Undeterred by the rain, the crowd leaps to its feet shouting “We’re going to win” in Taiwanese as their presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, begins her stump speech. Some rattle piggy banks to show that their party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), relies on, and serves, the little guy—as opposed to the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), backed by businesses and fat cats and one of the world’s richest political institutions. Taiwan’s voters go to the polls on January 16th in what is likely to prove a momentous election both for the domestic politics on the island and for its relations with the Communist government in China that claims sovereignty over it. Eight years of uneasy truce across the Taiwan Strait are coming to an end. Since taking office in 2008, the outgoing president, Ma Ying-jeou, has engineered the deepest rapprochement between Taiwan and China ever seen, signing an unprecedented 23 pacts with the mainland, including a partial free-trade agreement. It culminated in an unprecedented meeting in November between Mr Ma and Xi Jinping, China’s president, in Singapore. But if the rapprochement under Mr Ma was a test of whether closer ties would help China’s long-term goal of peaceful unification, it failed.
For the past six months Ms Tsai, whose party leans towards formal independence for Taiwan, has been miles ahead in the polls, with the support of 40-45% of voters. The KMT’s Eric Chu has 20-25% and another candidate, James Soong, a former KMT heavyweight, about 15%. Taiwanese polls can be unreliable, and many voters are undecided. But if Mr Chu were to win, it would be a shock.
Taiwan elects its parliament, the Legislative Yuan, on the same day. That race is closer. But the DPP’s secretary-general, Joseph Wu, thinks his party can win it too, either outright or in coalition with two smaller parties—and the polls suggest he may be right. If so, it would be the first time any party other than the KMT has controlled the country’s legislature since the KMT fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
Full Article: A Tsai is just a Tsai | The Economist.