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Taiwan votes in key election under Chinese threats

Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate casts his vote at a polling station during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Tainan, Taiwan January 13, 2024. REUTERS/Ann Wang

Millions of Taiwanese voted for a new president in the face of threats from China that choosing the wrong leader could set the stage for war on the self-ruled island. Beijing slammed frontrunner Lai Ching-te, the current vice president, as a dangerous “separatist” in the days leading up to the poll, and on the eve of the vote, its defence ministry vowed to “crush” any move towards Taiwanese independence. China claims selfruled Taiwan, separated from the mainland by a 180-kilometre strait, as its own and says it will not rule out using force to bring about “unification”, even if conflict does not appear imminent. Voting began at 8am at nearly 18,000 polling stations across the island with almost 20 million people eligible to cast ballots, and will end at 4pm. In a Taipei school, 54-yearold professor Karen was the first in line to enter a polling booth. “I looked into the ballot box and felt that I’ve never been as excited as this moment, because there is one candidate I believe who can bring hope to the future of Taiwan,” she told AFP. Voter Huang Pei-ya said every Taiwanese should exercise their right to cast a ballot. “I don’t like those saying they are not interested in politics, don’t know who to vote for, or they don’t want to vote,” the stock exchange worker told AFP. “I think we should care about our country, our life and come out to vote.” Taiwan has strict election laws that effectively prevent media from asking voters about their specific choices on polling day. People react as they gather near the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters on the day of the presidential and parliamentary elections in Taipei, Taiwan on January 13. — Reuters ‘Hard-won democracy’ Results are expected Saturday evening, with the outcome watched closely from Beijing to Washington — the island’s main military partner — as the two superpowers tussle for influence in the strategically vital region. During a raucous campaign, Lai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), pitched himself as the defender of Taiwan’s democratic way of life. “This is Taiwan’s hard-won democracy. We should all cherish our democracy and vote enthusiastically,” Lai told reporters as he voted in a school gymnasium in the southern city of Tainan. His main opponent, Hou Yu-ih, of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), favours warmer ties with China and accuses the DPP of antagonising Beijing with its stance that Taiwan is “already independent”. KMT has said it will boost economic prosperity while maintaining strong relationships with international partners, including the United States. dawn

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.