Voting is under way in Taiwan with polls showing that the island is expected to elect its first female president, who might dynamically change the course of Taiwan’s relations with China. Voters are uneasy about warming relations with Beijing and, as the economy stagnates, many are frustrated that trade pacts signed with China have failed to benefit ordinary Taiwanese.
Scholar-turned-politician Tsai Ing-wen is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has a much warier approach to China than the unpopular ruling Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai is well ahead of KMT candidate Eric Chu in the polls.
Parliamentary polls are also being held and if the DPP wins those too, Tsai will get an even stronger mandate. The election results should start coming out after 6pm local time (10:00 GMT). Tsai has walked a careful path on her China strategy, saying she wants to maintain the “status quo” with Beijing. However, the DPP is traditionally a pro-independence party and opponents say Tsai will destabilise relations.
After decades of enmity, current KMT president Ma Ying-jeou has overseen a dramatic rapprochement with China since coming to power in 2008. Although Taiwan is self-ruling after it split with China following a civil war in 1949, it has never formally declared independence and Beijing still sees it as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.