Published: Sun, November 25, 2018
World News | By Sandy Lane

Taiwanese reject legalizing same-sex unions in referendum

Taiwanese reject legalizing same-sex unions in referendum

Opposition Kuomintang candidates claimed victory in mayoral races in the major cities of Kaohsiung and Taichung as well as the governor positions in Yilan, Changhua and Yunlin counties, traditionally seen as bastions of support for Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party.

In the run-up to the elections, Ms Tsai and her Government said repeatedly China was trying to sway voters with "political bullying" and "fake news" - accusations that Beijing denied.

The United Sates government on Saturday extended its congratulations to the winners of the local elections, saying the votes had "once again demonstrated the strength of their vibrant democratic system through a successful round of elections".

The race for mayor of the capital Taipei City was too close to call, with several hundred votes separating the independent incumbent Ko Wen-je and his KMT challenger Ting Shou-chung as of 10:30 p.m.

"As chairperson of the ruling party, I will take complete responsibility for the outcome of today's local elections", Tsai told reporters.

Since Tsai took office in 2016 China has ramped up pressure on Taiwan, suspicious Tsai wants formal independence, a red line for Beijing which regards Taiwan as its own. Beijing has been ratcheting up pressure on the island it claims as its own territory by poaching its diplomatic partners and barring its representatives from global gatherings, while staging threatening military exercises and limiting the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan.

Analysts were sceptical on Saturday night that Tsai would be selected by her party to contest the next presidential election.

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Voters also said "no" to a referendum item that asked if gender equality education should be taught in elementary schools, and "no" to an item that asked if schools should teach all students about "gender equality, emotional education, sex education and same-sex education".

Taiwanese officials had warned that Beijing was seeking to sway voters through the spread of disinformation online similar to how Russian Federation was accused of interfering in USA elections.

Global media have also weighed in on the election results and political fallout.

Voters in Taiwan backed anti-gay marriage referendum Saturday in what LGBT activists said was a devastating blow to the island's reputation as a rights trailblazer.

Others said they sided with "pro-family" groups.

About 19 million Taiwanese are eligible to vote. Taiwan, however, still bears the name of the pre-Communist-era government, the Republic of China, whose territorial control was confined to the island at the conclusion of the civil war in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established in Beijing on the mainland.

"We hope the two sides will soon go back to a peaceful and stable trend in relations", he said.

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DPP members now administer 13 cities and counties in Taiwan, but after newly elected candidates take office, they will only hold six mayoral and county magistrate seats.

A supporter cries after losing the same-sex referendum in Taipei, Taiwan November 24, 2018.

But surveys last week suggest the country will vote against the change.

The referendums covered a broad range of issues, including the definition of marriage in the Civil Code, the ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures imposed after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011 and changing the national team's name from "Chinese Taipei" to "Taiwan" for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

China has already responded.

The results of the referendums weren't expected until Sunday.

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