by Roy Ngerng
TAIPEI, TAIWAN — For me, the massive defeat suffered by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at today’s local election in Taiwan is a sign people are highly dissatisfied with DPP’s performance on local issues.
In the nine-in-one local elections held on 26 November, DPP only won five local government seats from its previous seven and it was swept out of power in the northern half of Taiwan.
In a study conducted in September 2022, when Taiwanese are asked about the issues they were most concerned about, it was the economy.
The economy was the top concern, at 52.9%.
But what specifically about the economy? The top 2 concerns were the high housing prices with 74.4% of Taiwanese being concerned about this issue, and rising prices in Taiwan, which 73.2% were concerned about.
Indeed, in the last 2 years since the presidential election, Taiwan’s housing prices grew the fastest in the last 3 decades, and one of the fastest in the world. Taiwanese also end up paying one of the highest housing prices and mortgage burdens globally.
Due to rising consumer prices, Taiwan’s real wages have fallen this year. Taiwan’s minimum wage is also one of the lowest and most inadequate among advanced countries and also grew the slowest in the last 3 decades.
While President Tsai Ing-wen grew the minimum wage faster than her predecessors, expectations were not on her to do more of the same but to transform the economy in a way that did not only benefit businesses and semiconductors, but also the worker being exploited.
Instead of rising the minimum wage faster, Tsai and DPP instead kept boasting about Taiwan’s Gross Domestic Product growth, even though it does not benefit the average worker wages as a percentage of GDP have instead been declining, and workers know it.
After the economy, the 2nd top concern that Taiwanese were concerned about was law and order, of which the top 2 concerns were financial fraud (70.0%) and the social safety net (59.1%).
After law and order, the 3rd top concern is social welfare.
Problem is, not only is the DPP government allowing businesses to pay low wages, they are not forcing them to pay higher contributions for social protection, even when businesses don’t actually pay that much when seen in the context of the low wages.
All in all, while Taiwan’s workers are suffering, the DPP government made promises to build more social housing, but Taiwan continues to have the least social housing among the advanced countries. People earn low wages and cannot afford housing.
As such, when Taiwan’s workers are facing hardship and feel the government is not responding, it is a slap in the face when Tsai asks them to vote for DPP, by using China to hold voters hostage during a local election & not even a national one.
I wondered if the Taiwanese will feel compelled to vote for DPP because of national security and the threat of China. But it looks like Taiwan’s voters are smart enough not to allow DPP to hold them hostage with both the presidential and local elections.
So it looks like Taiwanese voters have used the local election this year to roundly punish the DPP for breaking its promises at the local level. Taiwanese are tired of being held hostage by the China issue, and let DPP use that to hang on to power.
Indeed, while the level of support for Tsai is still relatively high because of her national and foreign policies as president, voters still see the need to punish her and the DPP for their performance at the local level for the local election.
Thing is, DPP can use the China issue to make themselves superior to the Kuomingtang (KMT) and win at the national level, but at the local level, there is nothing to differentiate between DPP and KMT.
If DPP is more of the same as KMT, then why should voters support DPP? It doesn’t matter.
And if KMT succeeds in pretending to criticize China enough, such that voters buy into the KMT also protecting Taiwan, then DPP’s niche at the presidential election will also be lost. So, the question is, what kind of vision is DPP offering to Taiwanese at the local level?
At the end of the day, voters want to protect Taiwan, but if they think their love for their country is being used as a reason for the party in government not to take action to address their own livelihood needs, it seems like the Taiwanese are astute enough to punish the said party.
After today’s local election, DPP will find a scapegoat to take responsibility for their losses, but I think today’s election is bigger, in that the DPP has shown it offers nothing else to voters other than their constant threat of China as a threat, albeit a real one.
DPP needs to relook at what kind of vision they can offer the Taiwanese at the local level. It seems the China threat can work for a while, but after a while, it’s like the boy who cries wolf.
DPP has been in government for long enough & voters are looking at them to start to perform.
This was first published on Roy Ngerng’s Twitter account and republished with permission.