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Taiwan's president-elect vows to protect island from 'threats' from China

Yasuyoshi Chiba Agence France-Presse At the end of a campaign marked by strong diplomatic and military pressure from China, Lai Ching-te won this one-round presidential election with 40.1% of the votes, according to results covering 99.9% of polling stations. vote.

Katell Abiven – Agence France-Presse and Xinqi Su – Agence France-Presse to Taipei

11:25 a.m.

  • Asia

Lai Ching-te promised on Saturday to “protect Taiwan from threats and intimidation from China” after his election as president of the island, with Beijing reaffirming for its part that “reunification” was “inevitable “.

“We are determined to protect Taiwan from China's continued threats and intimidation,” declared the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker to his jubilant supporters waving red and green flags.

He congratulated the population for “successfully resisting the efforts of external forces to influence this election.”

At the end of a campaign marked by strong diplomatic and military pressure from China, Mr. Lai won this one-round presidential election with 40.1% of the vote, according to results covering 99 .9% of polling stations. He will take office on May 20.

Outgoing Vice President Lai Ching-te, 64, has been described by Beijing as a “grave danger” because his party claims the island is de facto independent.

The communist country, which considers Taiwan as one of its provinces, reacted on Saturday evening by affirming that this vote “will not hinder the inevitable trend towards reunification with China”.

“We… will firmly oppose separatist activities aimed at Taiwan's independence as well as foreign interference,” warned Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for China's office responsible for relations with Taiwan.

During the campaign, China called on voters to make “the right choice” and its army promised to “crush” any desire for “independence”.

“I want to thank the people of Taiwan for writing a new chapter in our democracy,” Lai Ching-te said in his victory speech, because “we are telling the international community that between democracy and authoritarianism, we will be on the side of democracy.”

However, he promised to “continue exchanges and cooperation with China”.

Model of democracy

The status of Taiwan is one of the most explosive topics in the rivalry between China and the United States, and Washington plans to send an “informal delegation” to the island after the vote.

The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken congratulated, in a press release, Lai Ching-te as well as the Taiwanese for their “solid democratic system”.

But “we do not support independence,” President Joe Biden assured the press. The United States does not recognize Taiwan as a state and considers the People's Republic of China to be the sole legitimate government, but nevertheless provides the island with significant military aid.

The president of Paraguay, one of the few countries in the world to recognize Taiwan, congratulated Lai Ching-te in a video call. Santiago Peña said he was “happy to see Taiwan once again prove its values ​​through democratic elections,” according to a DPP statement.

The DPP's main opponent, Hou Yu-ih, 66, a Kuomintang (KMT) candidate who advocated rapprochement with Beijing, received 33.5 percent of the vote, according to the Election Commission's tally central.

At the start of the evening, he acknowledged his defeat to his supporters: “I respect the final decision of the Taiwanese people” and “I congratulate Lai Ching-te and Hsiao Bi-khim [his running mate] for their election, hoping that they will not disappoint the expectations of the Taiwanese people.”

The third candidate, Ko Wen-je, 64, from the small Taiwan People's Party (TPP) and who presents himself as anti-system (anti-establishment), is third with 26.5%. He also conceded defeat.

The Taiwanese also voted to renew the 113 seats in Parliament, where the DPP however lost its majority, according to Lai Ching-te.

In the approximately 18,000 polling stations, each ballot was held up and read aloud by those responsible for counting – a process open to the public – before being counted.

The territory of 23 million inhabitants located 180 kilometers from the Chinese coast is hailed as a model of democracy in Asia.

The European Union for its part “welcomed” on Saturday the holding of elections in Taiwan and “congratulated”, in a press release, “all the voters who participated in this democratic exercise”.

“In great shape”

“The more a party keeps its distance from China, the more I support it,” confided a student who came to attend the DPP results evening on Saturday.

“This does not mean that we should not have exchanges with China, but it should not affect our subjectivity,” added the young man, who only gave his last name , Huang.

“As a Taiwanese, I am happy whoever is elected,” said Elizabeth Wu, a 24-year-old student who came to celebrate with DPP supporters even though she did not vote for the party .

“Taiwan’s democracy is in great shape! », she rejoiced.

All week, Beijing has increased its diplomatic and military pressure. On Thursday, five Chinese balloons crossed the median line separating the autonomous island from China, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, which also spotted ten planes and six warships.

On Saturday, AFP journalists observed a Chinese fighter jet over the town of Pingtan, the closest to Taiwan.

And on the Chinese social network Weibo, the hashtag “Taiwan Election” was blocked in the morning.

In China, media coverage of the vote was reduced to a minimum during the campaign and on Saturday evening, the news on state television did not even mention it.

The status of Taiwan is one of the most explosive topics in the rivalry between China and the United States, the territory's primary military supporter, and Washington plans to send an “informal delegation” to the island after the vote .

On Friday, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken met in Washington with Liu Jianchao, head of the international division of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

He reminded her of the importance of “maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

A conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be disastrous for the global economy: the island supplies 70% of the planet's semiconductors and more than 50% of the world's containers transported through the strait .

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116