Gender News in Taiwan
Taiwan elections put record number of women on ballot

【By William Yang】

Voters in Taiwan head to the polls on November 26 to elect a wide range of public officials, including mayors, county magistrates, and city council members.

The local polls, being held in Taiwan's 22 cities and counties, are seen as a test of support for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) before presidential and parliamentary elections set for 2024. They also feature the highest number of female candidates in 30 years.

At least 24 female candidates have been nominated for the mayoral and county magistrate races. The DPP and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party have together nominated 14 female candidates. Several smaller parties also have women candidates on the ballot.

This maintains a growing trend of women participating in elections and holding public office in Taiwan.

In the 2020 parliamentary election, a total of 47 female candidates,  more than 40% of the total, were elected, making Taiwan the country with the highest percentage of female lawmakers in Asia. Additionally, Taiwan elected its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, in 2016.

Taiwan breaks the glass ceiling

"This trend shows that Taiwan has gone beyond gender barriers in public affairs," Kolas Yotaka, a candidate running in the Hualien county magistrate race for the ruling DPP, told DW. "The glass ceiling for women has gradually been broken."

Chang-Ling Huang, an expert on gender and politics at National Taiwan University (NTU), said that women account for around 35% of the candidates on the ballot in this year's local elections.

She explained that Taiwan has a long political tradition of quotas reserved for women in elections at all levels, as stipulated by the country's constitution, which was passed in 1946.

While the original quotas reserved for women were relatively low, they have gradually increased over the years, with important changes taking place at the local level.

"Based on the local system law, which came into effect in 1999, for every four elected seats, one seat should be reserved for female candidates," Huang told DW.

"When we look at local city councils across Taiwan today, the percentage of elected female council members in six major cities has surpassed 30%," she said.

Huang added that although the quotas encouraged more women to run for office, these did not necesssarily affect the results.

"Research shows that while the quotas reserved for female candidates have increased over the years, the proportion of women who rely on the reserved quotas to be elected have actually decreased," she said. 

Women in politics still face obstacles

However, despite the growing percentage of women being elected to office in Taiwan, obstacles remain to women's political participation, Huang pointed out.

This includes the media focusing more on a female candidate's appearance rather than policy proposals.

"The media loves to describe some female politicians as 'beautiful legislators' or 'beautiful spokeswomen,'" she said.

"Their appearances or outfits are usually the subjects of commentary by the general public and media." 

[DW, 2022-11-24]

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