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Taiwan elections hint at unease over closer China ties

By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Taipei

Ma Ying-jeou
President Ma Ying-jeou and his pro-China stance, took a hit in the polls

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has ordered a thorough look at what went wrong in local weekend elections.

These showed his ruling party, which favours closer ties with China, losing ground to the opposition which supports formal independence from China.

Cross-straits ties have only recently improved since Mr Ma became president after decades of tensions.

A slow reaction to a deadly typhoon in August and the global recession also hurt the ruling Kuomintang.

The elections for county magistrates and city mayors are being widely seen in Taiwan as a setback for President Ma and the Kuomintang.

Dependency fears

Although the party won a majority of the seats, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party gained nearly as big a percentage of votes, the largest percentage it has ever gained in local elections, narrowing the gap between the two parties.

The president's focus on opening Taiwan to Chinese investment and signing a landmark free-trade agreement with China next year are believed to have affected the election.

Some voters fear this would hurt Taiwan's industries, cause job losses and threaten the island's sovereignty, making it too dependent on China.

Analysts have said that if this voting trend continues, it could threaten President Ma's chances of re-election in 2012.

It could also hurt his efforts to bring Taiwan and China closer economically and to eventually bring an end to the military tensions between the two former rivals.

China has 1,500 missiles targeting Taiwan and has not renounced the use of force to take back the island, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.



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