2 women to vie in Taiwan presidential election

TAIPEI: The top two political parties in Taiwan have each nominated a woman for president in 2016, a historic first signaling acceptance of female leadership and kicking off a campaign highlighted so far by clashing views on ties with political rival China.

Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party on Sunday picked Hung Hsiu-chu, a former teacher and current deputy legislative speaker, to run in the January election. The candidate supportive of friendly relations with China will run against Tsai Ing-wen, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman and an advocate of more cautious relations with Beijing. Tsai leads in opinion polls ahead of the January 2016 election.

Ties with Beijing, long icy but cordial since 2008, have shaped up as an early campaign issue.

Taiwan, democratic since the late 1980s, has never elected a woman as president nor had a choice between two female candidates backed by the major parties.

Joanna Lei, chief executive officer of the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank in Taiwan, said that some younger women struggle to advance in Taiwan. However, she says society accepts the leadership of women over age 50 as they historically ran clans in China, where Taiwan's culture originates.

Women manage 10 government departments and some of Taiwan's top companies. One third of Taiwanese legislators are female, compared to 13 percent in Japan and 16 percent in South Korea, said Sean King, senior vice president with the consultancy Park Strategies in New York.

Elsewhere in Asia, Park Geun-hye took office two years ago as South Korea's first female president, and Sheikh Hasina is currently the prime minister of Bangladesh. Women had also been elected to the highest office in the Philippines, Thailand and India.