November 29, 2014 / 11:33 AM / 4 years ago

Candidate backed by pro-independence party claims victory in Taipei mayor race

TAIPEI (Reuters) - An independent candidate backed by Taiwan’s opposition, pro-independence party on Saturday claimed victory in local elections as the next mayor of Taipei, breaking the ruling party’s 16-year hold on the island’s capital.

The win by Ko Wen-je, 55, a trauma surgeon, is a setback for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) ahead of a presidential election in less than two years. Ko defeated KMT candidate Sean Lien, the son of a wealthy, politically-connected family.

The race for the mayor’s job had been widely interpreted as a test of confidence in the China-friendly government of Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou.

“Professor Ko will deliver his acceptance speech,” Liu Shi-chung, a media liaison for Ko’s campaign, told Reuters. Ko will give his speech at 1130 GMT, Liu said.

Every Taiwan president has been a former mayor of Taipei after the island introduced direct presidential elections in 1996.

“We congratulate Mr Ko,” Lien said in his concession speech. “I’m sorry I didn’t win this election.”

Taiwan citizens went to the polls to elect mayors and councillors for a record 11,130 seats across the island.

The final results, which have yet to be confirmed by the Central Election Commission, are expected from 1200 GMT.

(This story has been refiled to change the headline)

Reporting by Faith Hung and Michael Gold; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Clelia Oziel

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