Friday, February 3, 2023

Taiwan president’s party humbled in local polls


Tsai Ing-wen quits DPP leadership as Kuomintang celebrates victory in Taipei and other centres

Supporters of the opposition Kuomintang celebrate the victory of their candidate, a grandson of Chiang Kai-shek, in the Taipei mayoral election on Saturday in the Taiwanese capital. (Photo: Bloomberg)

TAIPEI: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party suffered a major defeat in Saturday’s local elections, which are seen as a prelude to the island’s 2024 presidential and legislative elections.

The China-friendly opposition Kuomintang (KMT) won mayoral seats in four of six special municipal districts, including the capital Taipei.

Following the defeat, Tsai said she would step down as head of her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

“The election results were not as expected,” she told reporters. “I should shoulder all the responsibility and I resign as DPP chairwoman immediately.”

Tsai will stay on as President of the self-ruled island.

The heavy losses suffered by the DPP are certain to weaken Tsai and likely to intensify competition among those seeking to carry the party’s banner in the presidential election scheduled for January 2024. Tsai, who was first elected in 2016, is not eligible to seek a third term.

Among the casualties on Saturday was the DPP candidate for mayor of Taipei. Chen Shih-chung said at his campaign headquarters that he hoped Chiang Wan-an of the Kuomintang “can govern Taipei well”.

“I am sorry to disappoint everyone,” the DPP candidate added.

Chiang is the great-grandson of the late Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek, who fought and lost a civil war against Mao Zedong’s Communists and is remembered by many Taiwanese for his repression.

“We saw righteousness conquer lies, democracy defeat suppression and light pass through opaqueness,” he said on Saturday night.

The KMT was leading the DPP 49.6% to 43% across all 22 city and county leadership contests, according to the Central Election Commission, with about 5.8 million votes counted as of Saturday evening.

The results of the local elections will be closely watched in Washington and Beijing, since the DPP’s rise to power under China-sceptic Tsai has prompted China to cut off communications with Taiwan and ramp up diplomatic and military pressure on the island that it claims as its own.

The KMT, which favors eventual unification with China, had previously overseen a historic expansion of ties with Beijing, easing travel, trade and investment across the Taiwan Strait.


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