Shifting Paradigms in US, China and Taiwan Relations
Edited by Peter C.Y. Chow
Chapter 3: Taiwan’s Party System, Coalition Politics and Cross-Strait Relations
3. Taiwan’s party system, coalition politics and cross-Strait relations Tun-Jen Cheng and Yung-Ming Hsu* THE PARTY SYSTEM The party system is a function of many factors, including social cleavage and political institutions. The bulk of the literature on Taiwan’s electoral behavior and partisan competition saw the subethnic divide between the ‘Taiwanese’ (early Han settlers) and ‘Mainlanders’ (most recent arrivals) as the most salient social cleavage in the initial period of Taiwan’s democratic transition; but that national identity issue (one’s preference concerning Taiwan’s de jure ties with the Mainland) has quickly overshadowed, if not superseded, sub-ethnicity as the basis of partisan diﬀerence.1 National identity, however, is not immutable or clear cut, but rather ambiguous and subject to change. It is probably better seen as a process rather than a thing. Surveys have repeatedly shown that most of the residents in Taiwan prefer the status quo rather than uniﬁcation with or independence from China. Obviously the status quo is more easily coined than satisfactorily deﬁned. All this suggests that social cleavage is not the only predictor of the structure of partisan competition in Taiwan. An equally important factor is the institutional set-up within which political parties evolve and compete. Taiwan has a semi-presidential system, with non-concurrent elections for the President and legislators. The President is elected for a four-year term, while the legislators are elected for a three-year term. Elected by the National Assembly, a relatively inactive body, the President in pre-1996 Taiwan appointed a Premier, who, upon being...
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