DPP Retains Power but with a Weaker Mandate

Syaru Shirley Lin and other Brookings scholars assess the Taiwan election results and what they mean for the island, cross-Strait relations, and the U.S.-China-Taiwan triangle in 2024 and beyond.
Syaru Shirley Lin
Syaru Shirley Lin

Chair, Center for Asia-Pacific Resilience and Innovation

From The Impact of Taiwan’s Election in 2024 and beyond, Brookings Institution, January 17, 2024

On January 13, 2024, the DPP’s Lai Ching-te and Bi-khim Hsiao were elected as Taiwan’s next president and vice president with a small 40% plurality. As expected, the DPP lost control of the legislature, holding on to only 51 of the total 113 seats, but no party gained a majority; the KMT won 52 seats, the TPP eight, and independent candidates two. This produced a limited presidential mandate and divided parliament, with profound implications for how Taiwan will negotiate with the United States and China.

Both opposition parties proposed closer economic ties with China. The DPP will propose more defense spending and deeper security ties with the United States. However, very little can be accomplished because the three parties disagree on these issues. The opposition parties also vowed to restart nuclear power generation, which the DPP has traditionally opposed. The generational divide is deep, as both the KMT and DPP appealed to older voters, while the TPP won backing from young supporters. Domestic issues such as high housing prices, energy security, wage stagnation, and healthcare reform may produce coalitions on an issue-specific basis, but we should expect a stalemate on foreign and cross-Strait policy. Beijing will continue to threaten Taipei militarily and diplomatically, although it will exercise restraint leading up to the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to squeeze Taiwan on technology and defense. In short, Taiwan will have to navigate a dangerous world while plagued by internal division and a weak government.