1996 Taiwanese presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Taiwan on 23 March 1996.[2] It was the first direct presidential election in Taiwan, officially the Republic of China. In the previous eight elections the president and vice president had been chosen in a ballot of the deputies of the National Assembly, in accordance with the 1947 constitution. These were the first free and direct elections in the History of Taiwan.

1996 Taiwanese presidential election

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  總統李登輝先生玉照 (國民大會實錄).jpg 彭明敏出席著作簽書分享會.jpg
Nominee Lee Teng-hui Peng Ming-min
Running mate Lien Chan Frank Hsieh
Popular vote 5,813,699 2,274,586
Percentage 54.00% 21.13%

  林洋港省主席 (9to12).jpg 陳履安院長.jpg
Nominee Lin Yang-kang Chen Li-an
Party Independent Independent
Running mate Hau Pei-tsun Wang Ching-feng
Popular vote 1,603,790 1,074,044
Percentage 14.90% 9.98%

Result by county-level unit

President before election

Lee Teng-hui

Elected President

Lee Teng-hui

The outcome of the 1996 election was that Lee Teng-hui was elected as President and Lien Chan as Vice President. Lee stood as the incumbent, and as the candidate of the ruling Kuomintang. He won a majority of 54% of the votes cast. His election followed missile tests by the People's Republic of China (PRC). These were an attempt to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate and discourage them from supporting Lee, however the tactic backfired. Voter turnout was 76.0%.[3]


The ruling Kuomintang nominated president Lee Teng-hui in August 1995 at its 14th Party Congress after plans to institute a closed primary system by his opponents were thwarted.[4][5] As his running mate, Lee chose Lien Chan, who had attempted to resign his position as Premier of the Republic of China to join Lee's ticket.[6][7] Lee did not accept Lien's resignation, as Lien's potential successors to the premiership stood little chance of legislative confirmation.[8] After the election, the Judicial Yuan allowed Lien to keep both posts.[9]

The opposition 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, You 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 February 28 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. However, Peng rejected unification with the mainland outright, describing the notion as "suicide" and "self-destruction."[10]

Former Taiwan Provincial Governor Lin Yang-kang ran as an independent with former Premier Hau Pei-tsun as his running mate.[11] After the pair registered as candidates, they were endorsed by New Party. Both Lin and Hau were expelled from the Kuomintang on 13 December 1995.[12] They supported the One-China principle and favored opening direct links with the mainland.[13] They argued that the KMT, led by Lee, had abandoned all attempts at unification.[14]

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 farmer's straw hat to spread his views.[15][16]

Former Taipei mayor Kao Yu-shu declared an end to his candidacy in January 1996.[17][18] Feminist writer Shih Chi-ching also bid for the presidency, selecting Wu Yue-chen as her vice president. However, Shih and Wu's campaign ended after the Judicial Yuan ruled against them, finding that the ticket failed to meet the endorsement quota.[19] Mudslinging was rampant between the remaining four presidential tickets. The KMT claimed that the Taiwanese mafia had amputated Peng's arm to recoup gambling debts. However, Peng had lost his arm in an American air raid on Nagasaki during World War II.[20] Independent candidate Lin Yang-kang alleged that Lee Teng-hui had been a Chinese Communist Party member, which he denied at the time, but later admitted involvement in a 2002 interview.[21][22] The Kuomintang's website was also subject to cyberattacks. Chen Li-an criticized every other candidate for their advanced age.[20]

1996 Taiwan Strait CrisisEdit

From March 8 to March 15, the People's Liberation Army sent ballistic missiles within 46 to 65 km (25 to 35 nmi) (just inside the ROC's territorial waters) off the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung. This action was intended to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate into voting against Lee and Peng, which Beijing branded "absolutely identical in attempting to divide the motherland."[23] Similarly, Chen Li-an warned, "If you vote for Lee Teng-hui, you are choosing war."[24] The crisis came to an end when two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups were positioned near Taiwan.[25]

Lee, who told his people to resist "state terrorism,"[26] was seen as a strong leader who could negotiate with the PRC. Because of this, many constituents from southern Taiwan who favored independence voted for him.[27] One Taipei newspaper, United Daily News reported that up to 14 to 15 percent of Lee's 54% vote share came from DPP supporters.[28]


CandidateRunning matePartyVotes%
Lee Teng-huiLien ChanKuomintang5,813,69954.00
Peng Ming-minFrank HsiehDemocratic Progressive Party2,274,58621.13
Lin Yang-kangHau Pei-tsunIndependent1,603,79014.90
Chen Li-anWang Ching-fengIndependent1,074,0449.98
Valid votes10,766,11998.92
Invalid/blank votes117,1601.08
Total votes10,883,279100.00
Registered voters/turnout14,313,28876.04
Source: CEC


Vote leader and vote share in township-level districts.
Vote leader in county-level districts.
National winner vote lead over national runner-up by township/city or district[a]
  • Blue: Lee-Lien ticket; Yellow: Lin-Hau ticket


  1. ^ Lee did not lead in all township-level units.


  1. ^ "中選會資料庫網站". cec.gov.tw (in Chinese). Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Central Election Commission:::Presidential Elections:::". Central Election Commission. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  3. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p558 ISBN 0-19-924959-8
  4. ^ Copper, John Franklin (1998). Taiwan's Mid-1990s Elections: Taking the Final Steps to Democracy. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 104. ISBN 9780275962074.
  5. ^ Clough, Ralph N. (1999). Cooperation Or Conflict in the Taiwan Strait?. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 4. ISBN 9780847693269.
  6. ^ Trenhaile, John (1 August 1996). "The New Cabinet". Taiwan Today. Archived from the original on 15 September 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  7. ^ The Far East and Australasia 2003. Psychology Press. 2002. ISBN 9781857431339.
  8. ^ Tsang, Steve; Tien, Hung-mao, eds. (1999). Democratisation in Taiwan: Implications for China. Springer. p. 155. ISBN 9781349272792.
  9. ^ Jayasuriya, Kanishka (2006). Law, Capitalism and Power in Asia: The Rule of Law and Legal Institutions. Routledge. p. 233. ISBN 9781134738267.
  10. ^ "Deserting 'Independence'". CNN. 27 October 1995. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  11. ^ Sheng, Virginia (17 November 1995). "Lin names former premier, Hau, as running mate for March vote". Taiwan Today. Archived from the original on 27 September 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  12. ^ Schubert, Gunter, ed. (2016). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Taiwan. Routledge. p. 57. ISBN 9781317669708.
  13. ^ Tempest, Rone (24 March 1996). "Defiant Taiwan Puts Beijing in Difficult Straits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  14. ^ Tyler, Patrick E. (22 March 1996). "TENSION IN TAIWAN: THE POLITICS;War Games Play Well for Taiwan's Leader". New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  15. ^ Roy, Denny (2003). Taiwan: A Political History. Cornell University Press. p. 199. ISBN 9780801488054.
  16. ^ Copper, John Franklin (1998). Taiwan's Mid-1990s Elections: Taking the Final Steps to Democracy. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106. ISBN 9780275962074.
  17. ^ Copper, John Franklin (1998). Taiwan's Mid-1990s Elections: Taking the Final Steps to Democracy. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 99. ISBN 9780275962074.
  18. ^ Sheng, Virginia (12 January 1996). "Independents fault sign-up rules; One presidential hopeful abandons race in protest". Taiwan Today. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  19. ^ Han Cheung (8 January 2017). "Taiwan in Time:The 'Divorce Queen'". Taipei Times. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  20. ^ a b Lin, Jennifer (21 March 1996). "Taiwan Campaigning Has A Familiar Ring". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  21. ^ Schmetzer, Uli (23 March 1996). "Taiwanese Exercising Democracy". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  22. ^ Lin, Mei-Chun (8 November 2002). "Lee admits to fling with Communism". Taipei Times. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  23. ^ Roy, Denny (2003). Taiwan: A Political History. Cornell University Press. p. 198. ISBN 9780801488054.
  24. ^ Crowell, Todd; Bodeen, Chris (15 March 1996). "Confrontations". CNN. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  25. ^ Wu, Yu-Shan (January 2005). "Taiwan's Domestic Politics and Cross-Strait Relations" (PDF). The China Journal. 53 (53): 35–60. doi:10.2307/20065991. JSTOR 20065991. S2CID 145301834. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 October 2016.
  26. ^ Chinoy, Mike (17 March 1996). "Chinese premier urges U.S. not to 'aggravate' situation". CNN.com. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  27. ^ Tyler, Patrick E. (24 March 1996). "Taiwan's leader wins its election and a mandate". New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  28. ^ Bellows, Thomas J. "The March 1996 Elections in the Republic of China on Taiwan" - American Journal of Chinese Studies (Vol. 3, No. 2, October 1996). p. 243.