Taiwan To Elect First Female President In 2016

Taiwan voters are poised to make history next January, as Taiwan prepares to elect its first female president. The Wall Street Journal reported that the country's ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party crossed a major procedural hurdle over the weekend, as polling showed that the current vice president of the legislature, Hung Hsiu-chu, had earned approval ratings high enough to qualify for the party's support. With the ruling party nomination all but certain, the presidential election will for the first time be a showdown between two of the most powerful women in Taiwan: Hung and opposition party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

As party favorite, Hung will run against Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai for the popular vote on Jan. 16, and election of either candidate would make history for the tiny island. Jenny W. Hsu reported for the The Wall Street Journal that prior to this race, the highest political position held by a woman in Taiwan was DPP vice president. However, voters will still face a difficult choice on Jan. 16, as Hung and Tsai represent divergent perspectives on Taiwanese independence from China.

In a statement delivered from KMT party headquarters last week, Hung said her platform would hinge on quashing calls for further separation between Taiwan and China in order to improve relationships between the two. Hsu wrote that Hung's vow aligned with what Beijing leaders would like to hear from the Taiwanese government. According to Hsu, China still views Taiwan as part of its domain and favors candidates willing to bring the Taiwanese back into its authority, while most people on the island recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.

That's why prior to the KMT announcement, Beijing officials were nervous about the early announcement of a DPP candidate, according to reports by The Diplomat. Back in April, the DPP announced Tsai would challenge the ruling party candidate in the presidential election. Tsai promised early on her platform regarding independence would focus on managing the status quo: no mutual recognition of sovereignty and no status changes by either side. However, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told The Diplomat that policy didn't go far enough to allay China's concerns.

The core is acknowledging that mainland China and Taiwan both belong to one China. This is the anchor of cross-strait relations.

Ma went on to warn that electing a leader who favored splitting the country along the Taiwan Strait would damage "cross-strait relations."

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Relations between China and Taiwan have been rocky since Taiwan declared its independence from the communist nation. While China has no say in Taiwan's elections, Beijing leaders take an interest in candidate and party positions, particularly when it comes to encouraging total separation between the countries. Following this weekend's polling results, spokesman for the nationalist KMT party Yang Wei-chung told the Journal that Hung would "for sure be appointed at the all-party congress on July 19." The party's most senior members, Chairman Eric Chu and legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng, will not seek the party nomination.

Taiwan's next president will take office on next May.

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