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Taiwan votes for new parliament

world Updated: Jan 12, 2008 07:45 IST
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Voters in Taiwan went to the polls on Saturday to choose a new parliament, with analysts predicting a win for the opposition nationalists over the party of independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian.

The election comes just two months before Taiwan picks a successor to Chen, whose drive to assert the island's independent identity has irked China and polarised the population of 23 million people in this high-tech hub.

Polling stations opened across the island at 0530 IST and will close at 1330 IST. More than 17 million people are eligible to cast ballots, with turnout expected to be about 60 per cent.

Observers have forecast a decisive victory for the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), which would give a boost to its presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, the current frontrunner ahead of the March 22 polls.

The KMT, which currently holds a slim parliamentary majority with its allies, has promised voters it will revive Taiwan's stagnant economy and says pursuing warmer ties with China will open the door to new jobs.

Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counters that Taiwan's sovereign identity is vital to its democracy, and warns the KMT will sell Taiwan out to China, which sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

"We have to let Taiwan win, and let democracy and justice win... The DPP safeguards Taiwan with love but the KMT resorts to hatred," Chen told a mass election-eve rally outside the capital.