Taiwan Presidential Election: High Stakes, High Risks

The presidential election in Taiwan planned for next month is proving to be anything other than a regular exercise of democracy. Current President Chen Shui-bian’s policies have angered Beijing and drawn a public reprimand from Washington.

The World Today
4 minute READ

Professor Steve Tsang

Former Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

Tension between Taiwan and China has been rising as Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian insists on holding a referendum with implications for relations across the Taiwan Strait on the same day as the presidential election, scheduled for March 20.

The war of words started last September when Chen announced a referendum on the introduction of a new constitution to coincide with the election. Although the case for a constitutional overhaul is strong, this was first and foremost a calculated attempt to provoke a reaction from China to aid his re-election.

The president’s plan was to replace the existing constitution through a referendum rather than by following normal procedures, raising the question of how the use of extra-constitutional means could consolidate democracy.

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