by Robin Winkler, Green Party Taiwan
On November 29, 2014, for the first time Green Party Taiwan (GPT) candidates won their first electoral victories since the party was founded in 1996. The GPT now has two out of 906 seats in local assemblies and is now actively preparing for the national parliamentary (Legislative Yuan) elections that will likely be held January 16, 2016.
Taiwan’s 2014 elections, referred to as “nine-in-one” elections for the nine categories of offices contested, saw Green Jay Chou Chiang-chieh (周江杰) elected county councilor in Hsinchu County’s Chutung (竹東) and Wufeng (五峰) districts on the GPT’s ticket after a campaign bolstered by volunteers who canvassed hilly terrain on bicycles.
In Taoyuan’s Chungli District (中壢) GPT candidate Xavier Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) finished a surprising second in the contest for ten council seats. As the founder and moderator of a popular Facebook page titled: “I am from Chungli,” which features local news and entertainment, Wang channeled traffic generated by the page into support for his campaign, garnering 16,269 votes.
The Greens fielded nine candidates in the counsel elections with a common platform of: a nuclear free homeland (stopping construction on the fourth nuclear power plant and decommissioning the existing three), land justice, elder care reform, labor rights, animal welfare, increased transparency in government, rooting out corruption and lowering the voting age to 16.
Xavier Wang’s constituency is being subjected to one of the largest land expropriation/development projects in Taiwan’s history involving thousands of hectares of farmland in order to build an “aeropolis,” while Jay Chou’s is working to create better local economies to attract more of the younger generation to return or stay in their villages.
The candidates are neither from political families nor members of the political and business elite, they used a tiny fraction of campaign funds compared to the other candidates, using small fundraisers that brought environment and social reform advocacy groups to jointly develop policy.
The successful candidates took office on December 25th (Constitution Day) and immediately caused controversy by publishing the sign in sheets for their respective assemblies, as well as for refusing the bribes that were being passed around for supporting candidates from the two major parties for the council speaker and co speaker.
In Taiwan’s 2012 legislative elections, the GPT won nearly 230,000 or 1.7 percent of the nation’s party (list) votes. While it was somewhat lower than the five percent threshold for a seat in the national parliament, it was nearly a fourfold increase from 2008 and with this vote the GPT became Taiwan’s fifth largest political party. With the next election less than a year away, preparations are in place to nominate candidates to run throughout the country in the district (first past the post) elections, while setting its sights on taking at least three of the list candidate seats.