Taiwanese are voting in local elections that will gauge the popularity of the ruling Nationalist Party as it meets resistance to forging stronger relations with historic foe China.

Voters on the island with a population of about 23 million will elect representatives Saturday to 11,130 local seats, including mayoral posts.

A poor showing for the Nationalists would make it easier for the rival Democratic Progressive Party to win the presidency in early 2016. Such an outcome is expected to disrupt negotiations with China on trade and investment deals that have lifted Taiwan's half-trillion-dollar economy while raising Beijing's hopes for political reunification.

Beijing has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the civil war of the 1940s, keeping relations icy until Nationalist President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.