If the poll predictions turn out to be accurate, the front-runner, Tsai Ing-wen’s, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is all set to take control of Taiwan’s parliament.
CNBC reported that Michael Fonte, director of the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party Mission in the U.S., said that the change is forthcoming.
“The DPP’s official stance is that Taiwan is independent and sovereign. If anyone wants to change that status, the DPP and Tsai believe that the people of Taiwan would have to vote on a referendum for that change.”
The Washington Post reported that Tsai vows that she will maintain the status quo with China. But she has made it clear that she will not endorse the “1992 consensus.” That’s the tacit understanding that there is “one China,” without specifying precisely what that means.
The election is being closely observed by nations across the world in general, and the U.S. and China in particular for reasons economic and political.
Taiwan aims to reduce its dependence on mainland China economically, and is hence trying to branch out its business in South East Asia. However, much of its share of economy is still dependent on mainland China, and not countries like India, however much it wishes to, due to cultural and language reasons. Douglas Paal, vice president of studies for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explained China and Taiwan’s complex relationship.
“China is still a greater source of growth than other partner economies. And the other countries have their own characteristics that make investment and trade somewhat less attractive, such as Indonesia’s bureaucracy and economic nationalism, Thailand’s domestic unrest and Vietnam’s limited scale.”
The New York Times reported that in the past, elections in Taiwan have mostly been a two-way race between the long-dominant Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, with its roots in the Chinese mainland, and the Democratic Progressive Party, which is largely based in native Taiwanese, young or pro-independence voters.
This time, there is a variety of candidates from different fields including a former student protest leader from China, a singer in a heavy-metal band, a man accused of involvement in organized crime and a Cambodian-born woman who hopes to be a voice for the many Southeast Asian migrants with spouses born in Taiwan.
Ma Ying-jeou, the outgoing president, is now nearing the end of his two-term limit and belongs to the Kuomintang, the party of the late leader and former president of China itself, Chiang Kai-shek. The Kuomintang still continues to prefer some sort of political link with China. But it seems that many of the voters don’t want that either. Mr. Ma’s meeting in November in Singapore with Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, appears not to have gone over particularly well at home in Taiwan.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act gives officials in Washington room to play a part in case of tensions rising between China and Taiwan, stating only that the U.S. president and Congress must consider “non-peaceful” interventions on Taiwan’s behalf if it comes under threat. The administration of President Bill Clinton sailed a carrier battle group between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland in a show of force after Beijing missile tests and live-fire exercises in the region in 1996.
Tsai, a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics has said that the Taiwanese public seems more than ready for a woman president. Tsai said as much in a speech to the Council on Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. last year.
“Of course, there are some people in Taiwan that are still rather traditional and they have some hesitation in considering a woman president. But among the younger generation, I think they are generally excited about the idea of having a woman leader. They think it is rather trendy,”
While the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen would hardly be the first Asian woman elected head of state, she would be the first to rise to the top without having been the wife, daughter or sibling of a powerful man.
“Democracy is not just an election,” Tsai said at her last campaign rally on Friday in drizzling rain. “Democracy is our way of life.”
[Photo by Xaume Olleros/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]