Taiwan is set to cast its votes on Saturday in a pivotal election to determine the country’s new president and parliament.
The backdrop of the election is marked by growing tensions with China, which has framed the vote as a choice between “peace and war.”
Taiwanese security officials express concerns that, regardless of the election outcome, China’s military and economic pressure on Taiwan may persist and even intensify.
China continues to assert its claim over Taiwan, considering it as its own territory despite strong objections from Taipei.
The strategic importance of Taiwan extends beyond its territorial significance, as it is a global semiconductor powerhouse, hosting TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker.
The election revolves around the future of Taiwan’s relations with China, with both major parties supporting Taiwan’s sovereignty but differing on their approach.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, Vice President Lai Ching-te, urges citizens not to succumb to China’s threats and emphasizes talks with China while maintaining the status quo.
Accusations of China interfering in the vote by spreading fake news and exerting military and economic pressure have been raised by the DPP.
In response, China dismisses these claims as “dirty tricks” and accuses the DPP of exaggerating threats to win votes.
The largest opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), opposes Taiwan independence and promises strong opposition while advocating dialogue with China.
The KMT’s presidential candidate, Hou Yu-ih, aims for cross-strait peace, dialogue, and strengthened national defense.
Both major parties view Taiwan differently in terms of ties with China.
The KMT argues for a “1992 consensus,” allowing different interpretations of one China, while the DPP rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, advocating for the people of Taiwan to decide their future.
As Taiwan faces this critical election, there are concerns about China’s reaction, especially given President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption purge and economic challenges.
Taiwan officials caution voters about Beijing’s multifront campaign, from influence operations to economic coercion.
The election outcome holds significance not only for Taiwan but also for China-Taiwan relations. Potential economic pressure, anti-dumping tariffs, and challenges to Taiwan’s diplomatic ties are anticipated post-election, according to Taiwan security assessments.
Amidst the presidential race, there is a third candidate – former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).
The parliamentary election is equally crucial, with both major parties emphasizing the need to secure a majority.
As Taiwan heads to the polls, the shadow of an assertive China looms large, making the outcome of the elections crucial for the future trajectory of the island nation and its relationship with its powerful neighbor.