Ruling party dealt setback in local polls
Taiwan's pro-China ruling Nationalist Party suffered worse-than-expected losses in island-wide local elections yesterday, dealing a stiff blow to a president who has staked his reputation on closer ties with Beijing, and leading the head of the Cabinet to resign.
The Nationalists lost eight city and county elections, including in long time strongholds Taipei, the capital, and the major central city of Taichung. Pre-election polls had forecast defeats only in Taipei, Taichung and Keelung.
The heavy losses point to an electorate that is souring on President Ma Ying-jeou's forging of closer ties with mainland China, and will make it tougher for the Nationalists to hold onto the presidency in 2016.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah, who heads the Cabinet, resigned last night after the defeats, while Ma, who is also Nationalist Party chairman, said he would make changes.
The election losses could jeopardise six years of landmark talks with China that have led to 21 agreements, helping to lift Taiwan's half-trillion-dollar economy, while raising Beijing's hopes for political reunification. Beijing has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but since taking office in 2008, Ma has set aside the old disputes to ease tensions through talks.