By Benjamin Yeh
Taiwan’s voters, angry at low salaries and unaffordable housing, are set to elect a new president — but the island’s flagging fortunes and a slowdown in China mean the winner will have a mountain to climb.
Tsai Ing-wen of the main opposition Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is expected to win the presidential vote, polling well ahead of rival candidate Eric Chu from the embattled ruling Kuomintang (KMT).
Chu is struggling to win public support as the KMT’s popularity has plummeted over its China-friendly policies and failure to deliver the prosperity promised by current President Ma Ying-jeou.
More than 20 deals with China have been signed since Ma took office in 2008 and Taiwan’s tourist industry has flourished under an eight-year rapprochement with Beijing as mainland visitors flock to the island.
But many voters feel warmer ties have benefited big business over ordinary people.
“Most people around me are living harder lives,” said Kelly Chang, a 23-year-old former administrative assistant in Taipei who lost her job three months ago at a land development company that went bankrupt.
“I think the new DPP government can do better. I hope it can improve the economy and raise salaries. Cross-strait ties are important, but the benefits from better ties should be shared by all.”
Student-led protesters occupied parliament in 2014 to oppose a China trade pact, forcing the government to shelve the deal.
But it is not just the younger generation voicing frustration.
“Enough is enough,” said one 60-year-old mechanic at a car repair shop in Taipei, who declined to give his name.
“Everyone who comes to our shop complains, saying they are suffering from the bad economy. Our business is falling too,” he added.
“I think those who want a better future for Taiwan will want to change the ruling party.” Read more