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Cablegate: Kaohsiung Mayoral Race: Acting Mayor and Mayoral

VZCZCXRO8608
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #3960/01 3310514
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 270514Z NOV 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3179
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5987
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0566
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1544
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5516
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 9748
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7207

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 003960

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

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

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TW
SUBJECT: Kaohsiung Mayoral Race: Acting Mayor and Mayoral
Candidates Assess Election Prospects

Ref: 2006 Taipei 3674

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) Summary: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen
Chu and Kuomintang Party (KMT) candidate Huang Chun-ying told DDIR
separately on November 21 that the critical Kaohsiung mayoral race
remains too close to call and the final outcome could hinge on just
5,000 votes. Chen was concerned that Lo Chih-ming, the other Green
candidate representing the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), could
siphon off enough deep Green votes to allow Huang to squeeze out a
victory. Corruption scandals plaguing the DPP administration have
dampened the enthusiasm of Green supporters, but in a race this
close, last minute developments that energize either party's base or
affect centrist voter turnout could tip the election in either
direction. End Summary.

A Neck and Neck Race
--------------------

2. (SBU) In separate meetings with AIT Deputy Director Wang on
November 21, KMT candidate Huang Chun-ying and DPP candidate Chen
Chu were in agreement that the election is closer than anyone could
have imagined at the outset of the race. Both suggested that the
margin of victory could be as close as 5,000 votes. Chen contended
that she beats Huang on personal charisma and administrative
ability, characterizing herself as a decisive, tough, and clean
leader. DPP Acting Mayor Yeh Chu-lan, however, told the DDIR that
both candidates are good people and there is little difference in
their campaign platforms. According to Yeh, Chen is not opposed to
opening up cross-strait economic exchanges, which Huang has
highlighted as the key to improving Kaohsiung's economy. In fact,
Yeh said, no politician is oblivious to the need for the "three
links" or the fact that Taiwan has heavily invested in China.
However, Taiwan politicians cannot simply relinquish the issue of
sovereignty in order to negotiate with China, Yeh added.

Tensions Between Pan-Green Candidates
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Chen Chu observed that TSU candidate Lo Chih-ming may play
a pivotal role in the election by splitting the Green vote. As few
as 20,000 votes cast for Lo could cost her the election and hand
Huang a victory, Chen lamented. The deep tension between Chen and
Lo came to the fore during a televised debate on November 29 when,
at one point, Chen asked Lo if he would support her given his own
low support ratings. Lo retorted that Chen's request was
undemocratic since he could not abandon his party or supporters
merely to help the DPP win the election. Voters, he said, have a
right to make their own choice among all candidates.

Corruption Issue Affects the Kaohsiung Campaign
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) Chen Chu acknowledged that corruption scandals plaguing
the Presidential Office and the DPP's poor performance over the last
six years have negatively affected her chances in the mayoral race.
Huang charged the DPP is attempting to mitigate the corruption issue
by comparing KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's recent troubles regarding
the use of a special mayoral allowance with the case against
President Chen. Such a comparison is "ridiculous," Huang
maintained. Acting Mayor Yeh Chu-lan, however, argued that the two
cases are similar and the irregularities proved that there are
systemic problems in the use of administrative special accounts that
need to be addressed. Yeh also suggested that disunity within the
DPP, highlighted by the recent resignation of two prominent DPP
legislators from Chen Chu's faction, has hurt Chen.

Key Battleground
----------------

5. (SBU) Chen Chu said she would not resort to playing the Taiwan
identity card to mobilize voters because its use in the past has
aggravated tensions and polarized society. Instead, her team plans
to launch a last minute emotional appeal to energize voters and
raise voter turnout. The KMT's Huang, however, said he fully
expects the DPP to pull out some last minute surprises because it
cannot afford to lose this battle in what has come to be seen as a
DPP stronghold. Although unsure of what the DPP might do, Huang
said his campaign is preparing to respond quickly to last minute

TAIPEI 00003960 002 OF 002


attacks. Acting Mayor Yeh Chu-lan in an earlier meeting (reftel)
had indicated that a DPP loss in Kaohsiung would lead to DPP
Chairman You Shyi-kun's resignation and likely precipitate a power
struggle within the party.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) The Kaohsiung election continues to be too close to call,
despite the sense on the street that the KMT is poised to win. Both
candidates will continue to fight to the bitter end because the
election is still in play and out of concern that any last-minute
minor fluctuations could tilt the outcome in either direction.

THIELE

YOUNG

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