Elections in Taiwan. New President

For China, Lai's victory represents a “worst-case scenario”

Lai Ching-te, known to the world as William Lai, the current vice president and candidate from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was elected as the new president, or as he is called in China, the chief of staff of Taiwan. With about 100% of the ballots counted, Lai received 40.2% of the vote, compared with 33% received by opposition Kuomintang party candidate Hou Yu-ih. Without waiting for the final results to be announced, Hou acknowledged Lai’s victory, congratulated the island’s new president, but also expressed “regret” that he could not come first and “break the streak of eight years of DPP rule.”

Lai’s victory was described as a “worst-case scenario” by China’s political leaders, who sent several fighter jets and warships into the Taiwan Strait on election day. Beijing views Lai as a “dangerous separatist element” due to his apparent past support for the independence agenda.

Lai, 64, has served as Taiwan’s vice president since 2020. Born in the small mining village of Wanli in the far north of the island and left without a father, Lai has always presented himself to voters as a “man of the people,” often recalling his childhood spent in poverty with five other brothers. In the 1990s, Lai moved to the USA, where he received a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. In 1996, upon his return to Taiwan, Lai was elected to parliament. Two years later, he was re-elected as a DPP deputy. Lai served as mayor of Tainan from 2010 to 2017, after which he was appointed prime minister of the island. In the previous election in 2020, he was elected alongside outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen and given the position of Vice President of Taiwan.

The results of the vote, Lai said in his first comments to the media – more than a thousand journalists from around the world have descended on the island to cover the crucial election – “will allow Taiwan to side with democracy rather than authoritarianism,” as proof that the people are “successfully” resisting external intervention and “will allow the island to continue on the right path.”

Asked about Taiwan’s future foreign policy, Lai said he was “determined to protect the island from China’s constant intimidation and threats” and identified “an important responsibility” for “maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” The new president also said he was “open” to constructive dialogue with Beijing and called the election result “a victory for the international community of democratic countries.”

As for the results of the third candidate, Ko Wen-je from the centrist People’s Party (TPP) managed to get 26% of the vote in his favor. Voter turnout was approximately 70.6% of the 19.5 million eligible voters, down 4.3% from the turnout recorded in the 2020 election. 17,795 polling stations remained open for voting from 8:00 to 16:00 local time.

Taiwan also voted to restore 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan, as the island’s parliament is called.