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Taiwan opposition triumphs in elections
2008/03/22 22:12

Taiwan opposition triumphs in elections

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Opposition candidate Ma Ying-jeou wins Taiwan's presidential elections
  • Ma won more than 58 percent of the votes, with most having been counted
  • His rival, the Democratic Progressive Party's Frank Hsieh, had 41 percent
  • Ma's campaign touted the economic benefits of better relations with China

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- Taiwan voters overwhelmingly elected Nationalist Party candidate Ma Ying-jeou to be president on Saturday, apparently choosing the promise of economic growth through closer ties with China over fears that those ties to the mainland could lead to a loss of independence.

Ma, whose campaign touted the economic benefits of better relations with China, defeated the Democratic Progressive Party's Frank Hsieh, who advocated going slower and holding back in some areas.

Taiwan's central election commission projected that Ma Ying-jeou had won more than 58 percent versus Frank Hsieh's 41 percent, with most of the votes counted.

Ma's vote total topped the 7 million mark, a point at which it would be mathematically impossible for him to lose, the commission said.

The commission estimated that 75 percent of Taiwan's eligible voters cast ballots in the presidential race.

"People want a clean a government instead of a corrupt one," Ma, also a former justice minister, told The Associated Press.

"They want a good economy, not a sluggish one. They don't want political feuding. They want peace across the Taiwan Strait. No war."

Hsieh, a former premier, conceded defeat in front of unhappy supporters, AP reported.

"Don't cry for me today," Hsieh said. "Although we lost the election, we have a more important mission. The torch of democracy should not be extinguished."

While Ma was considered the frontrunner throughout the campaign, the recent crackdown on anti-Chinese protests in Tibet was used by the opposition in an effort to convince voters that there was danger in dealing with China.

Hsieh, pointing to China's crackdown on Tibet, said the same thing could happen to Taiwan if it gets too close to Beijing. Ma disagreed.

"Taiwan is not Tibet. Neither it is Hong Kong. We are a sovereign country and a democratic country."

The mainland Chinese government has made clear that closer ties would only be a first step -- it considers Taiwan, on the island of Formosa southeast of the mainland, an inseparable part of China and constantly pushes for eventual reunification.

CNN's Eunice Yoon contributed to this report

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