Taiwan was a part of China before the Japanese Occupation in 1895–1945. In 1949, the Kuomingtang (KMT) regime, also called the Nationalists, were driven from the mainland by the Communists who were led by Mao Zedong. The Nationalists retreated to Taiwan, taking along with them approximately two million soldiers, officials, merchants, and dependents. Both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan claim to be the legitimate government of China, resulting in frequent political hostilities and occasional military skirmishes. PRC considers Taiwan as a renegade province.
According to the Constitution promulgated 1 January 1947, the popularly elected National Assembly is the highest organ of state power for all of China. Its responsibilities include recalling the president and vice president, amending the Constitution, and granting the power of consent for presidential appointees. The Legislative Yuan, which is the de facto legislature for Taiwan, however, performs primary parliamentary functions. The first National Assembly was elected in 1947, with 2,961 delegates serving six-year terms. Since Communists took over the mainland in 1949 and the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan, subsequent elections were impossible. Thus, the terms of National Assembly members, along with those of the legislative and control branches, were extended indefinitely until constitutional reforms in 1991 paved the way for Taiwanese control of the legislature. The original members either retired or contested local Taiwanese seats.
The Legislative Yuan functions as the legislative organ for the ROC. Its representatives are elected by universal suffrage of adults older than 20 years old for three-year terms through a system of proportional representation. It exercises legislative power over statutory and budgetary bills and other important affairs.
The president, directly elected for the first time in 1996, is head of state and acts as mediator and arbiter among the government's five branches or yuans: executive, legislative, judicial, examination, and control. The president is also responsible for choosing the premier with the consent of the legislative branch. Furthermore, the president, with the recommendation of the premier, appoints the vice premier and ministers of the cabinet.
Until recently, the Kuomingtang (KMT) was the only legal political party; but presently the other major parties include the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), formed in September 1986, and the New Party (NP). The ideology of the KMT espouses a foundation of traditional Chinese culture and adds Western political, economic, and social theories as the building blocks of a successful Taiwan. The DPP's party platform is proindependence and anticorruption. The election of DPP member Chen Shui-bian as president signaled an end to KMT's dominance in Taiwanese politics.