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Taiwan Re-Charts a Course to Independence

Preliminary results of municipal elections in Taiwan show that the ruling Nationalist Party or the Kuomintang(KMT), which has been forging closer ties with China, has suffered major losses in Municipal Elections across the island, thus setting up the question as to Taiwan's Constitutional independence as a major factor in the 2016 presidential race.

Taiwan's Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah has resigned in light of the stunning defeat of his party the KMT in the elections that came after Taiwanese students stormed and occupied Parliament in March to protest a service and trade agreement with China, which students and activists feared would allow too much Chinese influence over Taiwan. The KMT, its prime minister and its President Ma Ying-jeou, have been advocating and forging stronger ties with China. But, in the face of strong autonomy emotions across Taiwan, the island's 18 million voters, in rejecting the trajectory of the KMT, have served notice of their suspicions and apprehensions over closer ties with China that could lead to a strong Beijing influence over Taiwan.

While most Taiwanese appear to support some measure of cooperation with China, an equal number seem to support an independent Taiwan. The opposition Democratic progressive Party(DPP) which supports formal independence from China, has made strong gains in the Municipal Elections, in which, according to the BBC, some 11,000 candidates contested 20,000 Municipal seats. Thus far the KMT has lost eight city and county seats including the large cities of Taipei and Taichung along with the northern port city of Keelung and the southern agriculture city of Chiayi.

Though Taiwan has functioned as separate country since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Beijing still views it as a province of China and it has used considerable efforts and influence to prevent international recognition of Taiwan as independent country. Under the last DPP rule in Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, the party considered constitutional independence from China, but Beijing threatened to use military force to prevent the move. Under now President Ma, closer associations with Beijing, have been forged.

But yesterday's Municipal Elections demonstrate that Taiwan has rejected considerations of strong influence by Beijing over Taiwan, and that they view their independence highly. In the 2016 presidential and legislative elections, Taiwan will get the opportunity to affirm their independence based upon the candidates they elect.

[This Blog has been republished on Asia Today.]