Voter turnout ticks up, ends years of decline

People wait in line to vote in New Taipei City on Saturday. (CNA)
People wait in line to vote in New Taipei City on Saturday. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Finally putting an end to years of decline, Taiwan saw a record-breaking voter turnout on Saturday in which incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won by a landslide: 74.9 percent.

In the previous presidential election in 2016, voter turnout hit a new low at 66.27 percent, according to data compiled by the Central News Agency (CNA).

In fact, voter turnout has been in decline since it hit a record high at 82.69 percent in 2000, when, for the first time, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates had a winning chance against the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT).

DPP won by a mere 2.5 percent margin, leading to the country’s first power turnover.

While the beautiful weather might have contributed to the high turnout, a sense of “national doom” is what many viewed as the main drive.

The term “sense of national doom” circulated on social media for months, especially among the younger generations and Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) supporters.

Largely incited by Hong Kong unrest and perhaps fueled by Tsai, whose momentum was built largely upon her promise to resist China and protect Taiwan’s democracy, the apocalyptic term shows fear and a “now or never” kind of mindset.

Repeatedly seen in this election was the slogan “your vote is the one vote short”. It could be seen on more traditional pamphlets but more often on social media posts.

Many Facebook users added a special frame to their profile which reads “I’m going home to vote. What about you?”

While the term “national doom” was mostly used by younger generations on social media platforms, the sense of urgency wasn’t unique to Tsai’s voter base.

On the other end of the political spectrum, supporters of Tsai’s biggest rival Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) from the Kuomintang (KMT) also showed a high dose of anxiety.

A survey conducted by READr, an online research and news publication found that Han’s supporters were most concerned about economic growth.

Tsai’s pension and labor reform infuriated many, in particular, members of the military who felt they were cheated by the government after putting their lives on the line during the Chinese Civil War and the following period when martial law was implemented in Taiwan.

Many of Han’s supporters worried that Tsai’s hard stance against China will continue to jeopardize the cross-strait relationship and economic growth.

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