Taiwan president relinquishes party leadership after election defeat

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Tïwanese President Relinquishes Party Leader After Election Defeat

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced on Saturday that she was stepping down as leader of the ruling party after a defeat in local elections.

Taiwanese were notably called to the polls for the municipal and provincial elections, an election that Tsai Ing-wen described as a test to demonstrate the resilience of Taiwan and its determination to defend freedom and democracy in the face of threats from Beijing.

But the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost four of the six main cities on the island of 23 million people, including the capital Taipei.

The election results are not what we expected […]. I take full responsibility for this and immediately resign from the presidency of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), she told reporters.

But we don't have time to be sad, we must rise […] to face the challenges of the current international situation and the ;future, she added.

Tsai Ing-wen will however remain president of the island, a position she has held since 2016.

Voters were also called upon to vote by referendum on a lowering of 20 to 18 of the legal voting age, which was rejected.

After turning the page on decades of martial law in 1987, Taiwan has become one of Asia's most vibrant and progressive democracies. This is enough to worry neighboring China, which considers the island to be part of its territory and which has sworn to regain control of it, by force if necessary.

Since the coming to power of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose party considers Taiwan a de facto sovereign nation, Beijing has cut official communications with the the island, stepped up its military exercises, toughened economic pressures and wrested seven of its diplomatic allies from Taiwan.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing reached their highest level in August, after the visit of Nancy Pelosi – an American political figure –, to which Beijing responded with gigantic military maneuvers.

But the threat of a conflict was not at the heart of the concerns during this election, where local issues were mainly discussed.

Wayne Chiang, candidate for mayor of Taipei for the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT), waves to supporters as he arrives at a rally after winning local elections in Taipei.

The opposition is dominated by the Kuomintang party, more favorable to a rapprochement with China, which on Saturday promised to work hard to maintain peace in the region and to prepare to win the next presidential election in 2024.

Relations with China were not really on the election agenda this year, but they will be in 2024, believes Sung Wen-ti, a teacher at the Australian National University, a specialist in Taiwan, interviewed by AFP.

Tsai Ing-wen had already resigned from the presidency of the PDP in 2018, after a defeat in the local elections, before winning a large victory in the presidential election of 2020.

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