By Tevfik Durul
Taiwan's Muslim community may be small, but it has grand hopes for Saturday's election.
The general secretary of the community says that although they only make up around 0.25 percent of the country's population of 23.5 million it hopes the new government will help it purchase the land its main mosque was built on.
"Government bureaucracy is not facilitating our cultural life and mosque construction is difficult as land and building prices are very expensive,” Salahaddin Ma, a Hui Muslim -- who is also an imam -- told Anadolu Agency this week.
“Since 1990, no mosques have been built and we don't even own the land the Taipei Grand Mosque was built on almost 60 years after it was erected.”
The cost of the mosque was covered by the Chinese Muslim Association -- with a reported donation of $150,000 from Iran and Jordan, and $100,000 loaned by the Bank of Taiwan and the government of China's northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, from where Taiwan's Hui Muslims descend.
However, the community does not own the area the 2,747 square meter mosque was built on. In 1999, a cement company claimed ownership and attempted to dismantle the mosque in order to take it back.
Ma underlined to Anadolu Agency that the community still has fears for the mosque's future, despite the government of the majority Buddhist country listing it as a historic building, meaning it can't be knocked down.
The general secretary says there are now around 60,000 Muslims living in Taiwan, most of whom pray at the country's six mosques.
Friday prayers are performed at the Taipei mosque.
Many of the Muslims are the grandchildren of members of the Kuomintang (KMT), a Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-Shek, whose members left what became Ningxia Hui in 1949 for Taiwan following a defeat by China's communists.
The party is still very much alive in Taiwan today, with outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou representing the KMT. Ma has served the maximum two terms, but support for the KMT's new candidate in Saturday's election is floundering.
Hui -- along with Turkic Uighur-- remain one of the largest Muslim communities in China today.
Outside of the Hui, a large percentage of the country's Muslims are migrants and their children from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and various other countries in the Middle East Africa and Africa - many of whom have now settled in Taiwan.
Ma does not wish to be quoted on who he will vote for, but simply says he wishes “peace and stability” for Taiwan – hopes not easily fulfiled given its tumultuous relationship with the Chinese mainland.
Most of the Hui Muslims, however, are expected to continue their support of the KMT party, given their personal histories.
Since Chinese nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the brutal civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists, China has seen the region as a breakaway province that will eventually return.
The latest surveys indicate that the liberal Democratic Progressive Party is expected to lead the race with around 40 percent of votes. The DPP has long held the position of pro-independence regarding Taiwan's status and wanted to sever all ties with Mainland China, but this time around, it is signaling a more pragmatic approach.
A turnout of around 70 percent is expected among the 18.6 million voters eligible to cast ballots for their next president and 113 parliament members at 15,600 polling stations Saturday.
In addition to the presidential race, the election will see a total of 354 candidates run for parliament in 73 districts.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this story from Ankara