Taiwan president's election strategy backfires

STORY: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as head of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Saturday following local election losses.

Tsai had tried to frame the elections as more than just a local vote, saying the world is watching how Taiwan defends its democracy amid tensions with China, which claims the island as its territory.

But her strategy failed to win public support, and, at a press conference, Tsai took responsibility for the losses.

“We were unable to break through the current make-up of local politics. This shows that we have not met expectations of the people when it comes to running municipalities.”

The local elections – for mayors, county chiefs and local councilors – are typically about domestic issues like health-crisis restrictions and crime.

The main opposition party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, was leading or claimed victory in 13 of the 21 city mayor and county chief seats up for grabs, including the capital Taipei.

The KMT has accused Tsai and the DPP of being overly confrontational with China.

“It's not like the DPP has never failed before, fallen before. We will conduct thorough reviews. The more the people expect from us, the better we have to perform.”

Focus will now turn to the 2024 presidential and parliament election, which Tsai and the DPP won by a landslide in 2020 on a pledge to stand up to China and defend Taiwan's freedoms.

Tsai, who will continue serving as president until 2024, cannot run again because of term limits.