Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan’s main opposition party will become the island’s first female president in a landslide victory over the ruling Kuomintang Saturday, as voters turned their backs on closer China ties.
Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won a convincing victory in both presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday, in what could usher in a new round of instability with China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own.
KMT candidate Eric Chu conceded defeat in a disastrous rout for the party, addressing tearful crowds at the party’s headquarters in Taipei.
Depending on how it interprets Tsai’s actions, Beijing could ratchet up the pressure by luring away Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies or further shutting it out of global organizations.
Shortly after her victory, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned it would oppose any move towards independence and that Beijing was determined to defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
President-elect Tsai pledged to maintain peace with giant neighbour China, which claims Taiwan as its sacred territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.
But the DPP is traditionally a pro-independence party with no official channel of communication with Beijing, and opponents say Tsai will destabilise relations.
The foreign ministry on Saturday urged the worldwide community to continue to abide by the one-China principle after the Taiwan leadership election.
China has held out the “one country, two systems” formula, under which the British colony of Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, as a solution for Taiwan. “The party and her followers seemed to recognise she was the most popular politician and the one most capable of leading the party to ultimate victory”. Her Democratic Progressive Party won 68 of 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament, giving it its first majority in the assembly long-dominated by the Nationalists. She succeeded Ma Ying – jeou as President of Taiwan. She succeeded Wu Rong-I as Vice Premier of Taiwan.
The stakes are high, with hundreds of Chinese missiles trained on the island and the United States having undertaken commitments regarding Taiwan’s defense.
“If there is no peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s new authority will find the sufferings of the people it wishes to resolve on the economy, livelihood and its youth will be as useless as looking for fish in a tree”, it said.
The sides have agreed since 1992 on a “one China” policy, in which both governments claim sovereignty over mainland China and Taiwan – but crucially neither recognizes the other’s legitimacy.
Tsai, a soft-spoken U.S.-educated lawyer, is viewed as a pragmatic leader but, should she win, will have her work cut out balancing the interests of China, which is the island’s biggest trading partner, the United States, its key ally, and the diverse demands of the island’s 23 million residents.
China and Taiwan have almost gone to war three times since 1949, most recently ahead of the 1996 presidential election.