A polling station in Taipei.
Millions of Taiwanese are going to the polls on Saturday to elect their next president, despite growing threats from China, which claims the island and promises to “crush” any desire for independence.
Taiwanese media images show long lines outside polling stations, which opened at 8 a.m. local time and will close at 4 p.m. On others, we see Taiwanese returning to the country for the occasion, voting abroad not being authorized.
In 2020, participation was close to 75% in this territory of 23 million inhabitants located 180 kilometers from the Chinese coast and hailed as a model of democracy in Asia.
The election is in one round and the results are expected in the evening.
I think it's a good thing that everyone can come and vote and exercise their rights as citizens, Eve, 27, who came to participate from the opening, told AFP.
US military strikes again at Houthi rebels in Yemen
ELSE ON NEWS: US military strikes again at Houthi rebels in Yemen
I looked into the urn and felt like I had never been more excited than I was right now, because I believe there is a candidate who can bring hope to the future of Taiwan, also testifies Karen, a 54-year-old teacher, without revealing her choice.
The report of our correspondent in Asia, Philippe Leblanc
According to a press release from the company Taiwanese railway, 746,000 people will take the train on Saturday, most of them to return to vote in their hometown. That's more than in 2020, when the number was around 704,000.
Yvonne, 31, is preparing to leave for Taichung (central west): I am not particularly worried about our relations with China, because none of the candidates dared to propose any radical measure, says -elle.
But maintaining the status quo does not mean that we should not strengthen ourselves, because otherwise, we risk die from lack of preparation in the event of a real conflict, she adds.
Favorite of the vote, Vice-President Lai Ching-te, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is seen by Beijing as a serious danger, because he is on the same line as the outgoing president, Tsai Ing-wen, who claims that the island is de facto independent.
Vice President and candidate of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party Lai Ching-te
It is since the latter's election in 2016 that China has cut off all high-level communication with Taiwan, which it considers one of its provinces.
Facing him, Hou Yu-ih, candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT), the main opposition party, advocates a rapprochement with Beijing. The third candidate, Ko Wen-je, of the small Taiwan People's Party (TPP), presents himself as anti-system.
Please, go vote to show the vitality of Taiwanese democracy, launched Lai Ching-te on Saturday morning before going to place his ballot in the ballot box, in the gymnasium of a school in Tainan (south).
This is Taiwan's hard-won democracy, he added. We should all cherish our democracy and vote enthusiastically.
All week, Beijing has increased its diplomatic and military pressure. On Thursday, five Chinese balloons again crossed the median line separating the autonomous island from China, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, which also spotted ten planes and six warships.
A Chinese warplane over Pingtan Island, the closest point to China.
As Taiwanese voters go to the polls, AFP journalists observed a Chinese fighter jet over the city of Pingtan, the closer to Taiwan.
And on the Chinese social network Weibo, the hashtag Election in Taiwan was blocked on Saturday morning. Beijing called on voters to make the right choice and the Chinese army promised to crush any attempts at independence for Taiwan.
The status of Taiwan is one of the most explosive subjects in the rivalry between China and the United States, the territory's primary military supporter, and Washington plans to send an informal delegation to the country. island after the vote. On Friday, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken met in Washington with Liu Jianchao, head of the international division of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
He reminded him of the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
The Taiwanese also vote to renew their Parliament , where the DPP could lose its majority.
After eight years of DPP in power, it's really time for change, a Taiwanese retiree, living for 20 years in the Chinese city of Xiamen, located opposite Taiwan, assured AFP.
Because a new victory for the DPP would certainly worsen relations with China, added this man, who planned to take the ferry on Saturday to vote.
< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">But in Taipei, Liu Pei-chi, a 40-year-old high school teacher, mocks Beijing as a paper tiger.
Once you understand their tricks, you are no longer afraid, continues this DPP voter. I hope I can defend my country, our democracy and let the world know.
A conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be disastrous for the x27;economy: the island supplies 70% of the planet's semiconductors and more than 50% of the containers transported worldwide pass through the strait.