Attention turns to presidential election after Taiwan ruling party’s defeat According to Reuters
© Reuters. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen announces his resignation as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party to take responsibility for the party’s performance in local elections in Taipei, Taiwan, November 26, 2022. REUTERS/ Ann Wang
By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Attention is turning to Taiwan’s next presidential election in 2024 after the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a defeat in local elections on Saturday, with President Tsai Ing-wen’s move to focus on China has backfired on voters.
The main opposition Kuomintang party, or KMT, won the mayoral and district elections, winning 13 of the 21 contestable seats, including the affluent and cosmopolitan capital Taipei, in line with expected.
None of those elected have a direct say in China policy.
China considers the island its territory and has ramped up military activities to assert those claims, sparking global concern, especially given Taiwan’s role as a major producer. semiconductor production.
The Kuomintang traditionally favors close ties with China but strongly denies supporting Beijing. It has been lagging since its defeat in the 2020 presidential election, and was also dealt a major blow last December after four referendums it backed to show distrust. government has failed.
Speaking to reporters late Saturday at party headquarters, chairman Eric Chu said the KMT understands that only by uniting can they win.
“The people of Taiwan have given us an opportunity,” he said. “Altruism is the only chance the KMT can win the 2024 election.”
Tsai resigned as DPP chairman after the defeat, the worst in the party’s history, and now has only five mayor or district chief positions left.
She shaped the vote as a defiance to China’s growing belligerence, especially after the country held military exercises near the island in August and President Xi Jinping. , who has vowed to bring Taiwan under Chinese control, won an unprecedented third term last month. .
But Tsai’s strategy has failed to mobilize voters, who have decoupled geopolitics from local elections, which often focus more on issues ranging from crime to pollution.
Voter turnout on Saturday was at a record low of just 59% in Taiwan’s six most important cities, compared with an overall figure of around 75% in 2020.
China has been distracted with its own internal problems, including unrest related to its no-COVID policy.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu last week said Taiwan was less prone to Chinese interference ahead of local elections, possibly due to China’s own domestic problems and efforts to improve its international image. surname.
DPP general secretary Lin Hsi-yao told reporters the party would carry out a “review” of what went wrong, declining to comment directly on its tactics in making the China issue an issue. such important.
The KMT has focused its campaign on issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after the rise in cases this year and whether the government favors local vaccines over imported ones. password or not.
In an editorial on Sunday, Taiwan’s pro-DPP Liberty Times said it has become more difficult to use “abstract political ideas” to motivate voters at local elections, while also warning the DPP could face a distracting split in deciding its 2024 presidential candidate.
“Tsai Ing-wen’s second term is half-way through, and the succession issue could cause internal conflicts, damaging the combat effectiveness of all guns pointing out.”
Vice President William Lai, considered by party sources as the most likely candidate for 2024 and a prominent campaigner for local polls, apologized on his Facebook page (NASDAQ 🙂 on Saturday for poor performance, but made no mention of his future. .
However, the DPP recovered from a similar defeat in the 2018 local elections to a resounding victory in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, after successfully showing off a single vote. for the Kuomintang as a vote for China after the bloody crackdown on dissidents. government protesters in Hong Kong.
The Kuomintang has bristled at accusations it will sell Taiwan to China or not commit to democracy, but accuses the DPP of deliberately exaggerating its confrontation with Beijing for political gain.
The DPP denies this and Tsai has repeatedly offered to hold talks with China, but has been rejected because Beijing considers her a separatist.
“The KMT’s overwhelming victory does not mean that a pro-Beijing political climate in Taiwan is being formed. The KMT is not a pro-Beijing party either,” said Huang Kwei-bo, an associate professor. diplomat at National Chengchi University in Taipei, said. and a former deputy secretary general of the Kuomintang.