The Republic of China (Taiwan) held presidential and legislative elections on Saturday, delivering what has been interpreted as a rebuke to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which claims jurisdiction over the island.

Incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) emerged with 57.1% of the vote, against 38.5% for Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Han Kuo-yu. In the legislative elections, the DPP secured 61 of the 113 seats, as opposed to 38 for the KMT.

President Tsai commented in her victory speech: ‘Taiwan is showing the world how much we cherish our free democratic way of life and how much we cherish our nation.’

Taiwan has made a successful transition from authoritarian rule to democracy and civic liberty since the 1980s. A growing divide now separates its political system and political culture from that of its long-time rival, the PRC.

One issue of concern in the election was the fate of Hong Kong, which has recently been rocked by demonstrations demanding greater democracy for itself and respect for its autonomy by the government of the PRC. The DPP – more inclined towards formal independence for Taiwan – warned that this would likely be the fate of Taiwan should it succumb to ‘unification’ with the PRC on the latter’s terms.

The United States, Taiwan’s most important de facto ally, despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations, congratulated Taiwan on the polls and President Tsai on her victory.

Chinese official sources and state media condemned the US reaction, and described the election outcome as a ‘fluke’. Tsai and the DPP were ‘orchestrating tensions’. The Global Times, which adopts a strongly nationalistic line and is loyal to the Communist Party of China, commented: ‘Recognising and complying with the reality [of an increasingly powerful China] is the only feasible option for Taiwan’s peaceful development.’

Tsai, however, argued that the PRC should respect Taiwan’s democracy, and abandon threats of war. ‘I also hope that the Beijing authorities understand that democratic Taiwan, and our democratically elected government, will not concede to threats and intimidation,’ she said.

[Picture: Heeheemalu, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77729406]

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