Tsai Ing-wen resigned as head of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan on Saturday after her strategy to frame local elections as showing defiance to Beijing failed to pay off and win public support.
The elections for mayors, county chiefs and local councillors are ostensibly about domestic issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic and crime, and those elected will not have any direct impact on cross-strait issues.
The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) was leading or claimed victory in 13 of the 21 city mayor and county chief seats up for grabs, including Taipei, compared to the DPP's five, similar to the results of the last local elections in 2018.
"The results failed our expectations. We humbly accept the results and accept the people's decision," Tsai told reporters at party headquarters as she quit as party head, which she also did after 2018's poor results.
"It's not like the DPP has never failed before," added Tsai. "We don't have time to feel sorry. We fell, but we will stand up again."
Both the DPP and KMT, which traditionally favours closer ties with Beijing, had concentrated their campaign efforts in wealthy and populous northern Taiwan, especially Taipei, whose mayor – from the smaller Taiwan People's Party – could not run again due to term limits.
The KMT has accused Tsai and the DPP of being overly confrontational with the mainland, and during campaigning had criticised their response to the pandemic, especially after a surge in cases this year. (Agencies)