Taiwan 2004 Presidential Election and Aftermath

Report and Commentary

March 24, 2004

Annex I Annex II

The People Spoke

Official results

Central Election Commission Chairman George Huang Shih-cheng, in accordance with Art. 63 of the Election Law, pronounced the result at 9 PM on Mar. 20, as follows:

The CEC will officially publish the results in the gazette within seven days of the elections, when they will have legal effect.

Results in line with polls

The result is exactly in line with the pre-election polls. From Mar. 1 until the legally mandated cutoff of publication of polls on Mar. 10, mainstream polls showed the two candidates neck and neck, as follows:

Date Agency Chen/Lu Lien/Soong Undecided Gap*
3/01 China Times 39.8% 38.1% 22.1% 1.7%
3/04 Shih Hsin University 37.6% 42.6% 19.8% -5.0%
3/04 Focus Survey Research (aka "Shanshui") 40.4% 39.5% 20.1% 0.9%
3/07 United Daily News 38.0% 41.0% 21.0% -3.0%
3/07 SET TV 38.3% 36.7% 25.0% 1.6%
3/08 TVBS 36.0% 40.0% 24.0% -4.0%
  Average       -1.3%

*Gap expressed in terms of Chen/Lu, i.e. a positive number indicates Chen/Lu in the lead, and a negative one indicates Lien/Soong in the lead.

All of these are independent, professional polling organizations. Three of the polls showed Chen leading, and three showed Lien leading. The average gap of 1.3% in favor of Lien was well within the standard margin of error of these polls, and there were substantial numbers of undecided voters in each poll. Moreover, data from all polling agencies showed the gap narrowing throughout the last two months of the campaign. Therefore, the assertion that Lien was "clearly leading" in the pre-election polls cannot be justified.

The recount

Taiwan's election law includes clear provisions for either side to apply to the court for a recount, and this procedure has been used several times in local elections in the past. The Lien/Soong campaign has made such an application, and the court is currently considering it. The government fully respects their right, and will fully cooperate with any decision taken by judicial authorities.

The sealing of the ballots was carried out immediately after the pan-blue's application by the designated judicial authorities. This does not imply a determination of wrongdoing, but is a standard precautionary measure to preserve potential evidence in any future investigation, and the government has fully complied with the process.

Any election suits will be heard by the High Court, with a possibility of appeal to the Supreme Court. Taiwan's judicial authorities are fully independent of the executive branch. All judges, including all members of both the High and Supreme Courts, are not political appointees, but a separate special category of public servants. They are not allowed to be members of any party, and they have guaranteed tenure, only subject to internal review by the judicial branch itself.

The constitutional court, called the Council of Grand Justices, does not hear lawsuits, including election cases, but only interprets the Constitution. Its members are not ordinary judges, but senior legal experts. They are appointed by the president with the consent of the Legislative Yuan. The current members were confirmed by the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan in September 2003.

On Mar. 23, President Chen met with the heads of all government branches. He reiterated the government's hope for a speedy recount and promised to respect the outcome. He emphasized that the legal procedures must be followed, and the judicial system respected. In order to create any new recount procedures, relevant laws would have to be amended; however amendments proposed by the DPP caucus to create a procedure for automatic recounts within seven days of a close election were blocked by the pan-blues in the Legislative Yuan on Mar. 23. Since it is fully possible to carry out a proper recount under the law, calls by some pan-blue figures for a state of emergency to be imposed simply to expedite the process are totally unnecessary. The government is not and has never contemplated any such drastic step, which could have serious consequences for Taiwan's political stability.

According to current Taiwanese law, the result announced by the CEC is valid unless and until a new result is announced also by the CEC, at the end of any recount process. Art. 107 of the Election Law stipulates that a challenged election doe not affect the powers or duties of the incumbent, and Art. 65 stipulates that the incoming president and vice-president will take office at the appointed time (May 20), regardless of any pending legal challenges.

Note: further details of related laws are provided in Annex 1.

Polling procedures

Election administration structure:

Ballots are counted in each polling station, and the opening of ballot boxes and the count are witnessed by official party representatives from each party. In addition, hundreds of international observers and thousands of domestic and international reporters and photographers canvassed the country, but failed to observe any violations.

This system has reduced outright election fraud to a bare minimum in Taiwan. The most recent case where serious election fraud was proven occurred after the legislative election in 1995, when the Kuomintang (KMT) was determined by the court to have rigged the ballots to engineer the defeat of a DPP candidate.

Polling stations have on average 1000 voters, and each has several staff, one policeman, and one party agent from each side. Furthermore, no polling stations returned 100% for the DPP. Therefore, in order for the party to have "stolen" 30,000 votes, it would have had to have absolute control over hundreds of polling stations, and every single one of these at each station. It is simply not plausible that so many different polling station officials, police, and especially KMT representatives could be so controlled. Even the KMT admits that they have yet to identify any evidence of any malfeasance.

Invalid Ballots

Reasonable Explanations:

The assassination attempt

Since the final result fell in the middle of the range of pre-assassination attempt polls, it is difficult to perceive any direct impact of the attempt on the result, despite its very shocking nature. Moreover, the accusation of conspiracy by the pan-blue camp the night before the election could possibly have had an impact in the other direction, although again such an effect is not directly observable. Of course, in such a close election, any tiny shifts could have been a factor, but so were many other events during the course of the campaign.

According to standard military regulations, as revised in 2003, any presidential election requires the military to maintain a state of heightened alert. The troops required to be on duty on March 20 were fewer than 38,000 in number. In previous elections, some 13,000 of which (approx. 1/3 officers, 2/3 enlisted men) would have been permitted special short-term leave (usually half-day) to vote, but following the revision in 2003, this procedure is no longer available during presidential elections. It is also noteworthy that some enlisted men are not yet of voting age, as well as the fact that the normal turnout rate of soldiers is lower than that of the general population. The assertion that the votes of some 200,000 soldiers were affected is simply false.

The attempted assassination, therefore, did not have any impact on the deployment of Taiwan's military forces. Presidential security units, naturally, upgraded their own state of alert as a result, but this could not have had a significant effect on the outcome of the election. Furthermore, neither these units nor the regular army were deployed at or near polling stations.


Demonstrations by opposition supporters occurred in three cities in Taiwan on Saturday night and Sunday, and continued in Taipei on Monday. Although these demonstrations are technically illegal, the government has adopted a tolerant attitude and refrained from forcibly dispersing them to prevent further inflaming passions.

Negative impact of demonstrations:

Annex 1

Relevant Articles

Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Law

Promulgated by presidential decree (84)hwa tsung (1) yi No. 5889, on August 9,1995

Amended and Promulgated by presidential decree (92)hwa tsung (1) yi No. 09200201091, on October 29,2003

Section Three: Candidates

Art. 29 After the deadline of Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate registration and before the balloting day, if any of the Presidential candidates dies, the Central Election Commission shall proclaim the election activities quit and fix another date for a new election.

If the election is proclaimed quit, a certificate of completion of a joint signature campaign obtained before the cessation of the election shall still be valid for the new election.

Section Six: Casting and Opening of Ballots

Art. 60 A ballot shall be invalid in any of the following circumstances:

  1. It is not prepared and distributed by the election commission in charge.
  2. It is not according to mark for one single ticket of candidates by the provisions of the preceding Paragraph.
  3. The mark is put outside the marking column of the ballot or in such a place that the elector choice cannot be ascertained.
  4. The ballot is altered after marking.
  5. The ballot bears a signature, name chop, fingerprint, words or any other writing sign.
  6. The ballot is torn so as to cause imperfection.
  7. The ballot is so stained that the elector choice cannot be ascertained.
  8. The ballot is not marked with the tool prepared by the election commission in charge.

The invalid ballot as prescribed shall be determined in the preceding Paragraph by the chief administrator together with the chief inspector of the ballot opening station. If there is a disagreement between them, it shall be voted upon and decided by all inspectors. In the event of a tie, the ballot shall be declared valid.

Section Seven: Election Results

Art. 63 A ticket of candidates which receives a majority or plurality of ballots shall be elected. If two or more tickets of candidates receive equal numbers of ballots, a re-balloting shall be held within 30 days after the balloting day.

If there is only one ticket of candidates, the ballots it receives must beat least 20 percent of the total number of electors to be elected. If the election result is that no one is elected, a re-balloting shall be held within 30 days after the balloting day.

Art. 64 If a Vice Presidential candidate dies and the Presidential candidate of the same ticket is elected to the Presidency, the Vice Presidency shall be regarded as vacant.

If either the elected President or the elected Vice President dies before taking office or has his election declared null and void by judgment before taking office, the position will be regarded as vacant.

If both the elected President and the elected Vice President die before taking office or have their election declared null and void by judgment before taking office, both positions shall be regarded as vacant and a new election shall be held should be conducted in six months from the day of death or the day receiving the affirmance from the court.

Art. 65 The elected President and Vice President shall take office on the day of the expiration of the term of the incumbent President and Vice President. For any persons who are elected in the re-holding of an election or after a re-balloting and who thus cannot take office on the day of the expiration of the incumbent President and Vice President, the terms of office shall still be calculated as beginning from this date.

Chapter Six: Election and Recall Suits

Art. 102 When an election commission has violated the law so as to affect the results of an election or a recall, a prosecutor, a candidate, the person under recall process and the initiator of a recall case may, within fifteen days after the proclamation of the name list of elected persons or the proclamation of the result of a recall is made, bring a suit against that election commission before a competent court to request nullifying the election or recall.

Art. 103 In a suit of nullifying the result of an election or a recall balloting, when the court has adjudicated and declared the invalidity of the election or recall, the election or recall shall be null and void. A period of time shall then be set in which a by-election or recall be held. Where the law violation involves only apart of the election of the recall process, the part of the election or the recall process involved shall be null and void, and a re-balloting on the nullified part shall be held within a fixed period.

Art. 104 When an elected official has one of the following deeds, the election or recall organ, the prosecutor, or a candidate may, within thirty days after the proclamation of the list of the elected officials, sue for the nullification of the election in a court with competent jurisdiction:

  1. The number of ballots won by the elected official is so inaccurate as to have affected the election results.
  2. A person who employs threat, violence, or other illegal means obstructs candidates from engaging in campaigning, qualified voters from exercising casting rights freely, or staff of election affairs from executing duties.
  3. A person commits acts specified in Article 84, Subparagraph 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 87, Paragraph 1 of Article 89 or Paragraph 1 of Article 146 of the Criminal Code.
  4. A person commits acts specified in Paragraph 1 Article 86 sufficient to affect the election results.

The deeds specified in the preceding Paragraph shall not, when the court has adjudicated and declared the invalidity of the elected official, be affected by the part of absolution of the criminal judgment in the same case.

Art. 106 The election of a person shall be null and void after the court has adjudicated the suit for nullifying his/her being elected and has declared his/her election invalid.The persons duly elected in an election had taken office;the date from the court has adjudicated and declared the invalidity of the elected official, the elected official is canceled

Art. 107 A judgment on the invalidity of an election or of a candidate being elected shall not affect official duties undertaken as an elected official during the period of his/her taking office.

Art. 110 The appellate court in the place of the central government shall have exclusive jurisdiction as first instance over election and recall suits.

Art. 111 In an election or recall suit, the court trying the case shall establish a provisional chamber and try the case in joint consultation. The court shall try such cases before handling any suits of other kinds. Election and recall suits shall be finally adjudicated in the court of second instance and be no more de novo trial. Each competent court shall make judgment within six months.

Art. 112 In addition to the provisions regarding procedures for election and recall suits set forth in this Law, those in the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply mutatis mutandis; however, those provisions relating to the effect of abandonment, acceptance of liabilities and admission of undisputed facts that do not apply to the actions shall not apply.

Annex II

Geographic Distribution of Invalid Ballots

Locality Governing Party Total votes Invalid votes Percent invalid
Yunlin County KMT 419,783 16,748 3.99%
Kinmen County KMT 29,203 1,069 3.66%
Chaiyi County DPP 329,209 11,554 3.51%
Changhua County DPP 759,712 26,288 3.46%
Ilan County DPP 265,094 8,885 3.35%
Miaoli County Independent 325,354 10,868 3.34%
Taoyuan County KMT 1,035,296 30,838 2.98%
Kaohsiung County DPP 750,105 21,903 2.92%
Tainan County DPP 670,524 19,313 2.88%
Nantou County DPP 309,112 8,784 2.84%
Taitung County PFP 119,783 3,198 2.67%
Lienchang County PFP 4,425 117 2.64%
Penghu County KMT 46,014 1,213 2.64%
Hsinchu County KMT 264,340 6,737 2.55%
NATIONWIDE   13,251,719 337,297 2.55%
Pingtung County DPP 528,500 13,383 2.53%
Hualien County KMT 184,065 4,523 2.46%
Taichung County KMT 871,831 21,270 2.44%
Taipei County DPP 2,183,828 52,948 2.42%
Hsinchu City KMT 220,885 5,143 2.33%
Keelung City KMT 227,561 4,996 2.20%
Taipei City KMT 1,619,038 30,789 1.90%
Chiayi City DPP 155,783 2,905 1.86%
Tainan City DPP 443,430 8,247 1.86%
Taichung City KMT 574,759 10,566 1.84%
Kaohsiung City DPP 914,085 15,012 1.64%

Source: Central Election Commission

This document was prepared by Maysing Yang of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy

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The document is placed on this website as a public service.