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Cablegate: Taiwan Elections: Dpp Scrambling to Consolidate Southern

VZCZCXRO6675
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #0371/01 0771029
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171029Z MAR 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8385
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7954
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1842
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2467
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6437
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1027
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 9208

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 000371

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

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

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TW
SUBJECT: TAIWAN ELECTIONS: DPP SCRAMBLING TO CONSOLIDATE SOUTHERN
SUPPORT


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: Still playing catch up, DPP presidential
candidate Frank Hsieh is scrambling to consolidate his southern
base, the cornerstone of any pan-Green candidate's electoral
support. His latest attacks on KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou's
cross-Strait economic policies have hit a sweet spot, but may not be
resonating beyond traditional deep-Green areas in the south.
Raising questions about Ma's credibility and highlighting Hsieh's
management skills have marginally helped Hsieh, but centrist voters
also do not appear to be moving decisively in the DPP's favor. With
memories of the DPP's 2004 come-from-behind effort still fresh, KMT
stalwarts are pulling out all the stops in the south. The KMT has
been carpeting the region with pro-KMT Taiwanese broadcasts and will
dispatch Ma to the south on March 16 for a large-scale evening
rally. Meanwhile, local DPP officials are lamenting both Hsieh's
chances and the state of party unity, while the pan-Green's junior
partner, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, remains on the sidelines. If
recent voting trends hold, Hsieh is likely to win the south, but may
not do so by a large enough margin to offset expected losses in the
north. End summary.

SOUTHERN STRATEGY REDUX
-----------------------

2. (SBU) With recent public opinion polls showing DPP Presidential
candidate Frank Hsieh continuing to lag behind KMT candidate Ma
Ying-Jeou island wide, the DPP campaign is re-doubling its efforts
in southern Taiwan, the DPP's traditional heartland. Hsieh needs to
win the south by a large margin to offset expected losses in the
north. In 2004, southern Taiwan helped secure President Chen's
re-election triumph, thanks to Chen's big majorities in his hometown
Tainan as well as in populous Kaohsiung, Pingtung and Chiayi. With
Hsieh still reaping southern support from his 1998-2005 tenure as
Kaohsiung mayor and his DPP running mate Su Tseng-Chang fondly
remembered from his stint as Pingtung county chief, the DPP hopes to
replicate, even improve upon, its 2004 performance in the south.

3. (SBU) However, President Chen's rocky second term and a listless
economy in rural and heavy industrial areas which comprise large
areas of the south have dented the DPP's popularity there and
hindered the DPP's efforts to energize its core voters.
Furthermore, Ma has focused on trying to build support in the south
by campaigning extensively there and going on "long stays," which
some polls show boosted Ma's popularity. The KMT's January 2008
Legislative Yuan elections landslide hinted at further challenges
for the DPP in the south, with the KMT making inroads among voters
in Kaohsiung and Chiayi, while many disaffected southern deep-Green
voters opted to stay home.

THREE-PART HARMONY
------------------

4. (SBU) Throughout the fall of 2007, Hsieh's campaign failed to
ignite the same degree of passion that the south's deep-Green voters
displayed for Chen in 2000 and 2004. Although DPP rank-and-file
were initially critical of Hsieh's lackluster campaigning, they tell
us that recently Hsieh's focus on the dangers of Ma's "one-China
market," attacks on Ma's credibility, and emphasis on Hsieh's
experience as Kaohsiung mayor have found resonance with many
southern voters. In the campaign's final week, the DPP plans to
press these three themes aggressively at major rallies on March 16
and continuing up to election day.

ONE-CHINA MARKET BLUES
----------------------

5. (SBU) The "One-China Market" issue has resonated most loudly in
the south and allowed the DPP to mobilize southern deep-Green
voters, particularly in areas with labor-intensive industries,
fishing and agricultural production. In Kaohsiung, large DPP
banners have been appearing throughout the city, with catchy slogans
such as "Safeguard our Jobs; oppose the One-China Market."
Pro-Green underground radio stations, highly influential across the
rural south, have gleefully picked up the drumbeat, charging
sensationally that the "One-China Market" will "deprive men of jobs,
take husbands away from women and force children to become military
conscripts in Heilongjiang."

6. (SBU) Nevertheless, local contacts tell us that although the

TAIPEI 00000371 002 OF 003


"one-China market" attacks have dented Ma in the south, its primary
effect remains limited to boosting Hsieh's popularity among the
region's core deep-Green constituency. Most of our interlocutors
agree that angst about the "one-China market" will help the DPP
mobilize its southern base and stimulate voter turnout in the south,
but is not sufficient enough to bring wavering southern light-Green
voters back into the fold, convince them to show up in large numbers
at the polls on election day, and turn the region's centrist voters
towards the DPP. Without something more, they stress, Hsieh will be
hard pressed to duplicate President Chen's crucial winning margins
in the south.

MA'S GREEN CARD VS. HSIEH'S SUBWAY
----------------------------------

7. (SBU) DPP campaigners in the south are still pursuing an earlier
line of attack based on Ma's lingering green-card controversy,
although the Central Election Commission's recent announcement that
Ma does not have U.S. citizenship has blunted these attacks. A
Kaohsiung City Council contact told AIT/K on March 13 that internal
DPP polling in the south revealed no significant decline in Ma's
southern support over the green card issue. As a result, he
explained, the DPP has shifted the focus of its attack away from
Ma's nationality towards his credibility, consistency and crisis
management skills. Nevertheless, our DPP contacts believe that Ma's
inability to shake off completely the green card affair leaves him
open to questioning his "Taiwan-first" credentials, a fundamental
theme among the south's identity-conscious deep-Green constituency.


8. (SBU) Meanwhile, local DPP officials hope that highlighting
Hsieh's achievements as Kaohsiung mayor will contrast favorably with
Ma's handling of his green card matter. Local Kaohsiung
commentators largely agreed that the Kaohsiung subway's long-awaited
March 10 opening was a boon to Hsieh, who initiated the project and
maneuvered it through a spate of early controversies. Although the
KMT accused Hsieh of financial impropriety durin the subway's
construction, local DPP officials prominently credited Hsieh's role
during the subway's formal opening day, when more than 200,000
riders sampled the gleaming new system. Nevertheless, one local KMT
contact predicted that Hsieh's benefit from the subway opening would
be short lived and suggested that the issue would not reverberate
beyond Kaohsiung, which itself remained almost evenly divided
between pan-Green and pan-Blue voters.

KMT COUNTERATTACK - IN TAIWANESE
--------------------------------

9. (SBU) Sensing the effect of stepped up DPP attacks in the south
and wary of the DPP's potential to close strongly, local KMT
officials are fighting back. Although still unable to break the
phalanx of pro-Green underground radio stations, the KMT has bought
up large chunks of time on legal local radio stations to rebut DPP
charges. The broadcasts are invariably in Taiwanese and enlist
prominent national and local KMT politicians. One ad features the
voice of Ma's running mate and Chiayi-native Vincent Siew, who
laments the DPP's "distortion" of KMT economic policy and highlights
the KMT's promise to revive Taiwan's economy. Another ad has local
KMT City Councilor Wang Ling-Chiao asserting that ongoing DPP rule
will accelerate economic decline, "forcing more husbands to leave
their wives to look for work abroad."

10. (SBU) To combat the proliferation of local DPP banners opposing
the "one-China market" in Kaohsiung, the KMT has put up its own
billboards saying "Ma will NEVER import labor from China." In
Kaohsiung County, local KMT factions have banded to together to
counter the "one-China market" charges. In the south's rural areas,
the KMT has deployed fleets of small vehicles armed with megaphones
blaring loud rebuttals in Taiwanese. Furthermore, Ma's wife has
entered the south's campaign arena for the first time, pressing the
flesh on March 13 at one of Kaohsiung's largest night markets. The
KMT's largest evening rally on March 16 is planned for Kaohsiung and
will feature Ma and some of the KMT leadership.

PAN-GREEN FRAYING IN THE SOUTH
------------------------------

11. (SBU) Local DPP contacts continue to paint the Hsieh campaign
in the best light, but most acknowledge the likelihood Hsieh will
lose. The Pingtung County magistrate told AIT/K Chief on March 11

TAIPEI 00000371 003 OF 003


that while the DPP ticket will hold the line in traditionally
Green-leaning Pingtung County, he was pessimistic about Hsieh's
prospects overall. Some of our DPP contacts even suggest that Hsieh
may lose Kaohsiung City, and even if he wins Kaohsiung, the margin
will be razor thin. Recently, the previously DPP-leaning Kaohsiung
Teacher's Association announced it would support Ma. In a March 14
news interview, Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu acknowledged that unlike
2004, DPP factional infighting, alleged Chen family corruption, a
sluggish economy, and internal pan-Green disputes with the Taiwan
Solidarity Union (TSU) were hobbling Hsieh's southern campaign
effort.

12. (SBU) Southern TSU officials tell us there is no indication
that the national party will formally endorse Hsieh until after the
March 16 rallies, if at all. Prominent southern TSU legislator Lo
Chi-Ming's recent defection from the TSU to the KMT was for personal
gain, they emphasize, and not a sign of the TSU trending towards the
KMT. Most TSU rank and file in the south continue to campaign for
Hsieh on their own and await a signal from TSU spiritual leader Lee
Teng-Hui. Some local academics say that Lee may in fact have helped
Ma by saying that the "one-China market" would be unacceptable to
Beijing because it implies a "state-to-state" arrangement.

COMMENT
-------

13. (SBU) Hsieh is counting on winning big in the south to defeat
Ma, but our contacts make clear the DPP may fall short. Voting
trends in the last few local elections suggest Hsieh will win less
populous Tainan and Pingtung counties, but split the larger areas of
Kaohsiung and Kaohsiung County. Chiayi, a key swing area, also
appears to be up for grabs. The upcoming March 16 activities are
perhaps Hsieh's last major opportunity to stir up southern
enthusiasm and give supporters a reason to come out and vote on
March 22.

Castro

Young

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