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Taiwan’s president wins second term with landslide victory

Taipei: Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected as Taiwan's president by a landslide on Saturday in a victory that signalled strong support for her tough stance against China among voters determined to defend their democratic way of life.

Tsai, from the Democratic Progressive Party, soundly defeated Nationalist Party candidate Han Kuo-yu, receiving 57.2 per cent of the vote to Han's 38.6 per cent, with virtually all of the votes counted. She wasted no time in warning communist-ruled China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, not to try to use threats of force against the self-governed island.

"Today I want to once again remind the Beijing authorities that peace, parity, democracy and dialogue are the keys to stability," Tsai said in her victory speech. "I want the Beijing authorities to know that democratic Taiwan and our democratically elected government will never concede to threats."

"I hope that Beijing will show its goodwill," she said. Taiwan's voters have "shown that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened, the Taiwan people will shout our determination even more loudly."

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.

In a setback for Beijing, Tsai managed to win in areas that traditionally have gone to the China-friendly Nationalists in central and southern Taiwan. Her party also retained its majority in the 113-seat Legislative Yuan, though the vote was closer there.

She said the results of the election, with turnout estimated at 74%, proved that Taiwanese are committed to defending their democracy and way of life.

Given China's efforts to isolate Taiwan during Tsai's first term, her victory will likely bring on still more deadlock and pressure from Beijing, she acknowledged.

At around the same time Tsai was giving her victory speech, China's official Xinhua News Agency issued a brief report saying she had won re-election as "leader of the Taiwan region." That language was in keeping with the government's refusal to recognise Taiwan as an independent political entity and its leader as a head of state.

Barring a surprise breakthrough, the Chinese leadership is likely to persist in ramping up pressure on Taiwan. In the past two years, it has cut off all formal ties with her government, restricted visits by Chinese tourists, excluded Taiwan's representatives from international gatherings and lured away more of the island's dwindling diplomatic allies, leaving it with just 15.

In recent months, Beijing has held military exercises across the Taiwan Strait, sailed both of its aircraft carriers through the waterway dividing Taiwan from the mainland and flown air patrols around the island.

AP

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