Taiwanese go to polls to elect new president

Pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen is expected to be thrust into the job, becoming the country's first female president.

    Tsai has walked a careful path on her China strategy, saying she wants to maintain the 'status quo' with Beijing [Reuters]
    Tsai has walked a careful path on her China strategy, saying she wants to maintain the 'status quo' with Beijing [Reuters]

    Voting is under way in Taiwan with polls showing that the island is expected to elect its first female president, who might dynamically change the course of Taiwan's relations with China.

    Voters are uneasy about warming relations with Beijing, and, as the economy stagnates, many are frustrated that trade pacts signed with China have failed to benefit ordinary Taiwanese.

    Scholar-turned-politician Tsai Ing-wen is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has a much warier approach to China than the unpopular ruling Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai is well ahead of KMT candidate, Eric Chu, in the polls.


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


    Parliamentary polls are also being held, and if the DPP wins those too, Tsai will get an even stronger mandate. The election results should start coming out after 6pm local time (10:00 GMT).

    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.

    Low salaries and high housing prices are also riling voters.

    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


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