Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has won her second presidential term in a sweeping victory against her rival Han Kuo-yu on Saturday, January 11.
Tsai soundly defeated her opponents with over 57% of the ballot and a record 8.2 million votes – more than any Taiwan president since the island held its first direct presidential election in 1996 and well ahead of Han who received 38.6%.
The results are dominated by the island’s relationship with China.
Tsai, together with her party the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has focused on safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty and its democratic way of life.
Han, on the other hand, is the populist mayor of Taiwan’s port city of Kaohsiung, representing the Kuomintang of China (KMT) party. Han aims to build a better relationship with China in an effort to strengthen Taiwan’s security and improve its economy.
Tsai opposes closer ties with China, with Han in support of closer China–Taiwan ties as they would bring economic benefits. Tsai has urged China to abandon its threat to take back the island by force. “Peace means that China must abandon threats of force against Taiwan,” she said in the Taiwanese capital Taipei.
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, stating an essential reunification with China even by force if necessary.
Tsai’s popularity began to rise in June 2019, when neighboring Hong Kong began to fall into political chaos amid mass anti-government protests against China’s perceived growing influence over the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Reaction to Tsai’s re-election
Tsai has thanked the nation for its support as well as support from other nations, including from the United States.
Former US vice president and current presidential candidate, Joe Biden congratulated Tsai over her second term and expressed his wishes for better US–Taiwan relations.
“Congratulations to President Tsai and the people of Taiwan for another successful election. You are stronger because of your free and open society. The United States should continue strengthening our ties with Taiwan and other like-minded democracies,” Biden tweeted.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “The U.S. congratulates Dr. Tsai Ing-wen on her re-election in #Taiwan’s presidential election. Taiwan once again demonstrates the strength of its robust democratic system. Thank you President Tsai for your leadership in developing a strong U.S. partnership.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Taiwan’s elections on January 11 are a “testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”