Taiwan president resigns as party leader after election defeat

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has resigned as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party following defeats in Saturday’s local elections in which voters chose the opposition nationalist party in a several great races across the self-contained island.

Concerns about threats from rival China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, took precedence over more local issues in the elections.

Tsai had spoken several times to “oppose China and defend Taiwan” during his party’s campaign. But party candidate Chen Shih-chung, who lost his battle for mayor of Taipei, only raised the issue of the threat from the Chinese Communist Party a few times before quickly returning to local issues as he there was little interest.

Tsai offered her resignation on Saturday night, a tradition after a major loss, in a short speech in which she also thanked her supporters.

“I have to take full responsibility,” she said. “Faced with a result like this, there are many areas that we need to review in depth.”

While international observers and the ruling party have tried to link the elections to the long-term existential threat posed by neighboring Taiwan, many local experts don’t think China has much to play this time around. .

“The international community has upped the ante too much. They raised a local election to this international level and Taiwan’s survival,” said Yeh-lih Wang, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

During the campaign, there were few mentions of the large-scale military drills targeting Taiwan that China held in August in response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“So I think if you can’t even raise this issue in Taipei, you don’t even need to consider it in southern cities,” Wang said.

Candidates from the Nationalist Party won the seat of mayor of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, as well as Taoyuan, Taichung and New Taipei City.

Taiwanese chose mayors, city council members and other local leaders in all 13 counties and nine cities. There was also a referendum to lower the voting age from 20 to 18, which was rejected, according to local media.

Chiang Wan-an, the new mayor of Taipei, proclaimed his victory on Saturday evening during a large rally. “I will let the world see the greatness of Taipei,” he said.

Not all votes had been officially counted at the time of his speech, but Chiang and the other candidates’ numerical lead enabled them to declare victory.

Kao Hung-an, a candidate for the relatively new Taiwan People’s Party, won the seat of mayor of Hsinchu, home to many Taiwanese semiconductor companies.

Campaigns had focused resolutely on the local: air pollution in the central city of Taichung, traffic jams in the technology hub of Taipei Nangang and the island’s COVID-19 vaccine purchasing strategies. , which left the island in short supply during an outbreak last year.

The ruling DPP’s defeat may be partly due to its handling of the pandemic.

“The public has some dissatisfaction with the DPP on this, even though Taiwan has done well in pandemic prevention,” said Weihao Huang, a political science professor at National Sun Yat-sen University.

At an elementary school in New Taipei City, the city that surrounds Taipei, voters young and old came early despite the rain.

Yu Mei-zhu, 60, said she came to vote for incumbent Mayor Hou You-yi. “I think he did well, so I want to keep supporting him. I believe in him and that he can improve our environment in New Taipei City and our transportation infrastructure.

Tsai stepped out early Saturday morning to vote, taking many voters by surprise as her security and entourage swept through the school.

“If the DPP loses many county seats, its ability to govern will face a very big challenge,” said You Ying-lung, chairman of the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation which regularly conducts public inquiries on political issues. .

The election results will also in some ways reflect public attitudes toward the ruling party’s performance over the past two years, You said.

Some felt indifferent to the local race. “It’s like everyone is almost the same, politically speaking,” said Sean Tai, 26, a hardware store worker.

Tai declined to say who he voted for, but wants someone who will raise Taipei’s profile and bring better economic prospects while maintaining the status quo with China. “We don’t want to be completely isolated. I really hope Taiwan can be seen internationally,” he said.

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