Taiwan’s incumbent leader Tsai Ing-wen has won Saturday’s presidential election, defeating her Beijing-friendly rival Han Kuo-yu by a wide margin.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen greets supporters after winning the presidential election on January 11, 2020. Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP

“Taiwan is showing the world how much we cherish our free and democratic way of life,” Tsai told supporters at 9pm as she confirmed her victory.

DPP supporters rally in Taipei on January 11. Photo: KM/United Social Press.

A jubilant crowd of supporters outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei burst into cheers as Tsai appeared on stage to address reporters.

Democratic Progressive Party supporters rally in Taipei on January 10, election day. Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

Tsai has polled comfortably ahead of her main contender Han, of the Kuomintang Party, since voting closed at 4pm on Saturday.

A pro-Hong Kong protester flag reading ‘Free Hong Kong, revolution of our time’ flies at a DPP rally in Taipei on January 11. Photo: KM/United Social Press.

With 8.1 million votes as of 10:30pm, Tsai won the highest number of votes of any presidential candidate in Taiwan’s history of democratic elections. Han, on the other hand, received just over 5.5 million votes, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

Vote counting by the CEC is expected to last until 10pm. The turnout will be published after the counting process is completed, according to the election agency.

Photo: KM/United Social Press.

‘Banner of democracy’

In her initial remarks, Tsai thanked her supporters and urged them to put aside their political differences in order to embrace opponents “under the banner of democracy.”

“I want to once again call upon Beijing authorities to remind them that peace, clarity, democracy and dialogue are key to positive cross-strait interactions and long-term development,” she added. “I also hope that Beijing authorities understand that democratic Taiwan and our democratically-elected government will not concede to threats and intimidation.”

Explainer: President Tsai Ing-wen faces mainland-friendly challenger Han Kuo-yu as Taiwan heads to the polls

Democratic Progressive Party supporters rally in Taipei on January 10, election day. Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

At around 8:45pm, Han declared defeat in Kaoshiung – where he is mayor: “I have already made a phone call to President Tsai Ing-wen, to congratulate her [on the victory],” Han told supporters.

He added that he had not put enough effort into his election campaign and failed to meet the expectations of his supporters.

Kuomintang election rally in Taipei on January 10. File photo: Han Kuo-yu/Facebook.

Han said he would return to the municipal office in Kaoshiung next Monday to continue his responsibilities as the mayor. However, he is also facing a recall petition filed by civil groups and the pro-independence Taiwan Statebuilding Party last December which calls for his resignation.

Photo: KM/United Social Press.

More than 14 million voters turned out to the polling stations on Saturday, at a turnout rate of 74.9 per cent, according to the CEC.

Photo: KM/United Social Press.

In a statement on Saturday, the US praised Tsai for her “commitment to maintaining cross-Strait stability in the face of unrelenting pressure.”

“Under her leadership, we hope Taiwan will continue to serve as a shining example for countries that strive for democracy, prosperity, and a better path for their people,” it said.

Legislative elections

As for the legislative elections, the DPP has successfully secured a majority, with 61 seats elected, as opposed to the main opposition KMT, which obtained 38 seats.

More to follow. Additional reporting: Jennifer Creery and Elson Tong.

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Pei-ju Teng

Teng Pei-ju is a journalist based in Taipei, Taiwan, covering mostly politics and diplomacy.