Taiwan incumbent in tough re-election fight

January 12, 2012 - 3:31 AM
Taiwan Presidential Election

Taiwan's President and Nationalist Party's presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou gestures as he speaks during an international press conference at the party's campaign headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. Taiwan will hold its presidential election on Saturday, Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has delighted Beijing and Washington with his efforts to pivot from confrontation to peacemaking with the authoritarian government in China, a rival in an unresolved Chinese civil war.

The question is: Will that be enough for the voters of Taiwan?

Ma faces an unexpectedly tough bid for re-election Saturday. His main challenger, Tsai Ing-wen, has run a smart and effective campaign, exploiting complaints by middle- and working-class Taiwanese that the economic benefits of Ma's China embrace have largely passed them by.

Opinion surveys published a week ago — the last permitted under Taiwanese law — showed Ma clinging to a narrow 3-4 point lead, despite Tsai's never having won an election for public office in Taiwan.