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Opposition wins presidential election

Latest update : 2008-03-22

The nationalist Kuomintang Party candidate Ma Ying-jeou won a landslide victory in Taiwan's presidential election, fueling hopes that Taiwan will rekindle economic and political ties to China. (Report: M.Henbest)

 

TAIPEI - Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party won the presidential election by a landslide on Saturday, heralding improved ties with giant neighbour China which claims the self-ruled island as its own.

 

Nationalist, or Kuomintang (KMT), candidate Ma Ying-jeou won 58 percent of the vote, while the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's candidate Frank Hsieh got 42 percent.

 

"This is not a victory for us and not a victory for the Nationalists," Ma told thousands of cheering supporters in downtown Taipei as firecrackers added to the volume on city streets.

 

"The people of Taiwan hope for clean government, with no corruption. Taiwan people hope for a flourishing economy. The people of Taiwan hope for peace across the straits, they don't want war."

 

Party supporters let off firecrackers and fireworks, while DPP supporters shed tears.

 

Hsieh admitted defeat and congratulated Ma.

 

"I am deeply sorry. This is my personal defeat, not Taiwan's defeat, so don't be sad," he said.

 

Saturday's win comes after the Nationalists, who once ruled all China, clinched a more than two-thirds majority in legislative elections in January, giving them a clear mandate to push ahead with their policies to boost an economy which has lagged some of its Asian peers.

 

Ma favours closer economic ties and political dialogue with China, which claims Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

 

Voters had to choose a successor to President Chen Shui-bian, an anti-China firebrand who steps down in May and who has repeatedly angered Beijing with his pro-independence rhetoric.

 

China has claimed Taiwan as its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

 

Hsieh's DPP favours formal independence while Ma's Nationalist Party wants eventual reunification once China embraces democracy.

 

The election has drawn keen international attention, with the United States, Russia and Britain criticising a referendum on U.N. membership, that was held alongside the vote and failed to get the required level of voter participation to be considered valid.

 

U.N. membership is out of the question anyway with just 23 countries recognising Taiwan, and with China a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

 

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, under a "one China" policy, but remains the island's main arms supplier and No. 2 trading partner. Taiwan's official name is the "Republic of China".

 

Two U.S. aircraft carriers are in the region for training exercises. China fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait in 1996, trying to intimidate voters during an election, but has kept a fairly low profile in the current race.

 

The two candidates had toughened their stances on China following Beijing's crackdown in Tibet, but to help the economy, both advocate more direct flights, tourism and investment opportunities between Taiwan and China.

 

Ma advocates a common market with China.

Date created : 2008-03-22

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