Voters in Taiwan delivered a crushing blow to President Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-leaning ruling party during the weekend’s local elections, leaving China with the upper hand, analysts say.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost mayoral elections in key cities to the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party. The DPP lost its stronghold of Kaohsiung, the southern port city where it had held power for more than 20 years, during the nationwide vote Saturday for local posts.
“It was a huge defeat,” Sean King, senior vice president at Park Strategies, told CNBC’s Akiko Fujita on Monday on “Squawk Box.”
While the vote was largely focused on economic concerns rather than the long-simmering issue of Taiwan’s political status, China came out in a strong position, according to King. “I think it was issues like labor and pension reform, a lackluster economy, that did her in. But China’s definitely going to claim victory here.”
Relations across the Taiwan Strait ebb and flow depending on who holds power in Taipei — and tensions with Beijing have risen since the DPP swept to power two years ago.
China prefers the Kuomintang, which avoids talk of going it alone and stresses economic ties with the mainland, from which KMT troops fled in 1949 after defeat in the Chinese Civil War.