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Politics

Taiwan's Tsai warns of threat to reform in upcoming election

President tries to boost weak approval ratings ahead of November vote

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at a Democratic Progressive Party convention in Taipei. (Photo by Kensaku Ihara)
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at a Democratic Progressive Party convention in Taipei. (Photo by Kensaku Ihara)

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's momentum toward reform will be thwarted, President Tsai Ing-wen warned on Sunday, if the opposition party does well in November regional elections, which is the main skirmish before the 2020 general election.

"This is not just a regional election," the party chief told a crowd of roughly 600 party officials and others at a convention of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party held at a hotel in Taipei. "This is a fight between reformers and anti-reformers."

Appearing on stage with candidates, Tsai touted her party's accomplishments, including pension reform that scaled back generous benefits for civil servants and others. She said that the opposition Kuomintang must not be allowed to win, warning that reforms will not come to pass if those opposed take power.

"And we cannot cave in to pressure from China," she said in regards to cross-strait relations, which have been cool under her leadership. Tsai reiterated that Taiwan will deepen relations with such countries as the U.S. and Japan to deal with Beijing.

The Tsai administration's approval rating hovers at around 30%. Vested interests that oppose reforms of the pension system and other areas have weakened support of the government, as has stronger Chinese pressure.

The cabinet announced on Thursday a reshuffling of seven members, including the finance, justice and interior ministers. These positions will be officially filled by Tsai on Monday as part of an effort to strengthen her administration ahead of the election.

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