Taiwan elects first woman president

Published January 17, 2016

TAIPEI: Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen as its first female president on Saturday, handing her pro-independence party its first majority in the national legislature and rejecting the China-friendly party that has led the self-governing island for eight years.

Voters concerned that Taiwan’s economy is under threat from China and broadly opposed to Beijing’s demands for political unification resoundingly chose Tsai over the Nationalists’ Eric Chu, a late replacement for his party’s original candidate, who was seen as alienating voters.

The result should be deeply unsettling to China, which may respond by further reducing Taipei’s already limited ability to win diplomatic allies and participate in international organisations.

In a statement issued after Tsai’s win, the Chinese Cabinet’s body for handling Taiwan affairs reaffirmed its opposition to Taiwan independence, but said it would work to maintain peace and stability between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

“Our will is as strong as a rock, our attitude unswerving on the principal matter of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Taiwan Affairs Office said.

Tsai said her victory was a further show of how ingrained democracy has become on Taiwan and showed that its people wish for a government “steadfast in protecting this nation’s sovereignty.” She too pledged to maintain the status quo with China.

She said both sides have a responsibility to find a mutually acceptable means of interacting, while adding that Taiwan’s international space must be respected. She said she would correct the policy mistakes of the past, but warned that “the challenges that Taiwan faces will not disappear in one day”. Chu resigned from his party’s leadership to take responsibility for the massive loss.

In the final tally, Tsai won more than 56 per cent of votes, while Chu had 31pc and a third-party candidate trailing in the distance.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2016

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