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Taiwan's 2016 Elections: Five things you need to know

Taiwan enters the final weekend of campaigning before it heads to the polls on Jan 16. Amid the sound and fury, here are five things to know about the island's 2016 elections.

TAIPEI: As polling day draws closer, Taiwan's three presidential candidates will ramp up efforts to drum up support. Mass walkabouts and political rallies are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of supporters out onto the streets.

WHEN IS IT?

Election day is on Saturday, Jan 16. With the voting age set at 20, there are more than 18 million eligible voters, who can cast their ballots at 15,582 polling stations across the island between 8am and 4pm. Unofficial results will be out on the evening the polls close, while official results will be announced within 7 days.

WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES?

The three candidates contesting in the 2016 Presidential Elections are Eric Chu from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and James Soong from the People First Party (PFP). The incumbent, KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou has been in power for two terms, and is prevented from seeking re-election by the constitution.


People first Party's James Soong, Kuomintang's Eric Chu, and Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Ing-wen. (Photo: Chuck Wen/Pool/AFP)

WHAT IS THE VOTING PROCESS LIKE?

Apart from electing a president, voters get two other ballots to determine the makeup of the 113-seat legislature. The first of these is a direct vote for legislative candidates and the second is a party vote.

Taiwan’s hybrid electoral system means that under the first ballot, the majority of the seats (73) are up for grabs via first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies. An additional six seats belong to two three-member indigenous constituencies.

The second ballot, or the party vote, fills the remaining 34 seats via closed-list proportional representation.


113 seats will be contested under Taiwan's hybrid electoral system. (Graphic: Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs)


WHERE WILL THE CLOSEST RACES BE?

The front runner in opinion polls, DPP’s Tsai is riding on public discontent with the ruling KMT government, which has presided over a faltering economy even as it made gains in trade and air links with China.

According to Taiwan election watcher Formosa Nation, a poll by Taiwan broadcaster Next TV shows Tsai leading the other two presidential candidates across all districts, with the closest races in north Taiwan in the KMT strongholds of Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli.


HOW WILL PEOPLE VOTE?

Local elections held in November 2014, in which the KMT suffered a landslide defeat, could foreshadow the outcome of the 2016 elections.


The KMT saw a landslide defeat in local elections held in November 2014. (Graphic: Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs) 


People are expected to vote along Blue/Green lines - with those supporting eventual independence for Taiwan going for the DPP-led Pan-Green coalition, and those supporting eventual reunification with China going for the KMT-led Pan-Blue coalition.

A particular problem for the KMT this year is that fewer people, especially those under the age of 40, identify as Pan-Blue. The number of people who identify as Pan-Green has surpassed those who identify as Pan-Blue for the first time since 2004, says pollster Taiwan Indicators Survey Research. 

Beyond the fundamental independence/reunification question, other key campaign issues include jobs and wages, government transparency, and trade policy.