Taiwan election: China skeptic Lai wins, reunification…

The main election was won by Lai Singh-de of the Democratic Progressive Party. By late afternoon, the opposition conceded defeat. Beijing said the election would not prevent reunification with China.

Vice President and Chinese suspect William Lai, also known as Lai Ching-te, has won the presidential election in Taiwan. The 64-year-old politician of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won 40.2 percent of the vote, the Election Commission announced on Saturday after 98 percent of the votes were counted. His challenger, Hou Yu-ih, conceded defeat with 33.4 percent from the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT).

So China's Communist leadership is likely to keep up the pressure on Taiwan. Although Taiwan has had an independent and democratically elected government for decades, Beijing considers the island republic part of China. Beijing cut ties with Taipei in 2016, viewing the pro-Taiwan independence DPP as separatist.

China still wants reunification

After Lai's election victory, Beijing spoke out: Beijing affirmed China's “inevitable” reunification with the breakaway province. The election will not prevent this, Chen Binhua, spokesman for Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement carried by state news agency Xinhua on Saturday. Binhua said China will not tolerate “separatist activities” on the self-governing island. “We will abide by the 1992 consensus, which includes the One China Policy,” it said. Beijing rejects “foreign interference” in this context.

Both the contestants conceded defeat during the counting of votes on Saturday. The outcome of the simultaneous parliamentary elections was initially uncertain. This is key to the further development of a troubled relationship with China, which views democratically-governed and industrialized Taiwan as a renegade province. Before the vote, the government in Beijing described Lai as a dangerous separatist.

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Lai, 64, explained in his first statement that he had shown the world how much he loved democracy. The Taiwanese people have successfully resisted outside influence. Hou Yu-ih from the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and Ko Wen-jae from the Taiwan People's Party (TTP) ran against Lai. The KMT favors closer ties with China, but denies being pro-Chinese. The TTP wants to reach out to China but at the same time maintain democracy in Taiwan. Taiwan's previous president Tsai Ing-wen was barred from running for re-election after serving two terms.

Lai has spoken in favor of maintaining peace, continuing previous policies and strengthening the military. The fate of the island, home to about 23.5 million people, is of significant importance to the global economy because of its role in the semiconductor industry. TSMC, the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, is located there.

At the same time, the 19.5 million voters invited decided on the Legislative Yuan, a new parliament in which the DPP previously had an absolute majority. Official election results are expected to be announced on Saturday evening local time. If the Progressive Party wins, it will win its third consecutive presidential election. Current President Tsai Ing-wen is barred from running for re-election after serving two terms.

Pressure from China

With the election result, China's Communist leadership is likely to keep up the pressure on Taiwan. Tensions could continue or escalate in the strait between China and Taiwan, vital for global shipping, where the Chinese military sends warplanes toward the island republic in a daily show of force. China wants the island to be “re-attached” to the mainland with military force if necessary.

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This time, the number of polling stations has increased to 17,794 with a population of over 23 million, as announced by the Central Election Commission.

Taiwan's status, recognized as independent only by a few and mainly small countries, is one of the main points of conflict between the US and China. Taiwan has been self-governing since 1949. During that time, Mao Zedong's Communists defeated the Nationalist Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese Civil War, who then retreated to the island of Taiwan and ruled as a dictator there for decades. Many states do not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, considering the People's Republic of China. The US abandoned it in 1979 in favor of China. However, the US supports the country with military equipment. Taiwan is economically important because of the semiconductor industry located there. TSMC, the world's largest contract chip manufacturer, is located there.

All 19.5 million eligible voters are invited to elect a new parliament. It includes 113 seats. The majority of MPs are directly elected, while a smaller number of seats are decided by party votes. A simple majority is sufficient for both the direct election of representatives and the President. The new president will be sworn in on May 20. (APA/dpa)

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