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International News: Taiwanese voters elect ruling party’s vice-president to succeed Tsai Ing-wen

Posted: Saturday, January 13, 2024. 12:53 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg

By Aaron Humes: With all precincts reporting, voters in the Republic of China (Taiwan) handed Vice-President Lai Ching-te (William Lai) a plurality of votes, electing him to succeed Tsai Ing-wen and defying Mainland China’s attempts at interference, the BBC reports.

Lai’s 40 percent of the vote put him comfortably ahead of Hou Yu-ih from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party which is friendlier to Beijing. Maverick politician Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party, a newcomer to Taiwan’s political scene and popular with young voters, gained a quarter of the vote.

In the legislature vote also held on Saturday, Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its majority with the opposition gaining ground, though no one party has enough seats to control parliament, according to Taiwanese media reports.

The vote cements a path that is increasingly divergent from Mainland China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own. While it has called for “peaceful reunification”, it has also not ruled out the use of force. Beijing has called Lai a “troublemaker” for his views on independence. China has ramped up its military presence around the island, heightening fears of a possible conflict.

In his first remarks after his opponents conceded, Lai signaled that this was an irreversible trajectory. “The country will continue to walk the right path forward. We will not look backward,” he told the world’s media in a press conference.

Later while addressing tens of thousands of ecstatic supporters on the streets of Taipei, Lai characterized his win as a triumph of democracy: “We’ve done it. We didn’t let external forces influence our election. That’s because we decided that only we can choose our president,” he said.

But Lai also had a message for China, telling reporters he favored more exchanges and dialogue over obstructionism and conflict and calling for peace and stability with Beijing. At the same time, he added, he would “maintain the cross-Strait status quo” – neither seeking independence nor unification with China – and pledged to “safeguard Taiwan from threats from China”.

Lai in the past said he supports Taiwanese independence – a red line for Beijing – though in recent months he stressed he would not pursue it if he became president.

 

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