Taiwanese citizens elected the country’s first female president, the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen LLM ’80 to office in a landslide victory Saturday.
Tsai Ing-Wen is the second Cornell graduate to become the president of Taiwan. The first was Lee Teng-hui Ph.D. ’68, who served as president of Taiwan and the chair of the Kuomintang party from 1988 to 2000.
According to the Taiwan Central Election Commission, of 99 percent of votes counted, Tsai Ing-Wen had gained a 56 percent majority of the vote. Eric Chu, incumbent party Kuomintang’s candidate, gained 31 percent of the vote.
Tsai’s election as the fourth directly elected president of Taiwan marks a significant political transition as the Democratic Progressive Party also gained control of the Taiwanese legislature, occupying 68 seats of the 113 seat legislature after Saturday’s elections for the first time in history.
Traditionally, the Democratic Progressive Party has been associated with Taiwan’s identity as a sovereign country. The incumbent party, Kuomintang associates with the “One China Principle” which identifies Taiwan and China as one entity. Tsai’s stance on sovereignty and cross-strait relationships played a factor in the last presidential election in 2012 where she narrowly lost to Kuomintang candidate, Ma Ying-jeou.
“I will build a consistent, predictable, and sustainable cross-strait relationship,” said Tsai in her victory speech on Saturday. “Following the will and consensus of the Taiwanese people, we will work to maintain the status quo for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
“I also want to emphasize that both sides of the strait have a responsibility to find mutually acceptable means of interaction that are based on dignity and reciprocity… Our democratic system, national identity, and international space must be respected. Any forms of suppression will harm the stability of cross-strait relations,” she warned her Chinese counterparts.
Tsai has spent her electoral campaign advocating for the reform of government institutions and judicial systems in order to improve education, economic growth, and communication between the public and the government.
“Only by giving our all to advance reform can we face the past, undertake the present, and challenge the future,” Tsai said in a campaign speech in August
This push for reform stems from a disillusionment with the incumbent party and its trade negotiations with China. In response, the Sunflower Movement was formed in 2014, inciting protests and a legislative sit-in, demanding more transparency on policy from the government. Tsai has promised to move beyond the political division.
“Together, we will overcome the challenges that this country faces. We will not be divided by an election,” she said during her victory speech Saturday. “Instead, we will become even more united because of our democracy.”