By Lin Yi-ting, Initium Media

The DPP’s supporters have not forgotten four years ago, when amid rain and tears, they listened to Tsai Ing-wen’s speech after losing the presidential election. “We are so close to the summit. There’s just a mile left. I want to tell everyone that such a result is regrettable, but we are not left with nothing.” She urged her supporters not to give up or despair. “Next time, let’s finish that last mile.”

Tsai Ing-wen at her victory rally
Tsai Ing-wen at her victory rally

On the night of Jan. 16, 2016, Tsai revisited that moment with her cheering supporters: “I said then that I would do everything I could to turn your tears into smiles. Everyone, we’ve done it!”

At 8:30 pm, over 20,000 supporters gathered at DPP headquarters to take cellphone pictures of the historic moment, cheering, “President Tsai!”

Tsai won 56.12% of the vote, beating Eric Chu by 3 million votes. After winning 13 seats in last November’s local legislative elections, this is the first time since the DPP’s foundation in 1987 that it has been able to govern both locally and nationally. From a non-party to opposition party, the DPP is now Taiwan’s largest party.

At this peak of victory, however, there is the summit of the next four years to climb. Tsai said to supporters: “We have a great responsibility to listen to the voices that did not make it into the legislature.” With a rare hoarse voice she added, “I will ask all party members: be humble, be humble, be humble.”

Taiwan turns Green–DPP governs centrally and locally

Though there was nothing surprising about the DPP’s victory, its supporters told Initium Media reporters that they were surprised by the large margin of victory.

Though last November’s legislative election already showed a trend in which voters were shifting from Blue to Green, this election added some new variables to Taiwan’s elections.

Although Tsai was expecting a victory all along, after official campaigning activities had ended by 10 pm on Friday night, Taiwanese K-pop singer Chou Tzu-yu’s apology video upload has been compared by some netizens to the “two bullets” which clinched Chen Shui-bian’s victory in 2004, carrying over to the next day’s elections.

Chou was forced to make a humiliating apology to China for daring to hold Taiwan’s flag on Korean television. The flap consumed social media in Taiwan on election day, adding support to Tsai’s ticket.

Tsai’s DPP and its coalition partner the New Power Party (NPP) won resounding victories in most of its competitive races, from Hualien to Taipei, Taichung to New Taipei. Combining forces with the NPP helped the DPP win 3 seats in Taipei, which has been a historically difficult area for the DPP. Even candidates with deep KMT support lost in the polls.

This election’s voter participation rate of 67.58% shows that Tsai won roughly a million more moderate votes than last time, while two million fewer KMT supporters voted. Before the election, the DPP hoped to win 16-17 at-large legislative seats; they ended up winning 18, equaling the KMT’s victories in 2008.

The DPP won 68 of the 113 total seats in the legislature. When the seats of their NPP ally are added, the pan-Green coalition controls more than two-thirds of the Legislative Yuan.

“In the future, no citizen will need to apologize for their identity,” Tsai said in a speech after her victory, to the cheers of her supporters. The Chou Tzu-yu incident on Friday, in the minds of many Taiwanese, foreshadowed that “There is no ‘one China, multiple interpretations,’ only a ‘one China principle,’” said a Mr. Fang to Initium Media reporters.

Tsai campaigned on a “maintain the status quo” platform of “recognizing the 1992 Meeting but not the 1992 Consensus.” After winning 6.89 million votes, how will Tsai deal with this historic high for the DPP and relations with Beijing?

In a press conference, Tsai reaffirmed, “I will look past factions and establish coherent, predictable, and sustainable cross-strait relations based on Taiwan’s system of constitutional government.”

Even in the pursuit of reform and victory, however, Tsai emphasized, “Taiwan needs to have opposition voices. Taiwan needs to have balancing forces.” Tsai now leads the DPP to its greatest historic victory as the KMT faces its worst election defeat. How will a DPP coming into office with majority support and virtually no opposition party capable of balancing it deal with near-absolute power? Only the next four years can tell.

“After the Sunflower Movement, Taiwanese civic society has become the best check on power. I’m not worried,” says 36-year-old Mr. Chen, who works in finance. “This time we are giving the DPP an opportunity for complete control and complete responsibility. If they don’t do well, we will vote them out in four years.”

This article was first published in Chinese on Jan. 17, 2015 by The Initium Media, a Hong Kong-based digital media company. Asia Times has translated it with permission with editing for brevity and clarity.

Translated for Asia Times by Mengxi Seeley