A new start, but also a return to normality. The two seemingly contradictory phrases can be used to describe future relations between the mainland and Taiwan following Ma Ying-jeou's election victory. Mr Ma's landslide win against Frank Hsieh Chang-ting of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party has no doubt raised hopes of closer economic co-operation and a resumption of political talks across the strait. Taiwanese stocks are likely to experience a wild rally when the market opens today. Investors had been buying stocks ahead of the poll, betting on Mr Ma's Kuomintang party. But any overt optimism that an end to the hostility and tension between the two sides might be in sight will be misplaced. More than anything, Mr Ma's victory signals a return to the normality of delicate and emotionally charged cross-strait relations after eight years of tumultuous ups and downs under President Chen Shui-bian. Still, the KMT victory could not have come at a better time for the mainland leadership, which is under mounting international pressure over its handling of the riots in Tibet and other provinces where Tibetans live. Mainland leaders should be relieved that Mr Hsieh's tactic of trying to use the unrest to scare voters into not voting for Mr Ma failed. They should also be toasting the defeat of the referendums over the question of whether Taiwan should seek to join the United Nations. As Mr Ma trumpeted better ties with the mainland as one of his core campaign pledges, his convincing win suggests Taiwan's voters want rapprochement. In a press conference yesterday, he said he backed the 1992 consensus under which both sides accepted the principle of 'one China' but agreed to interpret it their own ways. Mr Ma said he would seek direct flights, allow more mainland tourists to visit Taiwan, and expand the financial links between the two sides. He also promised to work for a peace treaty with the mainland. Although initial reactions from Beijing have been muted, it is expected to respond positively to Mr Ma's proposals, not least because it has repeatedly said it would talk to Taiwan over any issue under the 'one China' principle. Economists and businessmen are now envisioning rosier prospects ahead, with many talking about the possibilities of a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement - similar to the agreement the mainland and Hong Kong signed to facilitate cross-border trade and investment - and a much more ambitious goal of setting up a common market modelled on Europe. Some are even optimistic that the thornier issue of political reconciliation will also be tackled. But the progress on those changes is likely to be slow. While the overseas media may have focused on Mr Ma's policies towards the mainland to explain his win, Mr Ma was swept to victory also because of Mr Chen's disastrous economic policies and the island's weak economy. Taiwanese voters, anxious for a change of leadership after eight years of Mr Chen's divisive rule, have elected Mr Ma to focus on fixing the economic problems and improve their livelihoods more than political reconciliation with the mainland. While Mr Ma is faced with the very difficult task of steering the economy, he also has another equally, if not more, difficult task - repairing the island's political divide. Over the past eight years, Mr Chen and the DPP have made significant progress in sharpening and highlighting the so-called Taiwan identity among the people and playing down its historical links with the mainland. Any hasty push for warmer political ties with the mainland by Mr Ma could backfire. The Taiwanese people may want better economic and trade ties with the mainland, but on the political front they may simply want the status quo restored and solidified so that they can focus on developing the economy and having a better standard of living.