Politics, Asia - Pacific

Taiwan set to hold elections this weekend

Observers say incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen has emerged as favorite

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 09.01.2020
Taiwan set to hold elections this weekend

ANKARA

More than 19 million voters in Taiwan are set to vote on Saturday to elect their new president and 113 members of parliament.

The term of incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen will come to an end this spring when the new president is sworn in on May 20.

According to political observers in the island nation, which China sees as a breakaway province, the role of Beijing in months-long Hong Kong demonstrations will influence the outcome of the elections.

“The basic issue right now [in Taiwan] is about its relationship with China [but] of course because of the issue of Hong Kong [demonstrations], President Tsai will benefit from the issue,” said a Taiwanese academic, who teaches political science at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei, on the condition of anonymity.

Protests in Hong Kong -- an autonomous region under China since 1997 -- were triggered by the local government’s move to legalize extradition to mainland China. The proposed law was later withdrawn but sporadic protests have continued since early 2019.

Taiwan includes six special municipalities which have a commanding voter share of at least 69.27%.

The 40-49 age group has most votes at 19.39% followed by age 50-59 at 18.81%, and 30-39 at 18.38%.

Polls show incumbent Tsai as a top favorite against two other candidates, Han Kuo-yu from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and James Soong of the People First Party.

'Hong Kong protests to influence elections'

In 2016, Tsai became the first Taiwanese woman to enter the country’s highest office.

The Taiwanese academic told Anadolu Agency that although for years Tsai has faced criticism from a cross section of people “they might choose to play it safe since Tsai shows more resistance to China.”

“There are also issues of air pollution, labor and pensions,” he added.

In mid-2019, Taiwan sealed an $8 billion defense deal with the U.S., angering Beijing. Moreover, Taiwan also gave refuge to some protesters who fled alleged prosecution for demonstrations against the Beijing-backed Hong Kong administration.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Chien-Yu Shih, who teaches politics and international relations in Hong Kong, said besides relations with mainland China and economic development, “certainly personal charisma matters as well” in the elections.

In the 113-seat parliament, 647 candidates are competing. In the last election held in 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party won 68 to hold a majority for the first time, followed by the KMT, which got 35 seats.

Each voter will have three votes to cast: one for the president, the second for their local legislator, and third for the party. Nearly 37 seats are allotted to the parties according to their share of the vote.

According to Taiwan’s Central Election Commission, voting will start at 8 a.m. (0000GMT) and closes at 4 p.m. (0800GMT) on Saturday. The votes will be counted on the same day.

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