Incumbent Ma Takes Early Lead in Taiwan Presidential Election

Posted January 14th, 2012 at 5:50 am (UTC-5)
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Polls have closed in Taiwan's presidential election and early results show incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou taking the lead.

With around 20 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Ma was about seven percentage points ahead of his main challenger, Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen, who wants to become the island's first female leader.

Ms. Tsai trailed by just three percentage points in the final public opinion polls a week ago.

The election is being watched carefully in Beijing, where Chinese officials are hoping Mr. Ma will be able to eke out a victory. Relations between China and Taiwan hit a low point during a previous period of rule by Ms. Tsai's DPP, which is more sympathetic than the Nationalists to calls for Taiwan's independence.

The outcome is also of concern to the United States, which is obliged by law to support Taiwan in the event of any hostilities with China. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province and has threatened to use military force in the event of a declaration of independence.

Final results will be announced late Saturday.

Taiwan broke away from the mainland in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war, in which Mao Zedong's communists defeated the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek.