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In Taiwan, scathing defeat of the president’s party in local elections

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It was a crushing defeat for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the President of Taiwan took note of it: after the announcement of the results on the evening of Saturday, November 26, Tsai Ing-wen resigned from the presidency of the party, but keeps his functions at the head of the country. The DPP, which has been at the head of the island for six years and has a comfortable majority in Parliament, seems to be wearing down its power. The President’s strategy, based on linking this local ballot to national and international issues, ended in failure: Tsai Ing-wen had described the ballot as a test to demonstrate “Taiwan’s resilience and determination to defend freedom and democracy” in the face of threats from Beijing. Voters were also called upon to decide by referendum on lowering the legal age to vote from 20 to 18, a proposal which did not receive enough votes to be adopted.

Also read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers “In Taiwan, more than a cultural rejection of China, there is an attachment to democracy in force on the island”

The DPP won only five of the cities and counties in the archipelago of 23 million inhabitants, its worst performance since its founding in 1986. Opposite, the Kuomintang (KMT) won 13 seats, including those of the capital, Taipei, and Taoyuan, another large city in the north of the country. “The election results are not what we expected (…). I take full responsibility for this and immediately resign as President of the Democratic Progressive Party.Tsai Ing-wen told reporters on Saturday. But we don’t have time to get sad, we have to get up (…) to meet the challenges of the current international situation and the future.she added.

The leader had already resigned from the presidency of her party in 2018, after failed municipal elections for her party, before being chosen again by the members of the DPP. This previous defeat which had not prevented Mme Tsai to win a landslide victory for a second term as President of the Republic against a KMT candidate in 2020.

The “middle way” of the Kuomintang

Local elections are less tied than presidential polls to relations with China, which sees Taiwan as a rebel province destined to be “reunited”, by force if necessary. But Beijing wanted to see in this result a disavowal of the policy of the DPP, which firmly defends the sovereignty of Taiwan, while the KMT is more favorable to a rapprochement with China. The head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, a Chinese government body, interpreted the defeat of Tsai Ing-wen’s party as a sign that the people yearn for “peace, stability, and a better life”. China regularly warns against “Taiwanese pro-independence forces and foreign interference”.

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