Pro-Taiwan-independence Democratic Progressive Party chair Tsai Ing-wen will become Taiwan’s first female president after winning a commanding victory in the island’s presidential elections on Saturday, throwing uncertainty into the increasingly stable cross-strait relations forged between the ruling party Kuomintang and China’s communist party.
Tsai defeated Kuomintang chairman and presidential candidate Eric Chu by garnering 56% percent of the votes while Chu finished second with only 31% followed by People First Party chairman and candidate James Soong with 13%. Tsai won the election by more than 3 million votes, according to the Chinese language daily World Journal.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party will also have control over Taiwan’s legislative body by defeating the ruling Kuomintang in the parliamentary elections that were held in conjunction with the presidential elections, winning 68 of the 113 total seats and a majority that is now held by the Kuomintang.
The reversal of fortune came as no surprise to observers as polls released before the elections all pointed to Tsai as the frontrunner with a lead of some 20 percent over her closest rival Chu.
Chu entered the 2016 presidential race just two months before the elections after orchestrating a controversial move within his party to replace then Kuomintang presidential candidate and party vice chair Hong Shiou-chu.
For the question of reunification with China versus Taiwan independence, Tsai has said during her campaign that she will maintain the status quo and strive for a practical approach to achieve stable cross-strait relations, according to the World Journal.
The road to Tsai’s rise as the first woman who will fill the presidency could possibly be traced back to her years as a bureaucrat under the Chen Shui-bian presidency from 2000 to 2008. Then-non-partisan Tsai was appointed as minister of the Mainland Affairs Council in charge of overseeing Taiwan’s relations with China. In 2008, Tsai began serving as chair o the Democratic Progressive Party and in 2012 ran president against Kuomintang incumbent Ma Ying-jeou. Tsai lost to Ma by more than 20 percent of the total number of votes.
On the cross-strait relations front, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council issued a statement after Tsai’s victory that said “China’s direction of its policies towards Taiwan is clear and consistent and will not change after the results of Taiwan’s elections. We firmly oppose any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ and splittists activities.”
Meanwhile, the United State’s State Department issued a statement after Tsai’s victory that said, “The United States congratulates Dr. Tsai Ing-wen on her victory in Taiwan’s presidential election…We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan’s leaders of all parties to advance out many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people on Taiwan.”
In related news, Republic of China president Ma Ying-jeou and People’s Republic of China president Xi Jinping met in Singapore on November 7, 2015, marking the first time that the leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have sat down face to face since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.