Taiwan set to elect first female president

Taiwan City Centre female president

In a further move towards gender equality, Taiwan is primed to elect its first female president in the country’s 2016 elections.

The two largest political parties both nominated women to represent them during next January’s elections, meaning that a female president is almost guaranteed.

Hung Hsiu-chu, 67, is the official candidate for the current ruling Nationalist party, Kuomintang (KMT). A former teacher and current deputy legislative speaker, Hung was nominated on Sunday and is known for her forceful and spirited style, earning her the nickname, ‘Little Hot Pepper’.

Tsai Ing-wen, 58, nominated by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be campaigning against Hung. Tsai is a trained lawyer, who studied at Cornell University and the London School of Economics.

Taiwan has never before had a female president and many are viewing the two candidates as a sign of continuing progress towards gender equality in the Asian world. In 2010, the country introduced laws requiring 25% of councils with four or more people to be female. Women also manage 10 government departments and some of the countries’ top companies; and one third of Taiwanese legislators are female.

Equality has been forming across other Asian countries since the early 1980s. Indira Gandhi was Indian prime minister for 15 years, and in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto served two terms in the 80s and 90s.

Continuing this trend, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the Filipino president from 2001 to 2010. Park Guen-hye was elected as South Korea’s first female president in 2013; and Sheikh Hasina is currently the prime minister of Bangladesh.

Yet the presidential race holds further significance as both candidates have been nominated based on their popularity, skills and qualities, rather than their birth right or links to high-profile men – as was the case with the aforementioned.

Commenting on the upcoming election last month, Tsai said, “Taiwanese people are faced with a very serious test next year – that is whether we are advanced and civilised enough to accept a woman leader.”

However, she remained positive about female equality saying that, “of course there are some people who are still rather traditional and have some hesitation to consider a woman leader. But I think the young people are generally excited about the idea of having a woman to lead the country. They think it is rather trendy.”

Joanne Lei, chief executive officer of the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank in Taiwan, also believes that the country is ready for female leadership. “We’ve had a long matriarchic tradition. In the ancient days, when they reached their 50s and 60s, women became senior people, often commanding power of their clan and family. Female leadership is not alien to Asian culture.”

The election is likely to be mainly fought on issues regarding China, who believe they hold sovereignty over Taiwan, with relations between the two countries remaining strained.

Tsai Ing-wen is currently said to be leading the opinion polls.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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