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Cablegate: South Taiwan Races Intense but Voters Subdued

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 003944

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
DEPT FOR EAP/TC

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TW
SUBJECT: South Taiwan Races Intense but Voters Subdued

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) On the eve of Taiwan's legislative elections,
Southern Taiwan's races are intensely competitive,
though most analysts predict little change in the
overall Pan-Green/Pan-Blue ratio of seats here. For
all but the top one or two candidates in each district,
the races in much of the South remain very close, with
factors such as vote allocation, vote buying and the
impact of independents, making the outcomes difficult
to predict. Overall voter interest is weak, however,
with voter turnout expected to be low. Violence, once
a regular feature of Southern Taiwan elections, has
been minimal. Major rallies held in Kaohsiung City and
County on December 9 featuring President Chen
highlighted the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
Kaohsiung Incident, but were remarkably subdued. End
Summary.

Many Races Remain Too Close to Call
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) On the eve of Taiwan's legislative elections,
many Southern Taiwan races remain too close to call,
particularly in Kaohsiung City (11 seats) and County (9
seats), and Tainan and Pingtung Counties (8 and 6 seats
respectively). In each of these areas, only a couple
candidates appear strong enough to win with comfortable
margins, with the bulk of the remaining candidates all
within reach of the few thousand votes likely necessary
to win a seat. The impact of vote allocation
arrangements, hidden vote buying, and independent
candidates (who score high in name recognition, but may
not necessarily do well at the polls), is
unpredictable. However, most local political analysts
expect the overall current balance in Southern Taiwan
between Pan-Green and Pan-Blue legislative seats to
change very little. Pan-Green parties currently hold
28 of the 48 seats in Southern Taiwan, or just under 60
percent.

Rallies Marked Kaohsiung Incident Anniversary
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Major rallies were held by the ruling
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Kaohsiung County
and City on December 9. The rallies featured President
Chen and other key DPP figures, including Premier Yu
Hsi-kun, Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh, DPP Secretary
General Chang Chun-hsiung, and Presidential Office
Secretary General Su Tseng-chang. In Kaohsiung County,

SIPDIS
Chen appeared on-stage with all five of the DPP's
candidates and emphasized the importance of voters
allocating their votes according to their
identification card numbers, to ensure all five DPP
candidates would win. The two Taiwan Solidarity Union
(TSU) candidates were not included, as the Pan-Green
parties are not cooperating on vote allocation in
Kaohsiung County.

5. (SBU) In Kaohsiung City, a march and rally on
December 9 highlighted the 25th anniversary of the
Kaohsiung Incident. Attendance at the march was
extremely low and, as a result, it was shortened.
Attendance at the evening rally was also much lower
than expected. AIT/K estimates around 20,000, mostly
older Pan-Green supporters, were present. The crowd
responded positively to President Chen's remarks, which
reiterated familiar Chen campaign themes including the
call for replacing "China" with "Taiwan" in the names
of state-owned enterprises and overseas representative
offices, which he pledged to push provided the Pan-
Green had a legislative majority.

6. (SBU) Noting that he had been proud to serve as
defense counsel to the victims of the Kaohsiung
Incident, Chen urged voters to give the Pan-Green a
legislative majority so Taiwan could continue its march
toward democracy. With a legislative majority, Chen
said, he would move to put into place a constitution by
2008 suitable for Taiwan's situation. Chen also
pledged to establish a Taiwan National Human Rights
Commission, a National Human Rights Hall and a Taiwan
Truth Investigation Committee. The latter, Chen
implied, would investigate events during KMT rule in
which dissidents were mistreated, including the
Kaohsiung Incident.

7. (SBU) Overall, participants were not nearly as
enthusiastic as in similar rallies held earlier this
year for the Presidential election. Surprisingly, a
significant number of participants actually stood up
and left in the middle of President Chen's remarks, due
to the late hour.

Campaigning Intense, But Violence Minimal
-----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Although the close races in many parts of the
South have given a frenetic pace to some of the
candidates' campaigns, there have been almost no
clashes between supporters of opposing sides. One
exception was in Pingtung County on December 9, when a
People-first Party (PFP) candidate led supporters to
the local DPP headquarters to protest remarks by a DPP
candidate. Some pushing and shoving between protestors
and Pan-Green supporters occurred, but police equipped
with riot gear kept the two sides apart mostly. There
were a few injuries, but the incident did not last
long. Despite this and a few other confrontations that
involved yelling between supporters of opposing
candidates, there is no indication that any major
violence is likely to occur.

Low Voter Turnout Expected
--------------------------

9. (SBU) Overall, the races in Southern Taiwan, even
though intensely competitive, do not appear to have
fired up the voters. A common theme AIT/K has heard in
discussions with local political officials and voters
throughout the South is that there is little public
interest and enthusiasm in this election, outside of
core campaign workers. Weariness from the presidential
campaign and its aftermath earlier this year is a major
factor. Also, the low public opinion of the
legislature is also playing a role; a just-released
Gallup/Transparency International poll showed 63
percent of Taiwan voters consider the Taiwan
legislature as the institution most influenced by
corruption. None of the local party officials or
political analysts AIT met expected voter turnout in
this election to exceed 65 percent, and in many areas
expected it to be closer to 60 percent.

Comment - Another Vigorous Taiwan Election
------------------------------------------

10. (SBU) The intensely-waged campaigns underway in
Southern Taiwan for tomorrow's legislative election
demonstrate again the vitality of Taiwan's democracy.
The lack of violence, once common in hotly-contested
Taiwan elections in the South, is notable. It may
reflect a maturing of the democratic process here, with
election campaigns being seen more and more as a
regular, routine part of political life. On the other
hand, it may also be a result of the general lower
level of interest and enthusiasm local voters have
demonstrated toward this year's legislative campaigns.

Forden

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