Taipei-Taiwan's two major political parties are hoping to clinch a majority in the January 2020 legislative elections, but their calculations may be complicated by the growing number of smaller parties and an unorthodox political partnership.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) currently holds 68 seats in the 113-seat Legislature, followed by the main opposition Kuomintang's (KMT's) 35.
The smaller New Power Party (NPP) and People First Party (PFP) both have three seats, and the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) has one. The remaining three seats are held by three independents not affiliated with any party, including two former NPP members.
The NPP won five seats in the 2016 elections, but two lawmakers announced their withdrawal from the party due to ideological differences with party leadership.
Of the lawmaking body's 113 legislators, 73 are directly elected in winner-take-all constituencies, six are reserved for indigenous candidates to be elected by indigenous voters, and 34 are at-large legislators elected based on the proportion of the political party vote won.
To secure a legislative majority, a party needs to win at least 57 seats.
The DPP's sizable victory in the 2016 elections not only made President Tsai Ing-wen (???) the country's first female president, it also gave the party a commanding 68 seats in the Legislature, helping the DPP push through its policies over the past three years.
The upcoming January election, however, will be far more challenging for the DPP, a party source told CNA during a recent interview.
The ruling party is still rebounding from a resounding defeat in elections for local government offices in November 2018. It won only six of Taiwan's 22 city and county government seats, down from the 13 it held previously, while the KMT won 15 seats, a net pickup of nine.
"The DPP has regained its footing in the past months, as Tsai has built a stable lead of close to double digits in opinion polls over her KMT opponent, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (???)," the source said on condition of anonymity.
In terms of the legislative elections, the source said the DPP's goal is to maintain its majority in the Legislature by winning at least 57 seats.
The party is confident it will win legislative seats in southern Taiwan, a traditional DPP stronghold for decades, the source said.
The challenge to maintaining its majority will lie in areas north of Changhua County, where the party's candidates face stiff competition.
As for the DPP's main rival, the opposition KMT, Chairman Wu Den-yih (???) previously pledged that it was aiming for 60 seats next year, an ambitious goal considering it only won 35 seats in 2016.
"60 seats will not be easily achieved, but the party has full confidence it will perform much better than it did in 2016," a KMT source told CNA recently.
The source said the party has the advantage in its traditional strongholds in northern Taiwan, especially in Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan and Taichung.
In southern Taiwan, the KMT is gradually picking up support after its candidate performed well in Tainan in March's by-election when Hsieh Lung-chieh (???) lost to the DPP's Kuo Kuo-wen (???) by less than three percent.
Hsieh won 44 percent of the total vote in that election, a significant jump compared to the 18 percent won in the same district four years ago by another KMT candidate.
The source said the KMT is projecting winning one or two legislative seats in Tainan and having a similar or better performance in Kaohsiung next year.
KMT was completely shut out in southwestern Taiwan in the 2016 legislative elections, winning no seats in the 22 constituencies stretching from Yunlin County to the southernmost Pingtung County.
The KMT source acknowledged, however, that it could be hurt by the fall in the popularity of its presidential candidate Han over the past few months.
Another concern is the activities of tycoon Terry Gou (???), one of the losing candidates in the KMT presidential primary in July, who withdrew his KMT membership last month.
Gou mulled an independent bid for president before deciding against it but has decided to work with the Taiwan People's Party (TPP) formed by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (???) to support legislative candidates, a decision that could negatively affect the chances for victory among KMT forces.
Meanwhile, two smaller parties, the NPP and PFP, have also set their respective goals for the January elections.
NPP spokesman Chen Chih-ming (???) told CNA the party is aiming to take at least eight legislator-at-large seats and is still considering putting up its own candidates for seats that are directly elected. It won five seats in the 2016 polls.
Chang Shuo-wen (???), head of the PFP organization department, meanwhile, said the party hopes to maintain its three legislator-at-large seats it currently holds in the Legislature.
The PFP is also mulling whether to present its own regional legislative candidates, especially in Taipei, Taoyuan, Changhua and Kaohsiung, he said, adding that the final decision will be made later this month.
Under Taiwan's "single-member constituency, two-vote" system, each eligible voter will cast two ballots in the legislative elections -- one for a candidate representing the voter's district and the other for a political party to decide how many at-large seats each party can obtain.
A political party must win at least 5 percent of the party vote to be eligible for a share of the at-large seats.
Other than these traditional smaller parties, four political parties have been formed over the past few months in preparation for the 2020 election.
The four parties are the Taiwan Action Party Alliance and the Formosa Alliance, both considered pan-green, Ko's (???) TPP, and the Taiwan Renewal Party launched by former Tainan County Magistrate Su Huan-chih (???).
Among them, Ko's TPP is widely considered as the most likely to win seats and the biggest threat to the other small parties because of the partnership between Gou and Ko.
Gou aide Tsai Chin-yu (???) told CNA that besides working with Ko in the legislative elections, he is also endorsing Richie Lee (???), the son of former KMT lawmaker Lee Chia-chin (???), who is running as an independent in New Taipei, and considering supporting some KMT candidates.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel