Polls open in Taiwan presidential and parliamentary elections

Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections began on Saturday, taking place amid the complex dynamics of cross-strait relations with China.

Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections commenced on Saturday, amid heightened tensions with China framing the polls as a crucial choice between war and peace.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), advocating for Taiwan’s distinct identity and challenging China’s territorial assertions, seeks a third term with Vice President Lai Ching-te as its candidate. In the lead-up to the election, China consistently labeled Lai a dangerous separatist, dismissing his calls for dialogue. Lai emphasizes his commitment to maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait and reinforcing the island’s defenses.

Competing for the presidency alongside Lai are Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan’s major opposition party, and Ko Wen-je, former Taipei mayor representing the recently established Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).

Hou proposes restarting engagement through people-to-people exchanges and accuses Lai of advocating for Taiwan’s formal independence, echoing China’s stance. Lai, in turn, portrays Hou as pro-Beijing, a claim Hou refutes. Ko, gathering substantial support, particularly among young voters, prioritizes pragmatic issues like housing costs. While advocating re-engagement with China, he asserts the need to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy and way of life.

The parliamentary elections hold equal significance, especially if none of the parties secures a majority, potentially hindering the president’s legislative agenda, particularly regarding defense.

Polls, open for eight hours, close at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT), with manual ballot counting commencing promptly. Absentee, proxy, and early voting are not part of the electoral process. Results are expected by late Saturday evening, following concessions from losers and a victory speech from the winning candidate.

Constitutionally barred from seeking another term after serving two, President Tsai Ing-wen’s legacy adds a distinctive element to this electoral milestone. The outcomes will undoubtedly shape Taiwan’s future trajectory amid evolving regional dynamics.

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