Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party Secures Historic Third Presidential Victory

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party Secures Historic Third Presidential Victory

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a historic third consecutive presidential victory, defying warnings from China about potential conflict escalation with their re-election. Lai Ching-te, the current vice president of Taiwan and the DPP candidate, declared victory, expressing the significance of keeping Taiwan on the global map and showcasing the commitment of its people to democracy.

Hsiao Bi-khim, Lai’s running mate and former top envoy to the United States, was elected Vice President. The election results, with Lai receiving just over 40% of the total votes, demonstrated strong support for the DPP’s perspective that Taiwan is a de facto sovereign nation requiring strengthened defenses against China’s threats.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party candidate, Hou Yu-ih, secured 33.49% of the votes, while Taiwan People‚Äôs Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je received 26.45%. Despite China’s insistence that the election result does not represent the mainstream view on the island, it underscores Taiwan’s commitment to its democratic identity, resistance against Beijing’s pressures, and a desire to deepen relations with democratic countries.

The campaign, characterized by lively democratic debates, focused on livelihood issues and the challenging dynamics with China. The outcome reflects voter support for the DPP’s stance against China’s claims and its determination to strengthen ties with fellow democratic nations. It is also seen as a rebuff to China’s forceful tactics towards Taiwan under Xi Jinping’s leadership, who considers Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland as inevitable.

The victory of Lai, who shares a strained relationship with China’s Communist Party leaders, is unlikely to ameliorate the strained ties between Beijing and Taipei. China has cut off communications with Taipei since Tsai Ing-wen’s presidency and increased diplomatic, economic, and military pressure on the island.

China’s Communist Party regards Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having controlled it. The DPP maintains that Taiwan’s future should be decided by its people and emphasizes its autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party. Lai, in his victory speech, asserted the victory as a triumph for the community of democracies, highlighting Taiwan’s commitment to democracy amid global challenges.

He pledged to act in accordance with democratic principles while maintaining the cross-strait status quo. Lai expressed determination to safeguard Taiwan from China’s threats and intimidation, calling for China’s recognition of the new situation and advocating for peaceful coexistence between the two sides of the strait.

Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party Secures Historic Third Presidential Victory
Photo By Al-jazeera

 

Lai’s triumph deals a setback to Beijing at a time when the US aims to stabilize its delicate relations with China and prevent rivalry from escalating into conflict. During Tsai’s tenure, Taiwan strengthened its ties with the US, its primary international supporter, leading to increased support and arms sales.

US officials affirm their commitment to the longstanding policy toward Taiwan, planning to send an unofficial delegation, including former senior officials, to Taipei after the election. This delegation visit serves as a symbolic show of support for Taiwan, according to T.Y. Wang, a professor at Illinois State University.

The election outcome represents another significant blow to Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT), which advocates for warmer relations with Beijing and has been out of the presidency since 2016. Beijing openly expressed its desire for the KMT’s return to power, accusing Lai and the DPP of needlessly escalating tensions during the campaign.

While Lai acknowledges the need for economic adjustments due to public concerns about low wages and unaffordable housing, he is expected to align with Tsai’s approach on foreign policy and cross-strait relations. Analysts anticipate that Lai’s efforts to reassure both domestic and international audiences could provoke displeasure in Beijing.

Days before the election, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned that Lai’s alignment with Tsai’s path signifies provocation and confrontation, potentially bringing Taiwan closer to war and recession. Experts suggest that China might escalate economic and military pressure on Taiwan to express its dissatisfaction shortly after the election or reserve a more forceful response for May when Lai assumes office.

“There are multiple times that China could cause a fuss over a DPP victory, either now or later this year,” commented Lev Nachman, a political science professor at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party Secures Historic Third Presidential Victory
Photo By Cnn

 

Beijing possesses an array of coercive measures in its arsenal. In the lead-up to the election, China terminated preferential tariffs for certain Taiwanese imports, possibly expanding the range of targeted goods or suspending the free trade agreement entirely.

Additionally, China can escalate military pressure on Taiwan by deploying more fighter jets and warships near the island’s skies and waters, a tactic increasingly employed in recent years. However, Taiwanese security officials expressed the belief that large-scale military actions from China immediately after the election were unlikely. They cited unfavorable winter weather conditions, challenges in the Chinese economy, and efforts by Beijing and Washington to stabilize ties following a bilateral summit in November.

While an escalation in military tension raises the risk of accidents and miscalculations, analysts emphasize that it doesn’t necessarily indicate an imminent conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

“Just because the DPP is in power doesn’t mean China’s going to war,” remarked Nachman. Despite the discomfort of the past eight years with the DPP in power, it has not led to war, and there has been an ability to find an uneasy middle ground. The hope is that, even with a Lai presidency, this uncomfortable coexistence can persist without escalating into war.

In Short The recent election in Taiwan concluded with a historic victory for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), securing its third consecutive presidential win. Vice President Lai Ching-te, the DPP candidate, declared victory, while his opposition rivals conceded defeat. Lai emphasized that the election showcased Taiwan’s commitment to democracy and expressed hope for understanding from China.

The election, with a voter turnout of over 71%, featured a lively campaign focusing on both livelihood issues and Taiwan’s relationship with China. The results align with the DPP’s stance that Taiwan is a de facto sovereign nation requiring strengthened defenses against China’s threats. The victory signals continued support for deepening ties with democratic nations, even if it entails potential economic or military repercussions from Beijing.

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has expressed discontent with the election outcome, asserting that it does not represent the mainstream view on the island. The strained relations between China and Taiwan are expected to persist, as Lai, like outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, is openly disapproved of by China’s Communist Party leaders.

As Taiwan navigates its position on the global stage, the election outcome indicates a resolve to uphold democratic values. Lai’s win, accompanied by the election of Hsiao Bi-khim as Vice President, marks a significant moment for Taiwan and sets the tone for continued diplomatic complexities in cross-strait relations.