Taiwanese Voters Reject China’s Influence, Grant Third Consecutive Presidential Term to Ruling Party

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By Md Afraz Alam

Taiwan Election Results 2024 – On Saturday, Taiwanese voters decisively elected Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), resisting intense pressure from China to disapprove of him. 

Despite China expressing its determination for “reunification,” the people of Taiwan supported Lai, whose party advocates for Taiwan’s distinct identity and disputes China’s territorial assertions. 

Notably, Lai’s party aimed for an unprecedented third consecutive four-year term, challenging the norms of Taiwan’s existing electoral framework.

Lai also only won 40% of the vote in Taiwan’s first-past-the-post system, unlike current President Tsai Ing-wen who was re-elected by a landslide four years ago with more than 50% of the vote.”

Nevertheless, as a reflection of public discontent with domestic concerns such as high housing costs and stagnant wages during its eight-year tenure, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) saw a loss of its parliamentary majority. 

This setback adds complexity to Lai’s task of pushing legislation through. 

Furthermore, Lai secured only 40% of the vote in Taiwan’s first-past-the-post system, a notable contrast to the overwhelming victory achieved by the current President, Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected four years ago with over 50% of the vote.

Nonetheless, Lai celebrated his triumph. 

“We’ve authored a fresh chapter in Taiwan’s democratic history,” remarked Lai, who had consistently led in the polls, addressing reporters following the concession of defeat by both of his opponents.

While expressing commitment to maintaining the existing state of affairs in relations with mainland China, Lai asserted his determination to shield Taiwan from Chinese threats and intimidation. 

Simultaneously, he underscored the importance of collaboration and dialogue with Beijing on a fair footing, aiming to “substitute confrontation,” though he refrained from providing specific details.

Leading up to the election, China condemned Lai as a dangerous separatist, urging the people of Taiwan to make the right choice and highlighting the perceived “extreme harm of the DPP’s ‘Taiwan independence’ stance.” Despite Lai’s repeated calls for talks, China consistently rejected them.

Following Lai’s election, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office adopted a more tempered tone, refraining from mentioning him by name. 

Instead, it stated that the election results indicate the DPP “cannot represent the mainstream public opinion” in Taiwan. 

The office reaffirmed China’s unwavering stance on resolving the Taiwan question and achieving national reunification, emphasizing its steadfast determination.

However, China expressed willingness to collaborate with “relevant political parties, groups, and people” from Taiwan to enhance exchanges and cooperation. The goal is to promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and work towards national reunification.

The context of Taiwan’s election occurs amid escalating geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington. The arms race in the Taiwan Strait and Chinese military pressure on the island, which Beijing considers its “sacred” territory, show no signs of abating. 

Since the 2020 election, China has escalated military activities in the Taiwan Strait, conducting unprecedented large-scale war games near the island.

Lai emphasized, “Only peace will be advantageous for both parties despite the circumstances.”

A jubilant atmosphere prevailed among many enthusiastic supporters outside Lai’s campaign headquarters.

Tattoo artist Cony Lu, 28, tearfully expressed, “The DPP is the sole party capable of genuinely safeguarding Taiwan. Numerous individuals are eager to unite in preserving Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

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DOMESTIC CHALLENGES

Lai acknowledged the need for improvement in various areas after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its parliamentary majority.

However, he extended an olive branch to his adversaries, intending to incorporate talent from their respective parties.

Lai pledged to collaborate with his electoral rivals, including Hou Yu-ih from Taiwan’s largest opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), to address Taiwan’s challenges.

According to Taiwan’s media, the DPP secured 51 seats compared to the KMT’s 52, while the TPP garnered eight.

Ko seemed receptive to working with Lai, stating, “The TPP will assume the role of a critical minority without pre-determining our collaborators. We’ll assess the issues, and whoever presents reasonable solutions, we will support.”

During the elections, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese youths rallied around Ko, who, despite finishing last, emerged as a significant force in Taiwan’s political landscape, securing approximately a quarter of the vote.

Hou, portrayed by Lai as pro-Beijing despite strong denials, bowed to a modest gathering of supporters as he accepted defeat.

With a voter turnout of around 72% among nearly 19 million eligible voters on the island of 23 million, Tsai was constitutionally barred from seeking reelection after two terms in office.

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