Taiwan’s presidential candidates have wound up a packed last day of campaigning in an attempt to lure voters who will decide the outcome of a tight race watched intensely in Beijing and Washington. The choice in Saturday’s vote is essentially between the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, who has overseen four years of improved ties with China, and his main challenger Tsai Ing-wen, a skeptic on closer mainland relations. Amid swirling campaign banners and cheering crowds, Ma and Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), crisscrossed the island ahead of a contest that pits Ma’s experience against Tsai’s populism.
Opinion surveys published a week ago, the last permitted under Taiwanese law, showed Ma clinging to a slim three to four percentage point lead that was within the statistical margin of error, despite Tsai never having won an election for public office in Taiwan. Legislative elections being held at the same time are likely to see Ma’s Nationalists retain a majority in the 113-seat house, although with a diminished margin.
Security was tight around candidates on Friday, as officials were anxious to avoid a repeat of an election-eve shooting that wounded then-president Chen Shui-bian and his deputy in 2004.