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Taiwan elects ‘pro-China’ opposition leader as parliament speaker, no party holds majority

Image Source : REUTERS Han Kuo-yu, the parliament speaker candidate for Taiwan’s largest opposition party

Taipei: Taiwan’s parliament on Thursday elected a former presidential candidate from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), viewed by the ruling party as pro-China, as its new speaker. KMT’s Han Kuo-yu, who lost the presidential elections to former President Tsai Ing-wen in 2020, will now be responsible for hosting visiting foreign lawmakers in the parliament.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which supports the independence of the self-governed island, won the presidency for a third four-year term with the victory of Lai Ching-te in the January 13 elections, in a major rebuff to China. However, the party lost its majority in the parliament, meaning Lai would have to rely on opposition lawmakers, particularly on issues related to China.

However, not a single party managed to secure a majority in the Taiwanese parliament. The largest opposition party KMT won one more seat than the DPP, but the small Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) took eight seats, depriving the KMT of a majority in the 113-member house. The TPP abstained from voting after the party’s own candidate lost in the first round of voting.

“I believe the majority of the Taiwanese people look forward to a Legislative Yuan that is serious about governance, unites and cooperates, and is dedicated to the welfare of the people of Taiwan, rather than taking fighting as its aim,” Han told reporters. 

Han’s relations with China

Han was attacked by the DPP during the election campaign with an advertisement focusing on Han’s visit to the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong in 2019, saying it was the place “he most likes” going to. Han also visited mainland China that year where he met with senior Chinese officials and reiterated his commitment to the position that both Taiwan and China belong to “one China”.

However, Han has previously strongly denied being pro-Beijing, as does the KMT. KMT lawmaker Hung Mong-kai told Reuters such accusations were unfair and pure electioneering. “It’s the lowest possible trick to paint us red,” he said.

Han was declared the new speaker with 54 votes in the runoff, where the two candidates receiving the most votes in the first round compete and only a plurality of votes is required to win. He secured three more votes than DPP’s candidate and former Speaker You Si-kun, but fell short of a majority. He was the mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung before being removed in a re-call vote in 2020 after he lost the presidential election. 

No majority in Taiwan’s 11th Legislature 

Taiwan’s 11th Legislative Yuan has no single party holding an absolute majority. The KMT holds 52 seats, in addition to two KMT-aligned independents, the ruling DPP has 51 and the minor TPP, with eight seats, will therefore hold a crucial swing vote. The incoming lawmakers consist of 54 new members and 59 returning incumbents. Out of which, 47 of them are women (42 per cent) and 66 are men (58 per cent), Central Taiwan reported.

Tainan-based DPP Legislator Lin Chun-Hsien, in terms of electoral performance, received the highest share of votes of any lawmaker in the January 13 election, winning 76.54 per cent of the total ballots cast, as reported by Central News agency Taiwan.

China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, had framed the vote as a choice between war and peace and warned electors to make the “correct choice” and did not name any candidates it wanted people to support.

Beijing wasted little time in pointing out that most electors voted against Lai, with its Taiwan Affairs Office saying that the DPP “cannot represent the mainstream public opinion” on Taiwan, though it did not name Lai directly unlike in the vote’s run-up when it regularly called him a dangerous separatist. Lin Fei-fan, a former DPP deputy secretary general who is now a senior member of a party think tank, told Reuters he’s “fairly worried” that the new government will have a “very tough” four years, especially on China-related issues.

(with inputs from agencies)

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