James Soong: The end of an (authoritarian) era in Taiwan

The following piece appeared in The Diplomat today:

A campaign truck for People First Party presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) and his running mate Sandra Yu (余湘) drives past 8-23 Memorial Park in Yonghe District, New Taipei City on Thursday 8 January, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Rhett Straube).

Amid the coverage of Tsai Ing-wen’s resounding victory and re-election as president of Taiwan last week, scant attention was given to political veteran James Soong’s showing. The former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) heavyweight finished a distant third place with just 4.25 of the vote. This represented a drop of more than 8.5 percent from his 2016 campaign, though an improvement on the dismal 2.77 percent he received in 2012. More tellingly, 2020 marked the first year Soong’s People First Party contested an election without winning a single seat in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.

Prior to the election, the 77-year-old Soong had promised that this would be his last bid for power. Given his status as a perennial loser in democratic process – he was also trounced in the 2006 Taipei mayoral election –  the fulfillment of this pledge might seem long overdue.

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