After an overwhelming election victory for Taiwan's opposition party, political leaders from all sides say the island should back away from its stance seeking independence from China.

President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party won only six of 23 mayoral and county posts in Saturday's vote. The opposition Nationalist Party and its allies won all 17 of the remaining races, nearly three times as many seats as the DPP.

Su Tseng-Chang, the chairman of the ruling party called the poor showing a severe setback and has offered his resignation.

The DPP says safeguarding Taiwan's sovereignty is its main priority, and it has strongly resisted Beijing's demands that the island accept Chinese rule. Following the vote, however, even lawmakers from Mr. Chen's party are calling for better relations with the mainland.

Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, split from China in 1949 after a civil war. The communist government in Beijing claims the island as part of its own territory, and has repeatedly threatened to use force if Taiwan moves toward formal independence.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.