Voters in Taiwan voted to continue the policies of the former ruling party. Thus, the Progressive Party sets a new record. Powerful neighbor China will not like this.
In a setback for Beijing, William Lai of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party wins elections in Taiwan. “I would like to thank the people of Taiwan for writing a new chapter in our democracy,” the 64-year-old said on Saturday evening (local time) in Taipei. The two opposition candidates had previously admitted their defeat.
After counting the majority of ballot papers, the former vice president obtained about 40 percent of the votes, according to local media. Behind him was his rival, Hu Yu-ae of the conservative, China-friendly Kuomintang Party, with nearly 33 percent. Another candidate from the Taiwan People's Party, Kuo Wen-ji, received about 26 percent, according to radio figures.
The official final result is expected late in the evening. Meanwhile, the 19.5 million eligible voters decided to choose a new parliament, the Legislative Yuan, in which the DPP had previously enjoyed an absolute majority.
The Progressive Party, which clearly distances itself from China, set a new record in election results. It is the first party to win three consecutive terms since Taiwan began directly electing the president in 1996. In the island nation, the head of state appoints the prime minister and is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Another government headed by the Democratic Progressive Party would likely mean Taiwan moves closer to the United States, while tensions with China continue and may worsen. Taiwan's relationship with China was a dominant issue in the election campaign. Lai had announced that he would continue in the line of his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen – who was sharply criticized by Beijing and who was not allowed to run again after two terms in office.
The former vice president had also declared that he wanted to protect “the survival of the country and the lives of the people.” Lai wants to strengthen national defence, work more closely with the democratic camp, and use deterrence to maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait – the strait between China and Taiwan. He added: “Peace is based on strength, not on the good faith of invaders.”
Beijing considers Taiwan a Chinese territory, although the island has had an independent and democratic government for decades. However, the Democratic Progressive Party supports Taiwan independence, although Lai does not want to officially declare it. For China, this situation could be the basis for escalating the situation in the Taiwan Strait.
Beijing has threatened several times to use military means if the “reunification” of Taiwan fails. A conflict over the important shipping route would have serious consequences for global trade and would draw the United States into the conflict as an ally of Taiwan.