Pro-independence forces in Taiwan won a major victory during electoral polling by securing the presidency and the legislature from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) Party.
The Central Election Commission declared Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) the 14th president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Jan. 16, beating her KMT opponent Chu “Eric” Li-luan.
Tsai, the first female elected to the executive office, won 56 percent of the vote, compared with Chu’s 31 percent. Voter turnout was 66 percent.
In the legislative election, the DPP won 68 seats of the 113 total seats, while the KMT took 35. This is the first time the DPP has secured control of the legislature and will be the first time the DPP will run the Foreign and National Defense Committee.
DPP control of the government might spell the end to Beijing’s efforts to secure control of Taiwan be means other than war as a growing “Taiwanese” identity begins to replace the aging veterans of the Chinese Civil War who fled the mainland in 1949.
In the past eight years, under President Ma Ying-jeou’s KMT administration, Beijing and Taipei signed numerous agreements allowing for greater trade, investment, direct flights and tourism. Ma capped off his presidency with a historic banquet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in November.
Despite Ma’s efforts to improve relations across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing has done nothing to soften its military threats to invade the island, including the placement of 1,400 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.
Tsai will face daunting tasks not only in placating China, which claims Taiwan as its sovereign territory, but battling declining morale in the military ranks and addressing unfulfilled procurement requests for new submarines and fighter aircraft.
Tsai is not to be dismissed lightly by either Beijing or Washington. Her credentials are impressive and include advanced degrees from the London School of Economics and Cornell University Law School. Past government experience includes positions on the Mainland Affairs Council and the National Security Council.
Tsai will take the oath of office on May 20. Legally, a president can hold the office for two four-year terms.