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  • The ROC president and vice president are directly elected every four years.
  • In Taiwan’s legislative elections, each voter casts one ballot for their district and another for at-large seats.
  • Government Agencies
The ROC Constitution, promulgated Jan. 1, 1947, did not begin to serve its intended purpose as the foundation for democratic governance and rule of law until after 1987, when martial law was lifted in Taiwan. Since then, it has undergone seven rounds of revision in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2005 to make it more relevant to the country’s current condition.
One of the important consequences of these amendments is that since 1991, the government has acknowledged that its jurisdiction extends only to the areas it controls. The president and legislators, therefore, are elected by and accountable to the people of those areas only.
In accordance with constitutional amendments promulgated in June 2005, the number of seats in the Legislative Yuan was halved from 225 to 113 and legislators’ terms were increased from three to four years. Under the new legislative election system, each electoral district elects just one seat. Each voter casts two ballots—one for the district and the other for at-large seats. The power to ratify constitutional amendments is now exercised by citizens through referendums.
President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party,
sixth left, celebrates her re-election alongside running mate Lai
Ching-te, fifth left, following Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election.
President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, sixth left, celebrates her re-election alongside running mate Lai Ching-te, fifth left, following Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election. (Chin Hung-hao)
Levels of Government
The central government comprises the presidency and five major branches, or yuans. The local governments at present include those of six special municipalities, 13 counties and three autonomous municipalities with the same hierarchical status as counties. Beginning in 2014, all heads and representatives of local governments are popularly elected simultaneously in cities and counties across Taiwan every four years. In addition, there are 198 county-administered townships and cities, as well as 170 districts—including six indigenous mountain districts— in autonomous and special municipalities.
Special municipalities are top-level administrative entities that fall under the direct jurisdiction of the central government. They play an important role in leading regional development. This status gives access to greater funding and the opportunity to set up additional agencies and employ more civil servants. The six special municipalities are, in order of population, New Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Taipei, Taoyuan and Tainan cities.
Five major political reforms
Presidency and Premiership
The president and vice president are directly elected, serve terms of four years and may be re-elected for one additional term. The president is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, represents the nation in foreign relations and is empowered to appoint heads of four branches of the government, including the premier, who leads the Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, and must report regularly to the Legislative Yuan, or Legislature. The heads of ministries, commissions and agencies under the Executive Yuan are appointed by the premier and form the Executive Yuan Council. To improve administrative effectiveness, the Executive Yuan is undergoing restructuring to reduce the number of Cabinet-level organizations from 37 to 29.
After the reorganization, which commenced at the start of 2012, the Executive Yuan will consist of 14 ministries, eight councils, three independent agencies and four other organizations. Under the ROC Constitution, neither the president’s appointment of the premier nor the premier’s appointment of ministers is subject to legislative confirmation.
Presidential appointment of the members of the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan, as well as justices of the Judicial Yuan, must be confirmed by the Legislature. Lawmakers elect the president of the Legislature, or speaker, from among their ranks.
Political Parties
Given the key role of the presidency in the overall functioning of the government, the term “ruling party” denotes which political party occupies the Presidential Office. The Kuomintang held the presidency in Taiwan for more than five decades before the Democratic Progressive Party won the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The KMT returned to power in 2008 and in 2012. The DPP won the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, marking the third transition of power since the country’s democratization.
In the January 2020 legislative elections, the DPP gained 54 percent of the seats in the Legislature, while the KMT secured 34 percent. Other major parties that have a presence in the Legislature include the Taiwan People’s Party, the New Power Party and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party.