Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang, or Nationalist, Party faces its biggest test of legitimacy in an election Saturday.
Voters will cast their ballots for the first time to directly elect a majority of candidates to Taiwan's National Assembly. But the contest has become somewhat of an informal referendum on Taiwan's independence--or taidu --versus the traditional party goal of reunification with China.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the main opposition party, has been campaigning on an independence platform, but it lacks the resources and clout of the ruling party.
The Kuomintang Party (KMT) is expected to win 60% of the 225 assembly seats, vacated by its aging representatives, who have held office unchallenged since they fled the mainland in 1949 with Chiang Kai-shek to escape the communists. But the KMT needs a 75% majority to control the constitutional amendment process that the National Assembly will begin next year.
Whatever the outcome, the DPP's bold decision to take up the independence theme has encouraged free speech, as well as openly challenged Taiwan's sedition laws. That has encouraged some KMT candidates to pursue positions on constitutional reform that are closer to the DPP's than to their own party's.
Yet voters are said to be apathetic, partly because the significance of Saturday's election has not been emphasized by the government.
Meanwhile Beijing, fearful that winds of democracy may sweep across the Formosa Strait, is watching the contest. So is the rest of the world.