Taiwan was originally populated first by the Negrito and then the Austronesian people. The first colonial powers to arrive in Taiwan, which was then known as Formosa, were the Dutch in the 17th Century. The Spanish did briefly have a presence on the island but were defeated by the Dutch.
In 1662 the Dutch, in turn, lost the island to the Chinese, first to the Ming Dynasty and then subsequently the Qing Dynasty.
By 1895 the island had been ceded to the Empire of Japan where it remained until 1945. In 1943, part of the Cairo Declaration by the Allied powers was that China should be returned to China. Upon the defeat of Japan in 1945 the island was returned to the Chinese who were, by this time, involved in a civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT) led Republic of China (ROC) government and the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong.
By 1948 the ROC government had been driven off the mainland by the communists and on 1st October 1949 the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was declared by the communist party. By this point the leader of the Kuomintang led ROC government, Chiang Kai-shek had established their government in Taipei and declared martial law.
It was during this period that the former government which had consisted of 750 legislators split; of these, 380 moved to Taiwan and the new government. Although the new parliament was to have held office for an initial seven years, it was decided that they would remain in place until the fall of the mainland made it possible for the government to hold new elections on mainland China.
It was only in 1991 that the final remnants of the old parliament retired from office. However, before this, in 1969 it was decided to hold elections to fill posts vacated by members who had died or retired. A total of seven ‘supplementary’ elections were held to successively fill the original posts (1969, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1983, 1986 and 1989) with the numbers elected creeping up from 11 to 130 by 1989.
So it was that up until 1989 the Kuomintang Party had remained the only legitimate party for forty years until these first democratic elections.
The Kuomintang Party was to remain strong until the early 2000s when it lost the presidential election for the first time in 2000 with Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winning. Chen Shui-bian won again in 2004, but the DPP lost to Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT in 2008.
Although the DPP were the largest party in the 2001 legislative elections, their pro-Taiwan independence Pan Green coalition were just short of forming a government. Instead the Kuomintang, along with two other parties formed the Pan Blue coalition which supports eventual unification with the mainland and took office. A similar fate occurred in the 2004 legislative election, with the DPP president finding his policy agenda being blocked by the parliament.
In 2005 there were major changes to the way Taiwan was governed. Up until 2000 there had been two houses, the National Assembly and the Legislative Yuan. By 2000 the National Assembly was a largely inactive body and in 2005 it was abolished. In the same year constitutional changes saw the Legislative Yuan reduced from 225 members to 113 members and their term of office increased to four years.
In 2008 the Kuomintang and Pan Blue coalition were securely returned with 85 of the 113 seats in the new Legislative Yuan.
The President and Vice President are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four year terms.
The unicameral Legislative Yuan has 113 seats of which 73 district members are elected by popular vote, 34 at-large members are elected on the basis of proportion of island wide votes received by participating political parties and 6 are elected by popular vote among aboriginal populations. Members serve four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Taiwan at joint 31st out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 61 (where 100 is least corrupt).