Pro-Independence Candidate Wins Taiwan Presidency

Pro-independence party candidate Tsai Ing-wen will become Taiwan’s first female president, after beating on Saturday a China-friendly party that has led country for eight years.Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party overwhelmingly beat the Nationalists’ Eric Chu, a late entry to the race after the party’s original candidate was seen as alienating voters. Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou is constitutionally barred from another term.

Tsai beat Chu 56-31, with a third candidate trailing in single digits.

Tsai Ing-Wen

Tsai Ing-Wen

Voters were mostly concerned that the independent island’s economy is under threat from China and broadly opposed to Beijing’s demands for political unification.

Pledging to maintain the “status quo of peace and stability” with China during her acceptance speech, Tsai vowed to “correct the mistakes of the past” but warned, “The challenges that Taiwan faces will not disappear in one day.”

Tsai said one of her top priorities would be to unite Taiwan in order to gain strength and respect from international society. “Only when we grow stronger will we be able to gain respect and protect our people and our democratic way of life,” Tsai said, referring to Taiwan by its official name, the Republic of China.

Along those lines, Tsai has claimed Taiwanese sovereignty over the East China Sea islands, also claimed by China but controlled by Japan. She also seeks to ease tensions in the region where four countries claim overlapping territory.

Taking responsibility for the loss, Chu immediately resigned from his party’s leadership.

The Nationalists’ Eric Chu concedes defeat.

“We failed,” Chu told a thin crowd of supporters at their headquarters. “The Nationalist Party lost the elections. We didn’t work hard enough.” He followed his concession speech by making a long bow.

The Democratic Progressive Party also took over Taiwan’s 113-seat parliament, traditionally dominated by the Nationalists. The new legislature convenes next month while Tsai is set to be inaugurated in May.

Tsai has refused to endorse the principle that Taiwan and China are parts of a single nation to be unified eventually. Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1885 to 1945 and split again from China amid civil war in 1949.

Experts believe China will take a “wait-and-see” approach to the election, but might use economic and diplomatic pressure if Taiwan strays too far off the reunification agenda.

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