TAIPEI, Taiwan – Voters in this Asian nation on Saturday re-elected President Ma Ying-jeou to another term in office and may have eliminated the possibility of St. Lucia switching ties to China during the next four years.
Ma’s victory signals a continuation of the “diplomatic truce” that began in 2008, which resulted in both China and Taiwan rejecting each other’s allies that have tried to switch diplomatic recognition since then.
St. Lucia Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste had recently said that “within the next few weeks the new St. Lucia government will make a definite decision as to whether it wants to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan”.
But Ma, speaking after his election victory on Saturday, said that over the next four years, Taiwan-China relations, “will be more peaceful, with greater mutual trust and the chance of conflict will be less”.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and China says that Taiwan is a renegade province to be reunited with China, by force if necessary.
The two states had engaged in a diplomatic war in a bid to isolate each other within the international community but those efforts were shelved after Ma came to office in 2008.
The Dr. Kenny Anthony administration, which was returned to office in Castries in November after five years in opposition, has been in talks with Taipei about the future of relations.
The United Workers Party administration had switched diplomatic recognition to Taipei when it came to office in 2006.
While in opposition and during the election campaign, Anthony accused Taiwanese ambassador Tom Chou of interfering in the nation’s internal affairs.
He had said that a St. Lucia Labour Party government would have switched back diplomatic recognition to Beijing.
But the détente between Beijing and Taipei has seen China rejecting at least three of Taiwan’s 23 allies that tried to switch ties in 2011. Ma’s re-election could see Castries left with little choice but to continue relations with Taipei.
Dr. Nathan Liu, director of Ming Chuan University Graduate School of International Affairs, in an Internet commentary shortly after the election results were announced, said that although Ma retained the presidency by “a small margin of about 6 per cent [he] is expected to continue his current policy into the second term”.
“Economic exchange is expected to be accelerated, including more investment on the two sides, higher across-Strait trade, booming tourism, etc. … All in all, China-Taiwan relations will become tighter and more ‘intertwined’,” Liu further wrote.
Wu Chin-mu, Taiwan’s Director-General of the Ministry’ of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, said Tuesday that the Ma government would look at the suitability of maintaining Chou in his post in Castries.
He, however, said that the ministry was “receptive” to whatever views a host government has about Taiwanese representatives to that country.
Ma, of the pro-unification Kuomintang (KMT) won about 51.5 per cent of the vote versus about 45.7 per cent for Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which favour’s Taiwan’s de jure independence. Former KMT heavyweight James Soong of the minority People First Party also contested the presidency.