Taiwan's premier resigns after ruling party loss in local election

Every president of Taiwan has been a former mayor of Taipei after direct presidential elections were introduced in 1996.

Taiwan's premier resigns after ruling party loss in local election

World Bulletin/News Desk

Taiwan's premier announced his resignation on Saturday after a candidate backed by the pro-independence opposition party was elected as the next mayor of Taipei, ending the ruling Kuomintang's 16-year hold on the capital.

The Kuomintang (KMT) lost seats islandwide in the local elections, the first chance for voters to make their views felt since thousands of young people occupied parliament in March in protest at a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah, in a hastily called news conference, said his resignation had been accepted by President Ma Ying-Jeou.

Saturday's voting, in which a record 11,130 seats were up for grabs in municipalities, counties, townships and villages nationwide, come less than two years before Taiwan chooses its next president.

In Taipei, independent candidate Ko Wen-je, a 55-year-old trauma surgeon, defeated the KMT's Sean Lien, the son of a wealthy and politically connected family.

That race had been seen as a test of confidence in Ma's China-friendly government. China views the island as a breakaway province.

The Kuomintang also lost Taichung in central Taiwan, another of the party's former strongholds.

A crowd of several thousand Ko supporters filled the wide city street outside of his campaign headquarters, with rock music blaring out of loud speakers.

Ko told supporters his win symbolized the "desire for progress" among Taipei residents and that the anti-China protests in March that blocked ratification of a services pact with China also highlighted the "power of people's movements."

Speaking later, President Ma said the ruling party had suffered a serious setback and apologised to the party. But party spokesman Charles Chen said Ma had no plan to resign as Kuomintang chairman.

Kuo Hsin-tai, a 40-year-old photocopy shop owner and supporter of Ko, said he had grown disillusioned with the Kuomintang.

"They're making Taiwan far too dependent on the mainland. Their policy-making muscle is far too focused on cross-strait ties and not nearly enough on raising the standard of living of the average Taiwanese person.

Government employee Wang Ling-li, 28, said: "I think Taiwanese people have lost their faith in the KMT in recent years. They've been in power for so long, but the economy is still stagnant. Their dealings with China should take on much more open form than they have."

The KMT, the party of Chiang Kai-Shek that retreated to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war in 1949, is pushing the trade deal with China that lays bare larger anxieties, especially among the young, about Taiwan's identity.

Taiwan's pride in its democracy helps reinforce the unwillingness of many to be absorbed politically by China, which has not ruled out force to ensure unification.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Kasım 2014, 16:06