Ma Ying-jeou wins Taiwan presidential election

March 22nd, 2008 - 9:49 pm ICT by admin  

Taipei, March 22 (DPA) Taiwan’s opposition front-runner, Ma Ying-jeou, swept to a landslide victory in the presidential election Saturday, the central election commission said. The popular Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) candidate garnered more than 7.6 million votes, or 58.45 percent of the total vote count.

His Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opponent Frank Hsieh was only able to collect 5.4 million votes or 41.55 percent of the total vote count out of a turnout of 13.2 million, the commission said.

“Today’s victory is not my victory or the victory of one political party. It is the victory of the Taiwan people who want reform and change,” Ma told supporters outside his campaign headquarters.

Ma said he shoulders heavy responsibilities. “We will transform our people’s desires into concrete policies and improve people’s lives and build up our country,” he said.

Ma’s election marks the end of the DPP’s hold on power on the self-governing island of 23 million people after the KMT crushed the pro-independence party in January’s parliamentary elections.

At the DPP’s campaign headquarters, a sombre-faced Hsieh bowed to his supporters, apologizing for letting them down and saying he would shoulder all responsibilities for the party’s election defeat.

“The Taiwanese people have made their choice through their ballots, and I fully accept their decision,” said Hsieh, who had vowed to quit politics if defeated in the race.

A total of 76.3 percent of Taiwan’s 17.3 million eligible voters went to vote, the commission said.

More than 500 foreign reporters and 500 foreign observers were in Taiwan to cover and monitor the election.

Two referendums, including a controversial one raised by Hsieh’s party asking voters whether the island should join the UN under the name Taiwan instead of the official Republic of China title, failed to cross the required participation threshold.

Under the law, more than 8.5 million voters were needed in order for the referendum to pass, but only 6.2 million filled in their ballots on the day.

The failure of the controversial referendum came as a big relief to the US, which has strongly opposed the vote, saying it would stoke tension between Taiwan and China, a rival of Taipei since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Washington dispatched two aircraft carriers to Taiwanese waters to guard against possible military conflict on election day.

China, which considers Taiwann an integral part, viewed the referendum as the first step towards declaring independence, which it has said it will oppose with force.

The new president has promised to improve trade with China and open up a “common market”, including the ending of a decades-old ban on direct flights and shipping connections between the island and the mainland so that Taiwan can benefit more from China’s economic boom.

Relations between Beijing’s Communist Party and the KMT have warmed since 2005 when the two parties met for the first time since 1949.

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