World News

Taiwan anti-China opposition gains legislative seats

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s anti-China opposition won all three legislative seats up for grabs in by-elections on Saturday, giving it more clout to propose bills in parliament and further pressuring the Beijing-friendly ruling Nationalists.

The victory for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which seeks Taiwan’s formal independence from China, will see it holding over a quarter of all seats, and increase its odds in later elections.

“We’ll have to accept the results and face up to it,” King Pu-tsung, secretary-general of the ruling Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), said at a news conference after the loss.

The opposition won in the Taichung, Taoyuan and Taitung counties on Saturday, reflecting voter discontent over local issues such as a perceived slow response to a deadly August typhoon and the lifting of a ban on certain U.S. beef imports.

The Nationalists (KMT) had already lost a county magistrate election to the opposition last month in local elections seen as a first test for President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of engagement with Beijing.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

Since taking office in May 2008, Ma has eased tension with Beijing by brokering negotiations on landmark trade deals, but such moves have been viewed with suspicion by some elements of Taiwanese society, which remains deeply suspicious of China.

Elections in Taiwan’s bigger cities and counties are set for next year and the next presidential race is in 2012.

Reporting by Kelvin Soh and Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie