Taiwan's opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen lodges presidential bid

TAIPEI (AFP) - The leader of Taiwan's Beijing-sceptic main opposition party on Sunday lodged her bid to stand in a 2016 presidential vote she is tipped to win after a landslide victory in November.

Tsai Ing-wen called for Taiwan to "consolidate its sovereignty" as she formally registered to become the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) candidate for next year's vote, for which she is likely to stand uncontested.

The 58-year-old party chairwoman failed to unseat incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party (KMT) when she ran against him for the top post in 2012.

But recent polls have given Tsai a strong lead for the 2016 contest with the KMT, which has seen its popularity slump because of growing public concern over its warming ties with China.

Taiwan has ruled itself since splitting from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war, but China still sees it as part of its territory and is pushing for reunification.

"As the leader of the country, the most critical task is to consolidate its sovereignty," Tsai told reporters on Sunday.

"Lots of people might have been disappointed by Taiwan's political culture and distrust the government. People need a new option."

A legal scholar-turned-politician who served as vice-premier in the former DPP government, Tsai turned the party around after it suffered a crushing defeat in 2008 dogged by a string of corruption scandals.

But the tables turned in November when the KMT lost five out of Taiwan's six municipalities, prompting Ma to step down as the party chairman.

A proposed trade pact with the mainland sparked mass student-led protests and a three-week occupation of Taiwan's parliament last year.

A United Daily News poll last week found 65 per cent of respondents expected the DPP to win the presidential vote and only a tenth think the KMT has a chance of retaining power.

"Taiwan needs reforms but there will be pain accompanying the reforms," Tsai wrote on her Facebook page on Saturday.

"We should create an era in politics that truly belongs to the people, a new politics of transparency, cleanness, participation, tolerance."