Small parties aim high amid highly competitive 2020 elections

Taipei-The leaders of the nation's two independence-leaning political parities on Wednesday set their respective goals in the upcoming January 2020 legislative elections, amid an expected highly competitive race after a number of new parties were formed recently.

Hsu Yung-ming (???), the newly elected chairman of New Power Party (NPP), said during a radio interview Wednesday that his party has set a goal of winning six seats in the 113-seat Legislative Yuan next year.

Despite seeing a more competitive election ahead, Hsu said he was confident that his party can garner around two million votes, which will give it at least five to six legislator-at-large seats in the Legislature.

Among the 113 seats at the Legislative Yuan, 79 are filled by regional lawmakers representing 75 electoral districts and 34 by legislators-at-large.

Under Taiwan's "single-member constituency, two-vote" system, each eligible voter will cast two ballots in Legislative elections-- one for a candidate representing the voter's district and the other for a political party to decide how many at-large seats each party can obtain.

A political party must win at least 5 percent of the party vote to be eligible for a share of the at-large seats.

Over the past few months, four political parties were formed in preparation for the 2020 election, with half of them leaning toward Taiwan independence like Hsu's NPP.

The four parties are Taiwan Action Party Alliance and the Formosa Alliance, both considered pan-green, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je's (???) Taiwan People's Party (TPP), and the Taiwan Renewal Party launched Saturday by former Tainan County Magistrate Su Huan-chih (???).

Commenting on these new parties, Hsu singled out Ko's TPP as posing the most threat to the NPP.

He, however, still expressed full confidence toward his party and estimated that it will be joining the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) to become the only three parties that will be able to form party caucuses in the Legislature following the January election.

Current rules stipulate that a party needs to gain at least three seats in the Legislative Yuan to form a party caucus, which would allow them to have more influence in the law-making body.

Founded in Jan. 2015, the NPP emerged from the 2014 Sunflower movement, a 24-day occupation of Taiwan's Legislature by protesters in March that year to protest against the lack of transparency in a trade-in-services agreement that was signed by Taiwan and China.

The party is a part of a political phenomenon known as the "third force" in which new political parties, unaligned with the traditional DPP-led pan-green or KMT-led pan-blue coalitions, sought to provide an alternative to voters in Taiwanese politics.

Nevertheless, the NPP's policies are very much aligned with those of the pan-green camp, and the NPP cooperated with the DPP against the KMT in the previous legislative elections in 2016.

The NPP performed well in 2016 by winning all three districts where it fielded regional legislative candidates and crossing the 5-percentage-point threshold to be awarded legislator-at-large seats, making it the third largest party in the country after the DPP and KMT.

Meanwhile, the chair of one of the oldest pro-Taiwan independence parties, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), Liu Yi-teh (???) told CNA on Wednesday that he expected the TSU to perform better than it did in 2016.

He set a bar of winning 600,000 votes, or five percent of party votes, in the election next year. The party won only 305,000 party votes, or around 2.5 percent, in 2016.

The TSU was formed by former President Lee Teng-hui (???) in 2001 after he left the KMT following his presidency from 1988 to 2000, and has long been considered an alliance of the DPP.

The party, however, has lost its influence in Taiwan politics over the years after Lee gradually distanced himself from its operation due to his old age and health conditions.

Seeing a competitive election ahead, Liu said it was important for his party's future survival to pass the 3 percent threshold in party votes in the January election to be eligible to collect government subsidies to maintain its operations.

A party that passes the 3 percent threshold is entitled to collect a subsidy of NT$50 (US$ 1.57) per vote annually over the next four years from the government, in accordance with the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act.

Liu said his party has its edge in standing out among these smaller parties in 2020 because unlike other parties, the TSU has fully supported President Tsai Ing-wen's (???) reelection.

Taiwan's next presidential and legislative elections will be held concurrently on Jan. 11, 2020.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel