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Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their elected officials in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Presidential and legislative elections took place in January 2016. Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen won the presidency, and her party obtained a majority in the legislature for the first time in Taiwan’s history. In November, Taiwan held local elections in which the opposition party won 15 of 22 mayoral and county magistrate seats. Observers regarded both elections as free and fair, although there were allegations of vote buying by candidates and supporters of both major political parties.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Lawmakers approved a Political Party Act in November 2017 to promote fair political competition and improve regulation of parties’ activities. The statute bans political parties from operating for profit businesses or investing in real estate for profit, and levies fines between NT$5.0 million and NT$25 million ($163,000 and $814,000) for violations.

December 2017 amendments to the Referendum Act lowered the thresholds to initiate referenda and for referenda to pass. Approximately 1,800 signatures, or 0.01 percent of the total number of eligible voters in the most recent presidential election, are required to initiate island-wide and regional referendums. Approximately 280,000 signatures, or 1.5 percent of the electorate, are required for a proposed referendum to make it on the ballot. A referendum will be declared successful if 25 percent of the electorate, or about 4.95 million people, vote in favor of the proposal, and there are more votes in favor than in opposition. The revised referendum law did not allow for referenda on sensitive sovereignty and constitutional related issues, such as cross-Strait issues, territorial changes, and constitutional amendments. The amendments lowered the voting age for referenda from 20 to 18 years of age. In addition to referenda initiated by the public, the cabinet was also given the power to initiate referendums. In the November local elections, participation in the referenda exceeded expectations with voters passing seven out of 10 initiatives.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

With her election in 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s first female president. In the new legislature, a record 38 percent of lawmakers were women. A Cambodian-born woman became Taiwan’s first immigrant legislator in 2016. Six seats are also reserved in the legislature for representatives chosen by Taiwan’s indigenous people. In the November local elections, voters elected women to seven of the 22 mayoral and county magistrate seats. The number of women elected to local councils also continued to grow: women won 307 of the 912 city and county council seats–rising from 30.7 percent in 2014 to 33.8 percent in 2018.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future