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Taiwan president's party declares victory

DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh, left and Kaohsiung Mayor celebrate winning 87 seats in the island's legislative elections.
DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh, left and Kaohsiung Mayor celebrate winning 87 seats in the island's legislative elections.  

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has declared victory in the island's legislative elections, ending five decades of control by the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party.

With 80 percent of ballots counted, the party appears set to begin efforts to forge a new coalition and seek to end months of political gridlock that has seen the island's economy slide into recession.

The win means the once dominant Kuomintang Party (KMT) of former President Chiang Kai-shek has lost control of Taiwan's lawmaking body for the first time in its history.

Last year it lost the presidency when Chen became the first Taiwanese leader from an opposition party.

In-Depth: Taiwan votes 

A relatively low turnout of 66 percent resulted from a campaign largely characterized by name-calling, with little focus on the issues facing Taiwan, commentators said.

If efforts to build a workable coalition are successful, the victory could strengthen Chen's hand in talks with China, which has so far considered him a weak president.

Since 1949, when Kuomintang troops retreated to the island after the Communist takeover on the mainland, Beijing has regarded Taiwan as a renegade province. It has viewed Chen's efforts to build a higher international profile for Taiwan with suspicion.

China's leaders repeatedly have threatened to use force against any move by Taiwanese leaders to declare formal independence from the mainland.

However, some analysts have speculated that Beijing, which has been relatively quiet during the election campaign, might be more willing to start talks with Chen if he did well in the election.

No party has legislative majority

With most of the votes counted in Saturday's poll, Chen's DPP is expected to take control of 87 seats in the 225-member chamber, Taiwan's Central Election Commission said.

The KMT won 68 seats, down by about half from the 110 seats it held following the previous election in 1998.

Some disgruntled party members left the KMT following its dismal showing in last year's presidential vote and formed their own parties.

Those parties did well in their first electoral test. The People's First Party scored a stunning 46 seats, while the Taiwan Solidarity Union won 13.

In races for a total of 23 mayoral and county seats, the DPP won nine seats -- three fewer than it had before the vote.

The Nationalist Party gained one seat by winning nine. Small parties and independents won the rest.

No party won an absolute majority in the legislature, and a period of intense political horse-trading is expected in the coming days, with Chen likely to seek reliable allies to build a recession-busting coalition.

DPP supporters began a long night of celebrations across Taiwan, firing green streamers into the air and toasting the party's victory.

Voters who backed the DPP said they were keen to see an end to the island's political chaos and give Chen a better chance to run the country.

Since winning last year, Chen has struggled to cope with the legislature, which has largely refused to work with him on the island's worsening economic slump.

Despite its loss, the KMT remains a powerful force in Taiwanese politics, and the future shape of Chen's coalition will depend to a significant degree on the level of cooperation the party is willing to offer.

Speaking after the election results were announced, Chen said he was eager to build a coalition that would end more than a year of political feuding.

"The end of this election marks the beginning of an era of cooperation," he said in a brief statement.


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