What you need to know
2,588 candidates running unopposed. 27 involved political parties. No term limits. Let's jump in!
In this November’s elections in Taiwan, all nine levels of administrative office at the regional level will be contested. Among the registered candidates are those running for three types of local seats: city and county mayors, district or township chiefs, and village or neighborhood wardens.
Of the three, the neighborhood warden is the official closest to the public. It’s also the only elected seat that has no term limit.
After several years of neighborhood border adjustments, there are currently 7,795 neighborhoods in Taiwan. This year, there are a total of 15,040 candidates registered to run for neighborhood warden – about 1,000 more than 2014, and averaging out to about 1.9 candidates per neighborhood.
Upon closer inspection, about one-third of neighborhoods in Taiwan have one candidate running unopposed. In some particularly competitive neighborhoods, as many as seven candidates are battling it out for the community’s top position.
The graph above shows us that up to 47 percent of neighborhoods have only two candidates registered for November’s elections. After that, around a third have only one candidate registered in what are essentially uncontested seats. Even if some of those 2,588 candidates are not qualified, they have already won without lifting a finger.
So which cities and counties have the most uncontested seats? Lienchiang County (Matsu Islands) tops the table with half of its neighborhoods uncontested, followed by Chiayi City with 46.43 percent of races featuring one unopposed candidate. Taitung County has the least: only 15 percent of neighborhood races are uncontested, followed by Hsinchu County with 20 percent.
The chart below shows us that, overall, neighborhood elections are getting more competitive. Compared to 2014, only Chiayi City and Pingtung County have seen an increase in the number of uncontested races, both by about 1 percent. Lienchiang County retained the number one spot.
On the opposite end of the table, three major administrative divisions have seen a sharp downward trend: Taitung County (down 15 percent), Taichung City (down 10.72 percent), and Penghu County (down 10.42 percent). This means far more neighborhood candidates in these three areas are ready to rumble.
For Taiwan’s smallest parties, a fight for survival
This year, a total of 12,681 neighborhood warden candidates (80 percent) are registered as independent. Of the remaining 20 percent, the Kuomintang (KMT) steadily outpaces the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Compared with 2014, the total number of independent candidates has increased by nearly 20 percent, with a decrease in candidates from both the KMT (about 35 percent) and DPP (about 22 percent).
A look at the table above shows us that, although only 12 parties contested neighborhood elections in 2014, there are 27 parties seeking warden seats in 2018. Although that number has doubled, 18 of these parties only have a single candidate running.
This increase may be related to the passage of the 2017 Political Party Act. This legislation included articles concerning Party Punishments, Dissolutions, and Mergers. One regulation states that if a political party does not nominate any member to campaign in an election for four consecutive years, then that party will be dissolved (Chapter 5, article 27, clause 2).
In some of Taiwan’s neighborhood elections, the country’s smallest parties are, quite literally, running for their lives.
This article originally appeared on the Chinese-language Taiwan edition of The News Lens. The original can be found here.
Translator: Zeke Li
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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