Taiwan’s Ma re-elected ruling party chairman
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Taiwan’s Ma re-elected ruling party chairman

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected Saturday as chairman of the ruling Nationalist Party.

Ma ran unopposed. Some 380,000 Nationalist members were eligible to vote.

Ma is scheduled to complete his second presidential term in May 2016. Term limits prevent him from running again.

Ma’s re-election as Nationalist Party head prevents any of his would-be successors in the Nationalist ranks from getting a leg up in the 2016 presidential race.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah, Vice President Wu Den-yih, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin and Xinbei City Mayor Eric Chu have all been mentioned as potential presidential candidates for the Nationalists.

The Nationalist standard-bearer will run against a still undetermined candidate from the rival Democratic Progressive Party in the general election.

The Nationalists favor closer ties with China, from which Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, while the DPP seeks to maintain Taiwan’s de facto independence, despite China’s insistence that the democratic island of 23 million people be brought back into the fold — by persuasion if possible and force if necessary.

Since 1895, when Japan began 50 years of colonial rule, mainland China has maintained direct rule over Taiwan for only four years.