Democratic Progressive party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen looks poised to become Taiwan’s first female president as the self-ruled island goes to the polls amid concerns over the economy and cross-strait relations.
More than 18 million people in Taiwan will cast their votes for a new president and legislature today (January 16). Polls opened at 8 a.m. and close at 4 p.m., with results expected later this evening.
Opinion polls suggest that Tsai looks certain to defeat Eric Chu, her opponent from the Kuomintang (KMT) which has ruled Taiwan since 2008. As opinion poll data cannot be published during a 10 day window prior to the election date, there is however still some scope for the results to surprise.
Ma Ying-jeou, the outgoing KMT president, has faced growing criticism after his unprecedented eight year process of rapprochement with Beijing has seemingly failed to bring promised economic benefits to Taiwan.
Speaking to the Financial Times, 27-year-old student Chang Ho-wen said of Tsai, “The KMT sucks so she has a good chance to win, but I also think she has charisma, is very calm and has shown us that losers can become winners.”
But experts say that while Tsai, a former law professor who received her doctorate from the London School of Economics, will seek to halt or even reverse Taiwan’s drift towards China, she is unlikely to make any dramatic moves such as asserting the island’s independence.
Taiwanese voters are also increasingly concerned about the island’s economy, which grew just 1 percent last year. Wages have remained stagnant for over a decade and the benefits of increased economic ties with China are seen as going mainly to a select few insiders.
Increasing belligerence towards a burgeoning Taiwanese identity, demonstrated recently by the hostility met by a 16-year-old K-pop singer who waved the Taiwanese flag during an online broadcast, is also likely to influence voters.
[Images via NetEase // Wikimedia]