Taiwan's main opposition party said on Wednesday it will nominate ex-vice premier Tsai Ing-wen for next year's presidential election, the first woman in Taiwan's history to run for the post.
Tsai, 54, won the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) primary to secure her candidacy against two senior party members, said acting chairman Ker Chien-ming.
Tsai has served as DPP chairwoman since a humiliating defeat in 2008 presidential polls and has since led the party to victory in several regional elections.
A legal scholar-turned-politician, she will run against Ma of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, who is seeking a second and final four-year term.
If elected, Tsai will become the island's first female president. The highest government office to be occupied by a woman is the vice presidency, held by Annette Lu during the DPP's 2000-2008 rule.
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949 but Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
Ties were strained while the DPP was in power but have improved markedly since Ma took office in 2008 promoting trade and tourism with the mainland.