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The Voting Results of Taiwan's Four Referendums - A Different Perspective
 Source:Centre for Strategic Thinking  Views:952 Updated:2021-12-22

The Four Referendums in Taiwan advocated by the KMT took place on Saturday 18 December. The total number of people eligible for vote this time was 19,825,468; around 40% of whom participated in the voting. The final results on late Saturday showed that slightly less than 4 million people voted “Yes” to each of the Four Referendums - “Yes” represented the KMT side - while slightly more than 4 million voted “No” to each of them - “No” was advocated by the current ruling party DPP.


From the media coverage, the key figures within the KMT as well as a large number of KMT-supporters have expressed deep regret about the voting results. Failing to pass the referendums seemingly was a loss of the KMT. Yet, if the results can be analysed from a deeper and dialectical perspective, they may not be that bad for the KMT. The KMT in fact has made some substantial gains.


The voting results of the Four Referendums have exposed a reality of the dramatic diminishing influence of the current ruling party DPP among the Taiwan public. Back in January 2020, when Taiwan held a general election, around 8.17 million people voted for Cai. Within less than two years, the number of supporters to the Cai government, as uncovered from the voting results of the Four Referendums, is down to around 4 million. In this regard, the KMT’s work within a relatively short period of time has made a big progress; and the great efforts made by the KMT and its supporters have been rewarded in reality.


In addition, official figures showed that there were only about 40% of the eligible voters having participated in the vote this time so far. Then who were the other 60% of the eligible voters - the silent majority having not attended the voting event? Why did the 60% of them choose to abstain from vote? There might be a number of reasons. From the author’s understanding, the following factors mainly prevented the 60% of them from voting.


First, as shown from the voting results, the current Taiwan government has lost approximately 4 million supporters within two years since the general election. This result could also tell that the polices and measures having been taken throughout this 2-year period have negatively affected the public opinion toward the Cai government. It is believed that a very big portion of the 4 million people, whom the DPP has already lost, should be among the 60% of the eligible voters having abstained from the vote this time. Even though this big group of Taiwan locals didn’t vote for the Cai government, in the meantime, they haven’t been fully ready to support the KMT as well, so abstaining from the Four Referendums should be an appropriate choice for this group.


Second, some might be a bit afraid of the new hard measures possibly to be imposed by the Taiwan authority. Since the DPP became the ruling party, the Taiwan local government has taken a variety of means to misdirect the Taiwan public against the Mainland - one of the strong misleading slogans recently applied by the Taiwan government is “confronting the Mainland for defending/protecting Taiwan (抗中保台). Thus, “opposing the Mainland” and “protecting Taiwan” were set to be in a corollary relationship, as a result of which, a large proportion of the Taiwan people have been forced to get into a situation in which for defending Taiwan, they must need to stand together against the Mainland; or in other words, only by staying united against the Mainland, can Taiwan and Taiwan’s interests be properly defended/protected. Due to a series of strong misleading slogans and policy measures taken by the current government as well as the repercussions caused by them, the Cross-Strait relations over the past years has been getting worse. Meanwhile, a large number of people living in both the Mainland and Taiwan have also been affected. Under these circumstances, it is no doubt that a great number of Taiwan locals are fearful of participating in public vote.


Third, some KMT-supporters may be worried about the consequences of another defeat, given that the KMT over the past years has suffered a series of defeats. It is not surprising that some of them may need a little longer time to restore their confidence in the KMT. This proportion of the traditional KMT loyalists just lacked enough enthusiasm to vote.


Fourth, there could be a case that a group of people only agree or disagree part of the Four Referendums - such as one or two out of the four. Besides that, the weather on the voting day wasn’t good. In this case, they finally didn’t get the temptation to participate in the voting event.


Fifth, the external situation like what has been happening in the Indo-Pacific region might have affected people’s decision whether to vote or not as well. 


Sixth, some people neither support the KMT, nor do they support the DDP. They are attached to other political parties in Taiwan. Under this circumstance, this group of people may not be tempted to participate as well.


Generally, this analysis assumed that only a small proportion of people could meet the last three cases from the fourth to the sixth on the list above. The portion of people meeting the cases from the first to the third are assumed to have occupied a majority of the silent nonparticipants. This finding also revealed a fact that, though this time this large group of people didn’t vote on the Four Referendums, most of them have already become the hidden supporters of the KMT. Therefore, the KMT has more hidden supporters now than the DPP. Having more potential supporters is a big advantage for the KMT.


Some in the meantime may raise a question that why the majority of the nonparticipants are assumed to be the potential supporters of the KMT, rather than of the ruling party DPP? The answer is very simple - given the dominant position of the current government in Taiwan politics since the DPP assumed power, and that in order to sustain its ruling position, the DPP loyalists should have vied to show their support to and vote for the Cai government in this special occasion. There is no big deal for them to stay silent there.


Overall, in the foreseeable future, there might be a fluctuation in the number of supporters to the KMT and to the DPP respectively. Nonetheless, the general trend of the current Taiwan political picture is that more and more Taiwan locals have been getting tired of the contentious atmosphere generated by the Taiwan authority. The rising tension from both the internal and external dimensions has already silenced a majority of the Taiwan people from participating in public vote. If it continues its current policy direction and measures, the Taiwan authority risks losing more supporters.


For the KMT, the most important task in the next steps is to turn the hidden supporters into strong supporters. To achieve that, standing firmly to prove the party’s strength and capacity in representing the interests of majority of the Taiwan people and in leading Taiwan toward the right direction should be the most crucial issue.


In addition, to further enhance the party’s strength, there is a need for the KMT to reflect on the lessons learnt from the planning process of the Four Referendums. For instance, the party may need to rethink about whether it was a bit too rush to instigate four referendums at the same time, given that the KMT is still in a stage of restoring its strength and improving its capacity. Thus, if only one or two referendum(s) was/were set on the agenda at the very beginning, and in the later stage well consulted within the party at various levels and properly organized among the Taiwan public, the KMT should have been able to achieve a much better outcome.


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