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Taiwan goes to the polls, as voters factor in candidates’ stance on China

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Early results from Taiwanese television networks and the Election Commission showed President Tsai Ing-wen leading her closest challenger, Han Kuo-yu of the Nationalist Party, in Saturday's presidential election, possibly putting her on the way to winning a second term.

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The mood was jubilant at the headquarters of Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party in Taipei, the capital, with supporters cheering as her tally climbed. At a gathering in Kaohsiung, where Han is mayor, it was much grimmer, with some wiping away tears as the vote count showed Tsai holding a solid lead.

With 10.5% of precincts reporting, results from the Central Election Commission showed Tsai with 57.96% of the votes and Han with 38.34%. TV networks reported that Tsai was ahead in almost all major cities.

The self-governing island was expected to know later Saturday whether Tsai had triumphed with her tough stance toward China.

Taiwan has developed its own identity since separating from China during civil war in 1949 but has never declared formal independence. Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island of 23 million people and threatens to use force to seize control if necessary.

Han voted in Kaohsiung, where he is mayor. A third-party candidate, James Soong, also ran but had virtually no chance of winning.

“I hope every citizen can come out and vote," Tsai said after casting her vote in Taipei. “You should exercise your rights to make democracy stronger in Taiwan."

'A chance to protect Taiwan's democracy'

For many in Taiwan, months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, have driven home the contrast between their democratically governed island and authoritarian, communist-ruled mainland China.

Tsai portrayed the election as a chance to protect Taiwan's democracy.

“Let us tell the world with our own votes that Taiwanese are determined to defend sovereignty, determined to guard democracy and determined to persist in reforms,” she said at a rally late Friday.

The Nationalist Party's Han has said Taiwan should be more open to negotiations with China, in contrast to Tsai, who has dismissed Beijing's overtures. At his last rally, attended by hundreds of thousands of people in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, he focused on practical issues such as improving education and the economy.

“I want to attract massive investments. I want products to be exported nonstop,” he said.

The Hong Kong protests have undermined support in Taiwan for the “one country, two systems” approach Beijing has championed for governing both that former British colony and Taiwan.

Fears of Chinese interference in Taiwans politics and an uptick in the economy helped Tsai regain an edge after a dire electoral setback for her Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, 14 months ago.

“The reason why I vote for her is for upholding the value of Taiwan's freedom and democracy and that should not be affected by the oRead More – Source

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