Taiwan rejects same-sex marriage in referendum

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"I think if this year, in 2018, if the Nationalists smoothly win Taiwan's city and county elections, that has some warning effects on the party in power, to let them know they've made mistakes in the past two years", said Taipei voter Hong Wei-chi, 40, a marketing specialist.

The office's Taiwanese counterpart fired back swiftly, saying the elections - along with referendums on topics such as same-sex marriage and Taiwan's name used at the Olympics - were an "internal affair whose results testified to the mature development of Taiwan's democracy".

The Beijing-friendly main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) made gains in the face of China's increasing pressure on the island.

Voters approved a separate measure Saturday calling for a "different process" to protect same-sex unions.

If voters decide on civil unions, we'll likely see court battles by LGBTQ activists looking to achieve full equality and contesting any treatment of civil unions as less than full-fledged marriages.

But surveys have consistently shown that Taiwanese people prefer not to have to choose between one or the other; instead they favour the middle ground.

The government earlier said the Saturday referendum would not affect it bringing in the changes required by the court ruling.

Last year, Taiwan's highest court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry and set a two-year deadline for legalization.

As Saturday's conservative referendums passed the threshold of 25 percent of eligible voters, the government must by law take steps to reflect the result.

Accusations of Beijing meddling dominated Tsai and the DPP's pre-election campaigning as they accused China of a "fake news" onslaught, which Beijing has denied.

The result is a major upset for President Tsai Ing-wen, who has resigned as party leader, and could indicate a victory for the KMT in 2020's presidential and parliamentary elections.

Former New Taipei Deputy Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) of the Kuomintang (KMT) has become the city's new mayor after beating his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rival, former Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), in Saturday's election.

The scale of the defeat was far greater than forecast, with the DPP losing seven cities and counties of the 13 they held - including its traditional bastions of Kaohsiung and Yilan.

The Taipei mayoral seat is still to be announced. Taiwan is not recognized as a country by most countries; although it is a de facto independent state, China sees it as a renegade province.

The DPP is traditionally pro-independence and Tsai has refused to acknowledge Beijing s stance that Taiwan is part of "one China", unlike her KMT predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.

Taiwan's relations with China have deteriorated since Tsai came to power in 2016.

Observers said the DPP's shock defeat in local polls was an indictment of policies they felt had not helped ordinary people.

Observers agreed Tsai's re-election prospects had been severely weakened although some said she still had a chance to run, in the absence of an obvious successor. With the pension cuts, labour reforms, and the tensions with mainland China, it is only natural for uncertainty and dissatisfaction with current leadership to surface in the time of the local election.

"She will need to express clearly that Taiwan is happy to bolster cooperation with the USA, while she also needs to make it clear that Taiwan is not trying to lock horns with China" said Jou Yi-cheng, who was once a speechwriter for former President Chen Shui-bian, a DPP member.