TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwanese are casting their votes Saturday for a brand new president and legislature in an election that might chart the trajectory of the self-ruled democracy’s relations with China over the subsequent 4 years.
At stake is the peace and stability of the island 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of China that Beijing claims as its personal, to be retaken by pressure if obligatory. Home points such because the sluggish financial system and costly housing additionally featured prominently within the marketing campaign.
Ng Han Guan/AP
Vice President Lai Ching-te, representing the governing Democratic Progressive Get together, often known as the DPP, seeks to succeed outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen and provides the independence-leaning celebration an unprecedented third time period.
Lai solid his vote in his hometown of Tainan. He remarked on the sunny climate, suggesting it is a good time for Taiwanese individuals to exit and vote.
“I encourage everybody across the nation to vote with enthusiasm and present the vitality of Taiwan’s democracy,” he mentioned.
Hou Yu-ih, the candidate of Beijing-favored Kuomintang, also referred to as the Nationalist Get together, solid his poll in New Taipei Metropolis, a municipality bordering the capital, Taipei. Hou is the mayor of New Taipei, a place from which he took depart to run for president.
“What we’d like through the election marketing campaign course of is chaos,” Hou informed reporters after casting his vote. “However after the vote, we should be united and face the way forward for Taiwan collectively.”
Various candidate Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan Individuals’s Get together, who has proven recognition amongst younger voters searching for an alternative choice to the 2 main events, voted in Taipei.
Requested by journalists how he felt, Ko, in his well-known dry method, mentioned he aimed to strive his finest on daily basis “and plan for the subsequent stage after we get there.”
Voting started at 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) Saturday and was to wrap up eight hours later.
Candidates concluded their campaigns Friday night time with stirring speeches, however youthful voters had been principally centered on their financial futures in a difficult atmosphere.
Ng Han Guan/AP
Talking in his hometown of Tainan within the island’s south, Lai mirrored on why he left his profession as a surgeon due to China’s missile checks and navy workout routines aimed toward intimidating Taiwanese voters earlier than the primary open presidential election in 1996.
“I needed to guard the democracy that had simply gotten underway in Taiwan. I gave up my well-paid job and determined to comply with the footsteps of our elders in democracy,” Lai mentioned.
Hou, a former head of Taiwan’s police pressure, mentioned Lai’s view on relations with Beijing might push the 2 sides to struggle.
“I advocate pragmatic exchanges with China, the protection of nationwide safety, and safety of human rights. I insist that Taiwan’s future shall be determined by the 23.5 million (individuals of Taiwan), and I’ll use my life to guard Taiwan,” Hou mentioned.
China’s navy threats might sway some voters towards independence-leaning candidates, however the U.S. has pledged help for whichever authorities emerges, strengthened by the Biden administration’s plans to ship an unofficial delegation made up of former senior officers to the island shortly after the election.
Taiwan’s election is seen as having “actual and lasting affect on the geopolitical panorama,” mentioned Gabrielle Reid, affiliate director with the worldwide intelligence consultancy S-RM.
“The result of the vote will finally decide the character of ties with China relative to the West and can have robust bearing on the state of play within the South China Sea,” she mentioned.
In addition to the China tensions, home points dominated the marketing campaign, notably an financial system that was estimated to have grown simply 1.4% final 12 months. That partly displays inevitable cycles in demand for laptop chips and different exports from the high-tech, closely trade-dependent manufacturing base, and a slowing of the Chinese language financial system.
However longer-term challenges similar to unaffordable housing and wage stagnation topped voters’ issues.
The candidate with probably the most votes wins, with no runoff. The legislative races are for districts and at-large seats.