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Cheng and Haggard: Democracy and deficits in Taiwan

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Cheng and Haggard. 2000. Democracy and deficits in Taiwan. In Presidents, Parliaments, and Policy.


Electoral reform in the 1980s in Taiwan included introduction of SNTV. This "intensified intraparty competition and generated a struggle for campaign contributions." In turn, this led to a loosened fiscal policy and greater focus on pork-barrel politics.


Independent: Electoral Reform to SNTV in the legislature

Dependent: Fiscal deficits & pork-barrel politics


1."We expect the full election of the legislature under SNTV electoral rules to increase the incentives for spending of all sorts, but particularly of the pork-barrel variety."

2."We expect the election of the legislature to lead" the legislature to restructure the budget process to respond better to their interests, leading to "both a greater division of power as well as a greater division of purpose" (191).


I.Before 1992, the power of the executive "rested on the capacity of the party to maintain ruling majorities" in the legislature. This led to 'unity of purpose.'

A.Taiwan's fiscal situation was characterized with extremely low debt/GDP ratios and tight fiscal policy yielding surpluses.

B.This changed around 1990. Deficits "ballooned" and defense spending was somewhat replaced by increases in programmatic initiatives and public works.

II.Gradual electoral reform began in mid-1980s, particularly full implementation of SNTV for legislative seats.

III.SNTV � A quick review

A.In multi-seat districts, candidates with most total votes win.

B.Leads both to strategic voting and strategic nominations

C.Fractionalizes parties because anyone in the party (or out of it) can run, not just the "party's" candidate.

D.Also creates incentives to run outside the main parties, inducing the creation of new parties.

E.See also: Wikipedia's article.

IV.With SNTV, that capacity ("to maintain ruling majorities") was decreased as it increased political competition both in creating new parties but especially within the KMT.

A.Intraparty competition led to the need for "product differentiation", inducing candidates to pursue personalistic politics.

B.Emerging parties led to new interest in welfare spending & programmatic bidding.


A."The increasing division of purpose, manifest in the rise of competitive political parties, in the SNTV system, and in intraparty factionalism have all influenced the president's role in fiscal policy making. Over time, the president has become increasingly attentive to legislative interests. Most importantly, the president and the ruling party have had to cultivate ties with new constituencies...largely via...more targeted and particularistic pork-barrel expenditures" (224).

B.At the same time, "the powers of the president were also enhanced in certain ways to offset these apparent parliamentary elements." The president can dissolve the Legislative Yuan, which "reduces the separation of powers and thus the incentive for interbranch cooperation" (225).

Research on similar subjects


Comparative PoliticsFiscal Policy

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