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Session C5
Explaining Party Switching in Taiwan’s 2016 Elections
Dafydd Fell
Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK

Party switching refers to the process by which a politician changes their partisan affiliation. When such switches occur on a large scale, it can have a transformative effect on the party system. Where ruling parties hold narrow majorities in parliaments, even one or two switches may bring down a government. Studies of party switching tend to focus on patterns of switching, explanations for why politicians switch and the consequences of switching. In this study we take Taiwan’s most recent national elections in 2016 to address these three questions. We are particularly interested in the factors driving party switching. Much of the literature suggests that switching politicians are particularly driven by the desire to increase their chances of re-election and primarily relies on statistical evidence. However, there are two problems with these works. Studies tend to show switching actually decreases politicians’ electoral prospects and these studies rarely look at how politicians actually justify their decisions to switch affiliations. Therefore after examining the patterns of party switching in 2016 and how switchers performed in the election, we will examine how politicians explained their switches. We have chosen to focus on a single election because we hope to look in more depth at politicians’ discourse on switching behaviour.

Keywords: Taiwan, party switching, Taiwan’s 2016 elections, party politics