Taiwan Votes for New President

Taiwan Votes for New PresidentTaiwan Votes for New President

Taiwan looks set on Saturday to elect an independence-leaning opposition leader as its first woman president who could usher in a new round of uncertainty with China, the massive neighbor that claims the self-ruled island as its sacred territory.

Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, is expected to be thrust into one of Asia’s toughest and most dangerous jobs. She will have to balance the superpower interests of China, which is also Taiwan’s largest trading partner, and the United States with those of her freewheeling, democratic home, Reuters reported.

Tsai risks antagonizing China if she attempts to forcefully assert Taiwan’s sovereignty and reverses eight years of warming China ties under incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalists, who retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

“I had a good sleep last night. We’ve done the best we could. We’re leaving today to the hands of the voters,” Tsai told reporters after she cast her vote early at a ballot station near her home on the outskirts of the capital Taipei.

In a statement carried by state media, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office repeated it would not get involved in the election, saying only that it was “paying attention to across the Taiwan Strait”.

The election comes at a tricky time for Taiwan’s export-dependent economy, which slipped into recession in the third quarter last year. China is also Taiwan’s top trading partner and Taiwan’s favorite investment destination.

“My entire family supports Tsai Ing-wen. We have high hopes she will lead Taiwan going forward,” said Deng Chia-ling, 40, a housewife.

Support for the DPP has swelled since 2014, when hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s Parliament for weeks in the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.

“This election is vital to us as we need to maintain our sovereignty. The new president would take us one step forward,” said a 70-year-old farmer who only gave his surname Chen queuing at a voting station in rural Yilan, a county east of the capital.

The election results should start coming out after 6 p.m. local time (1000 GMT).

The United States has expressed concerns about the danger of worsening China-Taiwan ties, at a time when China’s Navy is increasingly flexing its muscles in the South China and East China Seas and expanding territorial claims.

China has held out the “one country, two systems” formula, under which the British colony of Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, as a solution for Taiwan. But both the Nationalists and DPP have rejected the idea.