The Republic of China was
founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1912 and is a sovereign state, which is
described in the Constitution as "a democratic republic of the people, by
the people, and for the people."
The ROC Constitution is based
on Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People: Nationalism, Democracy,
and People's Livelihood. The Principle of Nationalism includes not only
equal treatment and sovereign international status for the country, but also
equality amongst all ethnic groups within the nation. The Principle of
Democracy assures every individual the right to political and civil
liberties. The Principle of People's Livelihood states that the powers
granted to the government must ultimately serve the welfare of the people by
building a strong and prosperous economy and a fair and just society.
The ROC Constitution delineates
the rights, duties, and freedoms of the people; the overall direction for
political, economic, and social policies; and the organization and structure
of the government. Modeled after US constitutional concepts, it
guarantees various rights such as equality, work, livelihood and property, as
well as the political powers of election, recall, initiative and
referendum. In return, the people are obligated to pay taxes and perform
military service as prescribed by law. Receiving an education is
considered to be both a right and a duty of the people.
The ROC Constitution
specifically guarantees the freedoms of speech, residence, travel, assembly,
confidential communication, religion and association. Other rights and
freedoms, even if not specified in the Constitution, are still protected, so
long as they do not violate social order or public interest. All actions
taken by the state against a citizen - such as arrest, trial and punishment -
must be conducted strictly according to legal procedures. If the
government violates a person's human rights while processing a case, the
victim is entitled to compensation by the state.
There are three distinct levels
of government in the ROC. The central level consists of the presidency,
the five Yuan (Executive, Legislative, Judicial, Examination, and Control),
and that National Assembly. The provincial/special municipality level
consists of the Taiwan and Fuchien provincial governments and the governments
and councils of the two special municipalities of Taipei and Kaohsiung.
The local level consists of
five provincial municipalities and 16 county governments, along with the
governments of their subordinate cities. The constitutional amendment of
July 23, 1997, downsized the provincial government, placing the Taiwan and
Fuchien administrations under the central government with councils nominated
by the premier and appointed by the president.
The structure of the ROC
government has a horizontal system of checks and balances in which the five
highest branches of the central government administer the country. These
five branches are the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan,
Examination Yuan, and Control Yuan.
The president of the Republic
of China is the highest representative of the nation. In the past, the
National Assembly elected the president; however, since March 1996, the people
of Taiwan have directly elected both the president and vice president.
President Chen Chui-bian and Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien are the current heads
of state for the Republic of China.
The president of the Republic
of China can hold his office for a maximum of two consecutive four-year
terms. As the head of state, the president represents the country in all
foreign relations and state function; furthermore, all acts of state are
conducted in his name. The president's duties include commanding the
land, sea, and air forces; promulgating laws and decrees; declaring martial
law, subject to confirmation by the Legislative Yuan; concluding treaties;
declaring wawr and making peace; convening the National Assembly; granting
amnesty and commutations ; appointing and removing civil officials and
military officers; and conferring honors and decorations. All powers
exercised by the president much be carried out in accordance with the
provisions of the Constitution and other relevant laws.
Following six constitutional
amendments made between April 1991 and 2000, the National Assembly is now a
non-standing body whose functions have mostly been transferred to the
Legislative Yuan. In accordance with the laws passed by the Legislative
Yuan, the 300 delegates of the National Assembly are now selected by political
parties on the basis of proportional representation. The few powers
retained by the body include voting on constitutional amendments, presidential
impeachment or alteration of the national boundaries, as proposed by the
Legislative Yuan. It's former powers, such as hearing a report on the
state of nation by the president each year and approving the president's
nominations for grand justices and heads of the Examination and Control Yuan,
have all been transferred to the Legislative Yuan.
The ROC Cabinet is headed by
the premier and consists of various ministers and commission chairmen under
the Executive Yuan. Subordinate organizations under the Executive Yuan
include the Executive Yuan Council; the eight ministries (interior, foreign
affairs, national defense, finance, education, justice, economic affairs, and
transportation and communications; the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs
Commission, Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, Directorate General of
Budget, Accounting and Statistics, and the Government Information Office; and
other subordinate organizations, such as departments, commissions, councils,
administrations, and ad hoc committees.
The Legislative Yuan is the
highest legislative body of the state, consisting of popularly elected
representatives who serve for three years and are eligible for
reelection. The 255 members of the Fifth Legislative Yuan were elected
in December 2001. The powers of the Legislative Yuan, which are only
exercised on behalf of the people, include confirming emergency orders made by
the ROC president; hearing reports on administration, revisions of government
policy, and a report on the state of nation by the president each year;
examining budgetary bills and audit report; practicing the right of consent
over the appointment of the presidents of the Control, Examination, and
Judicial Yuans; proposing amendments to the ROC Constitution; settling
disputes concerning self-governance; initiating impeachment proceedings
against the ROC president and vice president; and overseeing the operation of
the Executive Yuan.
The Judicial Yuan is the
highest judicial body of the state, with the Council of Grand Justices as its
main body. The Seventh Council of Grand Justices consists of 15 grand
justices, including the president and vice president of the Judicial
Yuan. The grand justices are appointed by the ROC president and
confirmed by the Legislative Yuan. Subordinate units of the Judicial
Yuan include the Supreme Court, high courts, district courts, the Supreme
Administrative Court, the High Administrative Court, and the Commission on the
Disciplinary Sanctions of Public Functionaries. In addition to
exercising administrative supervision of Taiwan's court system, the Judicial
Yuan also enforces judicial independence from the other branches of government
in accordance with the Constitution.
The Examination Yuan is
responsible for the examination, employment, and management of all civil
service personnel in the Republic of China. It consists of a president
and 19 members, all of who are appointed to six-year terms by the ROC
president and confirmed by the Legislative Yuan. In addition to
overseeing exams, the Examination Yuan manages qualification screening
,security of tenure, pecuniary aid in case of death, retirement of civil
servants; and all legal matter relating to the employment, discharge,
performance evaluation, scale of salaries, promotion, transfer, commendation,
and award of civil servants. The examination system used in Taiwan
applies to all appointed and elected civil servants, as well as to specialized
professional and technicians hired by the government both locally and from
The Control Yuan is responsible
for correcting government officials at all levels and monitoring the
government through the powers of impeachment, censure, and audit. The
Control Yuan's 24 members, including its president and vice president, are
appointed to six-year terms by the ROC president and confirmed by the
Legislative Yuan. The are not allowed to hold any other public office,
engage in other professions, or have any political party affiliation.
The Control Yuan exercises its power of audit through its Ministry of Audit,
which is responsible for auditing all government expenditures at the central,
provincial, municipality, county and city levels.
Provincial and Special
A provincial government is the
highest local administrative organization prescribed by the ROC Constitution,
though at the present time, Taiwan is the only complete province under the
ROC's effective control. In accordance with Article 9 of the Additional
Articles of the ROC Constitution, the Taiwan Provincial Assembly was
abolished on December 20, 1998. The Taiwan Provincial Government now
consists of an eight-member council - including a governor who is nominated by
the premier and appointed by the ROC president - that is responsible for the
various provincial administrative function. With the abolishment of the
Taiwan Provincial Assembly, many former position within the provincial
government were eliminated or gradually merged with other levels of
government. The Fuchien Provincial Government is responsible for
administering Kinmen and Lienchiang Counties.
Taiwan's special municipalities
are considered equivalent in status to a province, and thus receive partial
funding from the central government. Special municipalities have
popularly elected mayors and city councils. Taiwan currently has two
special municipalities: Taipei City and Kaohsiung City.
County and Provincial
Provincial municipalities are
under direct provincial jurisdiction, whereas county municipalities are under
direct county jurisdiction. There are five provincial municipalities,
namely Keelung, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, and Tainan, and 32 county
municipalities in Taiwan.
Every city and county in Taiwan
has its own respective city/county government and city/county council.
Mayors head city governments, while magistrates manage county
governments. All councilors, mayors, and magistrates are elected to
office by popular vote.
The ROC has placed government
reform at the top of its administrative agenda, with the air of establishing a
highly efficient, responsible, and adaptable entity that is capable of coping
with different changes. Government reform is a comprehensive plan
engineered as the basis for enhancing national competitiveness, which is a
prerequisite for advancing national development. The goal is to
transform the entire government into a streamlined, flexible, innovative, and
resilient organization that function like a well-managed private
company. To achieve the end, government agencies are being streamlined
to roughly two-thirds their present size, the functions and organization of
the central government are being customized to adapt to current needs, a more
flexible hierarchy and personnel structure is being planned and promoted for
bureaucratic organizations, and the budgetary system is being modified.
Taiwan has been rapidly
implementing democracy since the mid-1980s. Various political parties
compete in regular elections, and more posts are now filled by popular
election than ever before.
Three separate electoral
systems are employed in Taiwan.
The first system is used for
election of the president, mayors and magistrates. Each voter casts only
one vote, and the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes is elected.
The second system is used in
election for the Legislative Yuan, as well as county, city, and township
councils. Each voter still casts only one vote, although there may be
two or more seats available for each constituency, which are filled by
A third system, called
proportional representation, has been used since 1991 for election to fill a
limited number of seats reserved for the national constituency and for
overseas Chinese communities in the Legislative Yuan. Before an
election, each party submits two lists of candidates, one for the national
constituency and the other for representatives of overseas Chinese.
After voters have cast their ballots, votes gained by candidates of each party
are tallied and seats distributed proportionally among the parties receiving
at least 5 percent of the total valid votes nationwide. At present, 22
percent of the seats in the Legislative Yuan are filled by proportional
The National Assembly has
amended the ROC Constitution six times over the last few years, making a
number of changes to Taiwan's electoral politics:
- The terms of office for the
ROC president and members of the National Assembly have been reduced from
six years to four (the term for the Legislative Yuan has remained the same
as three years).
- The president and the vice
president are now elected directly by all eligible voters in the free
territory of the ROC, rather than indirectly by the National Assembly as
in the past. Furthermore, to be elected, a presidential candidate
needs only a plurality of the vote, rather than a majority.
- Members of the Control Yuan
are now nominated and appointed by the president of the ROC, with the
consent of the Legislative Yuan.
- Provincial government has
been streamlined. Formerly elected, the Taiwan Provincial Assembly
has been replaced by a nine-member consultative council appointed by the
- In April 2000, the National
Assembly amended the Constitution to drastically reduce its own powers and
functions. The National Assembly now only convenes when proposals of
presidential impeachment, constitutional amendment, and national boundary
changes are initiated by the Legislative Yuan, which now has most of the
functions formerly held by the National Assembly.
Central Election Commission
Founded in 1980, the Central
Election Commission (CEC) under the Executive Yuan is responsible for hold and
supervising national and local elections, screening the qualifications of
candidates, recalling elected officials, and drafting laws concerning
elections. The CEC has a chairman, and between 11 and 19 commissioners
who, after being nominated by the premier and approved by the president, serve
for three-year terms. To ensure the impartiality of the CEC, the Public
Officials Election and Recall Law forbids any single political party from
holding more than two-fifths of the commission seats.
As of September 2003, a total
of 102 political parties had registered with the Ministry of the Interior,
though most have only insignificant influence in the political system.
The five most prominent parties are the Democratic Progressive Party,
Kuomintang (also known as the Nationalist Party), New Party, People First
Party, and Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Formed on September 28, 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party now has
around 420,000 members. The DPP's annual National Congress elects 30
members to its Central Executive Committee, who in turn elect a Central
Standing Committee of ten members. The DPP party chairman nominates a
secretary-general, one or two deputy secretaries-general, a number of
departmental directors (for organizations development, culture and
information, international affairs, social development, women's development,
youth development, Chinese affairs, and a survey center), two
directors-general, and an executive director, all of whom must be approved by
the Central Standing Committee.
At an extraordinary session of
its National Congress held April 20, 2002, the DPP authorized the president of
the ROC to serve as chairman whenever the DPP is in power. When it is
not, the chairman will be directly elected by all party members. In
addition, the April 20 congress created positions for up to three vice
What most distinguishes the DPP
from the KMT, People First Party, and New Party is its inclination towards
Taiwan independence, that is, the permanent political separation of Taiwan
from China. In recent elections, however, the mainstream DPP leadership
has moderated the party's independence rhetoric in an attempt to broaden voter
support. At the Eighth National Congress in 1999 prior to the 2000
presidential election, for instance, the DPP resolved that:
- Taiwan is a soverign state,
whose official name is the Republic of China.
- Any change of Taiwan's
status quo should first require a referendum.
- Taiwan is not part of the
People's Republic if China, and the so-called "one country, two
systems" or "one-China" declaration unilaterally declared
by the PRC falls short of the interests of the people of Taiwan.
- Taiwan and China should seen
to establish lasting peace by building a communication mechanism based on
mutual understanding and a consensus through dialogue across the Taiwan
The unprecedented victory of
the DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian at the 2000 presidential election ended five
decades of KMT domination of Taiwan's politics.
The Kuomintang, which celebrated its centennial on November 24, 1994,
is the largest party in the ROC with approximately 1.05 million members.
The KMT's National Congress is
its highest authority, having the power to amend the party charter, determine
the party platform and other important resolutions, and elect the party
chairman and 210 Central Committee members. The National Congress also
approves the vice chairmen and members of the Central Advisory Council, all of
whom are nominated by the party chairman. The Central Standing
Committee, which represents the Central Committee when it is not in session,
is the most influential KMT organization.
Routine party affairs are
managed by the secretary-general and two to three deputy
secretaries-general. The main party organizations under the
secretary-general include the Policy Committee, National Research Institute,
Culture and Communications Affairs Committee, and Organization and Development
In March 2001, the KMT held its
first direct election for party chairman, giving acting chairman Lien Chan the
full title. The 16th National Congress was convened in September 2003,
at which, a new 210-member Central Committee was elected, and which, in turn,
elected the 31 members of the Central Standing Committee.
New Party (NP)
In August 1993, shortly before the KMT's 14th National Congress, a
group of KMT members including one former and six incumbent lawmakers resigned
from the KMT to establish the New Party, which aimed to attract voters
dissatisfied with the performance of the KMT but opposed the DPP's
pro-independence platform. The New Party now has approximately 1,400
The New Party differs from the
KMT and the DPP in organizational structure and stresses leadership by those
holding public office. The NP is led by its National Council.
In the 2001 election for
Legislative Yuan members, county magistrates, and city mayors, the NP fared
poorly, making the future of the party look doubtful.
People First Party (PFP)
On March 31, 2000, the People First Party was established by James
Soong, a former KMT governor of Taiwan Province, who, running as an
independent, had lost narrowly in the presidential election. He was
joined by a number of KMT legislators who had supported him during the
presidential election, and was elected as the party's first chairman.
The PFP opened its membership to citizens of 16 years of age, two years
younger than the minimum age required by other parties.
The party's highest
policy-making body is its National Council, which consists of current or
former office-holders in the executive or legislative branches of the
government, current or former party officials, and representatives from
different sectors of society. The council elects a Central Executive
Committee consisting of 21 members and seven alternate members, each of whom
serves for a two-year term. Every two years, all party members directly
elect the party chairman. The PFP now has around 120,000 members.
Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)
The Taiwan Solidarity Union is a new addition to Taiwan's political
scene, having registered with the Ministry of the Interior on July 31,
2001. With the endorsement of former president Lee Teng-hui, it attracts
supporters from the KMT, DPP, and other political groupings. Its aim is
to "stabilize the political situation, promote the economy, consolidate
democracy, and strengthen Taiwan."
The Part Contress is the
highest authority of the TSU. The party chairman, who is elected
directly by party members for a two-year term, appoints the 21 members and
three alternate members of a Central Executive Committee every two
years. The TSU now has around 3,000 members.
The ROC has held elections
since the early 1950s. Even during the period of the Emergency Decree
(sometimes referred to as "martial law"), elections for county
magistrates, city majors, provincial assembly delegates, and county and city
council members were held regularly. Today, representatives and leaders
at all levels of government are elected by popular vote. The minimum
voting age is 20, and voter registration is automatic. The government
notifies voters of an impending election and distributes a bulletin or gazette
that identifies and describes all candidates an their platforms.
2002 Elections for County
and City Councilors and Township Magistrates
On January 26, 2002, elections
were held for a total of 897 council seats and 319 executive offices,
including county and provincial municipality councils, rural and urban
township magistrates, and county municipality mayors.
In the election for county and
city councilors, the KMT captured 382 of the 897 seats, the DPP 147 seats, the
PFP 49 seats, the NO 3 seats and the TSU seven seats with the remaining 309
seats going to independent candidates. In the elections for rural and
urban township magistrates, and county municipality mayors, the KMT won 195 of
the 319 seats, the DPP 28 seats, and the PFP four seats, with independents
wining the remaining 92 seats.
These election results showed
that the KMT still retained a high level of support at the local level.
2002 Elections for Taipei
and Kaohsiung Mayors and City Council Members
On December 7, 2002, Taiwan
held elections for Taipei and Kaohsiung mayors, and the two big cities'
council members. In the mayoral election in Taipei, KMT's incumbent Ma
Ying-jeou, retained his post with 873,102 votes (64,1 percent), defeating DPP
candidate Lee Ying-yuan, who collected 488,811 votes (35.9 percent).
Voter turnout was 70.61 percent.
In Kaohsiung, the DPP's
incumbend Mayor Frank Hsieh was also reelected with 386,384 votes (50
percent), while the KMT's Huang Jun-ying garnered 361,546 votes (46.8
percent). Among the three other candidates for Kaohsiung mayor,
Chang Po-ya received 13,479 ballots; Shih Ming-teh, 8,750 ballots; and Huang
Tian-sheng, 1,998 ballots. Voter turnout was 71,38 percent.
As for the elections for the 52
seat Taipei City Council, the KMT retained its position as the largest party
with 20 seats (38.5 percent), followed by the DPP with 17 seats (32.7
percent), the PFP with eight seats (15.4 percent), the NP with five seats (9.6
percent), and two seats for independents. The TSU failed to win a single
seat in Taipei.
In the elections for the
44-seat Kaohsiung City Council, the DPP replaced the KMT as the largest party
by taking 14 seats (31.8 percent), followed by the KMT with 12 seats (27.3
percent), the PFP with seven seats (15.9 percent), the TSU with two seats (4.6
percent), and nine seats for independents. The NP failed to win any
seats in Kaohsiung.
Information provided by the Information Division, Taipei Economic and Cultural
Some of the biggest changes in Taiwan's government can be found in the
articles of 1994. The change was the election of a president by popular
vote for a term of four years, and for citizens 20 and older, voting is
universal. Before this change, the president was elected to a six-year
term by the National Assembly. 1996 was the year a president was elected
by popular vote.
As the president is the head of state and serves as the commander in chief of
the Republic of China. He also represents Taiwan at state
functions as well as in foreign relations. He and his vice president can
be impeached by the National Assembly. The National Assembly's scope
includes constitutional amendments as well as declaring changes to China's
The government of Taiwan includes five branches of government in addition to
the president and National Assembly. The first, the Executive Yuan
(branch), is the highest administrative branch and is in charge of implementing
and making government policy. It's members are appointed by the president.
The Legisative Yuan has 153 members who are elected to their three-year
terms. Legislative power is exercised on behalf of the people and audits
Executive Yuan reports and the Legislative Yuan also checks the budget.
Powers of consent, impeachment, censure and audit are implemented by the
Control Yuan. The 29 members of this branch also uncovers corrupt
officials and removes them, from all levels of government. With the
National Assembly's consent, the president appoints the members of the Control
Any civil servant, including elected and appointed officials, are examined,
employed and managed by the Examination Yuan. This Yuan's 21 members are
appointed by the president under consent by the National Assembly and serve
The final Yuan is responsible for the administrative, civil and criminal
court cases, as well as those regarding the discipline of public
officials. In charge of Taiwan's court system, the Judicial Yuan has a
president, vice-president and a Council of Grand Justices (which has 15
members). The Judicial Yuan is over the Supreme Court and all
"lesser" courts below the Supreme Court.
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