President-elect Lai Ching-te said “Taiwan will continue to walk side by side with democracies from around the world” during a post-election news conference.
Ruling-party candidate Lai Ching-te emerged victorious in Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday, a result that will determine the trajectory of the self-ruled democracy’s contentious relations with China over the next four years.
China had called the poll a choice between war and peace. Beijing strongly opposes Lai, the current vice president who abandoned his medical career to pursue politics from the grassroots to the presidency.
At stake is peace, social stability and prosperity on the island, 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of China, which Beijing claims as its own and to be retaken by force if necessary. China is run by the Communist Party, which allows no political opposition.
While domestic issues such as the sluggish economy and expensive housing also featured prominently in the campaign, Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party’s appeal to self-determination, social justice and rejection of China’s threats ultimately won out. It’s the first time a single party has led Taiwan for three consecutive four-year presidential terms since the first open presidential election in 1996.
At a post-election news conference, Lai thanked the Taiwanese electorate for “writing a new chapter in our democracy. We have shown the world how much we cherish our democracy. This is our unwavering commitment.”
He added: “Taiwan will continue to walk side by side with democracies from around the world … through our actions. The Taiwanese people have successfully resisted efforts from external forces to influence this election.”
Lai supporter Hsieh Hsin-chou, a 57-year-old physical therapist, said he was “very proud” of the election result.