Dec 14, 2004

Taiwan: Pro-independence forces suffer setback

An opposition pro-China alliance defeated pro-independence forces in Taiwans parliamentary elections on Saturday, signaling friendlier future relations between the island and mainland China

An opposition pro-China alliance defeated pro-independence forces in Taiwan’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, signaling friendlier future relations between the island and mainland China. The opposition Pan Blue alliance, led by the Kuomintang (KMT) party, won 114 out of 225 seats, compared with the pro-independence Pan Green alliance, led by Chen Shui-bian, which won 101 seats. Independents won the remaining 10 seats, however, two of those independents were affiliated with the KMT, Agence France Presse quoted a Central Election Committee (CEC) official as saying. The result was a disappointing defeat for the island’s pro-independence president, who had been banking on a Pan Green parliamentary victory in order to push through a new constitution before 2008, when his term ends. China claims the island, which split from the mainland in 1949, as its territory and views a new constitution as a de facto declaration of independence. China has threatened to invade Taiwan if it formally declares independence, and some 600 Chinese missiles are pointed at the island. Members of the opposition Pan Blue alliance had referred to their parliamentary victory as one that will herald greater stability for Taiwan.

Agence France Press quoted opposition leader Lien Chan as describing the vote as a victory “for all those who are praying for a country of stability, prosperity, and development”. He pledged to reopen dialog with Beijing and strengthen relations with the mainland. In China, officials have reacted cautiously, with dailies viewing the opposition victory in Taiwan as a major setback for the pro-independence forces, but not a decisive victory against them, as there is no indication Chen is ready to abandon his push for what he calls Taiwan’s “separate identity”. Also, according to BBC correspondents there, Beijing recognizes that it was not Chen’s pro-independence stance that lost his Pan Green alliance the majority in parliament, rather his own campaign flaws and his failure to address some social and economic issues immediately significant to the people. The Pan Blue alliance is now considering a merger with other opposition parties to further solidify its Saturday victory. The Pan Blue alliance includes the KMT, the People First Party, and the New Party. The KMT fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to the communists. It ruled the island for 51-years, until Chen won presidential elections in 2000.

Observers have also speculated that the pro-independence grouping’s poor showing at parliamentary elections will allow Washington to breathe a bit easier. US-China relations have soured recently over Taiwan’s increasing independence. Washington has been deliberately ambiguous about its stance on Taiwan independence. In late October, US Secretary of State Colin Powell reaffirmed the US “One China” policy, saying: “Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains […] our firm policy. However, President George Bush has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to defense US-ally Taiwan from a Chinese attack. Officially, however, the White House refused to acknowledge Taiwan’s independence and opposes any unilateral move by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo.


Source: ISN