People in Chinese Taipei have taken to the polls to cast their ballots in local elections, with domestic issues and China’s territorial claims over the self-ruled island dominating the defining vote.
The elections on Saturday involved casting ballots for new mayors, county chiefs and local councilors in Taiwan, which were seen as a key test for Taipei’s ruling party ahead of the 2024 presidential vote.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen described the election as being more than a local poll, saying the world is watching how Taipei defends its democracy amid military tensions with Beijing.
Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), swept the 2018 local elections and has accused Tsai and her Democratic People's Party (DPP) of being overly confrontational with China. The KMT traditionally favors closer ties with China but strongly denies being pro-Beijing.
Tsai and her DPP dealt a heavy blow to the KMT by defeating the opposition party in 2020. The incumbent’s second term in office runs out in 2024 and she cannot stand again as president because of term limits.
The results of Taiwan’s elections are expected to be released by early evening on Saturday.
China considers Chinese Taipei as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland under the internationally-recognized “one-China” policy.
The sovereignty is subject to international recognition, including by the United States. But, in violation of its own stated policy and in an attempt to irritate Beijing, Washington has from time to time ramped up diplomatic contact with the self-proclaimed government in Chinese Taipei. Washington is also the island's largest weapon supplier.