Taiwan’s Ma Re-Elected, Promises ‘More Peaceful’ Relations With China

Posted January 14th, 2012 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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Supporters of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou are celebrating in in the capital of Taipei and across the island.

The incumbent president claimed victory in Saturday's vote, telling the throngs of supporters gathered at his election headquarters, “We have won,” after edging out opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen.

President Ma also told supporters there will be smoother ties with China during his next term, saying “relations will be more peaceful, with greater mutual trust and the chance of conflict will be less.”

With more than 90 percent of the ballots counted, Mr. Ma had 51 percent of the vote, compared to about 46 percent for Ms. Tsai.

Ms. Tsai conceded defeat and apologized to supporters at her Democratic Progressive Party headquarters. She urged President Ma to listen to all the Taiwanese people and “use his heart to lead.”

Ms. Tsai, who was attempting to become Taiwan's first female leader, also announced she was stepping down as party leader.

The election was being watched carefully in Beijing, where Chinese officials were hoping Mr. Ma would remain in office. 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.

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.