Taiwan has elected Lai Ching-te as its next president, securing a third term for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and intensifying tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
Lai, who previously served as vice president, continues the government’s push for a sovereign Taiwan with a distinct national identity, separate from China.
China’s Taiwan affairs office responded to Lai’s victory, emphasizing that the election outcome would not alter the inevitable reunification with the mainland.
Lai secured over 40% of the vote, surpassing opposition candidate Hou You-yi. The election outcome reflects a split in the main opposition parties, with the DPP losing control of Taiwan’s legislative yuan.
President-elect Lai acknowledged the victory as a triumph for global democracies and stressed the importance of resisting external influences.
Despite losing parliamentary control, Lai pledged to collaborate with opposition parties, highlighting the challenges anticipated in a parliament dominated by two opposing factions.
Today, #Taiwan has once again shown the world our people’s commitment to democracy. @bikhim & I are grateful for the trust placed in us. Looking forward, we remain committed to upholding peace in the Taiwan Strait and being a force of good in the international community. pic.twitter.com/9Xq18uRwxB
— 賴清德Lai Ching-te (@ChingteLai) January 13, 2024
The entry of a third-party candidate, Ko Wen-je, disrupted traditional voting expectations.
Lai, aligned with the more radical wing of the DPP, vows to maintain a delicate balance between the U.S. and China, following Tsai Ing-wen’s approach of avoiding formalizing Taiwan’s independence.
China, viewing the DPP as separatists, has expressed dissatisfaction with Lai’s election.
The DPP positioned itself as a party of cautious resistance, strengthening international relationships while avoiding provocation.
The opposition Kuomintang accused the DPP of escalating tensions and promised to restore dialogue with China if elected.
Analysts suggest that Lai’s victory may not necessarily indicate an endorsement of his cross-strait policies but rather a lack of convincing alternatives from the KMT.
Beijing is expected to respond with increased pressure in the lead-up to Lai’s inauguration in May.
The election, which also focused on domestic issues, showcased the DPP’s progressive values.
Taiwan’s relatively young democracy, emerging from authoritarian rule in the late 1980s, celebrated the freedom of voting, contrasting sharply with the limited political freedoms in China.
Voters, including the international diaspora, returned home to participate in the democratic process.
Despite concerns during the blackout period, Lai’s win aligns with pre-election polls, marking a defining moment in Taiwan’s political landscape.