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William Lai, an Opponent of Rapprochement with China, Wins the Presidential Election in Taiwan

14.01.2024
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https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-67920530

The counting of votes is still ongoing, but the lead of the race favorite, the ruling party candidate William Lai, is already unattainably large. Hundreds of William Lai's supporters had long since gathered at the headquarters of the Democratic Progressive Party and began to celebrate the victory. Lai gave a victory speech to supporters. “Thank you, people of Taiwan. We made history. The world will continue to watch us,” he said. The new president concluded his speech with the words: “Taiwan, forward.”

Ruling party candidate William Lai (aka Lai Qingde), 64, who represents the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, was the favorite from the start. Mainland Chinese authorities call him a separatist. He advocates reducing the island's economic dependence on Beijing and rapprochement with the United States. His main opponent is the candidate from the opposition Kuomintang party, Hou Yui, on the contrary, a supporter of rapprochement with mainland China. With 98% of the ballots counted, Lai has 40.2% of the vote.

William Lai's victory is the expected result, although various pre-election polls had predicted a tighter race. Also, for the first time in the history of Taiwanese politics, two major parties were challenged by a candidate from a third party, which is very popular among young people. It performs better than expected, but is not serious competition.

People began lining up at polling stations even before they opened. There was a very high turnout. The official results will be announced in a few days. William Lai will take office only in May, when the tenure of current President Tsai Ing-wen, in whose administration Lai serves as vice president, ends.

In parallel with the presidential elections, Taiwan also held parliamentary elections. According to preliminary data from the local press, none of the parties was able to obtain an absolute majority of mandates.

The elections in Taiwan are being watched by the whole world, as Beijing threatens the island with war if, as a result, the Taiwanese want to declare formal independence from China. In the run-up to the election, the Chinese military has significantly increased its activity around Taiwan. Taiwan's Defense Ministry says there are eight Chinese military aircraft flying around the island, including one that violated airspace from the southwest at 6 a.m. local time, shortly before polling stations opened. Also in a statement on Saturday, Taiwan's Ministry of Defense said that six Chinese warships had encircled the island. “The [Taiwan] military is monitoring the situation. Combat air patrols, naval ships and ground-based missile systems are tasked with responding to hostile actions if necessary,” Taiwan's military said.

Previously, the United States has repeatedly stated that it would intervene in the situation in the region in the event of military aggression by Beijing.

 

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