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Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party swept to power for an unprecedented third term on Saturday, defying China's warnings against electing a presidential candidate Beijing calls a dangerous separatist.
With more than 90 percent of the votes counted, Lai got 40 percent, the Central Election Commission said. Hu Yu-eh of the largest opposition party, the Kuomintang, won 33.5 percent of the vote, and Ko Wen-jae of the smaller Taiwan People's Party won 26.5 percent.
Although the DPP lost its parliamentary majority and Lai's vote was 17 percentage points lower than that of President Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected in 2020, the party won more votes in its nationwide list of legislators. than expected.
It is the first time since Taiwan began holding free and direct presidential elections in 1996 that any party has held power beyond two four-year terms.
The result could prompt Beijing to increase pressure on its democratic neighbors.
“Between democracy and dictatorship, Taiwan has told the whole world that we stand on the side of democracy [and] It will continue to happen alongside the democracies of the world,” Lai said.
“Taiwanese people have successfully resisted attempts by outside forces to influence the outcome of this election. Only the people of Taiwan have the right to elect our president,” he said in response to Beijing's efforts to sway the vote.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and refuses to abandon the use of force to bring it under its control if the country rejects reunification indefinitely. It called the election a choice between war and peace and called on Taiwanese to make the “right choice”.
Ahead of the vote, the People's Liberation Army warned, “Extreme vigilance will be maintained at all times [to] Defeat 'Taiwan independence' separatist plots in any form.
But in a statement marking his victory, Lai appealed to Beijing to find ways to communicate and ease tensions. As long as the two sides face each other with dignity and equality, he hopes to “replace conflict with dialogue and continue exchanges with China with confidence,” Lai said.
He also said that under the tilt, Taipei was not involved in provocation. “We maintain our democratic and free way of life. I hope that in the future cross-strait relations will return to healthy and orderly exchanges,” he said.
After the DPP came to power in 2016, Beijing severed all ties with the Taiwanese government because the party refused to call the country part of China. The KMT claims that Taiwan belongs to a wider Chinese nation, but disagrees with the Chinese Communist Party on which state it represents.
Ko, who has appealed to young swing voters with promises of tax cuts, more health and social spending and increased government transparency, has largely avoided talking about China in detail.
US Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson congratulated Lai, saying he was “pleased to see democracy flourishing among the Taiwanese people”.
Johnson added that he would ask the Republican leaders of several committees in the House of Representatives to lead a delegation to Taiwan following his inauguration in May.
The TPP won 36.2 percent of the legislative party-list vote, 3 percentage points higher than in 2020, with Tsai winning re-election by a record margin, according to preliminary data from the Central Election Commission.
“Party-list polls are polls of people's actual support for their respective parties,” said Lev Nachman, a political scientist at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Based on these numbers, we have a much stronger showing for DPP than we expected.”
However, analysts said Lai faced a tough time. He will likely lead the first minority government, raising the threat of frequent deadlock on key issues such as strengthening Taiwan's defenses to fend off Chinese aggression.
Lai said his government, which will take office on May 20, will seek consensus with the opposition before implementing policies and will consider adding people from other parties to his administration.
“Elections have shown us that people want effective government and strong checks and balances,” he said. “We fully understand and respect this new public opinion.”
Additional reporting by Demetri Sevastopoulou in Washington