Terry Guo’s electoral participation and implications for Taiwan politics
Although the recent announcement of business tycoon Terry Guo to participate in the 2024 presidential elections in Taiwan was not surprising, his move has already damaged the unity of the non-green camp in Taiwan politics, pointing to the likely easy victory of William Lai, the candidate representing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) especially if there would be difficulties in reaching a political compromise between Guo, Hou You-yi of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Ko Wen-je of the People’s Party.
Terry Guo in his public announcement asserted that he would like to form a broad non-green coalition to unite the voters against the DPP. However, there are several problems that he, Hou You-yi and Ko Wen-je would have to tackle if such a coalition can be realized.
First, Terry Guo and his think tank may want to use public opinion polls as a bargaining chip to propel the formation of a non-green or blue-white coalition against the green camp led by the DPP. Nevertheless, opinion polls shown in the Taiwan mass media have displayed a low rating of Guo, whose popularity is the third trailing behind Hou and Ko.
If Guo’s popularity remains low, it would be difficult for him to reach a consensus with Hou and Ko over a cup of coffee, as he said in his press briefing.
Most importantly, a lot of netizens in Taiwan have reacted quite negatively to Guo’s participation, with some of them saying that rich businesspeople like him should support the KMT to have one candidate rather than spitting the blue camp. Others critical of Guo point to his likelihood of grasping some voters supportive of Ko Wen-je, thereby leading to a lose-lose situation in which the DPP led by William Lai would win the presidential election in January 2024 easily.
Second, it is unclear how Guo’s electoral participation will really rally the moderate voters who are neither the core supporters of the KMT nor the voters of the DPP. In other words, the moderate voters may see Guo as being too “pro-mainland” rather than seeing him as a candidate who can and would minimize the conflicts between the mainland and Taiwan. If some moderate voters see Guo as being too “dark blue,” then Guo’s participation may hurt the chance of Hou You-yi of the KMT.
Third, unless Guo wants to use his public announcement of participation in the 2024 presidential elections as a stimulus to trigger the interest of citizens and to mobilize the voters to cast their ballots, he would still have to pass the hurdle of some 280,000 voters’ signatures first to get nominated. Critics have already questioned whether some locally elected councilors in Taiwan’s municipal councils would really follow Guo. Some councilors have expressed their intention of withdrawing their support of Guo. If so, Terry Guo’s electoral participation alienates his supporters rather than galvanizing them.
Fourth, the DPP side appears to be cautious of the possibility that Guo’s participation would stimulate the rise of a non-green coalition, and, as such, it has increased vigilance while enhancing campaign efforts at mobilizing the green camp’s supporters. Under these circumstances, Terry Guo’s claim of forming a coalition and his participation have already heightened the sensitivity of the DPP and even enhanced the green camp’s chance of electoral success. The DPP think tank is by no means relaxed and Guo’s participation has already alarmed its core leaders.
There are three scenarios of Guo’s participation in Taiwan’s presidential elections in 2024.
The first is that none of the three non-green candidates – Guo, Hou and Ko – would be able to reach a consensus and the result would be an easy victory for William Lai from the DPP. This scenario would be quite likely if Guo and Ko maintain their stance without making any compromise, especially if public opinion poll results would not be able to convince any one or two of the three to opt out from electoral participation.
The second scenario is that Guo may eventually opt out due to low popularity rating, which at present seems unlikely as the coming months will be more crucial in witnessing whether any non-green candidate would opt out. Hou will certainly stand as he was nominated by the KMT, especially as Guo is seen by many critics and KMT supporters as a person “breaking his earlier promise” of not participating in the 2024 elections. Yet, if Guo opts out, Ko and Hou would still divide up the voters from the blue and white camps, competing for the support of moderate voters and thereby favoring William Lai to win the election. Current polls show that Lai’s DPP garner between 30 and 40 percent of the votes – a figure leading all the other three non-green candidates.
The third scenario is that there will be a compromise among Guo, Hou and Ko to have only one candidate representing the non-green coalition. However, this scenario will be quite difficult as Ko represents the People’s Party. Asking Ko to withdraw from the elections would be illogical and impractical. Similarly, Hou represents the KMT camp, and it is impossible to ask him to withdraw. It is therefore unclear whether Guo would persuade Hou and Ko to come together as a coalition while Guo himself withdrawing from the contest. But under a very ideal situation in which Guo, Hou and Ko would reach a consensus that only one of them would represent the non-green camp, then William Lai’s chance of victory will be undermined severely.
From the analyses above, scenarios one and two would favor William Lai of the DPP. Only scenario three would envisage Lai’s defeat.
In conclusion, Terry Guo’s participation in the presidential elections of Taiwan in early 2024 can be seen as a traditional split within the KMT – a gloomy scenario for the emergence of a coalition or the coming of any compromise in which the three non-green candidates would select only one of them to run in the contest. Unless Guo aims at bringing about a real consensus between him, Hou and Ko, it is quite difficult to witness an easy victory of the non-green camp.
The DPP has been governing Taiwan for some years and its hardline position on cross-strait relations appears to get the support of many Taiwan voters, especially the younger generation. As such, unless Terry Guo himself opts out of the electoral contest and unless he can really bring about a compromise among the three non-green candidates, the current developments in Taiwan politics are pointing to the likelihood of the DPP victory in the 2024 presidential elections. The end of 2023 will likely be the most critical period in Taiwan’s 2024 presidential politics because, if any candidate opts out, then a glimmer of hope for the non-green camp would emerge. Still, having two candidates competing for moderate voters would likely be inadequate for the non-green camp to defeat the relatively strong and incumbent green camp.