Tsai Ing-Wen has been re-elected as Taiwan’s president, as voters delivered a sharp rebuke to Beijing by choosing a leader who had campaigned on protecting their country from China.
Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), had been a hot favourite to see off the challenges of Han, from the mainland-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party, and James Soong Chu-yu, from the People First Party.
Tsai Ing-wen, vowed to preserve the island’s sovereignty in the face of Beijing’s intensifying efforts to bring it under its control.
For China’s ruling Communist Party, the outcome is a dramatic display of the power of Hong Kong’s antigovernment protest movement to influence attitudes toward the mainland in other regions the party deems critical to its interests.
China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, has warned Taiwan that unification between the sides was inevitable. His party has sought to court Taiwanese with opportunities to work in the mainland while isolating Ms. Tsai’s administration and said that China would use force, if necessary, to prevent the island from taking steps toward formal independence.
As results came in on Saturday following a quiet day of voting in schools, temples, and community centres across the island, Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), quickly established a lead over her opponent.
The Guardian reports Tsai saying that “With each presidential election, Taiwan is showing how much we cherish our free democratic way of life and how much we cherish our nation.” She was addressing those present in her victory speech in Taipei.
“This election result carries an added significance. They have shown that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened the Taiwanese will shout our determination even more loudly back.”
While official counting was still underway, preliminary results showed Tsai had secured at least 57 per cent of the votes, compared with 38 per cent for Han and about 4 per cent for Soong.
Han conceded after Tsai garnered 8m votes, compared to Han’s 5.3m, with more than 80% of the votes counted. “I have called Tsai and congratulated her. I did not work hard enough and failed everyone’s expectations,” he said.
The vote, which was a reversal of Ms. Tsai’s political fortunes, suggested that Beijing’s pressure campaign had backfired. It could widen the political and cultural gulf across the Taiwan Strait and might raise the specter of armed conflict, which could have implications for the United States.
Via The Guardian / South China Morning Post / New York Times