Severe electoral backlash for the ruling party in Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has resigned as head of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (PDP) after a severe defeat in the local elections on Saturday.

The polls, which took place a little over a year from the presidential election, are closely followed by the Chinese authorities, who have been putting intense pressure on the head of the executive since his inauguration in 2016.

Tsai Ing-wen and his government have repeatedly criticized Beijing for interfering in the campaign, citing "political harassment" and spreading "false information."

The PDP lost the mayor of Taichung, the second largest city on the island, and that of Kaohsiung, in the south of the country, which it had held for 20 years.

The Kuomintang, the nationalist movement closest to Beijing and the main opposition party, won in both cities. The PDP, however, was renewed at the head of the municipalities of Tainan in the South and Taoyuan in the North.

"The pursuit of reforms, the quest for freedom and democracy, and the protection of sovereignty are missions that the PDP will not give up," promised the president, who refused the resignation of his prime minister, William Lai.

"It's a tragic defeat for the PDP, but it does not reflect the people's support for the Kuomintang but its disappointment with the PDP," said Yao Chia-wen, a senior adviser to Tsai Ing. -wen, referring to delays in pension and justice reforms.

The counting continues in Taipei, where outgoing mayor Ko Wen-je, who does not belong to any party, is neck and neck with Ting Shou-chung, the Kuomintang candidate. That of the PDP would be third.

(Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee, Eric Faye for French service)