SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Fell, Dafydd (2003) Party platform change and democratic evolution in Taiwan: 1991-2001. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] Text - Submitted Version
Download (16MB)


The year 2001 marked the tenth anniversary of Taiwan's multi-party elections, offering a timely opportunity to take stock of the state of party politics in Taiwan. This study examines evolution of party competition in Taiwan, looking at how Taiwan's parties have adjusted to their new multi-party election environment. Have Taiwan's parties followed a convergent or divergent pattern of competition. Or has Taiwan followed the common models of many new democracies of either a hegemonic one party dominant system or a completely unconsolidated system of weak catchall parties and personality orientated, issueless campaigns. I argue that Taiwan has developed a healthy state of inter-party competition, in which parties and issues have mattered in the evolution of Taiwan's democracy. Taiwan's parties have shown reduced polarization, as election orientated leaders have pushed their parties towards a moderate centre in response to election results and public opinion. However, they have not merged into indistinguishable catchall parties. Instead, leapfrogging of policy positions has been rare, as movement has been within limits set out by party ideology and inner party factional balance. Within ten years of democratic elections Taiwan's parties have swiftly institutionalised a pattern of competition similar to their counterparts parties of Western Europe, with the parties consistently stressing different issues and the public able to distinguish parties on core issues. I show how the successful operation of Taiwanese democracy goes beyond the institutionalisation of party platforms. Taiwanese public opinion has been shown to be sophisticated and moderate, consistently rejecting parties taking radical stances. Moreover, the Taiwan case shows having genuine opposition parties really makes a difference. Firstly, the rise of new electoral issues, such as political corruption and social welfare created new cross cutting cleavages, a phenomenon political scientists view as conductive to democratic stability. Secondly, ten years of multi-party elections have resulted a rapid transformation of mainstream norms towards the opposition's position on many core issues. Products of these campaign debates include a much expanded and more inclusive welfare system, broader norms on what constitutes political corruption and stricter anti corruption legislation. Finally, on the most controversial issue in Taiwanese politics, the mainstream parties have reached a tacit understanding on many aspects of the national identity question. In short, I argue that democracy is working in Taiwan.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:10

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item