Taiwan’s Opposition Makes Gains Ahead of Presidential Elections

Posted January 8th, 2012 at 5:30 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Latest opinion polls in Taiwan show that President Ma Ying-jeou has lost a once comfortable lead over opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party ahead of presidential elections scheduled for January 14.

President Ma leads by less than one percentage point in some polls and lags Tsai in a few, down from leads of more than seven percent in October.

Tsai held a rally in the capital, Taipei, Sunday aimed at strengthening her rising voter support. Thousands of people turned out for speeches and a concert to express support for the country's first female presidential candidate.

President Ma, who took office in 2008, has reached out to longtime rival China by entering landmark talks with Beijing. The talks have produced a series of agreements designed to boost the island's economy while easing decades of tension with the mainland.

Tsai has been campaigning for increasing trade with China but only if Beijing respects Taiwan's autonomy. Her government is also unlikely to renounce its goal of formally declaring independence.

China welcomed the dialogue, but it does not recognize Taiwan's democratic self rule. It has not dropped the threat of force if Taiwan insists on remaining separate.

Taiwan's presidential campaign has been dominated by domestic issues, such as shortage of well paid jobs and lackluster economies outside the capital. The DDP charges the current government has allowed a wealth gap to widen as the rich benefit from the deals with China.

Taiwanese voters will also elect a new legislature on Saturday as the ruling Nationalist Party tries to hold a 64-percent majority of the 113 total seats. The Nationalists could use that lead to logjam the political process if they lose the presidency.

Many voters are expected to stick with party affiliations that have decided past polls. Voters in Taipei historically favor the Nationalists, while their counterparts in the south prefer the opposition.