Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party says President Ma Ying-jeou is stepping down as party chairman following stiff defeats in local elections over the weekend.

A statement issued Tuesday by the Nationalists in Ma's name says he holds himself responsible for the defeat and feels it is time to pass the torch after nine years as chairman.

The Nationalists lost nine city and county elections, including in longtime strongholds Taipei, the capital, and the major central city of Taichung. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party picked up seven of those seats, with independents winning two others.