Taiwan President In Tough Re-Election Fight

Posted January 12th, 2012 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
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Taiwan incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou says he is the only candidate in Saturday's election who can continue Taipei's strong and beneficial relationship with mainland China.

Speaking to foreign journalists in Taipei Thursday, President Ma emphasized his success in the reconciliation effort that has changed the nature of Taiwan's cross-strait relationship with China.

“Cross-strait relations is so important to Taiwan that we need someone with a very comprehensive set of mechanism which could properly deal with the niceties of the relations between the two sides. And we have been able to achieve peace across the Taiwan strait. Obviously we will continue to do that to make sure the peace will be a long lasting one.”

Mr. Ma faces an unexpectedly tough bid for re-election Saturday. His main challenger, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, has exploited complaints by middle- and working-class Taiwanese that economic benefits of the president's embrace of China have largely passed them by.

Opinion surveys published a week ago indicated the incumbent clinging to a narrow lead, despite Tsai's relative inexperience in public office.

Taiwanese voters will also elect a new legislature on Saturday, with the ruling Nationalist Party trying to hold its 64-percent majority of the 113 seats. The Nationalists could use their majority to block the political process if they lose the presidency.

President Ma, who took office in 2008, has reached out to 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 campaigned for increased trade with China, but only if Beijing respects Taiwan's autonomy. Her government is also unlikely to renounce its goal of formally declaring independence.

Taiwan split from China amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing continues to regard it as part of its territory.