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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s China-friendly Nationalist Party has elected its first female leader after ousting her as its presidential candidate ahead of January elections that were won by pro-independence rivals.

The Kuomintang had ditched Hung Hsiu-chu as her abrasive style and strongly pro-China positions were seen as alienating voters. The veteran legislator and former teacher was elected as leader over three other candidates Saturday and likely faces a difficult time rebuilding the party after its January electoral defeat.

Hung takes over from Eric Chu, who was the party’s eventual presidential candidate and who resigned as party chairman after the defeat.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Hung from Beijing, saying he hoped the two parties would continue to oppose “Taiwan independence,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

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Beijing claims the self-governing island of Taiwan as its own, and relations between the two improved under the Nationalists, which governed Taiwan over the last eight years and promoted pro-China policies.

The independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, won the presidential election, and her party also gained a decisive parliamentary majority.

Tsai, who will be inaugurated as president in May, has refused to meet Beijing’s demand that she endorse its claim that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

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