Taiwan

Taiwan voters rebuff China and give ruling party third presidential term

Reuters

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Taiwan voters rebuff China and give ruling party third presidential term

POLLS. Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate, casts his vote at a polling station during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Tainan, Taiwan January 13, 2024.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

(2nd UPDATE) 'We've written a new page for Taiwan's history of democracy,' Lai Ching-te says

TAIPE, Taiwan – Taiwanese voters swept the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate Lai Ching-te into power on Saturday, January 13, strongly rejecting Chinese pressure to spurn him, as Lai pledged both to stand up to Beijing and seek talks.

Lai’s party, which champions Taiwan’s separate identity and rejects China’s territorial claims, was seeking a third successive four year term, unprecedented under Taiwan’s current electoral system.

“We’ve written a new page for Taiwan’s history of democracy,” Lai, long the frontrunner in the polls, told reporters after both his opponents conceded defeat.

In the run-up to the election, China denounced Lai as a dangerous separatist, and called on the people of Taiwan to make the right choice while noting the “extreme harm of the DPP’s ‘Taiwan independence’ line.” They have also repeatedly rebuffed Lai’s calls for talks.

Lai said he would maintain the status quo in cross-strait relations, but that he was “determined to safeguard Taiwan from threats and intimidation from China.”

At the same time, he emphasized the need for cooperation and dialogue with Beijing on an equal basis to “replace confrontation,” though he didn’t give specifics.

Beijing has yet to comment on Lai’s victory.

The election was not only about China, with electors worried about issues as varied as the high cost of housing, low wage growth and unstable power supplies.

Lai won 40% of the vote in Taiwan’s first-past-the-post system, unlike current President Tsai Ing-wen who was re-elected by a landslide four years ago with more than 50% of the vote.

The DPP also lost its control of parliament, Lai said, which could hamper his ability to pass legislation and spending bills.

However, he offered an olive branch to his opponents in saying he would include talent from their parties.

Lai said he would cooperate with his electoral rivals, Hou Yu-ih of Taiwan’s largest opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) and former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party, in resolving the problems Taiwan faces.

During the polls, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese youths flocked to rallies held by Ko, who has emerged as a new force in Taiwan’s political landscape with roughly a quarter of the vote despite coming last.

The full results of the parliamentary polls were expected later on Saturday evening, with around 70% of the island’s 19 million or so eligible voters having cast ballots.

Tsai was constitutionally barred from standing again after two terms in office. – Rappler.com

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