 per cent for Taiwanese living in China. It is commonly believed that a majority of Taiwanese living in China are KMT voters. A couple of examples:
a) Taiwanese businessmen returning from China. Owners of these businesses came back with the same message: A victory for Tsai would mean “instability” and thus be bad for business. This may have led to a lower vote for the DPP in the South, the DPP’s traditional stronghold. Other sources reported, however, that normal workers (not the rich or big bosses) coming back from China were voting in similar proportions to those living in Taiwan.
b) Influencing Taiwanese workers working for Taiwanese companies in China.
A Taiwanese friend of an IEOM member who had known him for some 40 years, told the IEOM member that a relative of his worked for a Taiwanese company in China. The relative was told by his bosses that he could return to Taiwan, but instructed to make a picture with his cell phone of his ballot when he voted. He was instructed to bring back the picture. If he had voted for the “right candidate,” he would get his travel reimbursed and an extra week of holiday. This practice, if true, would violate Principle 2, ballot secrecy, and possibly Principle 4, freedom from coercion.

Influences by the United States of America

Through a number of statements, the United States administration professed neutrality. At a hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on October 4, 2011, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell stated: “We do not believe any one party or leader on Taiwan has a monopoly on effective management of the relationship, and we do not take sides in the elections. We will work closely with whatever leadership emerges from Taiwan’s free and fair elections to build on our enduring commitment to Taiwan’s people, its prosperity, and peace.”
In a span of the following three months, however, there were more visits by high-level U.S. officials to Taipei than during any calendar year in recent memory. Then on December 21, 2011, less than one month before the elections, the US State Department announced Taiwan’s candidacy for participation in the Visa Waiver Program. Together, this series of statements and actions during a politically sensitive time led many observers to reach the conclusion that the US government preferred the re-election of the incumbent administration in Taiwan.
For example, a senior U.S. official stated anonymously through the Financial Times that DPP’s presidential candidate Tsai “left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years,” (Fifield et al., Financial Times, September 14, 2011:p.13). The article began with the sentence “The Obama administration has warned that a victory by Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese opposition leader, in the island’s January presidential election could raise tensions with China” (ibid., Fifield et al., September 14, 2011:p.13).Though the State Department strongly disavowed the statement the next day, the Financial Times article damaged Tsai’s position.
Then, two days before the election, a former U.S. government official who had served as Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Mr. Douglas Paal, made a statement favoring the KMT, implying that the American government’s preference was for President Ma to continue to lead Taiwan. (The Chair of the IEOM, Senator Frank Murkowski, held a press conference the next day criticizing Paal’s comments, branding them as “careless” and “inexcusable”, and saying that the former AIT Director’s statement did not reflect the U.S. government’s policies.)

Influence by other Nations and Regions (based on official statements, observations, and news stories):

Asia and the Pacific
Countries near Taiwan and China are concerned about business development in manufacturing and trade to other countries outside of the region. Japan and S. Korea appeared to be neutral in the Taiwan elections. The Australian Foreign Minister made comments that appeared to support Mr. Ma before the election (Jacobs, 2012, p.9)
European Union (EU)
The European Union and all its member nations remained officially neutral.

Condition No. 11: All Candidates should have Equal Access for Funding for Elections

Campaign Funds

Due to the legacy of the authoritarian past, there is a huge imbalance in party wealth and resources. There is very little concern expressed by governments in power about controlling campaign expenditures. This lack of concern reflects an imbalance of resources, and creates an atmosphere in which election finance and funding rules are routinely ignored. This diminishes the fairness of elections, undermines the rule of law, and weakens progress towards democracy. This imbalance in capacity is reflected in parties’ unequal ability to purchase mass media advertising. This is an important area for reform.
Because the KMT has massive real estate and financial holdings, the numbers and extent of which are unknown to outsiders, their ability to fund and influence voters is strong. According to news reports and “The Unfinished Democratization” by Taiwan Brain Trust, in 2010 the dividend earnings from the KMT’s holdings of stocks alone were close to US$100 million (Taiwan Brain Trust, p. 14).
Consider the example of the IEOM members visiting a DPP candidate’s office in New Taipei City on January 9. When members asked about spending limits, the campaign manager had no idea what they were, nor did anyone else who was asked. The campaign manager further went on to say that it does not matter, because the laws “aren’t enforced and we are under the limit anyway”. He stated that their campaign would spend about NT$10 million, adding that its KMT opponent (who won) was “spending more.” But he offered no proof for his assertion. There appeared to be here, as in other party offices, many assertions and comments without actual evidence.

Judicial and Key Appointments for Enforcement of Finance Rules

The KMT has strong links and connections inside Taiwan’s administrative and judicial systems and, as noted above, those systems are not always neutral. In order to ensure a more level campaign playing field, both the IEOM and the ANFREL would like to see the CEC, the Ministry of Justice, other government oversight bodies, and organizations in civil society, make an effort to accurately measure individual funds, party wealth, and campaign spending. Where necessary, campaign finance laws should be strengthened and further elaborated. Even where there is no violation of such campaign finance laws as exist, extremely uneven financial resources can result in an unhealthy democratic culture and a tilted playing field for both individuals and political parties, which harms election fairness. Only through a coordinated effort on this issue can these agencies effectively enforce the law and make Taiwan’s elections not only more transparent, but also more fair.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The IEOM would like to thank the organizers of the visit, the ICFET, for their invitation and organizing of the delegation. The IEOM wants to encourage the ICFET to continue in its efforts and to support election observation activities in the future to strengthen Taiwan’s democracy, so that it can be shared with other countries in the region and around the world. As the IEOM conducted its observations, the members greatly appreciated the willingness of candidates, party representatives, and government representatives to meet with them. Every party organization and its representatives demonstrated hospitality, and suffered the IEOM’s questions with grace and dignity.

Areas for Improvement

The IEOM and ANFREL (January 2012) delegations made comments on the successes of the Taiwan national election, which are summarized below. Both groups saw “areas of concern”. These comments are made to provide constructive feedback on the process in the spirit of improving it, so as to provide a vibrant democratic system worthy of Taiwan’s people. No matter what happens in the future, China will continue to have an impact and influence in Taiwan, just as its economic impact is being felt around the world. The peaceful interactions between nations will result in building relationships and producing changes for both nations. Ms. Tsai indicated the need for the DPP to work with China during the election campaign.
Several key institutions need to be strengthened. For example, civil service and non-elected offices all need to be further de-politicized. Improvements in the legitimacy of the elections and reduction of the politicization of the police and courts would increase trust in them by the people and reduce criticism of them during campaigns. Attention should be put to ensuring the neutrality and impartiality, both real and perceived, of all related government agencies.
The IEOM affirms that Taiwan is already a democratic nation. But as with other democracies, there are problems that need to be addressed. These range from public reporting and control of election expenditures to the use of media and neutrality of the administration. The issues of the neutrality of the administrative and judicial systems are serious and need to be addressed through public oversight, evaluation, and control. Will the newly re-elected government appoint and oversee “objective” and “transparent” government officials and judicial officers and move towards much-needed judicial, administrative, as well as legislative reforms?
The world will continue to watch Taiwan as it “performs” and reveals in the next four years what those future steps will be. Taiwan is a sign of hope to many and has been a model of democratic transformation. It should continue to be the “showcase nation” for democracy. To do that requires ongoing review and oversight.
The IEOM has a number of specific recommendations:
A) Thoroughly and honestly resolve the longstanding problem of KMT party assets, including their source, use, and investments that create a huge imbalance in financial resources available to each party. This imbalance distorts everything else in Taiwan’s elections, including that which is otherwise fair. These hidden assets also provide huge hidden funds to use for election media and other public relations activities. President Ma has stated he wants to resolve the status of these funds, but has not done so as yet. In his new term, the proof will be in his actions.
B) Strengthen enforcement and public promotion of campaign spending laws, and close the many loopholes that candidates and parties can use.
C) Make consequences real for candidates who buy votes, such as disqualification from running in future elections. For example, in 2008 the PFP Plains Aboriginal candidate Lin Cheng-er (林正二) was removed as a legislator after he was convicted of vote-buying, yet he ran again as a PFP candidate in 2012 and won. We believe he should have been disqualified from running.
D) Use party discipline to combat vote-buying. Parties can mobilize members to assist with the oversight of compliance with election laws and can establish committees to gather evidence concerning election improprieties. However, it is the individual candidates who will make the difference. In short, it is the candidates, not the parties, who buy votes.
E) Create a mechanism to allow people to vote where they actually work or study in Taiwan and thus end the need to travel long distances “home” in Taiwan to vote. This is already practiced in many countries.
(*) Daniel Wolf, Esq. is a political scientist and attorney who provided guidance, edits and expert advice based on his international work with democratic elections during the last three decades.
All the listed IEOM members participated in this Report but special recognition is given to Bruce Jacobs PhD, Michael Danielsen PhD, Michael Stainton and Gerrit van der Wees PhD for their contributions and help.
Table 1: Members of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM)

Table 1: Members of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM)

United States
1.    Frank Murkowski, Former US Senator and Former Governor of Alaska, Chair of IEOM Mission
2.    Woodrow Clark, Contributor to Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) and Lead Author of Final IEOM Report
3.    Edward Friedman, Professor, Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison
4.    John Tkacik, Senior Fellow and Director, Future Asia Project, International Assessment and Strategy Center
5.    Bill Blaikie, Former M.P., Deputy Speaker of Canadian House of Commons
6.    Susan Henders, Director, York Centre for Asian Research at York University
7.    David Kilgour, Former Secretary of State, Asia Pacific, and former Member of Parliament
8.    Peter Noteboom, Deputy Secretary of Canadian Council of Churches, Commission on Justice and Peace
9.    Ted Siverns, Former Dean, Vancouver School of Theology
10.    Michael Stainton, President, Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada; Research Associate at the York Centre for Asian Research at York University
11.    Lois Wilson, Former Canadian Senator, leader on Committee on Human Rights in the Canadian Senate; President of World Council of Churches, first female Moderator of the United Church of Canada
12.    Michael Danielsen, Chairman, Taiwan Corner (Denmark)
13.    Bruno Kaufmann, President, Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe and Chairman of the Election Commission in Falun (Sweden)
14.    Gerrit van der Wees, Editor, Taiwan Communiqué (The Netherlands)
15.    Katsuhiko Eguchi, Member, House of Councilors, Diet
16.    Yoshinori Ohno, Member, House of Representatives, Diet
17.    Yoshiko Sakurai, President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals
18.    Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University

 Table 2:  Election Results

Figure 1: Identity in Taiwan, 1992-2011


Asian Network for Free Elections, “ANFREL Election Observers’ Statement on Taiwan’s 2012 Elections: Credible Elections but a Titled Playing Field”, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 2012, pp:1-5.
Baum, Julian and Gerrit van der Wees, “Taiwan’s Imperfect Democracy”, The Diplomat, Tokyo, February 7, 2012.
Canada Elections issues:
Immigrants voting:
CBC Uncovers Voter Fraud in Toronto Riding:
Central Election Commission, “2012 13th Presidential Election and 8th Legislator Election”:
China Times, January 15, 2012: p.3.
Cole, J. Michael, Journalist. Data Verification, Email. 9 March 2012.
Danielsen, Michael in P.C.Y Chow (ed). National Identity and Economic Interest. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY. 2012.
Economist. “It’s all right, Ma”, Asia: Taiwan’s elections, January 21, 2012, p.43.
Economist. “How to set Syria free”. Politics: “Syria’s crisis: The long road to Damascus”,  pp. 25-28; Asia: Myanmar’s starling changes: Pragmatic virtues”, pp: 41-42; China: “Religion and the Communist Party: Render unto Caesar”, PP: 47-48;  Middle-east and Africa: Egypt’s turmoil: “It goes on and on”, p.50 and Europe: “Russia’ protest: Just making our feelings known”, pp:53=54; as well as Special Report on Pakistan: “Perilous Journey”, pp: 1-16, February 11, 2012.
Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, n.d.,
Fifield, Anna, Robin Kwong, and Kathrin Hille, “US concerned about Taiwan candidate,” Financial Times, September 14, 2011:p.13).
International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan (ICFET) Secretariat. “Taiwan Elections Handbook.” January 2012.
International Election Observation Mission, “Press Release: Mostly free but partly unfair: Taiwan Elections 2012”, January 15, 2012.
Jacobs, Bruce, “Taiwan Needs Protection from Chinese Expansionism,” The Australian, 31 January 2012, p. 9.
Jacobs, Bruce. Local Politics in Rural Taiwan under Dictatorship and Democracy. Norwalk, CT: EastBridge, 2008.
Kaufman, Bruno. The European Citizens’ Initiative Pocket Guide. A User Manual to the First Transnational Tool of Modern Direct Democracy. Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe and Green European Foundation asbl. Brussels, Belgium, March 2012.
Katz, Paul. “And by their friends, Ye shall know them”, China Policy Institute, Taiwan, January 2012.
Kilgour, David, Some Thoughts on Constituency Representation:  26 years and still learning, The Study of Parliament Group, House of Commons, London, UK: 9 December 2005.
Lee, Jung-Ok and Bruno Kaufman. Editors. Global Citizens’ in Charge: How modern direct democracy can make our representative democracies truly representative. Korean Democracy Foundation. 2009.
Liberty Times, December 13, 2011. 簽分特他案? 特偵組:無可奉告
Mozur, Paul , “Former U.S. Diplomat Stirs Pot Ahead of Taiwan Vote”, China Real Time, Home Page, January 13, 2012: 10:54PM.
國民黨黨產股利收入28.9億 民進黨:只是冰山一角
NOWnews News Today: Headline News. no.ixzz1qVlaQbdN
Nison Staffan and Anne-Marie Sigmund. Your Guide to the European citizens’ Initiative. European Economic and Social Committee. Brussels, Belgique.
Stainton, Michael. “Creeping Corruption and Roads of Desire: The “Dynamic Stability” of the Kuomintang System in Taiwan’s Kleptodemocracy”, Paper for the North American Taiwan Studies Conference, June 2000.
Taiwan Brain Trust. The Unfinished Democratization: Unfairness and Abnormality in Taiwan’s Elections, January 2012.
Taiwan Communiqué, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington, DC (March/April 2012).
Taiwan, Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Government Reports, 2012.
Taiwan News, online February 18, 2012.
Taipei Times, December 15, 2011, p. 3.
US Supreme Court. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. No. 08-205, January 21, 2010.
Van der Wees, Gerrit.“Epic Taiwan”. Email summary. Formosan Association for Public Affairs. Washington, DC. January 17, 2012.
Van der Wees, Gerrit, “Chinese shadow over Taiwan’s elections” in the Taipei Times, January 30, 2012:
Wolf, Daniel. A working paper, “The Electoral Process in Nicaragua: Empirical research and evaluation based on criteria of Fairness and Freedom of Choice.” Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA.1984.
Yang, Pi-chuan. The Road to Freedom: Taiwan’s Postwar Human Rights Movement. Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Haiwang Printing Company, Taipei, Taiwan, 2004 and 2006.