- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s pro-independence parties were defeated in legislative elections yesterday, a result sure to please Chinese leaders who regard the island as part of the mainland.

The coalition that includes the party of Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), was widely favored to increase its influence over the legislature. But the three-party opposition, known as the “blue team,” rallied, winning 114 of the total 225 seats, the Central Election Commission said.

The president’s coalition, called the “green team,” finished with 101 seats. Independents won 10.

The opposition has opposed Mr. Chen’s plan to spend $18 billion on U.S. weapons to defend against a Chinese attack and accused him of recklessness that could lead to war.

The package faces a series of key votes in Taiwan’s parliament.

The president took full responsibility for his coalition’s defeat.

“People have made their choices. Let’s take it as a starting point for cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties,” Mr. Chen said in a televised speech. “Let’s turn our competition into a force for pushing the nation forward.”

The president’s party remained the largest in parliament, but opposition parties strengthened their ability to join forces against the ruling coalition’s initiatives.

“The moment we’ve waited for has finally arrived,” said Lien Chan, leader of the largest opposition party, the Nationalists, as he celebrated his group’s first victory in the last four major elections.

“Today we saw extremely clearly that all the people want stability in this country and want to continue to develop,” Mr. Lien told a cheering crowd at his party headquarters.

One notable election result was that parties known to take extreme positions on the unification-independence issue with China finished poorly. The pro-unification People First Party won 34 seats — 12 fewer than in the last election. Support for the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union shrank by one seat to 12.

The Nationalist Party was the biggest winner, picking up 11 more seats for a total 80. Mr. Chen’s party won two additional seats, bringing its total to 89.

A civil war split Taiwan and China in 1949, and Beijing has repeatedly warned that it is ready to fight again if the Taiwanese refuse to eventually unify or keep delaying the issue. China did not immediately comment on yesterday’s election.

Mr. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party promised to rewrite the constitution and continue pushing for a new Taiwanese identity separate from China’s.

Both pledges angered Beijing, which views them as part of Mr. Chen’s policy of “creeping independence.”

Voter Mary Lee, a 45-year-old office worker, said she backed the pro-unification Nationalists because she feared Mr. Chen was more likely to bring war than peace.

“We need the Nationalists to check and balance Chen Shui-bian so he won’t lead the country on the dangerous path to independence,” she said.

Voter Tsai Ming-tai said she supported Mr. Chen’s party and wasn’t worried about how Beijing would react.

“We can’t stand China. Whatever we try to do, China tries to block it. Anyway, if a war breaks out, America will help defend us, and China is afraid of that,” the 34-year-old businesswoman said.

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