Vote counting for Taiwan’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections began on Saturday but China has framed it as a choice between war and peace. Taiwan’s defence ministry said that it had again spotted Chinese balloons crossing the sensitive strait, one of which flew over Taiwan itself. Beijing continues to ramp up the pressure on the island to accept its sovereignty. The results of the Presidential elections will be clear by Saturday evening, as reported by news agency Reuters.
The current ruling party in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which champions Taiwan’s separate identity while rejecting China’s territorial claims, now seeks a third term. Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te earlier encouraged people to cast their votes.
In the run-up to the elections, Beijing has repeatedly denounced Lai as a dangerous separatist. It has also rebuffed his repeated calls for talks. However, Lai continues to be firm on his stance that he is committed to preserving peace across the Taiwan Strait and boosting the island’s defences.
Lai currently is up against two opponents for the presidency – Hou Yu-ih of Taiwan’s largest opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), and former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je of the small Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), founded in 2019.
Hou wants to restart engagement with China beginning with people-to-people exchanges and has, like China, accused Lai of supporting Taiwan’s formal independence. However, Lai says that Hou is pro-Beijing which the latter has rejected.
Ko on the other hand has won a passionate support base, especially among young voters, for focusing on the basic bread-and-butter issues such as the high cost of housing, reported Reuters.
Ko also wishes to re-engage with China but has insisted that it cannot come at the expense of protecting Taiwan’s democracy and way of life.
Apart from the Presidential elections, the Parliamentary elections are also equally important. If no party is able to secure a majority in it then it will hinder the new Parliament’s ability to pass legislation and spending, especially for defence.
A financial sector worker who voted on Saturday told Reuters, “Compared to previous elections, the result this time is very difficult to predict. Taiwan’s next leader should think of ways to peacefully get along with China… Many Taiwanese think we should maintain the status quo.”