Polls have closed in Taiwan in a presidential election that is expected to propel the pro-independence opposition party to power.

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen is poised to become the self-governing island's first female president, returning the main opposition party to power after eight years under the China-friendly Nationalist, or Kuomintang, Party (KMT).

Pre-election polls showed that scholar-turned-politician Tsai Ing-wen, with a far more careful approach to China than the ruling KMT of President Ma Ying-jeou, will win the election. 


Reporter's Notebook: China's shadow looms over crucial Taiwan election


Parliamentary polls were also held, and if the DPP wins those too, Tsai will get an even stronger mandate. 

Tsai has walked a careful path on her China strategy, saying she wants to maintain the "status quo" with Beijing.

However, the DPP is traditionally a pro-independence party and opponents say Tsai will destabilise relations.

Rapprochement

After decades of enmity, current KMT President Ma Ying-jeou has overseen a dramatic rapprochement with China since coming to power in 2008.

Although Taiwan is self-ruling after it split with China following a civil war in 1949, it has never formally declared independence, and Beijing still sees it as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary.

The thaw culminated in a summit between Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November.

Yet, despite more than 20 deals and a tourist boom, closer ties have exacerbated fears that China is eroding Taiwan's sovereignty by making it economically dependent.

In 2014, the government was forced to shelve a trade pact after student-led protesters occupied parliament.

Beijing has warned it will not deal with any leader who does not recognise the "one China" principle, part of a tacit agreement between Beijing and the KMT known as the "1992 Consensus". The DPP has never recognised the consensus.

Source: Agencies