After Saturday’s vote, Tsai addressed tensions with China over the sovereignty of the territory, saying that Taiwan is willing to compromise with China, but that China must respect the voice of Taiwan’s voters.
“The results of these elections are of additional importance because they have shown that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened, the Taiwanese people will shout our determination even louder,” Tsai said during a press conference.
Tsai also urged China to abandon force threats against Taiwan and said that all countries should consider Taiwan “a partner, not a problem.”
With more than 99% of the votes counted by the Taiwan Central Election Commission, Tsai’s 8 million votes exceed the 2008 Ma Ying-jeou record of 7,658,724 votes. In Saturday’s vote, Han Kuo-yu received more than 5.4 million votes, and James Soong received more than 600,000 votes.
Han, from the Kuomintang (KMT) party and Tsai’s main opponent, acknowledged defeat on Saturday in a speech to his followers, adding that he had called Tsai to congratulate her.
The election was dominated more than ever by relations with Beijing, accused of trying to intimidate voters and distort the results in their favor.
Tsai’s growing popularity has been largely courtesy of internal fears about China. Some voters felt that Han was too close to Beijing, as many noted with concern the riots in Hong Kong, once seen as a model for some in China for a possible future acquisition of independent de facto Taiwan.
China’s fears loom
Taiwan is a democratically ruled island of 23 million people in the South China Sea. A Japanese colony until 1945, was acquired by the Kuomintang after they lost the Chinese civil war and moved their government from the Republic of China (ROC) to the island.
Taiwan, ruled by the KMT, was a dictatorship for many decades before democratic reforms began in the late 1980s, which led to its first direct presidential election in 1996. Since then, the island has undergone a major change in his identity, with many, especially young people. – people who consider themselves Taiwanese instead of Chinese and who support the total independence of the continent. That would mean that the Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself, would become the Republic of Taiwan.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never controlled Taiwan, but that has not stopped the communist government with respect to the island as an integral part of its territory and promising to “recover” it, by force if necessary.
In the past, as Taiwan appeared to be about to deviate further from its orbit, Beijing resorted to aggressive measures, for example, firing missiles at the sea near the island before the 1996 elections. Last month, Beijing embarked its New aircraft carrier in the Taiwan Strait, which divides the island of mainland China, along with several naval frigates. The measure was met with some alarm by Taipei, who urged Beijing to maintain “peace and stability throughout the strait and in the region.”
This week, the Global Times, a Chinese nationalist state tabloid, quoted Chinese officials and analysts warning that “the reunification of the homeland is an inevitable trend regardless of who wins.”
According to some, in addition to bellicose statements and demonstrations of strength, Beijing also adopted a more subtle approach to influence elections, targeting Taiwanese voters with false news and misleading information.
The Taiwan FactCheck Center, an independent group, tracked numerous cases of misinformation about the voting procedure, party policies, identification requirements and Tsai itself. A particularly frequent false news is that the Tsai PhD from the London School of Economics is somewhat illegitimate, despite the fact that the university repeatedly confirms the degree.
The Central Election Commission of Taiwan also warned of an increase in false news and misinformation in the period before Saturday’s vote.
This story has been updated.
Rebecca Wright and Kristie Lu Stout of CNN contributed the reports.