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May 29, 2024, 12:35pm EDT
East Asia
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Semafor Signals

Taiwan opposition pushes for more reform as pro-democracy protests continue

Insights from the National Chengchi University, New Bloom Magazine, and Tai Sounds

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REUTERS/Ann Wang
Taiwan Protest
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The News

Taiwan’s legislature on Tuesday passed a slate of reforms that give it more power to scrutinize newly-inaugurated President Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), all while tens of thousands of demonstrators peacefully protested the move in Taipei.

Lai is expected to veto the legislation, but the opposition-majority in the island’s legislature — led by the Kuomintang (KMT) party — will likely override the veto. In addition to expanding the legislature’s power over the presidency, the laws would require military officials, private companies, and individuals to disclose information to parliamentarians if asked.

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International critics of the law say it is taking cues from China, but many Taiwanese see the reforms as a homegrown attack on democracy.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Protests are not exclusively pro-DPP

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Source:  
National Chengchi University

Some observers have described protestors as pro-DPP, but much like previous demonstrations in Taiwan, the protestors “have always wanted meaningful distance from the DPP,” Lev Nachman, a political scientist at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University said. Indeed, there are differences between how demonstrators and the DPP have framed the bill: The DPP has suggested the new laws are an existential threat from China, while protestors are more concerned about Taiwanese democracy as a whole. Critics of the DPP who also don’t support the reforms believe the DPP “ignores how the problem is home-grown, not external,” Nachman said.

KMT also at risk under new law

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Sources:  
New Bloom Magazine, The Diplomat

The impact of the bill on voters will not be apparent until the 2026 local elections, but it could ignite “scorched earth tactics between both parties going forward,” as the DPP could theoretically use the law to target KMT leaders, according to New Bloom Magazine editor Brian Hioe. It’s “hard to imagine” that KMT leaders like Fu Kun-chi — the legislative majority leader — would “not emerge unscathed” given his history of alleged illegal stock manipulation, Hioe argued. Certainly both parties have a history of weaponizing each other’s laws against one another. “Taiwanese politics can be weirdly cyclical,” Hioe wrote.

Observers worry KMT is drifting from founders’ democratic vision

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Sources:  
Tai Sounds, NOWNews

Taiwan’s Control Yuan — the supervisory branch of government — issued an official criticism of the bill, prompting Fu to call for the Control Yuan’s dissolution. Such calls are not new: The DPP had previously criticized the KMT for using the Control Yuan to punish opposition leaders, according to Tai Sounds. But for a high-profile KMT member to call for it is “rare” since the party’s founders also drafted Taiwan’s constitution, according to NOWNews. Taiwan’s founders set out a strong separation of power among government bodies. While eliminating the Control Yuan would pose a risk to democracy, the historical complaints from both the KMT and DPP show some reforms may be needed to make it “functional” and less partisan, Tai Sounds argued.

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