Taiwan's presidential favourite wins election held under China's glare

Taiwan's ruling party candidate Lai Ching-te, branded a threat to peace by China, on Saturday won the island's presidential election, a vote watched closely from Beijing to Washington.

Lai delivered an unprecedented third consecutive term for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after a raucous campaign in which he pitched himself as the defender of Taiwan's democratic way of life.

Communist China claims democratic Taiwan, separated from the mainland by a 180-kilometer (110-mile) strait, as its own and says it will not rule out using force to bring about "unification", even if conflict does not appear imminent.

Beijing has in the past slammed Lai, the current vice president, as a dangerous "separatist" and on the eve of the vote, its defence ministry vowed to "crush" any move towards Taiwanese independence.

Lai had 40.2 percent of the vote with ballots counted from 98 percent of polling stations, according to official data from Taiwan's Central Election Commission.

His main rival Hou Yu-ih of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) trailed in second place with 33.4 percent and conceded defeat.

"When the people have made their decision, we face them and we listen to the voices of the people," Hou told supporters.

Nearly 20 million people were eligible to vote, and turnout has not yet been announced.

The election was watched closely by both Beijing and Washington, Taiwan's main military partner, as the two superpowers tussle for influence in the strategically vital region.

"This is Taiwan's hard-won democracy. We should all cherish our democracy and vote enthusiastically," Lai told reporters as he voted earlier in the day in a school gymnasium in the southern city of Tainan.

Lai's victory extends DPP's...

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