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Analysis of the Results and Impact of Taiwan’s 2024 “Two-in-One” Election


Wu Yi, a Taiwan scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, provides an in-depth analysis of the January 2024 legislative and executive elections in Taiwan. Wu suggests Lai Ching-te’s poor performance relative to Tsai Ing-wen in 2020 and gains for the opposition in the legislature foreshadow growing political polarization in Taiwan and uncertainties for cross-Strait relations going forward.

Key takeaways
  • Wu Yi, the director of the Political Economy Research Department of the Taiwan Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), provides an in-depth analysis of the January 2024 presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan and explores implications for Taiwan's future political landscape and cross-Strait relations.
  • Wu suggests that the 2024 elections reflected growing political polarization in Taiwan, with each leading party—the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Nationalist Party (KMT)—aligning their proposals with the demands of their respective bases. Given this polarization, Wu argues, swing voters gravitated toward a third party, the Taiwan People's Party (TPP). Wu frames the rise of the TPP as a major “restructuring” of Taiwan’s political landscape.
  • Wu reviews what she sees as the main advantages and challenges each party will face in the years ahead. She highlights the KMT’s poor performance among young voters and those with higher education and income levels to suggest local candidates will be particularly important for the party in consolidating its strength going forward. For the TPP, Wu suggests over-reliance on the personality of Ko Wen-je and wavering stances on key policy issues will be headwinds.
  • The specifics of the election results—including the KMT’s gains in the Legislative Yuan (LY), the TPP's swing seats in the LY, and less robust victory for Lai Ching-te than Tsai Ing-wen in 2020—foreshadow political turbulence in Taiwan in the years ahead.
  • Wu argues that Lai's victory is a headwind for cross-Strait relations, and will likely bring reduced trade and investment, limited dialogue, and declining scientific and technological cooperation. Nevertheless, Wu suggests, China’s growing relative power advantages and the opposition’s strong performance in the LY will serve as checks on what she frames as Lai’s preference for de jure independence.

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Taiwan’s 2024 “two-in-one” election was an important election held against the backdrop of the ongoing strategic game between China and the United States and the severe and complex cross-Strait relationship. The election will affect the island’s political situation and the development of cross-Strait relations in the coming years. Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected with a plurality of 40.05% of the votes, and the legislature was left in a situation of “the Kuomintang (KMT) up, the DPP down, and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) rising,” and “three parties without a majority.” The different results of the “general” (presidential) election and the elections for “Legislative Yuan members” (representatives) reflect the trend of accelerated polarization of public opinion on the island, which has a direct impact on the island’s political ecology and the direction of the political situation. In the “two big and one small” political party pattern on the island after the election, the DPP will face the dilemma of ruling with a “triple minority” at executive, legislative, and grassroots (local government) levels. The legislature will become the center of gravity of the island’s political party games, uncertainty about the direction of policies and the political situation will increase. The KMT lost the “general election,” but became the largest party in the legislature and took the body’s speaker and deputy speaker positions. At the same time, its ruling advantage at the grassroots level of counties and cities remained stable. The TPP is now the third largest party in the country. With increased party strength, it has entered a critical period of development. In the future, under the rule of the self-proclaimed “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence,” Lai Ching-te, the risks in the cross-Strait relationship will rise, but the mainland’s development and progress will continue to enhance its dominance and initiative in the cross-Strait relationship, and the DPP’s continued rule will not be able to change the basic pattern of development in cross-Strait relations.


I. Analysis of the Results of Taiwan’s “Two-in-One” Election


The 2024 “two-in-one” election broke the island’s long-standing structure of two major political camps, Blue (KMT) and Green (DPP). The TPP represents a middle-ground force, and its participation in the election has resulted in a new and complex situation of competition and cooperation. While Lai Ching-te’s election win broke the island’s eight-year “party rotation” cycle, the DPP lost its majority the legislature, making Lai’s another “minority regime” after the Chen Shui-bian administration. Although the KMT lost the presidential election again, and its base has been shrinking, it has become the largest party in the legislature, and it controls power in most counties and cities, so its ability to provide checks and balances on the DPP has strengthened. As a third major political force that is “non-blue, non-green,” the TPP has risen to become a key minority in the “three parties without a majority” situation. The election process this time was unprecedentedly complex, and the different trends in the results of the two elections are a concentrated reflection of the complicated changes and diverse directions within public opinion on the island in the context of the strategic game between China and the United States, giving rise to a new political ecology.


(i) Public opinion on the island has become increasingly complex and diversified amid the dramatic changes in the internal and external environments


The direction of public opinion on the island is the basic factor determining the evolution of its political ecology, as well as the fundamental factor affecting the results of this election. As past elections have shown, when the external environment is relatively stable, mainstream public opinion on the island prioritizes domestic economic and livelihood issues. In recent years, however, the strategic game between China and the United States, international geopolitical conflicts, and changes in the world economy and the island’s political and economic trends have fluctuated together, profoundly affecting the direction of public opinion on the island.


The islanders’ attention to more overtly political issues such as “politics and security” that affect Taiwan’s future and destiny has risen significantly. They are also highly concerned about less political issues such as “economy and society” that affect their vital interests, but the relative priority attached to the two kinds of issues differs under different circumstances and between different camps. First, the islanders’ priorities for the development of cross-Strait political and economic relations have changed. In 2018, the United States initiated trade friction with China and ratcheted up its intervention on the Taiwan issue. With the Taiwan Strait situation becoming increasingly severe and complex, islanders’ attention to cross-Strait issues has increased. A long-term tracking survey conducted by Academia Sinica in Taipei shows that for a long time, a majority of people on the island believed that cross-Strait exchanges and consultations should prioritize economic interests, but the results of the 2019 survey show that those who give priority to so-called “sovereignty” have become the majority.1 Second, supporters from different camps on the island prioritize political and economic development differently. According to one large-scale poll, when it comes to the issues that the regional leader2 should give priority to solving in the future, DPP supporters prioritize “Taiwan’s security,” KMT supporters prioritize handling cross-Strait relations, and TPP supporters and voters with no political party preference prioritize handling economic development.3 Third, mainstream public opinion on the island is unanimously dissatisfied with the DPP’s governing. The incompetence of the DPP authorities at governance has led to tensions in cross-Strait relations, as well as elevated risks in Taiwan’s economic development, a widening social gap between rich and poor, and repeated outbreaks of corruption scandals. A number of polls have shown that most people’s dissatisfaction with the authorities’ governing has continued to rise. According to a poll conducted by the Green-leaning Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation, some 56.7% of the public are dissatisfied with the economic performance of the DPP over the past seven years.4


Attitudes toward issues related to “Taiwan’s security” have become more polarized and mutually opposed. On one hand, a majority of people have a heightened sense of crisis, and public opinion in favor of strengthening “self-defense” has risen significantly, with several polls showing that most people support the extension of mandatory military service from four months to one year. On the other hand, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the topic of “today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan” has bubbled up. “Skepticism toward the United States” [疑美论] has risen significantly on the island, and public opinion in favor of strengthening cross-Strait exchanges and promoting peaceful development has increased. According to TVBS polling, at the beginning of 2021, 57% of the public believed that “the United States will send troops to ‘assist in the defense of Taiwan,’” but after the Russia-Ukraine conflict started, the number of those who believed this dropped to 30%, and the number of those who did not rose to 55%.  5 At the same time, in order to avoid conflict, support for cross-Strait exchanges and communication has become the mainstream public opinion on the island. The “2023 Annual Survey of Cross-Strait Relations ” by the United Daily News showed that up to 85% of people believe it is necessary to continue to maintain lines of cross-Strait communication, while 66% believe that the Taiwan authorities should “maintain equal distance” between mainland China and the United States and “not favor either side.” From a party preference perspective, 56% of DPP supporters believe that the Taiwan authorities should tilt toward the United States, which is higher than the 41% of those who would “maintain equal distance,” while among KMT and TPP supporters and neutral people without political party preferences, those who advocate “maintaining equal distance” account for more than 70% of the total.6


(ii) During the election, the political parties focused on shoring up their bases


In this election, amid the accelerating polarization of public opinion on the island superimposed on the three-party race situation, the KMT, DPP, and TPP ultimately chose a campaign strategy of returning to their respective bases.


For many years, the unification versus “independence” issue has been the main axis influencing the island’s general elections. However, in a relatively stable external environment, mainstream public opinion prioritizes attention to economic issues, and under a binary “Blue-Green” confrontation, political issues related to unification versus “independence” have diminished marginal effect, while the influence of domestic affairs and livelihood issues increases. In the three general elections between 2008 and 2016, although issues related to Taiwan’s future, cross-Strait political positioning, and so on were still a focus of the Blue and Green camps’ offense and defense, and of their strategies for stabilizing their bases, the Blue and Green camps paid more attention to economic and livelihood issues in order to attract swing voters. They downplayed unification versus “independence” to varying degrees, producing a situation in which the ideologies of the KMT and DPP gradually moved to the center, while the “small blue” and “small green” political parties that held more radical positions seized the two ends of the political spectrum. By the 2020 election, though, the strategic game between China and the United States had drastically changed the external environment, and the DPP used the Hong Kong “legislative amendment storm”7 issue to manipulate the “sense of national subjugation” and increase voters’ “anti-China, confronting China” sentiments, and once again rode the unification-“independence” issue to victory.


In three-way competition of the 2024 “two-in-one” election, consolidating one’s base became the main campaign strategy of each political party, and the return of the Blue, Green, and White (TPP) parties’ policy proposals to the demands of their bases was a concentrated reflection of the growing polarization of public opinion on the island in recent years. The three parties echoed the U.S. strategy of “arming Taiwan” to varying degrees, and converged on such defense policies as strengthening self-defense [加强自保] and building “asymmetric warfare capabilities,” but intensified their divergence over the direction of cross-Strait relations and related policies. The KMT had positioned the election as a showdown between “peace and war,” “honesty and corruption.” After Hou Yu-ih was nominated as the candidate, in order to dispel the doubts of some Blue camp voters about his cross-Strait stance and increase his support in the polls, he explicitly returned to Ma Ying-jeou’s line, saying that he accepted the 1992 Consensus, which is a constitutional requirement, and opposed Taiwan independence  8. In this way, the party was able to rally its base and achieve internal coherence. As for Lai Ching-te, given the diminishing effect of the “resisting China and protecting Taiwan” card and the public’s dissatisfaction with the Tsai Ing-wen administration, he positioned the election campaign as a clash over “democracy versus authoritarianism,” and sought to win the election using his party base advantage in a three-way competition. Lai claimed to be continuing the “Tsai Ing-wen line” on cross-Strait policy, opposing the “1992 Consensus” and adhering to the “New Two-State Theory.” At the same time, in order to minimize doubts in all quarters about his being a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence,” he used the so-called “defense of Taiwan’s democratic values and way of life” to strengthen his “confronting China” and package his “Taiwan independence” stance, and called on his supporters to “choose democracy, consolidate democracy, and refuse to go back to the old path of authoritarianism.” 9 Ko Wen-je of the TPP mainly focused on a “middle course” and tried to rally voters in the middle, especially young voters, to form a new political force. Ko called on supporters to choose the TPP to get out of the “quagmire of Blue-Green fighting,” “change the political culture,” and achieve a “new Taiwan politics;” with “coalition government and unity in Taiwan” domestically, and “Taiwan autonomy and cross-Strait peace” externally, so as to achieve “social harmony, political party reconciliation, and cross-Strait peace,”10 and highlighted the “autonomy” of the party. Overall, the political views of the three candidates were distinct. While the KMT and the DPP effectively rallied their respective bases, the political demands of the TPP gained the support of many swing voters and young voters who hope to maintain the cross-Strait status quo and are dissatisfied with the DPP administration, shaping a three-legged campaign pattern different from the past.


(iii) The island’s political ecology is heading towards a new situation of multifaceted competition and cooperation


In the results of the 2024 “two-in-one” election, the KMT and the DPP each defended their base, while the intermediate political force represented by the TPP rose. The island’s traditional political ecology characterized by the “binary Blue-Green confrontation” has given way to a new situation with “Blue-Green-White three-party multifaceted competition and cooperation.”


A restructuring of the island’s political party landscape has thus occurred. The divide between the Blue and Green parties was clear on cross-Strait positioning and cross-Strait negotiations and exchanges, and both parties were defending their base, which prompted swing voters, who prioritize economic issues and are skeptical of the Blue-Green political lines, to gravitate toward the TPP. Although the DPP won by relying on its base, Lai Ching-te’s received a much smaller vote share compared to Tsai Ing-wen’s 57.1% in the 2020 election, and has been reduced to “minority rule.” The KMT tried its best to rally its base in the home stretch, but the number of votes it received in the three-party race was still about 850,000 less than that of the previous election, reflecting that its base is still shrinking. The TPP’s Ko Wen-je won the support of more than 3.69 million voters in his first election, forming an emerging intermediate political force apart from the Blues and Greens. The “Blue-Green binary” structure that had gradually strengthened on the island since 2000 has made it difficult for a third political force to gain momentum. Although a key factor influencing the outcomes of past general elections was the shifting movements of swing voters, their class structure, interests, and political inclinations are highly fluid and fragmented, making it difficult for them to form a strongly cohesive and stable political force. The many third political parties that have been established have mostly been in the pan-Blue or pan-Green camps, and have basically become short-lived bubbles after several elections under KMT and DPP pressure. This time, the TPP stabilized its position as the third largest party by representing the middle-ground “non-blue, non-green” forces, landing a direct blow to the traditional Blue-Green political structure, and causing the island’s party politics to show diversification in the true sense of the word.


The island’s voters have thus formed a new [voter] segment structure. The presidential election resulted in a large loss of voting share and total votes by both the KMT and DPP candidates, mainly due to significant changes in the political party preferences of young and middle-ground voters. Some analysts believe that the number of votes won by Ko Wen-je should roughly equal the reduction in the number of votes obtained by the DPP and KMT compared to the last general election, plus the number of votes obtained by James Soong in that election, and finally minus the number of votes not cast due to the drop in voter turnout.11 Further analysis shows that those who shifted from the DPP to the TPP were mainly young voters who were dissatisfied with the DPP administration, had no feeling for politics, and were more concerned about salaries and housing prices. Those who shifted from the KMT were mostly middle-ground voters, along with a small number of “Han fans” who had originally supported Han Kuo-yu. The latter are not the KMT’s traditional supporters, and in this election some “Han fans” openly supported Ko Wen-je and organized campaign activities for him. One poll showed that 21% of voters who originally supported Han Kuo-yu switched their support to the TPP. 12 Before the election, Han Kuo-yu called on “Han fans” to fully support the KMT candidate, but the voting results showed it had little effect. Young voters have become Ko Wen-je’s main bloc of support. TVBS polls before the vote showed that young voters aged 20-39 years old accounted for more than 50% of Ko Wen-je’s support. 13 Going by the total number of young voters and turnout estimates, Ko Wen-je received about two million votes from young voters, accounting for about 60% of the total number of votes he received. The polarization of voters’ political inclinations, coupled with the huge differences in candidate preferences among voters of different ages, has extended the differences in the images of political parties on the island to include generational differences in addition to ideological and class divisions. Before the election, the Blue camp strongly manipulated the “dump-save effect.”[弃保效应] 14  Ko claimed that most of the voters who supported him switched their vote because they disliked the DPP. “Without Ko Wen-je, half wouldn’t have voted, half would have voted for Lai Ching-te. It’s too difficult to get the under-40s to vote for the KMT.” 15 It was precisely the new differences in voter segment structure that made it difficult for the “Blue-White coalition” to succeed in the end, and also made it difficult for the “dump-save effect,” which has often occurred within camps in past general elections, to become a factor in public opinion.


In party politics on the island, a new pattern of competition-cooperation has formed, with mutual checks and balances. The results of the “two-in-one” election show that some voters split their votes, i.e., made different choices across party lines for regional leader, political party 16 , and district representatives. Although Lai Ching-te won his election, the DPP’s 4,981,000 party-list votes, 36.2% of the total, were about 600,000 votes less than the number of votes Lai received; the KMT received 4,764,000 party votes, or 34.6%, which was about 100,000 votes more than Hou Yu-ih received; and the TPP received 3,040,000 votes, or 22.07%, which was about 650,000 votes less than Ko Wen-je received. In the district representative elections, the KMT and DPP traded gains and losses, and some KMT district representatives won through Blue-White cooperation. Under the three-legged election pattern, the result of the ticket-splitting behavior of some voters was that, although the DPP won the general election, it represents a minority of public opinion, and its legitimacy is insufficient. The KMT won 52 seats and became the largest party in the legislature. This, together with rule in a majority of counties and cities, will strengthen its ability to hold the DPP’s rule in check. At the same time, none of the three parties have a majority in the legislature, and the TPP, with eight representative-at-large seats, has become a key minority for restraining both Blues and Greens. The emergence of this new pattern of party politics with mutual checks and balances will put Taiwan’s politics in a new situation of three-party competition-cooperation games, which will have complex repercussions for the island’s politics and cross-Strait relations.


II. Post-Election Political Trends on the Island


After the election, in the new political party pattern of “two big parties and one small party” and “three parties without a majority” in the legislature, in governance the DPP will face the dilemma of being a “minority government with a large opposition.” Given the elevated counterbalancing power of the Blue and White opposition forces, the legislature will become the main battleground of the island’s political party games, and new political clashes and problems will emerge. Under the new public opinion situation, the new pattern, and the new political ecology, the Blue, Green, and White parties are facing different development problems.


(i) Under the DPP’s “minority rule,” the island’s political situation may be turbulent and unstable


1. The shortcomings of Taiwan’s political system will be further highlighted, and the “executive-legislative” contradictions are unlikely to be reconciled.

In this election, Lai Ching-te was elected with a plurality of only 40% (Taiwan-wide support of only 28.7%, based on turnout of 71.86%), and the DPP was reduced to being the second-largest party in the legislature (a 51-seat minority, with a 36.2% share of the political party vote). Adding the fact that only 5 counties and cities are under DPP rule (out of 21 across Taiwan, with the population under DPP rule representing 25%), the Lai administration’s rule of Taiwan as a whole will be characterized by a “triple minority,” with an extremely weak public opinion base and a serious lack of legitimacy for governing. Under “minority rule” and “divided government,” the contradictions in the island’s political system between executive and legislative branches and the “mismatch between powers and responsibilities” become glaring.


Since the 1990s, Taiwan has seen seven constitutional amendments. Under the intertwined compromises among personal, partisan, and political interests, the island’s political system has developed into an obviously flawed “dual-leader system” 17 in which the regional leader has “power but no responsibility.” The system has resulted in an inability to promote the island’s political stability and social development, and instead has brought negative effects such as intense partisan fighting, tearing of the social fabric, and centralization of power by the ruling party. These negative effects are very likely to be magnified in the case of “minority rule” and “divided government.” Some scholars have proposed that according to the 1997 constitutional amendment, the power system of Taiwan authorities has an “automatic track change mechanism,” 18 i.e., when the regional leader’s party and the majority party in the legislature are the same ruling party, the system is biased towards the “presidential system”; when the two are not the same political party, the system favors a “cabinet system” where the regional leader has limited power and the majority party in the legislature should “form the cabinet” (i.e., appoint a candidate acceptable to the majority camp to serve as the premier 19 and organize the executive team). However, in terms of actual operation, even during the long period of “minority rule when Chen Shui-bian was in office, and even when the number of seats held by the DPP was less than one-third, the legislature was unable to implement “cabinet formation” by the majority party. Although Chen Shui-bian’s first premier20 was Tang Fei of the KMT, he was appointed through private consultations and there were no consultations with the opposition party on forming a cabinet. Major personnel matters, decisionmaking, and policies were entirely under Chen Shui-bian’s control. Tang Fei was thus reduced to a “chief of staff” and “chief executive officer” who was “in charge but not in power,” and he eventually stepped down because of the suspension of construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Afterwards, Chen Shui-bian ignored the voices of the opposition party and all sectors of society, and always forcibly appointed DPP members as head of the executive body, resulting in many years of fierce fighting between the government in power and the opposition, as well as political and economic downturns. At the same time, looking at the times the DPP has been in power, both Chen Shui-bian and Tsai Ing-wen demonstrated a strong and domineering style of governing that ignored the norms of the political system and stubbornly adhered to ideology. When confronted with the dilemma of “minority government,” they mainly resorted to manipulating populism and stirring up confrontation to win public opinion support, which caused political party relations to deteriorate.


The DPP’s rule will face strong checks and balances from the opposition parties, and the three-way competition-cooperation will trigger political turmoil. The latest post-election poll on the island shows that nearly 50% of the people are happy to see that, although Lai Ching-te was elected, the DPP failed to win a majority in the legislature, and hope that this will provide checks and balances on the DPP’s rule. Nearly 60% of the people believe that, given the “three parties without a majority” situation in the legislature, a “coalition cabinet” should be formed in the interest of political stability.21  However, under the “dual-leader system” in Taiwan, with its “mismatch between powers and responsibilities,” Lai Ching-te, who has a strong personality and a hard-line stance, has never mentioned a “coalition government” since his election. Using “democratic coalition” as a slogan, he has chosen instead to co-opt and divide political forces in the opposition through the allocation of administrative posts and other means. If the Lai administration insists on forming a “minority government,” the opposition party also lacks substantive and effective countermeasures. According to Taiwan’s provisions, the legislature has neither the power of confirmation over the selection of the head of the executive body, nor the power to immediately “bring down the cabinet,” so it is unlikely to form a substantial check on the regional leader. If the legislature believes that the head of the executive body has failed to govern properly, it can initiate a no-confidence motion to force him or her to resign. If the no-confidence motion passes (with at least one-third of the representatives co-signing and half of the representatives in favor of the motion), the regional leader can choose to reappoint the head of the executive body in accordance with the majority opinion of the legislature. At the same time, the head of the executive body may petition to dissolve the legislature, and the regional leader, after consulting with the head of the legislature, would then decide whether to dissolve the legislature and hold new elections. For the regional leader, being forced to appoint a new head of the executive body would mean compromising and showing weakness to the opposition party, but without jeopardizing their own power and position. In the case of “divided government,” it is highly likely that the legislature would be dissolved and new elections held. For representatives in the legislature, new elections mean new uncertainties and huge costs. The pan-Blue opposition forces never used them, even during the “anti-corruption, Chen must go” campaign in 2006, when they had 56% of the seats. Therefore, if Lai insists on “minority rule” and domineering governance after coming to power, the DPP will still be able to control and dominate the power of the executive body and the distribution of resources across Taiwan, but that would trigger fierce partisan fighting. The opposition parties would strengthen their checks and balances, and the relationship between the executive body and the legislature would continue to be tense or even fall into a stalemate. Of course, even if the opposition parties do not “bring down the cabinet,” they can still use a number of ways to rein in and punish the administration, such as boycotting bills, passing bills that the executive body would find hard to implement, etc., and Lai Ching-te lacks the power to take the initiative to dissolve the legislature. The games and stalemate between the “executive and the legislature” increase political turmoil on the island.


2. With the opposition’s augmented power to provide checks and balances, the legislature will become the main battleground for political party competition-cooperation.

Most people hope the DPP will be kept in check by the legislature, but that is very likely to turn into a partisan fight given the growing political polarization on the island. On one hand, the new pattern from this round of legislative elections, with “KMT up, DPP down, TPP rising” and “three parties without a majority,” reflects the dissatisfaction with the DPP’s rule in mainstream public sentiment on the island, and the desire to strengthen the checks and balances on the DPP. Most pre-election polls showed that about 60% of the island’s people wanted a change of political parties, and more than half of the people did not support “total rule” by the DPP. Ticket-splitting by some voters in the election caused the DPP to receive significantly fewer party-list votes than general election votes, resulting in Lai Ching-te’s “double vulnerability,” and breaking the DPP’s “total rule and one party dominance.” On the other hand, however, given the increasing political polarization on the island, the majority of the public “disliking the DPP,” coupled with the political system’s executive-legislative “mismatch between powers and responsibilities,” the legislature is unlikely to achieve effective consultation among political parties, and fierce partisan fighting becomes inevitable. When scholars on the island cross-analyzed two variables underlying people’s political party identification, namely, positive party feeling (supports and identifies with the party) and negative party feeling (dislikes the party, will never vote for it), they found that fully 87.42% of people who identified with the KMT had a negative party feeling towards the DPP, and as 72.6% of people who identified with the TPP had a negative party feeling towards the DPP. As for DPP supporters, 78.8% and 68.37% had negative party feelings towards the KMT and the TPP, respectively. The study showed that the ruling party and the opposition party are constrained by the fact that there is “almost no possibility of rational dialogue,” due to the increasing polarization of supporters of the different parties. 22 In a situation where public opinion both expects effective checks and balances and is highly confrontational, if the DPP insists on “minority government” “tyrannical governance,” the fighting between the Blue, Green and White parties in the legislature will become increasingly fierce.


The emergence of the TPP as a “critical minority” complicates the three-party competition-cooperation in the legislature. According to the island’s constitutional provisions, the legislature, as the island’s highest representative body, has “legislative power” over important laws, budgets, treaties, etc., as well as the power of confirmation over major personnel matters of the Taiwan authorities (apart from the head of the executive body, this includes the heads and deputy heads of the “Judicial Yuan,” “Control Yuan,” and “Examination Yuan,” as well as the “Attorney General” and “Chairman of the Central Election Commission” in the executive body). The legislature has the right to propose “no confidence motions” against the head of the executive body, and the right to propose “impeachment motions” and “removal motions” against the regional leader, all of which require the consent of more than half of the representatives to take effect. Also, although the rules for electing the legislature’s speaker, deputy speaker, and the convener of committees are different, they all require a plurality of votes to be elected. After this election, none the three largest parties in the legislature will have more than half of the seats. Of the 113-seat total, the KMT will have 52 seats, the DPP will have 51 seats, the TPP will have eight seats, and (pro-Blue) independents will have two seats. The TPP will become a key minority swaying the situation in terms of the operation of the legislature, confirmations of the administration’s major personnel matters, and the voting on numerous bills. Judging from the TPP’s performance in the last legislature and its post-election movement, it will not form an “opposition alliance” with the KMT, much less bind itself to the DPP, in order to prevent itself from being squeezed by the KMT and DPP and, in terms of political party development, in order to expand its strength by encroaching on the Blues and Greens. Instead, it will be oriented towards cooperation on issues, and will strategically swing between the two major parties as it seeks to maximize its own interests. This unstable cooperative relationship will lead to an unprecedented and extraordinary level of complexity in the shifting alliances among the KMT, DPP, and TPP in the legislature. This is a new change brought about by the island’s altered political party structure in the wake of the election, and is also a key point for observing the future development of the island’s party politics.


(ii) The Blue, Green, and White parties each face development bottlenecks


For the past decade or so, as the island’s “Blue-Green” party structure continued to strengthen, changes in public opinion gradually led to divergence and the formation of a “non-blue, non-green” White force. The next four years will be an important period for the development and evolution of the new three-party structure on the island. During that process, all three parties will face real pressure to consolidate their bases and expand with new sources of votes, “holding on to what they have and trying to add more,” and there will be different kinds of development bottlenecks.


1. The DPP’s “one-party dominance” has been broken, and the party’s strength has been weakened.

On one hand, with its superior base and continued control over Taiwan-wide administrative resources, the DPP remains the strongest party on the island. Through the allocation of a total of 13,000 positions across the island in the public service system, public utilities, and publicly-owned banks, as well as grassroots agriculture, fisheries, and water conservancy associations, the DPP has been able to strengthen the forces of its various factions, reward pro-Green people, weaken and divide the opposition parties, and consolidate its base. On the other hand, however, the DPP is facing a crisis of shrinking party strength and an inability to expand support among middle-ground voters. The DPP has come to power twice, and its share of the vote in general elections rose gradually from 39.30% for Chen Shui-bian in 2000 to 57.13% for Tsai Ing-wen in 2020. It is widely believed that 40% of the DPP’s base is “ballast.” The results of this election show that despite the DPP’s mobilization of enormous party and political resources, its base has not grown, and the difficulty of attracting middle-ground and young voters has become a bottleneck in its development. The DPP’s ineffective governance and serious corruption have led to a rapid decline in the party’s image. In the 2018 “nine-in-one” election, the DPP’s image had been reduced to one of “corruption, incompetence, and love of money.” In the 2024 “two-in-one” election, the DPP was seen as having “five poisons,” i.e., “green (‘independence’), black (underworld), white (terror), yellow (the sex scandal party), and red (red-baiting).” This, together with the incompetent governance of the ruling party seen in the “ten major corruption cases,” 23 and the degeneration of academic ethics seen in plagiarism cases, led to persistently high levels of negative publicity surrounding the DPP and figures related to it throughout the election campaign. A number of opinion polls have shown its loss of young supporters and declining support for the party, 24 and the public opinion atmosphere of “disliking the DPP” has escalated to “removing the DPP from power.” [下架民进党] Currently, the DPP’s party image is more comprehensively and thoroughly tarnished than during Chen Shui-bian’s administration, and there has been a “shift from individual corruption to group and structural corruption.”25 In the future, with its “double vulnerability,” Lai Ching-te’s government will require the support of all the factions within his party. No matter how strictly he maintains party discipline or “sets rules and draws lines,” as long as the political ecology in which party factions “share the spoils and rule together” exists within the party, it will be difficult to fundamentally reverse its party image.


2. The KMT faces a “Green-White pincer attack” structural dilemma, and the legislature and the grassroots level of counties and cities will become the niche for making its comeback.

The election shows that, following the trend in recent years of “Blues fading and Greens expanding” while the White forces take a share of the pie, and especially given the TPP’s attraction of middle-ground voters, highly educated voters, and young voters, the political landscape of “blue north, green south” is quietly changing, and the KMT party base is facing a shrinkage crisis. Hou Yu-ih not only lost in the south, but also lost to Lai Ching-te in the KMT’s major strongholds in the north—Taipei City, New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, and even Taichung City. In terms of the party vote share, the KMT still maintained its advantage in the north, but its overall lead there narrowed.


This election has once again exposed the deep-rooted problems affecting the KMT’s future development. The first problem is the divergence between the party’s ideology and its development line. Late in the election cycle, the KMT did present a unity rarely seen for many years, but the voting results showed that the party’s internal coherence had not yet reached an ideal state. Not only did some of the “knowledge Blues” and “elite Blues”26 fail to return to the fold, but many traditional deep-Blue supporters did not vote for Hou Yu-ih either, resulting in his personal vote share being lower than the KMT’s share of the party vote. In addition to Hou Yu-ih’s personal factors, there are also contradictions between the KMT’s party values and its development line. During the election, the party unanimously insisted on being “anti-independence and anti-war,” but the different interpretations of the “1992 Consensus” and the distancing from Ma Ying-jeou’s remarks 27 just before the election exposed internal differences over the party’s line, which directly affected the party’s coherence. The second problem is the party’s image as weak and aging. The KMT has been in opposition for many years, and still has not been able to fully demonstrate unity and strong checks and balances. The main factors for this are the aging of the party’s power structure, and the lack of strong leaders among its representatives. The fighting between Terry Gou and Hou Yu-ih during the primary election triggered disappointment and disgust among the public, especially among middle-ground voters. With its stereotypical image of “fighting within and fighting without,” it is difficult for the KMT to gain the support of young and middle-ground voters. During the election period, many polls on the island showed that Hou Yu-ih was dominant among men and people over 50 years old, but was in last place among the 20-49 age group.


However, the KMT’s significant gain of legislative seats in this election, together with its dominance in governing counties and cities, shows that its basic party strength is still there, and it will become a favorable foundation for its resurgence. After the collapse of the “Blue-White coalition,” the KMT’s sense of crisis became more acute, and the party showed rare unity. Grassroots county magistrates and mayors, represented by Lu Shiow-yen, Chiang Wan-an, and Chang San-cheng, actively participated in the election campaign, and most of the grassroots faction leaders returned to the team. Their strengths in rallying forces and organizing were a key factor behind the KMT’s surge in legislative seats this time around. In the next few years, the KMT will have to face the full-force pressure of the DPP’s continuous rule and the strong encroachment of the TPP on the “knowledge Blues” and “elite Blues.” Under this two-sided attack, it will rely mainly on its 52 legislative representatives and 14 grassroots mayors and county magistrates to show its strength, consolidate its base, and increase its votes. At present, due to its well-handled nominations, the KMT’s new class of representatives not only hold a plurality of seats, but also have a high degree of youthfulness, strong fighting spirit, and cohesiveness, which will help the KMT to use the legislature as a stage to show its strength and stiffen supervision and checks and balances on the DPP. The county magistrates and mayors in the Taipei-New Taipei-Keelung-Taoyuan regional alliance, and the ten female magistrates and mayors led by Lu Shiow-yen, have shown considerable strength in grassroots governing and campaigning. After the election, the KMT Central Committee started laying out preparations for the 2026 county magistrate and mayoral elections. The plan is to have representatives-at-large Hsieh Lung-jie, Wang Yu-min, and others serve concurrently as the party chairs of difficult southern constituencies, to do the groundwork at the grassroots level, and perhaps help gradually reverse the party’s decline in the south caused by its long-term “emphasis on the north over the south.” At the same time, with the legislature and the county magistrates and mayors becoming important sources of power for the KMT, the KMT’s central power structure (“Central Standing Committee,” etc.) may be pushed to change, transforming from a political party with top-down authority to a public opinion-oriented, internally created political party, which will in turn change the party’s mindset and image, and win the support of more middle-ground and young voters.


3. The TPP has become the third largest party and has entered a critical period of development

Since its founding, through the county magistrate and mayoral elections in 2022 and the “two-in-one” elections in 2024, the TPP has grown to become the third largest party on the island. The speed of its growth was beyond everyone’s expectations. In the next four years, the TPP will enter a critical period of development with both opportunities and challenges.


The TPP is now in a relatively favorable period of development opportunities. Its party philosophy and image cater to the new changes in voter structure. As voters who would “maintain the status quo,” [want] “neither unification nor independence,” and are “fed up with both Blue and Green” continue to grow, the party slogans of “smash the blue-green wall,” shape “a new politics in Taiwan,” and “rationality, pragmatism, and science” have a strong appeal to ideologically weak middle-ground voters. Because of its position as an opposition party, moreover, such “anti-establishment” populist slogans help attract young voters. At the same time, the TPP’s operating model caters to the preferences of emerging voters in the new media era. Although the party lacks resources, it is good at “converting ‘airwar’ buzz into offline votes,” 28 exploiting mobilizing influences different from those of traditional political party organizations, making good use of social media (Instagram, YouTube, etc.), and using the image of a political newcomer (Ko Wen-je has referred to himself as a political newcomer for many years) to make politics entertaining. “On social media platforms frequented by the younger generation, Ko is everywhere,” 29 successfully amplifying the voices of Ko and the TPP.


The TPP faces many challenges in stabilizing and enhancing its party strength. Viewed from the outside, institutional factors in the island’s elections fundamentally constrain the party’s development. Elections for Taiwan’s regional leader, county magistrates and mayors, county and city councilors, and district representatives all adopt a simple plurality rule, and under the three-party competition model, one must have about 40 percent of the vote to have a chance of winning. At present, the TPP’s third-largest party status is seen mainly in its having relied on the “single-district, two-ballot system” to win eight at-large seats in the legislature (out of a total of 113 seats), two county magistrate or mayor seats (out of 22), and 14 county or municipal councilor seats (out of 910 seats). In terms of party strength, therefore, it is still far from becoming a party capable of rivaling the KMT or DPP. Internally, its own problems constrain its development. The TPP has a weak organization, a lack of talent, and a strong air of being a “one-man party.” The party is a platform built by Ko Wen-je to extend his political life, and he admits to the shortcomings of “relying on one person to persevere, and being a one-man political party.” The party allows “dual party membership,” and its membership is complex. Its nominees for representatives-at-large formerly belonged to different Blue or Green camps. They have considerable differences in political philosophy and ideology, and lack the cohesion of a common political philosophy. This will be an important factor constraining the party’s development. At the same time, the TPP pursues a pragmatic line, wavering and changeable on cross-Strait policy, foreign relations, and party competition strategy, which may become a weakness when it comes to stabilizing its base. The party avoids talking about ideology, wraps the wavering of its political stances in “rationality, pragmatism, and science,” and adopts a segmented and hierarchical marketing model for its policy discourse, attracting politicians and groups of people with different positions. The pragmatic and “de-ideologized” tactics are attractive to young people who dislike the Blue-Green confrontation, but are not persuasive to the mature middle-ground forces of society and the elderly, 30 resulting in an inverse ratio between Ko’s support level and the age of his supporters. This is also a deeper reason for his difficulty in expanding his supporters.


III. The Direction of Cross-Strait Relations after the Election


After the election, the development of cross-Strait relations faces a more severe and complex situation. After Lai Ching-te takes office, he is bound to do everything possible to promote the process of “Taiwan independence” on all fronts, increase efforts to “use military means to seek independence and reject unification,” accelerate economic “decoupling from the mainland and integration with the United States,” and intensify his efforts to collude with external forces. The antagonism and uncertainty in cross-Strait relations will thus rise. At the same time, however, the latest public opinion on the island leans toward peaceful and stable cross-Strait relations, and the mainland’s development and progress will continue to lead the direction of cross-Strait relations, so the DPP’s continued rule will not be able to change the basic development pattern of cross-Strait relations.


(i) Political confrontation across the Taiwan Strait will intensify, and the situation in terms of opposing “independence” and promoting unification will become more severe


Lai Ching-te took “anti-China” as the main axis of his election campaign, distorted “democracy versus authoritarianism,” and threw out his “constitution is a catastrophe” statement, exposing his true intention of seeking “de jure Taiwan independence.” The peaceful development of cross-Strait relations will thus face even greater challenges in the wake of the election. First, he further distorted and stigmatized the “1992 Consensus,” eroding the political foundation for the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. During the election, Lai continued Tsai’s “new two-nation theory,” maliciously twisted the “1992 Consensus” and “one country, two systems,” and attacked the opposition party for “confusing the ‘1992 Consensus’ with the Constitution, which is very dangerous to Taiwan,” 31 with the intention of denying, based on legal principles, that the “1992 Consensus” is in line with the existing provisions on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and to weaken the public opinion base on the island in support of the “1992 Consensus.” Second, he used the “peaceful protection of Taiwan” as a cover for “resisting China and striving for independence,” strengthening cross-Strait confrontation on all fronts. During the election, Lai strengthened the construction of his new “Taiwan independence” argument of “peaceful protection of Taiwan,” twisting the mainland’s struggle to oppose “independence” and promote unification into “suppression of Taiwan’s democratic system and values” and “undermining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.” Claiming that the general election was a choice between the different systems and values across the Taiwan Strait, he used the so-called cross-Strait “confrontation of systems” as cover for the essence of “resisting China and seeking independence.” In terms of cross-Strait policy, he proposed the construction of the so-called “four pillars of the peaceful protection of Taiwan,” 32 strengthening so-called defense “deterrence” capability and “economic security” on all fronts, stepping up collusion with external forces for the “protection of Taiwan,” and so on, in an attempt to bolster public opinion on the island for “resisting China and protecting Taiwan.” An escalating all-round confrontation in the military, economic, and foreign-related fields on the basis of strengthening the cross-Strait political confrontation is bound to continue to raise the level of tension in cross-Strait relations. Third, the possibility of “Taiwan independence” forces taking risks and provoking cross-Strait relations has increased. As a “minority regime,” Lai’s administration will not only continue to carry the baggage of DPP rule, but will also face multiple constraints and challenges from political forces in the opposition. Adding on the heightened uncertainties in global geopolitical and economic trends, it is feared that it will fall rapidly into governing difficulties or even a crisis. In unfavorable internal governance situations, the DPP is accustomed to creating cross-Strait tensions to shift the focus, further increasing the risks in cross-Strait relations.


(ii) Taiwan’s authorities will accelerate cross-Strait economic decoupling, adding new challenges to deepening cross-Strait integration and development


With the DPP remaining in power, and amid the dynamics of restructuring global and cross-Strait supply chains triggered by international geopolitical tensions, the deepening of cross-Strait integration and development faces more complex challenges. First, the process of institutionalizing cross-Strait economic cooperation is unlikely to revive and develop, and the uncertainty of cross-Strait economic and trade interactions will increase. The refusal of the DPP authorities to recognize the “1992 Consensus” has led to a prolonged suspension of the institutionalized consultations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, dealing a severe blow to the process of institutionalizing cross-Strait economic cooperation, and the 23 agreements signed by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait after 2008, such as ECFA, will face increasingly serious political obstacles to their promotion and implementation. Lai’s rise to power will make the process of institutionalizing cross-Strait economic cooperation more difficult, and may even lead to further regression. The many problems surfacing in cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges under the drastic changes in the external environment will be difficult to resolve in the long term, and the environment for developing the cross-Strait economic and trade relationship will further deteriorate. Second, Taiwan’s authorities will speed up promotion of cross-Strait economic decoupling, and deeply integrate into the so-called “supply chain resilience system” being built by the United States and the West. Lai Ching-te listed “economic security” as one of the four pillars of the so-called “peaceful protection of Taiwan,” claiming that he would strengthen supply chain security and reinforce trade agreements that contribute to the diversification of foreign trade. After the election, Lai declared that he would “further enhance the resilience of supply chains between Taiwan and the United States in key industries,” and hoped that on the basis of the so-called “U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade” and other institutionalized agreements and platforms between the two sides, Taiwan would join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) agreement, 33 thereby integrating more deeply into the supply chain resilience system and economic cooperation mechanism being built by the United States, and accelerating cross-Strait decoupling. Third, cross-Strait trade and investment will face challenges. Affected by factors including a weakening world economy and the reconstruction of global supply chains triggered by international geopolitical tensions, the traditional approaches to developing cross-Strait trade and investment face increased external impacts, and some Taiwanese high-tech industries have begun to decentralize their overseas investment layouts in order to reduce risks. The volatility of cross-Strait trade and of mainland-bound investment by Taiwanese businesses has increased, and the cross-Strait trade volume situation continued to be one of adjustment in 2022 and 2023. According to Taiwan’s statistics, Taiwan’s export dependence on the mainland declined from a historical high of 43.9% in 2020 to 35.2% in 2023. 34 It is noteworthy that the island’s high-tech industries, represented by the electronic information industry, are accelerating their transformation and upgrading to electric vehicles and artificial intelligence-related industries, and its direction is dominated by the U.S.-Western industrial system and market. Meanwhile, in order to highlight the geopolitical value of semiconductors and other industries as Taiwan’s “sacred mountains of protection,” Taiwan’s authorities continue to encourage investment and support by related industries in order to enhance their key positions in global supply chains. The authorities are also going along with the requirements of the United States, Japan, and Europe in pushing the relevant industries to move investment there in an attempt to further substantive relationships with the relevant countries. In the context of increasingly fierce high-tech competition between China and the United States, the obstacles to cross-Strait cooperation in the science and technology industry are increasing, and there is a risk of decoupling in some sensitive industrial sectors.


(iii) The basic pattern and direction of cross-Strait relations development will not change


With regard to cross-Strait factors, the mainland’s development and progress is the key to determining the direction of cross-Strait relations and achieving the complete reunification of the motherland. As the mainland’s comprehensive strength continues to grow, its ability to oppose and curb “Taiwan independence” and to promote peaceful cross-Strait development and national unification continues to improve, and the outcome of this “two-in-one” election is unlikely to change the basic pattern and direction of cross-Strait relations. If the Taiwan authorities engage in radical and risky “Taiwan independence” behavior, they will surely pay a heavy price. At the same time, the mainland’s accelerating construction of the new development pattern, the gradual formation of a unified large domestic market, the rapid development of the new economy and new industries, and the continued promotion of high-quality opening up to the outside will provide major new opportunities for deepening cross-Strait integration and development. Although cross-Strait economic relations may fluctuate, decoupling is unlikely. The DPP authorities have “geopolitically instrumentalized” the island’s dominant industries such as semiconductors, exacerbating the imbalance in industrial development, increasing Taiwan’s economic development risks, and triggering widespread concern within the island’s business community. Looking at Taiwan’s internal factors, mainstream public opinion in favor of peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and communication and exchanges has strengthened. Although the DPP is once again in power, it has lost the support of the majority of public opinion, and the loss of control of the legislature, in particular, will put greater pressure on its governance, making “de jure Taiwan independence” hard to achieve. With its majority of seats in the legislature and control of counties and cities, the opposition parties have increased their ability and willingness to check and balance the DPP’s risky “Taiwan independence” behavior, providing favorable conditions for stabilizing cross-Strait relations and expanding cross-Strait exchanges. In terms of international factors, the one-China framework is becoming more and more firmly fixed in the international community, and the so-called “diplomatic allies” of the Taiwan authorities continue to shrink, leaving no international space for “Taiwan independence.” In particular, while external forces are stepping up their efforts to intervene in the Taiwan issue and strengthen the “arming of Taiwan” on one hand, on the other they are also worried that risky “Taiwan independence” behavior will cause them to become passively embroiled in a Taiwan Strait crisis, harming their own interests. The U.S. government has publicly stated that it does not support “Taiwan independence” and reiterated that “as long as cross-Strait differences are resolved peacefully, we do not take a position on the final solution.” 35 The “internationalization” of the Taiwan issue is thus unlikely to gain momentum.


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Cite This Page

吴宜 (Wu Yi). "Analysis of the Results and Impact of Taiwan’s 2024 “Two-in-One” Election [台湾地区2024年“二合一”选举结果及影响分析]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Taiwan Research Journal [台湾研究集刊], February 20, 2024

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