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Taiwan could elect its first female president with Tsai Ying-wen

Tsai Ying-wen has sustained a double-digit lead in opinion polls for months.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Jan. 12, 2016 at 2:38 PM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Taiwan may elect its first female president on Saturday.

Tsai Ying-wen, the 2016 presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, is leading the ruling party's candidate Eric Chu by 28.9 percentage points, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Tsai, a former lawyer, had lost the election in the previous cycle, but promised a "future for us" to her supporters. It was a narrow 51-45 percent loss to current President Ma Ying-jeou, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Tsai has sustained a double-digit lead in opinion polls for months, due in large part to the ruling Kuomintang's failure to appeal to young voters.

A December poll found that 57 percent of Taiwanese age 20 to 29 supported the opposition, while only 11 percent said they support the KMT.

Taiwan's slow-growing economy also may be playing a role in Tsai's rise, and the waning popularity of the KMT. Young people are having difficulty finding jobs after graduation, with an average monthly starting salary for recent graduates estimated to be about $770, or 6 percent less than 17 years ago.

Ma's efforts to cultivate closer economic ties with Beijing also have annoyed Taiwanese voters who are suspicious of China's motives.

"Tsai is a much better candidate this time. I think she spent the last four years thinking about what she needed to do to be successful," said Shelley Rigger, professor of East Asian politics at Davidson College. "And her relationship with the U.S. is much better than it was four years ago."

The candidate has taken the last four years to remold her image and has traveled to Washington to kindle relationships key to the U.S. defense of the island.

In previous statements, the United States has vowed to defend Taiwan against attack.

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