Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Taiwan’s 2000 Presidential Election

Taiwan’s 2000 Presidential Election

On March 23, 1996, Taiwan held the first direct presidential election in five thousand years of Chinese history and four hundred years of Taiwanese history. On March 18, 2000, the same Taiwan electorate, reinforced by about a million newly eligible young voters, held another historic vote. This second election would provide the highest-level voluntary exchange of political power ever experienced in Chinese or Taiwanese society. One might expect the follow-up election to generate less excitement than the first as faces become familiar, turnout declines, high hopes diminish, and practical matters prevail. But Taiwan’s second election was anything but routine: turnout seemed likely to remain above 70 percent, some people’s hopes for change were rising, and such major themes as cross-strait relations, government efficiency, and “money politics” dominated public opinion polls and campaign speeches. To be sure, these issues were reportedly more important because of “valence” or “style” than the specific positions taken, but all major candidates produced position papers addressed to virtually every conceivable interest group.

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