Voters headed to the polls across Taiwan on Saturday in a closely watched local election that will determine the strength of the major political parties ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Taiwanese citizens are picking their mayors, city council members and other local leaders in all 13 counties and the six major cities. There’s also a referendum to lower the voting age from 20 to 18.
While international observers and the ruling party have attempted to link the elections to the long-term existential threat that is Taiwan’s neighbour, many local experts do not think China has a large role to play this time around.
“The international society have raised the stakes too high,” said Yeh-lih Wang, a political science professor at National Taiwan University. “They’ve raised a local election to this international level, and Taiwan’s survival.”
President Tsai Ing-wen, who also serves as the chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive party (DPP), has spoken out many times about “opposing China and defending Taiwan” in the course of campaigning. But Chen Shih-chung, the DPP’s candidate running for mayor in Taipei, raised the issue of the Communist party’s threat only a few times before quickly switching back to local issues when there was little interest, experts said.
During campaigning, there were few mentions of the large-scale military exercises targeting Taiwan that China held in August in reaction to US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.