Taiwan’s president announced the midterms as all about China. She now resigns as party chief-KESQ

By Eric Cheung, CNN

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has resigned as leader of the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party after her party suffered heavy losses in midterm elections.

The DPP’s defeats in Saturday’s vote deal a heavy blow to Tsai, as she had tried to frame the election — technically a local affair to elect city mayors, councilors and county heads — as a way to send a message against the growing belligerence of Beijing towards the island. .

Beijing has been increasingly assertive in its territorial claims on Taiwan in recent months, launching large-scale military exercises around the island in August in response to a controversial visit by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. , Nancy Pelosi.

But Tsai’s call to link the issues appears to have done little to boost the fortunes of her party, which is often outpaced by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party in local polls.

The KMT, which is widely seen as friendlier to Beijing and advocates greater economic ties with mainland China, is expected to win mayoral elections in 13 counties, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency. By comparison, Tsai’s party is expected to win just five, one less than in the last local elections.

“We humbly accept the election results and the decision of the people of Taiwan,” Tsai wrote on Facebook late Saturday.

She added that she had already resigned as head of the party to “fully assume responsibilities.”

However, Tsai will remain as president. His presidential term ends in 2024,

national priorities

The result comes despite mounting rhetoric from Beijing. China’s leader Xi Jinping told a Communist Party meeting last month that “the wheels of history are turning toward the reunification of China” and that Beijing would never give up the use of force to seize Taiwan.

Analysts said the result showed voters were more focused on domestic issues like the economy and social welfare.

“Taiwanese voters have become desensitized to China’s military threat. And therefore there is not much urgency in putting the issue of survival front and center,” said Wen-ti Sung, a political scientist with the Taiwan Studies Program at Australian National University.

“The DPP’s China Threat Card Faces Diminishing Marginal Returns Over Time.”

That assessment coincided with the thoughts of voter Liao Su-han, an art curator from central Nantou County who voted for the DPP but said Beijing’s recent actions were not a major factor in deciding his vote.

“The military threat from China has always been there, and it didn’t just start this year,” he said.

“As Taiwanese, we’re pretty used to China’s rhetoric that they want to invade us all the time, so [it] It didn’t have a huge impact on who I’m voting for.”

Eric Su, a 30-year-old account manager living in New Taipei City, said that although he voted for Tsai in the presidential election, he supported a KMT candidate because he is stronger on local issues.

“In a presidential election, I consider global issues more, because a president can influence our economy and international position,” he said.

“In a mayoral election, I care more about what a candidate can bring to local residents, like infrastructure planning and child benefits.”

KMT: friendlier to Beijing

The KMT, also known as the Chinese Nationalist Party, ruled China from 1912 to 1949, when it withdrew to Taiwan after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party.

The KMT established its own government on the island, having taken control of Japan after World War II, while the Communist Party took control of mainland China. Since then, the Communist Party has harbored ambitions for “reunification” with Taiwan, by force if necessary.

When the KMT first fled to Taiwan, its then-chairman Chiang Kai-shek ruled the island with an iron fist, implementing decades of martial law to stamp out political dissent.

After decades of struggle by pro-democracy activists, Taiwan gradually transformed from an authoritarian government to a democracy, holding the first direct presidential elections in 1996.

The KMT is now considered to be friendlier to Beijing than the ruling DPP, and accepts the so-called “1992 consensus,” a tacit understanding that both Taipei and Beijing recognize that they belong to “one China,” but with different interpretations of what What is it. that means

Tsai, on the other hand, has refused to acknowledge the consensus. His DPP position is to defend Taiwan’s status quo as an independent government and expand its international space against an increasingly assertive Beijing.

Among the most notable victories in Friday’s mayoral races was that of Chiang Wan-an, Chiang Kai-shek’s great-grandson. He will become Taipei’s next mayor after defeating the DPP’s Chen Shih-chung, who served as Taiwan’s health minister during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement late Saturday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the election results showed that most people in Taiwan value “peace, stability and a good life.” He said Beijing will continue to “firmly oppose Taiwan independence and foreign interference.”

However, experts said the KMT’s victory does not necessarily reflect a change in the way the Taiwanese public views its relationship with mainland China.

“The election was voted on basic issues, and I don’t agree that it has a major impact on policy across the Taiwan Strait,” said J. Michael Cole, senior adviser to the Taipei-based International Republican Institute.

“The result of this election does not reflect what voters will look for when choosing the next president.”

Sung, from the Australian National University, said it was too early to speculate on the KMT’s chances of winning the next presidential election in 2024, but he considered this result to have given it a boost.

“The KMT is now best positioned to be the (party) that unifies the opposition and attracts all the votes to protest against the status quo against the current administration,” he said.

The CNN Wire
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