The 2024 Taiwan Presidential Election, Explained

People in Taiwan will choose between three candidates for president, which will have major consequences on the future of Taiwan and the world.

The 2024 Taiwan Presidential Election, Explained

People in Taiwan will vote for a new president on Saturday Jan. 13.

Here’s why this election is such a big deal.

A supporter holds a sign for “Team Taiwan” during a rally at the Banqiao First Stadium in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. (I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg)

The election comes during particularly high tensions between Taiwan and China – which claims Taiwan as its territory – and has increased both political and military pressure on Taiwan in recent months.

Since the previous election in 2020, Chinese president Xi Jinping has also said that he intends to seize Taiwan peacefully but would not rule out the use of force, making China a significant issue this time around.

People in Taiwan will choose between three candidates for president, which will have major consequences on the future of Taiwan and the world.

The candidates include current vice president William Lai, who represents the ruling Democratic Progressive Party or DPP, which favors independence.

Taiwan presidential candidate Lai Ching-te (L) and his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim (R), from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), wave to the journalists at the Central Elections Committee before they registered running for the 2024 presidential elections in Taipei on November 21, 2023. (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Lai has worked closely with president Tsai Ing-wen, who deepened Taiwan’s relations with other countries like the US during her eight years in power.

Lai Ching-te, the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, and (Right) Tsai Ing-wen, the current President of Taiwan, are attending a campaign rally for the Democratic Progressive Party on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taiwan, on January 11, 2024. Taiwan is preparing to vote for its next president on January 13. (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto)

China has labeled Lai as a “destroyer of peace”, but Lai has said he is open to talks with China and that he will continue the DPP’s policy that Taiwan is already independent and does not need to make a formal declaration.

william lai lgbtq pride parade taiwan 2023
The DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) presidential candidate Lai Ching-te attends Taiwan’s annual LGBTQ Pride Parade in Taipei on October 28, 2023. (Photo by I-HWA CHENG/AFP via Getty Images)

He will face off with Hou Yu-ih of the opposition Kuomintang or KMT party, which favors a closer relationship with China.

Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate, Hou Yu-ih (C) speaks at a campaign rally on the eve of general election on January 12, 2024 in Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo by Annice Lyn/Getty Images)

Hou, a former police chief, has said he will build closer ties to China and that he opposes both Taiwanese independence and China’s “one country, two systems” model.

Hou Yu-ih (C), presidential candidate from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), greets supporters during a campaign motorcade tour in Taipei on January 9, 2024. (Photo by ALASTAIR PIKE / AFP)

The third wild card candidate is Dr. Ko Wen-je of his small Taiwan People’s Party, which was formed in 2019.

Ko Wen-je (R), presidential candidate from the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), waves to supporters during an election campaign event in New Taipei City on January 2, 2024. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

Ko, a surgeon, began his political career as the mayor of Taipei in 2014, when he ran as an independent with the support of the DPP, but has gradually switched positions to align himself with the KMT.

This picture taken on November 9, 2018 shows independent Taipei mayor candidate Ko Wen-je (C) posing for photos with a supporter (L) during the elections campaign at a traditional market in Taipei. (SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Ko, who says he has Asperger’s Syndrome but has not been diagnosed, has gained a loyal fanbase for being straightforward and pragmatic, but has also caused several controversies over sexist comments.

aiwan People’s Party (TPP) presidential candidate, Ko Wen-je greets supporters as he enters the TPP election campaign rally in Kaohsiung. (Photo by Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

He has also focused his campaign on practical issues such as high housing prices and low wages, which has won over voters, mostly young ones, who are disillusioned with both parties.

Ko Wen-je, presidential candidate and former mayor of Taipei, in Taipei, Taiwan, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. (An Rong Xu/Bloomberg)

Ko positions himself as a third option between the DPP and KMT, who he says are both bad.

Taiwan’s 2024 presidential candidate Ke Wen-je, from the opposition Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), listens during a press conference in New Taipei City on November 18, 2023. (Photo by SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

But he has been vague on his stance around Taiwan’s relationship with China, saying only that he is the best person to find a middle ground between the different China policies and maintain close relationships with both the US and China.

Ko Wen-je, chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and presidential candidate, delivers a speech during a news conference at Regent Hotel in Taipei on October 24, 2023. (Photo by I-HWA CHENG/AFP via Getty Images)

The election is significant because people are voting to ultimately determine whether Taiwan will become closer to China or strengthen its position as a standalone member of the international community, according to Bloomberg.

A Taiwanese woman votes at a polling station on January 16, 2016 in Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo by Ashley Pon/Getty Images)

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