On this day March 23, 1996

Taiwan holds its first direct elections and chooses Lee Teng-hui as President.

Lee Teng-hui

Lee Teng-hui

The previous eight ROC presidential and vice presidential elections under the 1947 Constitution were by the deputies of the National Assembly.

Incumbent Lee Teng-hui of the ruling Kuomintang won a majority of 54% of the votes following missile tests by the People’s Republic of China intended to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate against him.

The ruling Kuomintang nominated Lee Teng-hui in August 1995 at its 14th Party Congress after plans to institute a closed primary system by his opponents were thwarted. As his running mate, Lee chose Lien Chan, who promised to resign as Premier if he were elected Vice President.

The Democratic Progressive Party conducted an extensive nomination process: the presidential candidate was selected after two rounds of voting and fifty public debates by the two finalists. Hsu Hsin-liang, Lin Yi-hsiung, Yu Ching, and Peng Ming-min contended for this position. The seventy-two-year-old Peng emerged victorious and nominated legislator Frank Hsieh to be his running mate. Peng opposed trade with mainland China unless the PRC promised to “treat Taiwan as an equal.” Though he argued that the One-China policy would lead to another 228 Incident, he took the position that Taiwan was already de facto independent so a formal declaration of Taiwan independence was unnecessary unless the PRC attacked.

Former Taiwan Provincial Governor Lin Yang-kang ran as an independent with former Premier Hau Pei-tsun as his running mate. After the pair registered as candidates on November 27, 1995, a small protest in Taichung demanded their expulsion from the KMT. On the recommendation of the KMT Disciplinary Committee, their party memberships were cancelled (a step short of expelled) in December for “viciously attacking” Lee Teng-hui and “seriously damaging the party’s image and prestige.” They were endorsed by New Party after its own nominee dropped out. Lin and Hau likewise campaigned on behalf of the New Party. They supported the One-China Principle and favored opening direct links with the mainland. They argued that the KMT was too corrupt to govern.

A second independent ticket consisted of former Control Yuan President Chen Li-an for President and Control Yuan Member Wang Ching-feng for Vice President. Chen Li-an, the son of former Premier and Vice President Chen Cheng, used his Buddhist background (lay leader of the Fo Guang Shan order) and stressed moral purity and honest government. He walked for eighteen days wearing a famer’s straw hat to spread his views.

Presidential candidate VP Candidate Political affiliation Votes cast Percentage
Lee Teng-hui Lien Chan Kuomintang 5,813,699 54.0%
Peng Ming-min Frank Hsieh Democratic Progressive Party 2,274,586 21.1%
Lin Yang-kang Hau Pei-tsun Independent 1,603,790 14.9%
Chen Li-an Wang Ching-Feng Independent 1,074,044 9.98%

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