Taiwan, who are the 3 candidates for president

In the running are the deputy of the outgoing president Lai Ching-te, the former police chief Hou Yu-ih and the former mayor Ko Wen-je

Taiwan to vote. Tomorrow the de facto independent island which China wants to “reunify” will elect a new president, Tsai Ing-wen’s successor, and parliamentarians. 19.3 million voters are called to the polls. The spotlight is on an electoral appointment that could redefine relations between Taipei and the Asian giant in the context of what is a dossier that sees the People’s Republic and the United States, Taiwan’s allies, always at loggerheads.

In the running to succeed President Tsai are her deputy from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, the ‘green’ camp of the forces closest to this party), Lai Ching-te (William Lai), in the lead – but barely – in the polls, followed by a former police chief, Hou Yu-ih, who is running for the Kuomintang (KMT, the ‘blue’ camp), and a former mayor, Ko Wen-je, from the People’s Party (TTP).

William Lai

William Lai (DPP), vice president of Taiwan since 2020, 64 years old, defends the island’s independence and has a history of studying medicine at Harvard. Premier for two years from 2017, he had previously been mayor of Tainan for seven years. Since January 2023 he has been at the helm of the DPP, which – the Guardian highlights – does not however formally support a declaration of independence. The Global Times, a nationalist Chinese tabloid, describes him as a “separatist”. For Beijing he is a “provocateur”. During the election campaign, he repeated that Taiwan hopes to “be a friend” of China and said he was open to dialogue with the Dragon but also warned that “the international community has realized the threat that China represents to Taiwan and the world”.

Hsiao bi-Khim is Lai’s 52-year-old ‘running mate’ and, the BBC notes, seems to make the Dragon even more angry than him. She was born in Japan, to parents from Taiwan and the United States, and came to the United States as a teenager. She returned to the island, at just 26 years old she was already the DPP’s point of reference for international affairs. For three years, starting in 2020, she was Taiwan’s representative in the US, the first woman to hold the position. She describes herself as a ‘cat worrior’, a personal response to the ‘wolf warriors’ of Chinese diplomacy, because – she told the Economist – “cats manage to stay in balance in very delicate places” and “they don’t you can force them to do things they don’t want.” For Beijing she is a “diehard separatist for Taiwanese independence”. In 2022 and last year, the Guardian recalls, she ended up in the crosshairs of Chinese sanctions and she and her family cannot set foot on the territory of mainland China, nor in Hong Kong or Macao.

Hou Yu-hee

Hou Yu-ih (KMT), former police chief and then mayor of New Taipei, 66, is very popular and for this reason he was chosen by the KMT. Against Taiwan’s independence, during the election campaign – as highlighted by the BBC – he avoided expressing his opinion on China. And he has attracted quite a bit of criticism. Running for vice president is Jaw Shaw-kong, a 73-year-old political commentator and one-time leader of the New Party, a longtime supporter of the “reunification” of Taiwan with China although he recently said he would not work towards it if he were elected. Beijing ‘hopes’ for their victory.

Ko Wen-je

Ko Wen-je (TPP), a doctor who put aside his lab coat for politics (like William Lai), 64-year-old leader of the People’s Party (TPP) presents himself as the “third choice” and, as the BBC highlights, has proven himself popular among young voters. Former mayor of Taipei, he put together the TPP in 2019 as an alternative to the DPP and the KMT. His name became known partly in association with the Sunflower Movement (born on a student initiative in 2014 to block an agreement with China) and on foreign policy and national security issues, some observers point out, his positions were often in conflict with each other and it is not clear what his foreign policy would look like in reality. Nicknamed ‘Professor Ko’, he appears on the ticket with the 45-year-old congresswoman Cynthia Wu, born and raised in the USA with a past as an analyst at Merrill Lynch in London and then returned to Taipei to work in the family company Shin Kong Group.