Taipei: Taiwan`s President Ma Ying-jeou announced Tuesday that he will step down as chairman of the ruling party in the wake of an "unprecedented huge defeat" at the island`s biggest ever local elections.
The Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), which Ma has chaired since 2009, suffered massive losses at the polls on Saturday -- seen as a key barometer ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
The KMT lost five of Taiwan`s six large municipalities -- the most hotly contested seats -- in the local polls. It only retains control of six out of 22 cities and counties, compared to 15 prior to the polls.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took 47.5 percent of the votes cast across the island Saturday, with the KMT on 40.7 percent.
Ma, who has faced mounting calls for his resignation following the defeats, told party members that he would formally announce his resignation at a top party meeting on Wednesday.
"As the chairman I am willing to shoulder the upmost responsibility after (the party) suffers an unprecedented huge defeat ... I will formally relinquish my duties as chairman tomorrow," Ma was quoted as saying in a statement.
Ma reiterated his apology for "letting everyone down" and urged the party to remain clam stand united at this difficult time.
"We lost an election but we can`t lose the people`s trust in the KMT. We will decide if the KMT will be defeated or not. We will never be defeated if we can reflect and reform.
We will humbly listen to the people`s voices and we will bravely shoulder the responsiblities in the future."
Ma took the KMT leadership in 2009, a year after his triumph at the presidential elections ending the DPP`s eight-year rule.
Since Ma came to power on a Beijing-friendly platform, frosty ties between Beijing and Taipei have warmed leading to a boom of Chinese visitors as well as expanded trade links.
However, analysts say a slowing economy, a string of food scandals and growing fears over Chinese influence has sparked widespread dissatisfaction with the KMT that led to its defeat in the polls.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification -- by force if necessary.