Taiwan’s main opposition parties unite


The two main Taiwanese opposition parties will tomorrow announce who will lead their joint ticket to contest January’s election.

The main Kuomintang (KMT) and smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) hope that joining forces will help them defeat the ruling, independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has consistently led the polls this year.

And after weeks of wrangling over who might lead such a joint ticket, they’ve now agreed they’ll just use polling to decide and will reveal the outcome tomorrow.

But it might not matter whether it’s the KMT’s candidate and current mayor of New Taipei Hou Yu-ih, or the TPP’s candidate and former mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je at the top. Polls suggest it could be a winning ticket either way. (Fun fact, Hou first joined the Kuomintang under the leadership of Chang Kai-shek!)

This is all intriguing because both parties on the ticket support warmer ties with China. They’re not pro-unification (only about 12% of Taiwanese want this), but they’ve both vowed to resume dialogue with China, on an equal and dignified basis, and “restore peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait“.

Contrast that with the ruling party’s declaration that it’s “a fact that Taiwan is a sovereign country”, and one remembers how much politics can shape geopolitics.

INTRIGUE’S TAKE

Three questions come to mind here. First, what does Beijing make of all this? It’s been open in its disdain for the ruling DPP, warning that the party’s positions could lead to war. The chance the DPP might not win another term will please them.

Which leads to the second question: what do the markets think? Taiwan’s stocks and currency both jumped when the news first broke. Clearly macro strategists think an opposition victory makes a ‘peaceful reunification’ of Taiwan with the mainland more likely. Keeping the peace would be good for business.

But the third question is the most important of all: what do Taiwanese voters think? They’ve survived and thrived in Taiwan’s unique grey area for decades, so our bet is the party that best convinces voters that they’ll extend the peaceful status quo, will win.

Also worth noting: 

  • The initial joint ticket announcement made no mention of a fourth candidate, billionaire Foxconn founder Terry Gou, who’s previously called for a united opposition.
  • During their Wednesday meeting, US President Biden warned China’s President Xi not to interfere in Taiwan’s vote. Xi reportedly said “China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable.
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