In the shadow of tensions with China, Taiwan elected a new president and parliament on Saturday. After the polling stations closed, the counting of votes began in full view of the public from 4:00 p.m. local time (09:00 a.m. CET).
The ballot papers were shown to citizens in order to make the process transparent. Around 19.5 million Taiwanese were called upon to cast their votes. Some said they traveled from the USA or Australia specifically to vote.
Local media: William Lai leads in election
According to initial surveys by local television stations, the candidate from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has taken the lead. The previous vice president, William Lai, was ahead of the candidate from the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), Hou Yu-ih, and the candidate from the populist Taiwan People's Party (TPP), Ko Wen-je. The TV stations saw the 64-year-old Lai in the early evening local time after counting the majority of the votes at around 41 percent. His opponent Hou was behind with about 33 percent.
William Lai was already considered a promising election winner before the election. President Tsai Ing-wen was not allowed to run again after two terms in office.
Taiwan and China
The tense relationship with its powerful neighbor China was a dominant theme in the election campaign. The Communist Party in Beijing counts Taiwan as part of China's territory, even though it has never governed the island in the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan has had an independent, democratically elected government for decades.
"I appreciate every opportunity to vote. This is Taiwan's hard-earned democracy," Lai said after voting in Tainan, southern Taiwan. His challenger Hou Yu-ih said everyone must unite to confront Taiwan's future.
This time, the number of polling stations with more than 23 million inhabitants was higher than ever at 17,794, as the Central Election Commission announced.