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Cablegate: Kaohsiung Leaders On Upcoming Legislative and Presidential

VZCZCXRO5939
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #0020/01 0071004
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071004Z JAN 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7735
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7624
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1588
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2305
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6275
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0771
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8895

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 000020

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AIT/W, EAP/TC, INR/EAP

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TW
SUBJECT: KAOHSIUNG LEADERS ON UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE AND PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: During a January 3 trip to the south, Director
Young discussed the upcoming legislative and presidential elections
with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (DPP), Kaohsiung County Magistrate
Yang Chiu-hsing (DPP) and Kuomintang (KMT) Kaohsiung City Chairman
Hsu Fu-ming. Mayor Chen and Magistrate Yang both predicted the DPP
will fare poorly in the Legislative Yuan (LY) elections because the
new electoral system featuring smaller single member districts
disadvantages DPP candidates. They also opined that some of
President Chen Shui-bian's recent speeches have actually done damage
to the DPP's prospects. All three interlocutors indicated the
economy is the key campaign issue, saying the poor economic
performance of the ruling DPP has dampened support for its
candidates. The KMT's Hsu Fu-ming reported that presidential
candidate Ma Ying-jeou has won support from the business community
in the South for his advocacy of unfettered cross-Strait links. End
summary.

January 12 Legislative Elections
--------------------------------
2. (SBU) The new electoral system featuring smaller single member
districts is disadvantageous to DPP candidates, Mayor Chen and
Magistrate Yang separately observed. They predicted the DPP will do
poorly in the upcoming legislative elections on January 12.
President Chen's prediction that the DPP can win 45-50 of 73
district seats is too optimistic, Yang suggested, adding that the
recent campaign speeches by the President have hurt DPP prospects.
Although no one dares admonish President Chen directly, Yang
revealed that he has tried to hint to the President that he should
not talk too much during the campaign. Mayor Chen complained that
media outlets have taken sides, often distorting and exaggerating
the President's remarks. According to KMT City Chairman Hsu,
President Chen's campaign efforts are no longer effective for the
DPP, but definitely help boost KMT support, so "the KMT hopes that
he will come more often to the south."

3. (SBU) Hsu cited a recent survey indicating increased support for
KMT candidates in Kaohsiung City. The KMT has a chance to win 3 out
of 5 seats in Kaohsiung City and 2 out of 4 seats in Kaohsiung
County, he said. Magistrate Yang and Mayor Chen agreed that the DPP
and KMT might each win two seats in Kaohsiung County, while Mayor
Chen predicted the DPP will win 3 seats in Kaohsiung City. Both
Yang and Hsu believe turnout for the legislative elections will be
around 60 percent. (Note: The turnout rate in Taiwan overall in the
last two LY elections was 66 percent in 2001 and 59 percent in
2004.

Economy is the Key Issue
------------------------
4. (SBU) Rather surprisingly, both Magistrate Yang and Mayor Chen
indicated the economy, not Taiwan identity, is the main issue in the
election. According to Yang, President Chen's made a mistake last
year in not following his advice to increase government salaries.
Such a move would have led private companies to follow the
government's lead, thus easing economic hardship. The KMT's Hsu
stated that Ma Ying-jeou's policy on direct cross-Strait links has
won support from most business circles and would increase votes for
Ma during the presidential elections. Moreover, KMT vice
presidential candidate Vincent Siew is an important campaigner for
Ma in Southern Taiwan because he can address economic issues in the
Taiwanese dialect. Yang, on the other hand, indicated that Frank
Hsieh's proposed policy on lifting foreign investment limitations
for high-tech industries in China is aimed at capturing support from
swing voters. He further pointed out that the next president, no
matter who he is, may open direct air links with China, simply by
using a different name for the links.

Presidential Election - Hsieh Versus Ma
---------------------------------------
5. (SBU) Chen Chu and Yang acknowledged that President Chen has thus
far dominated the LY election campaigns, eclipsing the party's
candidate Frank Hsieh. However, they pointed out, President Chen is
just doing his job as party chairman. They predicted that Frank
Hsieh would take charge of his presidential campaign after the
January 12 legislative elections. Yang believed President Chen will
have to take responsibility for a poor performance in the
legislative elections by resigning his DPP chairmanship. Mayor Chen
commended President Chen for his diligent and passionate

TAIPEI 00000020 002 OF 002


campaigning, but stressed that the DPP party should "stay on
message" in its election campaigns. Chen emphasized that Frank
Hsieh is campaigning mostly in central and northern Taiwan since he
already has an upper hand in southern Taiwan, having served in
Kaohsiung City as Mayor from 1998-2005. As Hsieh's Kaohsiung City
campaign manager Chen Chu believes she is best positioned to do his
campaigning in Kaohsiung at this stage.

6. (SBU) Mayor Chen praised Frank Hsieh as a good administrator with
vision and political wisdom. Chen Chu and Yang predicted that Frank
Hsieh, if elected president, will definitely do a better job than
President Chen in maintaining a good relationship with the U.S. and
seeking peaceful ways to deal with China. Both Chen and Yang
reiterated that Frank Hsieh represents real Taiwan people, Yang
noting that Ma Ying-jeou was born in Hong Kong, and Ma's stance on
unification with China raises real concerns among Taiwanese. Yang
concluded that "Taiwan identity" (bentu) will still be an important
issue in the upcoming presidential election, and Mayor Chen stressed
"she was not pessimistic about Frank Hsieh's presidential
prospects."

Vote Buying
-----------
7. (SBU) Chen Chu complained that the new smaller district
constituencies make vote-buying easier in legislative elections,
benefiting the more developed and organized KMT political networks.
Vote buying is a "public secret", which indicates a lack of maturity
that continues to affect the development of Taiwan's democracy. On
the other hand, the KMT's Hsu held that his party is in no position
to buy votes since the DPP holds all the administrative resources
and the KMT has sold most of its assets. He also expressed concern
that Frank Hsieh's camp will buy votes in certain areas in Kaohsiung
to get out the vote, claiming that Hsieh has "people" to do vote
buying due to his deep connections as a former mayor.

UN Referendum
-------------
8. (SBU) Although joining the United Nation is the wish of Taiwan
people, Yang said he realizes this is a difficult task. He
mentioned with some hesitation that the two UN referenda may not
pass because a referendum requires the participation of 50 percent
of eligible voters. KMT Hsu said that although the KMT called on
people not to vote on the referenda being held simultaneously with
the legislative elections, the party may not do the same for the UN
referenda which will be held together with the presidential election
in March. The KMT fears it could be accused by the DPP of "not
loving Taiwan," which would negatively affect its presidential
candidate, Hsu explained.

China's Threat to Taiwan's Diplomatic Ties
------------------------------------------
9. (SBU) Yang expressed concern about Taiwan's loss of diplomatic
ties with some countries due to Chinese pressure. Yang said he has
advised President Chen not to make more trips abroad because these
trips often result in diplomatic loses afterwards.

Comment
--------
10. (SBU) The perception of a sub-par performance by the ruling DPP
on Taiwan's economy has indeed eroded the DPP's support to some
extent in the South. Although the KMT hopes addressing the economic
issue in its campaign will bring more support to its presidential
candidate Ma Ying-jeou, they are aware that Ma will always to
vulnerable on the Taiwan identity issue. Mayor Chen and Magistrate
Yang's expectation of a poor outcome for the DPP in the upcoming
legislative elections on January 12 echoes the predictions of many
others in southern Taiwan.

Thiele

Young

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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