Taiwan elections

Nearly 19m to cast votes today in Taiwan elections

Supporters of Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen at an election rally in New Taipei City yesterday. Opinion polls show that she is far ahead of her rivals. If she wins, it will likely usher in an era of uncertainty in Ta
Supporters of Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen at an election rally in New Taipei City yesterday. Opinion polls show that she is far ahead of her rivals. If she wins, it will likely usher in an era of uncertainty in Taiwan's relationship with China.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Chu greeting supporters yesterday. His rally speech appeared to acknowledge public unhappiness.
Ms Tsai being welcomed by a euphoric crowd at Ketagalan Boulevard calling: "President, how do you do?"PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Ms Tsai being welcomed by a euphoric crowd at Ketagalan Boulevard calling: "President, how do you do?"
Mr Chu greeting supporters yesterday. His rally speech appeared to acknowledge public unhappiness. PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Soong of the People First Party is not giving up the fight despite the odds stacked against him.
Mr Soong of the People First Party is not giving up the fight despite the odds stacked against him.

DPP leader may make history as island's first woman president; KMT likely to lose majority

More than 18.8 million voters across Taiwan will go to the polls today to choose the president who they think is the best hope for reviving a moribund economy and healing the bitter political rift on the island.

With opinion polls showing her far ahead of her rivals, Ms Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) looks set to make history as the island's first woman president.

At the same time, her leadership is likely to usher in an era of more uncertain relations with Taiwan's giant neighbour across the strait.

Her rivals, Mr Eric Chu, of the Kuomintang (KMT), and Mr James Soong, of the People First Party, are, however, not giving up, doggedly pressing flesh and appealing for support up to the final minute.

In a last pitch to voters on the eve of Election Day, the three candidates yesterday ended their campaigns with massive rallies and emotional appeals to voters in the capital city of Taipei, after a week of criss-crossing the island.

REFORMING TAIWAN

We are one step away from a new era, to reform Taiwan and unite it. This election, it's not to defeat anyone but to defeat the difficulties we are facing.

MS TSAI ING-WEN, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, vowing to unite Taiwan.

Arriving at the rally, which looked more like a victory party, Ms Tsai was welcomed by a euphoric crowd at Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Palace calling: "President, how do you do?"

In her speech, she vowed to unite Taiwan, saying: "We are one step away from a new era, to reform Taiwan and unite it.

"This election, it's not to defeat anyone but to defeat the difficulties we are facing."

The poll is being held amid worries about Taiwan's sagging economy and widening rich-poor divide, with many frustrated over outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou's policies in the last eight years.

Voters are also fearful about warming ties with China, culminating in a historic summit between Mr Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore.

Speaking in New Taipei City, Mr Chu, in an acknowledgment of the unhappiness, said: "What we have done wrong, we will reflect, but what we have done right, we will stay the course. So vote us in to help Taiwan to fight on."

Mr Ma, who was present as well, bowed to the crowd and said that Mr Chu, if elected, will do a better job than him.

 

Earlier in the day, Mr Chu had campaigned alongside KMT legislative candidate Chiang Wan-an, the great-grandson of the late Taiwan President Chiang Ching-kuo.

 

The 37-year-old is among 546 candidates vying to get into the 113-seat legislature.

But it's an uphill battle for the KMT. Besides losing the presidency, it could lose its majority in the legislature for the first time since direct legislative elections were introduced in Taiwan in 1992.

This means that the DPP could get a firm lock on the government.

Also hoping to make a breakthrough are fledgling parties, led by the New Power Party. Set up by young activists, they are likely to align themselves with the DPP if elected.

Early fears of a low turnout may be unfounded as snaking queues were seen in Taipei's main bus and train stations last evening - many, including young people, said they were headed back to their hometowns to cast their ballots.

Among them was first-time voter Zhang Cui-jia, who was taking a 90-minute train ride to the southern port city of Kaohsiung. The 23-year-old medical student says he has not yet made up his mind whom to vote for but "I want to make my voice heard".

Polling will open at 8am and close at 4pm. Results could be out by 8pm tonight.

WATCH THE VIDEO
KMT party presidential candidate Eric Chu on the final day of campaigning in Taipei. http://str.sg/ ZV4p

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Nearly 19m to cast votes today in Taiwan elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe