Among the parties that contested the legislative elections last month, the Taiwan Obasang Political Equality Party (TOPEP) ran arguably the most cost-effective campaign.
The party secured the fifth-most votes with a spend of only NT$2.01 million (US$64,334), beating more established rivals.
It was formed by a group of mothers and homemakers and derives its name from obasan, a Japanese word that is widely used in Taiwan to refer to an “aunt” or older woman.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
TOPEP Secretary-General Ho Yu-jung (何語蓉) said the party is primarily made up of local mothers who initially connected through family learning activities in 2006.
The group’s discussions have evolved from parenting to broader social and political issues, the 47-year-old said.
After participating in social movements, including anti-nuclear and gender equality campaigns, commemorations for the 228 Incident, and rallies to seek control of air-pollution initiatives, the group realized the necessity to give representation to the voices of the people.
The decision to enter politics was heavily influenced by the 2014 Sunflower movement, a protest against increased economic integration with China that sparked heightened political engagement among young people.
In the 2018 local elections to elect neighborhood chiefs, city and county councilors as well as mayors and county commissioners, 21 members of TOPEP ran as independents.
Due to limited campaign funds, they employed down-to-earth strategies such as standing at intersections to greet voters and promoting their platforms through soapbox speeches.
With a squad of female candidates, Ho recalled being asked: “Who takes care of the children at home?” during their first election. That made her wonder if the same question would be posed to male candidates.
Although none of the party’s candidates secured a win in the elections, 70 percent garnered enough votes for a deposit refund.
Officially registered as a political party in 2019, TOPEP ran in the 2022 local elections with 15 candidates; however, this time, only two candidates met the deposit refund threshold.
Ho said TOPEP positions itself as a grassroots party formed by women, and it aims to change Taiwan’s election culture and promote political equality through its candidacies campaigns.
It took on a bigger challenge for last month’s legislative elections, in which it contested 113 seats, comprising 73 district lawmakers directly elected by voters, six indigenous lawmakers chosen by indigenous voters and 34 legislators-at-large selected based on a separate vote for a political party.
Targeting the 34 legislator-at-large seats, TOPEP aspired to secure no less than 5 percent of the total party vote to be eligible for seat allocation from this pool.
Following the election results, the 34 legislator-at-large seats in the Legislative Yuan were all allocated to the Democratic Progressive Party (13 seats, 36.16 percent of the total party vote), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), (13 seats, 34.58 percent) and the Taiwan People’s Party (eight seats, 22.07 percent).
Although it was unable to secure a seat, TOPEP surprised many by claiming fifth with 0.93 percent of the total party votes, amounting to 128,613 votes.
Apart from the three major parties, this group of mothers trailed behind only the New Power Party, which secured 2.57 percent of the total party vote and had held three seats in the previous legislature.
The all-female squad surpassed several smaller parties with higher visibility and more influence.
A review of the election results revealed that the majority of votes for TOPEP came from urban areas and constituencies the party contested in previous local elections.
Looking ahead to the 2026 local elections, TOPEP intends to build on its foundation and achieve breakthroughs by winning seats.
Iris Ding (丁云鈞), a 43-year-old mom who has been working for the party as a volunteer since 2016, has already decided to continue the journey as a volunteer.
“It might still be standing and greeting at intersections or campaigning at street corners, handing out flyers,” she said. “I believe that in 2026, we can have more ways to engage in dialogue with the public.”
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