Ma Ying-jeou, a former mayor of Taipei and Harvard Law School graduate, may face resistance to his conciliatory approach.
TAIPEI AND TAICHUNG, TAIWAN
Voters in Taiwan handed opposition candidate Ma Ying-jeou a landslide victory in Saturday's presidential election, raising hopes of détente with China after eight years of pro-independence brinksmanship that strained ties with the US.
The result was a rebuke to President Chen Shui-bian, whose candidate, Frank Hsieh, lost by 2 million votes out of 13.2 million cast. Analysts said it signaled a prioritizing of economic interests over ethnic identity and the anti-China rhetoric of Mr. Chen's ailing party, which also lost heavily in January's legislative elections.
"Taiwan should be united without using ethnicity as an issue for political purposes... I will be symbol of national unity, not a source of social division," said Mr. Ma at a victory press conference, taking a swipe at the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DDP) campaign ads that highlighted his roots on the mainland, in contrast to Taiwanese-born opponents.
A Harvard Law School graduate, Ma rose through the ranks of the Kuomintang (KMT), the political party that lost China's civil war in 1949 to Mao Zedong's communists and retreated to Taiwan where it ruled by fiat for four decades. In the 1990s, Ma served as a corruption-busting justice minister, a role that alienated many powerbrokers within his own party. He then built his own base as mayor of Taipei until 2006, before pressing his claim to lead the KMT after party candidates lost two successive presidential elections.