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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Mayoral Elections

VZCZCXYZ0047
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #4125/01 3482241
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 142241Z DEC 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3448
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6099
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7327

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 004125

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: TAIWAN'S MAYORAL ELECTIONS


Summary: As the aftermath of last Saturday's Taipei and Kaohsiung
mayoral elections stayed in the spotlight of the Taiwan media, news
coverage on December 14 also focused on former Presidential Office
deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan, who was sentenced to 12 years
in prison for accepting bribes; and on the opening of the trial of
First Lady Wu Shu-chen Friday, who was indicted for involvement in
the Presidential Office Allowance for State Affairs case. In terms
of editorials and commentaries, the Taiwan dailies continued to
editorialize on the mayoral election outcomes. An editorial in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" discussed the relationship
between KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and his party and the challenges
facing them. An editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative,
pro-unification, English-language "China Post" said the results of
last Saturday's elections meant no setback for the KMT. An
editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times," however, urged the KMT to "become
pro-localization" and to "ditch its outdated 'one China' policy."
End summary.

A) "Oil and Water: Have Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT Ever Become One?"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (12/14):

"Last Saturday's elections have not only failed to straighten out
the complicated situation facing the KMT but have made it more
confusing. The situation now facing Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT is:
First, externally, they will likely face strong challenges of a
'Su-Hsieh ticket' or a 'Hsieh-Su ticket,' and second, internally,
Ma's alleged misuse of the special mayoral allowance case will
further complicate the KMT's primary for the 2008 presidential
elections. [The KMT] is facing serious troubles both within and
without. ...

"... This paper's editorial pointed out yesterday that Ma's strength
is in reality his weakness. Ma is unique and exceptional when
viewed from one perspective, but he is also solitary and a lonely
soul if viewed from another perspective. Ma is a political figure
who was full of glamour when he visited the United States but is
incapable of igniting the grass-root voters. One would probably
view him as lacking nativism, but that's just because he refused to
advocate the rectification of Taiwan's name and the writing a new
constitution for the island. Others would call him 'political
Teflon,' but he had shown support for Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li, at
least, before the latter was indicted for corruption. Ma seems to
have tried to adjust, but the problem is that he and the KMT have
always seemed slightly incompatible with each other. [The two] are
like oil and water, and they cannot become one. ...

"As it stands now, Ma and the KMT will face two major problems:
First, ten days from now, namely, on December 25, Ma will step down
from his position as Taipei mayor and will work solely as the party
chairman. His role will be less complicated, and so will be his
room to maneuver, but he will face more political ordeals. Second,
if Ma is indicted for his alleged misuse of the special mayoral
allowance, it remains unknown as yet whether or not his chairmanship
will be suspended and whether he will thus be viewed as disqualified
to run for the 2008 presidential elections. ..."

B) "It Was No Setback for the Kuomintang"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (12/14):

"Most news reports on the results of last Saturday's mayoral
elections alleged that the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has suffered
a setback and that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's)
chances for success in the 2008 presidential elections have been
boosted. That observation is incorrect, the way we see it. ... In
light of these results, some analysts say that the defeat of the KMT
in the Kaohsiung mayoral election is a signal that Ma as a
prospective candidate in the next presidential election would be
unable to gain much voter support in southern Taiwan. It is worthy
to note that Huang Chun-yin, the KMT's candidate in the Kaohsiung
mayoral election, gained approximately 100,000 votes more than those
garnered by the 'pan-blue' alliance of Lien Chan and James Soong in
the 2004 presidential election.

"In addition, one must not forget that Frank Hsieh is a political
heavyweight in the 'pan-green' camp and the DPP candidate who ran
for Taipei mayor four years ago was a little known figure. ... In
comparison, his rival in the mayoral election, Hau Lung-bin, has
only served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, an
organization under the Cabinet. Hau, in addition, was dogged by
allegations from all other competitors in the mayoral race that his
father, Hau Pei-tsun, a former premier, was involved in an
embezzlement scandal. Therefore, one can hardly conclude the
outcome of Saturday's elections was a victory for the DPP and a
setback for the KMT. The fact is that Ma remains the favorite for

the 2008 presidential election. Given that the DPP knows all the
tricks of the trade, Ma and his party will have to work exceedingly
hard to win."

C) "Back to the Drawing Board"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (12/14):

"Following its electoral defeat in Kaohsiung and its loss of support
in the Taipei mayoral race, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has
held a number of meetings to pinpoint the reasons for its failure.
... The feebleminded KMT continues to ignore, or stubbornly refuses
to acknowledge, that its pro-China propaganda is increasingly remote
from mainstream public opinion. ... Time and again the KMT under Ma
has sworn that its ultimate goal is unification with China. Its
performance last Saturday should be a wake-up call for the party to
reassess its policy and platform. ... It is time for the KMT to
become pro-localization and identify with Taiwan. It is time for it
to ditch its outdated 'one China' policy and stop deluding itself
that China is its motherland and that one day it will rule there
again. ..."

YOUNG

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