TAIPEI (AFP) – Taiwan’s cabinet resigned en masse Monday after the ruling party suffered a massive defeat at the island’s biggest ever local elections.
The ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) had their power slashed across Taiwan at the key polls Saturday, with Premier Jiang Yi-huah quitting hours after the disastrous result – seen as a key barometer ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
In the wake of Jiang’s resignation, Taiwan’s 81-strong cabinet formally stepped down Monday morning.
The current cabinet members will continue to serve as caretakers until a new line-up is selected by the next premier, who is likely to be chosen by embattled President Ma Ying-jeou in the coming days.
“As the cabinet is now entering into the caretaking period, I want to implore you to continue carrying out your roles until the new cabinet is formed… Hopefully the period won’t last too long,” Jiang said in a statement.
Although he defended the performance of his team, Jiang admitted that “voters were not happy”.
The KMT has been struggling with growing public fears over increased influence from China, with ties warming since Ma took over in 2008.
A slowing economy and a string of food scandals has also angered voters.
The KMT lost five of Taiwan’s six large municipalities – the most hotly contested seats – in its worst ever polls performance.
Its main rival, the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took 47.5 per cent of the votes cast across the nation, with the KMT on 40.7.
There were 11,130 seats at all levels of local government up for grabs with 18 million eligible voters – turnout was 67.5 per cent.
Since Ma came to power on a China-friendly platform, frosty ties between Beijing and Taipei have warmed, leading to a tourist boom of Chinese visitors to Taiwan as well as expanded trade links.
But there is public anxiety at the closer relationship. A proposed services trade pact with the mainland sparked mass student-led protests and a three-week occupation of Taiwan’s parliament earlier this year.
China has urged Taiwan to “push forward” with cross-Strait relations in the wake of the vote.