Democratic Progressive Party

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Democratic Progressive Party
Mínzhǔ Jìnbù Dǎng
Chairman Tsai Ing-wen
Founded September 28, 1986; 32 years ago (1986-09-28)
Headquarters Taipei, Taiwan
Think tank New Frontier Foundation
Membership  (2014) Increase 335,643
Ideology Taiwanese nationalism
Social liberalism
Political position Centre
National affiliation Pan-Green Coalition
International affiliation Liberal International
Regional affiliation Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats
Legislative Yuan
40 / 113
Municipal Mayoralties
4 / 6
City Mayoralties and County Magistracies
9 / 16
Local Councillors
291 / 906
Township Chiefs
54 / 211
Party flag
Politics of Taiwan
Political parties
Democratic Progressive Party
Traditional Chinese 民主進步
Simplified Chinese 民主进步
Commonly abbreviated in Chinese as
Traditional Chinese 民進黨
Simplified Chinese 民进党

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP; traditional Chinese: 民主進步黨; simplified Chinese: 民主进步党) is a progressive and liberal political party in Taiwan, and the dominant party in the Pan-Green Coalition.

Founded in 1986, the DPP is the first meaningful opposition party in Taiwan[according to whom?]. It has traditionally been associated with strong advocacy of human rights and a distinct Taiwanese identity. The current leader is Tsai Ing-wen.[1] The DPP is a long-term member of Liberal International and a founding member of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats. It represented Taiwan in the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. The DPP and its affiliated parties are widely classified as socially liberal because of their strong human rights stance.


The DPP's roots were in opposition to Kuomintang one-party authoritarian rule. It was founded as the Tangwai – or "outside-the-KMT" – movement. This movement culminated in the formation of the DPP as an alternative party on September 28, 1986. The new party contested the 1986 election even though competing parties remained illegal under national law until the next year. The first members of the party drew heavily from the ranks of family members and defense lawyers of political prisoners as well as intellectuals and artists who had spent time abroad. Such individuals were strongly committed to political change that would ensure constitutional support in Taiwan for freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The party did not at the outset give open support to an independent Taiwanese national identity–a move that could have invited a violent crackdown by the Taiwan's Kuomintang rulers. Its platform was pro-environment and pro-democracy. As more and more of its demands were met during the 1990s–such as the direct popular election of Taiwan's president and all representatives in its Legislative Yuan, and open discussion of Taiwan's repressive past as represented in the February 28 Incident and its long martial law aftermath–a greater variety of views could be advocated in the more liberal political atmosphere. Party members began openly promoting a national identity for Taiwan separate from that of China. The DPP supported reform of the Constitution that would make it official that Taiwan's national government represented only the people of Taiwan and made no claims to territory in mainland China or Mongolia.

Once the DPP had representation in the Legislative Yuan (LY, Congress), the party used the legislature as a forum to challenge the government. However, it did not emerge as a formidable force until 1991, when the elderly LY members elected from the mainland provinces in 1948 retired. Fears that the DPP would one day take control of the legislature led then-President Lee Teng-hui to push through a series of amendments to strengthen presidential power (for example, Taiwan's premier would no longer have to be confirmed by the Legislative Yuan).

2000–2008: in minority government

Former President Chen Shui-bian, the first DPP president (2000-2008)
Old logo of DPP

The DPP won the presidency with the election of Chen Shui-bian in March 2000 with a plurality, due to the split of KMT voters, ending more than half a century of KMT rule in Taiwan. Chen softened the party's stance on independence to appeal to moderate voters, appease the United States and placate China. He also promised not to change the ROC state symbols or declare formal independence as long as the People's Republic of China did not attack Taiwan.

The DPP became the largest party having reached a plurality in the Legislative Yuan for the first time in 2002 following the 2001 legislative election. However, a majority coalition between the KMT, People's First Party, and New Party (collectively known as the Pan-Blue Coalition) prevented it from taking control of the chamber.

In 2004, President Chen Shui-bian was re-elected by a narrow margin following a controversial assassination attempt on him and the Vice President Annette Lu only hours before the election. President Chen narrowly won the election over KMT candidate Lien Chan. Lien Chan demanded a recount the following morning. A judicial recount under the jurisdiction of a special panel of the High Court began on 10 May 2004 and ended on May 18, 2004. It was conducted by about 460 teams situated in 21 courthouses across the Taiwan area. Each team had seven members – one judge, two members each from the district court and the local government election authorities and two witnesses each representing the plaintiff (Pan-Blue Coalition) and the defendant (Pan-Green Coalition). Disputed votes were sent to High Court in Taipei for verification. After the recount, President Chen was confirmed the winner of the election by a smaller margin (25,563 as opposed to 29,518 originally). In the later legislative election, the Pan-Blue Coalition opposition remained control of the chamber.

The DPP suffered a significant election defeat in nationwide local and county elections in December 2005. The pan-blue coalition captured 16 of 23 county and city government offices under the leadership of popular Taipei mayor and KMT Party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou.

The results led to a shake up of the party leadership. Su Tseng-chang resigned as DPP chairman soon after election results were announced. Su had pledged to step down if the DPP lost either Taipei County or failed to win 10 of the 23 mayor/magistrate positions. Vice President Annette Lu was appointed acting DPP leader. Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun was elected in a three-way race against legislator Chai Trong-rong and Wong Chin-chu with 54.4% of the vote.

Premier Frank Hsieh, DPP election organizer and former mayor of Kaohsiung twice tendered a verbal resignation immediately following the election, but his resignation was not accepted by President Chen until January 17, 2006 after the DPP chairmanship election had concluded. The former DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang was appointed to replace Hsieh as premier. Hsieh and his cabinet resigned en masse on January 24 to make way for Su and his new cabinet. President Chen had offered the position of Presidential Office Secretary-General (vacated by Su) to the departing premier, but Hsieh declined and left office criticizing President Chen for his tough line on dealing with China.

Separate identity

On September 30, 2007, Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party approved a resolution asserting a separate identity from China and called for the enactment of a new constitution for a "normal nation". It struck an accommodating tone by advocating general use of "Taiwan" as the country's name without calling for abandonment of the name Republic of China.[2]

2008–present: in opposition

In the national elections held in early months of 2008 the DPP won less than 25% of the seats (38.2% vote share) in the new Legislative Yuan while its presidential candidate, former Kaohsiung mayor Frank Hsieh, lost to KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou by a wide margin (41.55% vs. 58.45%).

The first months after the election were dominated by press coverage of the travails of Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen. On August 15, 2008 Chen resigned from the Democratic Progressive Party and apologized thus: "Today I have to say sorry to all of the DPP members and supporters. I let everyone down, caused you humiliation and failed to meet your expectations. My acts have caused irreparable damage to the party. I love the DPP deeply and am proud of being a DPP member. To express my deepest regrets to all DPP members and supporters, I announce my withdrawal from the DPP immediately. My wife Wu Shu-jen is also withdrawing from the party." DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen followed with a public statement on behalf of the party: "In regard to Chen and his wife's decision to withdraw from the party and his desire to shoulder responsibility for his actions as well as to undergo an investigation by the party's anti-corruption committee, we respect his decision and accept it."[3]

The DPP vowed to reflect on public misgivings towards the party. Chairwoman Tsai insisted on the need for the party to remember its history, defend Taiwan's sovereignty and national security, and maintain its confidence.[4][5]

The party re-emerged as a voice in Taiwan's political debate when Ma's administration reached the end of its first year in office. The DPP marked the anniversary with massive rallies in Taipei and Kaohsiung. Tsai's address to the crowd in Taipei on May 17 proclaimed a "citizens' movement to protect Taiwan" seeking to "protect our democracy and protect Taiwan."[6]


Tsai Ing-wen, current DPP Chairperson (2008-2012, 2014-present)

Programs supported by the DPP include moderate social welfare policies involving the rights of women, senior citizens, children, young people, labour, minorities, indigenous peoples, farmers, and other disadvantaged sectors of the society. Furthermore, its platform includes a legal and political order based on human rights and democracy; balanced economic and financial administration; fair and open social welfare; educational and cultural reform; independent defence and peaceful foreign policy. For these reasons, it is often considered a party of the centre-left, economically, and its base consists largely of the working class.[7]

The primary political axis in Taiwan involves the issue of Taiwan independence versus eventual unification with China. Although the differences tend to be portrayed in polarized terms, both major coalitions have developed modified, nuanced and often complex positions. Though opposed in the philosophical origins, the practical differences between such positions can sometimes be subtle.

The current official position of the party is that the "Republic of China (Taiwan)" is an independent and sovereign country whose territory consists of Taiwan and its surrounding smaller islands and whose sovereignty derives only from the ROC citizens living in Taiwan (similar philosophy of self-determination), based on the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" in 1999. It considers Taiwan independence to be a current fact making a formal declaration of independence unnecessary. The DPP rejects the so-called "One China principle" defined in 1992 as the basis for official diplomatic relations with the mainland China (PRC) and advocates a Taiwanese national identity which is separate from mainland China. The DPP argues that its efforts to promote a Taiwanese national identity are merely an effort to normalize a Taiwanese identity repressed during years of authoritarian Kuomintang rule. Democratic Progressive Party also differs from the KMT on foreign and defense policies in that the DPP considers relations with the United States, Japan, and European states, among other democratic countries, are crucial for Taiwan's security.

In contrast, the KMT or pan-blue coalition agrees that the Republic of China is an independent and sovereign country that is not part of the PRC, but argues that a one China principle (with different definitions across the strait) can be used as the basis for talks with China. The KMT also opposes the purposes of Taiwan independence and argues that efforts to establish a Taiwanese national identity separated from the Chinese national identity are unnecessary and needlessly provocative. Some KMT conservative officials have called efforts from DPP "anti-China", "fascist" and "racist" (claimed as opposed the immigrants came from mainland China, some DPP officials did not recognize them as Taiwanese, called them Chinese). At the other end of the political spectrum, the acceptance by the DPP of the symbols of the Republic of China is opposed by the Taiwan Solidarity Union.

The first years of the DPP as the ruling party drew accusations from the opposition that, as a self-styled Taiwanese nationalist party, the DPP was itself inadequately sensitive to the ethnographic diversity of Taiwan's population. Where the KMT had been guilty of Chinese chauvinism, the critics charged, the DPP might offer nothing more as a remedy than Hoklo chauvinism.

China has maintained a hostile position toward the DPP. It has made some efforts to moderate its tone since passing its Anti-Secession Law in 2005 to prevent a popular backlash from Taiwan's voters. In 2008 China stated it was willing to negotiate with any party in Taiwan that "accepts the so-called 1992 consensus" (The consensus agreed by KMT and CPC, which KMT described as one China principle with different definitions across the strait, CPC first recognized until 2008).

The deep-rooted hostility between Taiwanese aborigines and (Taiwanese) Hoklo, and the Aboriginal communities effective KMT networks contribute to Aboriginal skepticism against the DPP and the Aboriginals tendency to vote for the KMT.[8]

Aboriginals have criticized politicians for abusing the "indigenization" movement for political gains, such as aboriginal opposition to the DPP's "rectification" by recognizing the Taroko for political reasons, with the majority of mountain townships voting for Ma Ying-jeou.[9] The Atayal and Seediq slammed the Truku for their name rectification.[10]


DPP headquarter at Huashan Business Building Level 10 in Taipei.


The National Party Congress selects, for two year terms, the 30 members of the Central Executive Committee and the 11 members of the Central Review Committee. The Central Executive Committee, in turn, chooses the 10 members of the Central Standing Committee. The DPP since 2012 also has a "China Affairs Committee" to deal with Cross-Strait relations; the name caused some controversy within the party and in the Taiwan media, with critics suggesting that "Mainland Affairs Committee" or "Cross-Strait Affairs Committee" would show less of a hostile "One Country on Each Side" attitude.[12]

For many years the Democratic Progressive Party officially recognized several factions within its membership, such as the New Tide faction (新潮流系), the Formosa faction (美麗島系), the Justice Alliance faction (正義連線系) and Welfare State Alliance faction (福利國系). Each faction endorsed slightly different policies. The factions were often generationally identifiable, representing individuals who had entered the party at different times. In 2006 the party ended recognition of factions.[13] The factions have since stated that they will comply with the resolution.

List of Chairpersons

  • Current Chairperson: Tsai Ing-wen (2008-2012, 2014–present)

Legislative Yuan leader (Caucus leader)

Election results

Presidential elections

Election Candidate Running mate Total votes Share of votes Outcome
1996 Peng Ming-min Frank Hsieh Chang-ting 2,274,586 21.1% Lost Red XN
2000 Chen Shui-bian Annette Lu Hsiu-lien 4,977,737 39.3% Elected Green tickY
2004 Chen Shui-bian Annette Lu Hsiu-lien 6,446,900 50.1% Elected Green tickY
2008 Frank Hsieh Chang-ting Su Tseng-chang 5,445,239 41.5% Lost Red XN
2012 Tsai Ing-wen Su Jia-chyuan 6,093,578 45.6% Lost Red XN

Legislative elections

Election Total seats won Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election Election leader
51 / 161
2,944,195 31.0% Increase30 seats; Opposition Hsu Hsin-liang
54 / 164
3,132,156 33.2% Increase3 seats; Opposition Shih Ming-teh
70 / 225
2,966,834 29.6% Increase16 seats; Opposition Lin Yi-hsiung
87 / 225
3,447,740 36.6% Increase21 seats; Opposition coalition (Pan-Green) Chen Shui-bian
89 / 225
3,471,429 37.9% Increase2 seats; Opposition coalition (Pan-Green) Chen Shui-bian
27 / 113
3,775,352 38.2% Decrease62 seats; Opposition coalition (Pan-Green) Chen Shui-bian
40 / 113
4,556,526 34.6% Increase13 seats; Opposition coalition (Pan-Green) Tsai Ing-wen

Local elections

Election Mayor & Magistrates Councils Municipal heads Municipal councils Local heads Election Leader
13 / 22
291 / 906
54 / 204
194 / 2,137
390 / 7,836
Tsai Ing-wen

See also


  1. "Tsai steps down as DPP chair after defeat in presidential poll" The China Post. 2012.01.14
  2. AP, Taiwan Party Asserts Separate Identity
  3., Former Taiwan President Resigns From Party Over Corruption Charges
  4. 中廣 via Yahoo! News, 媒體民調僅剩11趴 民進黨:虛心檢討
  5. 央廣 via Yahoo! News, 民進黨支持度剩11%? 蔡英文:覺得信心還在
  6. [1]
  7. "Taiwan election too close to call as China and US look on". The Guardian. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Damm, Jens (2012). "Multiculturalism in Taiwan and the Influence of Europe". In Damm, Jens; Lim, Paul. European perspectives on Taiwan. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. p. 95. ISBN 9783531943039.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Simon 2011, p. 28.
  10. ed. Vinding 2004, p. 220.
  12. "China Focus: "China Affairs Committee" negative to Taiwan opposition party: Taiwan media". Taipei. Xinhua. 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-11-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Huang, Jewel (July 24, 2006). "DPP votes to do away with factions". Taipei Times. p. 1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links