Taiwan Elects Tsai Ing-wen as President, First Woman to Hold Office

Tsai Ing-wen arriving at a polling station Saturday to cast her ballot. (Reuters)
Tsai Ing-wen arriving at a polling station Saturday to cast her ballot. (Reuters)

Tsai Ing-wen was elected as Taiwan’s president Saturday, becoming the first woman to win the office. Voters gave her Democratic Progressive Party, which is skeptical of closer ties with China, control of Taiwan’s legislature for the first time, giving her broad authority to push her policies in office.

“The results today tell me the people want to see a government that is willing to listen to people, that is more transparent and accountable and a government that is more capable of leading us past our current challenges and taking care of those in need,” she said in a press conference outside her party’s headquarters.

Her main opponent, Eric Chu of the Kuomintang party, conceded just after 7 p.m. “I congratulate Chairman Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party on her victory,” he said. “This is the choice of Taiwan’s people.”

With 99 percent of the polling stations reporting results, Ms. Tsai had 56 percent of the vote to Mr. Chu’s 31 percent, Taiwan’s Central Election Commission said.

The campaign largely pivoted on economic issues, as growth in Taiwan has slowed dramatically over the past year. Wages have stagnated and housing prices in major cities like Taipei have remained out of the reach of many people.

Voters also soured on the departing president, Ma Ying-jeou, and his policy of pursuing a closer relationship with China, Taiwan’s giant neighbor, which considers the self-governed island to be a part of its territory with which it must eventually be united.

On the night before the election, speaking to a huge crowd of supporters on a boulevard across from Taiwan’s Presidential Office Building, Ms. Tsai recalled protests that have filled the capital’s streets in recent years. Those included demonstrations over the death of a young soldier and the Sunflower Movement, a student-led protest against the pursuit of a trade bill with China by the governing party, the Kuomintang.

“Behind me is the presidential office. It’s just a few hundred meters away from the people,” she said. “But those inside the presidential office can’t hear the voice of the people.”

Ms. Tsai, who has consistently held a wide lead in opinion polls, will be only the second president not to belong to the Kuomintang, the party that ruled Taiwan as an authoritarian state until democratic reforms began in the late 1980s.

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The New York Times