TAIPEI: Tsai Ing-wen, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be Taiwan’s next leader and its first female President after sweeping to victory in the country's general elections on Saturday (Jan 16).
Taiwan's Central Election Commission (CEC) put Tsai's share of the vote at 56.12 per cent, Kuomintang's (KMT) Eric Chu at 31.04 per cent and James Soong of the People's First Party at 12.84 per cent.
Voter turnout stood at 66 per cent - the lowest since direct elections began in 1996. Turnout for the past five elections averaged 78 per cent. CEC data also showed that out of 18.78 million eligible voters, more than 12.2 million voted.
Tsai's vote share, at 56.12 per cent is the second highest in the history of Taiwan's direct elections. The highest is 58.44 per cent garnered by KMT's Ma Ying-jeou in 2008.
Tsai's landslide victory was matched by a similarly impressive performance in the legislative election, where it won an outright majority on it own.
'A NEW ERA'
The DPP took 68 out of 113 seats, an increase of 28 seats from the previous election in 2012. The KMT lost its legislative majority for the first time ever, with just 35 seats, 29 seats less than in 2012.
"A new era has begun," President-elect Tsai told supporters in her victory speech. "We must keep moving forward and rebuild people's trust in government."
She added: "Taiwan's challenges will not disappear immediately and that there was a need to rebuild people's trust in government."
Tsai also added that she will work to fix policy mistakes of the past and her government will be steadfast in protecting Taiwan's sovereignty.
"Only when I am strong, can this nation be strong," she said. "We will work towards maintaining the status quo for peace in the Taiwan Strait. Both sides must ensure no provocations or accidents take place."
Tsai added: "The election is over; moving ahead we must not become more divided because of our democracy, but must become more united."
Tsai also touched on relations with the United States. She said: "Communications has been effective and efficient, and as for joining the TPP, we will first need to engage reform, increase our competitiveness of our industries."
She added: "Joining the TPP is long-term process, priority is upgrading our industries and creating a mechanism for food safety issues."
DPP supporters cheer Tsai Ing-wen as she gives her victory speech.
On security in the region, she said: "All parties should abide by international law, support freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
"Support for Tsai has surged as voters have become increasingly uneasy about a recent rapprochement with China under President Ma Ying-jeou, who must step down after a maximum two terms.
As the economy stagnates, many are frustrated that trade pacts signed with the mainland have failed to benefit ordinary Taiwanese.
The DPP has a much warier approach to China, although Tsai has repeatedly said she wants to maintain the "status quo".
Chu bowed deeply to distraught supporters in a sign of apology and declared his resignation as chairman of the party in his concession speech, which came earlier than usual after exit polls and initial vote counts placed him trailing his rival by a considerable margin.
"We want to congratulate the DPP's victory, this is the Taiwan people's mandate," he said. "I'm sorry... We've lost. The KMT has suffered an election defeat. We haven't worked hard enough and we failed voters' expectations."
He added: "Taiwan's people are the biggest winner."
Chu also said that the KMT had lost its parliamentary majority, the first time it has ever lost control of the island's legislature.
Eric Chu (centre) and his wife Kao Wan-ching (right) bow as he concedes defeat on Jan 16, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS)
With a legislative majority, president-elect Tsai is likely to face fewer obstacles in getting her policy reforms passed by the legislature. Prior to Tsai’s election, the last, as well as the first time the DPP has held the presidency was over Chen Shui-bian’s two terms in 2000 to 2008.
At the time, many of Chen’s policy initiatives were blocked by the Pan-Blue coalition led by the KMT, which held the majority in the legislature.
US CONGRATULATES TSAI
The United States congratulated Tsai on her election victory and praised her predecessor for his efforts to improve ties with mainland China.
Vote counting is continuing but Tsai, the candidate of the of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was on course for a record majority and a landslide victory over the ruling Kuomintang. Her win is a defeat for Kuomintang's Eric Chu - who has conceded the race - and a rebuke for outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou.
"We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan's leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people on Taiwan," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.