Taiwan elections: Local elections seen as 'China policy' vote

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A woman casts her ballot at a voting station during local elections in Taipei. Photo: 29 November 2014Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
More than 18 million people have been eligible to cast their ballots

Polls have closed in Taiwan's local election, widely been seen as a referendum on relations with China.

Almost 20,000 candidates are running for more than 11,000 posts on nine levels of government, and results are expected in the next few hours.

Critics say the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party is too close to China, while its supporters say Taiwan needs good relations with its powerful neighbour.

China sees Taiwan as a renegade province which it should re-unite with.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Ailing economy

Results are expected in the next few hours. More than 18 million eligible voters were registered to vote, choosing from among 20,000 candidates are running for more than 11,000 positions.

The posts being contested in the elections include city mayors, councillors and magistrates.

The KMT currently holds the presidency, a legislative majority, and most of Taiwan's cities and counties, although recent opinion polls have suggested that it risks losing its traditional strongholds such as Taipei and Taichung.

Some voters fear that if the KMT is allowed to continue building strong ties with China, Taiwan may become too economically dependent on the mainland and vulnerable to its pressures to reunify one day, the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei reports.

They distrust the KMT, regardless of whether the deals signed with Beijing are good for Taiwan, our correspondent says.

KMT supporters, on the other hand, feel that Taiwan needs good relations with its biggest trade partner to breathe new life into the island's ailing economy.

They fear a victory by the opposition DPP party could cause relations with China and Taiwan's economy to regress, our correspondent says.

The DPP supports Taiwan's formal independence from China, something Beijing strongly opposes.

In 2016, Taiwan will hold the more important presidential and legislative polls.

Taiwan only began allowing truly democratic elections - with opposition party candidates and universal suffrage - in the late 1980s.