Home Featured William Lai takes early lead in Taiwan presidential race in snub to Beijing
William Lai takes early lead in Taiwan presidential race in snub to Beijing

William Lai takes early lead in Taiwan presidential race in snub to Beijing

by host

TAIPEI — Pro-independence candidate William Lai looks on course to win the Taiwanese presidential election on Saturday in a result that risks inflaming tensions between Beijing and Washington in the South China Sea.

The election has been billed as the first major global geopolitical watershed of 2024, pitting the U.S. against China in a battle for regional influence. Beijing cast the vote as a choice between war and peace, and stressed the inevitability of the democratic island reunifying with the Communist mainland.

With 7.2 million votes counted, by 5.30 p.m. (9.30 a.m. GMT), Lai from the Democratic Progressive Party is projected to be the next president with 39.6 percent of the vote, according to live result feeds on the TVBS television channel. The election is a first-past-the-post contest.

Votes for Hou Yu-ih from the more China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) represented 33.2 percent of ballots cast.

Turnout was pegged at about 70 percent of a potential 19 million voters — meaning about 13.3 million voted on the island of 23 million, according to estimates by Taiwanese media.

Taiwan has no formal diplomatic relations with any major power as Beijing treats it as renegade region with no claim to sovereignty. It wields genuine economic heft, however, producing some 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors.

The winner, expected to be formally announced later today, will succeed outgoing Tsai Ing-wen on May 20, amid growing fears of an escalation of tensions between between China and Taiwan. Beijing has not yet responded to the election results — but it has been heavily critical of Lai over recent years, as the Democratic Progressive Party leader has associated himself with the Taiwanese independence movement.

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