In a landslide victory, the leader of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen won the country’s presidential election, becoming the first woman in Taiwan’s history to hold the position.
Emphasizing her party’s commitment to maintaining Taiwan’s independence from China, Tsai won over young voters eager to usher in a political changing of the guard following some 70 years of dominance by the pro-Chinese unification party, the Kuomintang (KMT), chaired by presidential opponent Eric Chu. In her victory speech, Tsai hailed a “new era” in Taiwan, vowing to cooperate with other political parties to resolve major issues and follow the will of the people regarding the sovereign nation’s relationship with China. “I also want to emphasize that both sides of the Taiwanese Strait have a responsibility,” said Tsai, “to find mutually acceptable means of interaction that are based on dignity and reciprocity.”
A scholar with advanced degrees in law from Cornell University and the London School of Economics, Tsai served previously as chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Office, a government office that mediates interactions between Taiwan and Beijing. In 2004, Tsai joined the DPP, stepping in as the party’s chairwoman just four years later. Despite a failed presidential bid in 2012, Tsai persevered, guiding her party to victories in regional elections. Tsai also emerged as a vocal advocate of women’s and LGBT rights, advocating publicly for equal employment opportunities for women and marriage equality, respectively.
For now, Tsai has pledged to not only work to establish Taiwan’s unique identity independent of mainland China, but also to address Taiwan’s flagging economy, low wages and deepening income inequality once she is inaugurated in May.
“The results today tell me the people want to see a government that is willing to listen to people, that is more transparent and accountable,” Tsai told reporters following her declaration of victory, “and a government that is more capable of leading us past our current challenges and taking care of those in need.”
Media Resources: CNN 1/18/16; BBC 1/17/16; New York Times 1/16/16