Dr Tsai Ing-wen, the chairwoman of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, may have secured a ticket to the 2012 presidential election after an impressive win in yesterday's local polls. The 53-year-old academic turned politician succeeded in leading her party to add an extra top local post in the northeastern county of Ilan to the three posts it holds in the southern county of Pingtung and southwestern counties of Chiayi and Yunlin. Winning back Ilan, a key constituency the DPP held for 24 years until the KMT claimed victory there in 2005, has long been on the DPP's wish list, and securing it will be seen as a big achievement. Tsai had declared Ilan a key battlefield while campaigning for the DPP's candidate, Lin Tsung-hsien, who defeated his KMT counterpart, magistrate Lu Kuo-hua, to take back the county. Hsinchu and Hualien were the other two main battlefields. 'The electoral victory has made her [Tsai] the common leader of the pro-independence camp,' said Wang Kung-yi, professor of international strategic studies at Taiwan's Tamkang University. 'If she is able to lead the DPP to win the more important, special municipality elections next year, she should be able to secure her position as the DPP's unchallenged standard-bearer in the 2012 presidential election.' Taiwan will hold elections in Taipei city and four municipalities - Tainan, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Taipei county - next year. It has not always been an easy ride for Tsai, who has been a DPP member for five years. Her attempt to clean up the DPP's image after the corruption scandal surrounding former president Chen Shui-bian has often been undermined by Chen's supporters, insisting the party must not distance itself from the jailed former leader. 'The victory should enable her to push through the reform she wants and restore the party's image,' said Hsu Yung-ming of the Taiwan Think Tank. But analysts said that Tsai faced competition for the DPP's 2012 presidential election nomination. Possible contenders include former premiers Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting and Yu Shyi-kun, former vice-president Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, and Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu.