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Cablegate: South Taiwan Early Take On 2008 Presidential And

VZCZCXRO5126
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #2095/01 2550927
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120927Z SEP 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6756
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7242
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1344
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2083
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6052
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0530
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8500

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 002095

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TW
SUBJECT: South Taiwan Early Take on 2008 Presidential and
Legislative Elections

REF: A) 2007 Taipei 2071 B) 2006 Taipei 3377

C) 2006 Taipei 3426 D) 2006 Taipei 3444

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: As the presidential election heats up, Southern
academics, businesspeople and party officials all seem to believe it
will be a difficult one for both the DPP and KMT. Party operatives
in Kaohsiung City and Tainan City suggest that young voters are the
key swing voters who can decide the 2008 presidential election
outcome if they cast their votes. Most DPP officials believe DPP
presidential candidate Frank Hsieh will win based primarily on his
demonstrated commitment to "Taiwan identity." Some KMT officials
predict that the KMT will win by a majority of 15 (out of 113) seats
in the legislative elections island-wide, but do not consider
winning the LY more important than winning the presidency. End
Summary

Road to the Presidency: Not Easy for Either Party
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) In a meeting with AIT/K, Tainan City KMT Chairman Wu
Chao-yu quoted KMT Vice Presidential candidate Vincent Siew as
saying the Hsieh-Su ticket will be a tough ticket for the KMT to
beat in the upcoming presidential race. Wu surmised the Hsieh-Su
ticket, thrust on Frank Hsieh by President Chen, is no more than the
President's effort to guarantee a DPP win in order to protect
himself post-election from being investigated on corruption
allegations that have surrounded him and his family (see reftel A).
Wu had no doubt Hsieh and Su would be excellent campaigners but
doubted if the rift between the two caused by the fractious party
presidential primary had really healed. He predicted at least a
partial DPP factional resurgence during the campaign that would
undercut DPP unity and benefit the KMT. Undecided swing voters, he
argued, would never accept an appearance of harmony between Hsieh
and Su, since the two harshly attacked each other during the
primary. In a separate meeting, DPP Tainan City Chairwoman Chiu
Li-li stated that some "deep-green" supporters have not forgiven Su
Tseng-chang and his supporters for criticizing President Chen and

SIPDIS
the DPP during last year's anti-Chen movement (reftels B, C, D).

3. (SBU) In a recent meeting with AIT/K, Kaohsiung City KMT
Legislator Lo Shih-hsiung predicted that KMT presidential candidate
Ma Ying-jeou would win the 2008 election because Taiwan people are
ready for a change in ruling parties. Lo acknowledged to AIT/K that
it is not that Ma is such an excellent candidate, but that the DPP's
poor performance and the economic decline in Southern Taiwan have
combined to negatively affect people's well-being. On the other
hand, Kaohsiung City DPP Legislator Guan Bi-ling praised Frank Hsieh
as a capable leader, though she would not predict Hsieh would win
the 2008 election. Dampening Guan's confidence was her concern that
DPP supporters are not enthusiastic about participating in the DPP's
key ideological campaign push -- the September 15 Kaohsiung rally to
support the DPP's referendum on the UN bid. Many, she said, would
be content to express their support for the referendum through TV
call-in programs, making it unnecessary to personally attend the
rally, which, she noted, would be a major DPP campaign event.

4. (SBU) In a separate meeting, hi-tech businessman Gary Cheng,
whose company has factories in both Taiwan and China, told AIT/K
that the KMT vision of Taiwan's place in the global economy makes it
likely KMT leadership would provide better industrial leadership
than the DPP. Cheng himself believes the KMT would better handle
cross-Strait relations. Cheng said that many business people
support KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou because the DPP's
economic policies have failed over the last seven years. National
Sun Yat-sen University Political Economy Professor Shin Chuei-ling
echoed Cheng's views, explaining that Taiwan businesspeople
generally believe China would be more likely to cooperate with KMT
economic policy if Ma wins the 2008 presidency.

Speaker Wang Jin-pyng Not a Southern Kingmaker
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (SBU) Professor Shin doubted that Legislative Yuan (LY) Speaker
Wang Jin-pyng could deliver many votes to Ma Ying-jeou, because
Wang's grassroots support is not really that solid in his native
South. KMT Kaohsiung City Chairman Hsu Fu-ming acknowledged that
the "pan-green camp" is working hard to split Wang's supporters and
attract some to the DPP side. Ma, he explained, had decided to put
aside the "Wang problem" for the time being and just focus on his
southern "long stay" campaign. If Ma's support is sufficiently

TAIPEI 00002095 002 OF 003


high, he continued, Wang would have no choice but to support Ma in
the presidential election.

Youth Votes Critical in the 2008 Presidential Election
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (SBU) Tainan KMT Chairman Wu told AIT/K that the KMT is
campaigning vigorously to build support among voters in the 20-25
year age bracket. Since the 2004 election, he said, more than one
million youths had come of legal voting age. The 2008 presidential
election will be their first chance to vote. Wu stated that KMT
candidate Ma Ying-jeou particularly appeals to these young voters,
but acknowledged that younger voters are unpredictable, and even
apathetic, toward politics. Ma's speeches at colleges always
attract big crowds, he noted, and Ma has regularly encouraged
college students to use their vote to define their own futures by
choosing the next administration for themselves. The KMT hopes that
these million new voters, the main swing votes in this election,
will turn out at the ballot boxes to vote for Ma.

7. (SBU) DPP Tainan City Chairman Chiu echoed KMT Wu's view that
young people tend to be politically apathetic, many disgusted by
political bickering and the numerous corruption scandals. Chiu,
however, disagreed that Ma Ying-jeou has any special appeal to
youths. However, she did acknowledge that youths like to have role
models and that the Ma could fulfill that role. Chiu stressed that
youth votes -- if they vote -- will focus on the "beef" of a
candidate's policy and how it will deliver jobs to new graduates.
Kaohsiung City DPP Legislator Guan agreed that young voters will be
a key factor to winning this presidential election, but stressed
that their voting habits are unpredictable. If the DPP manages to
split the youth vote, she noted, Frank Hsieh would be the
beneficiary.

Ma Ying-jeou's Southern "Long-Stay" Campaign
--------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou has just launched
the second phase of his "Long Stay" strategy, in which he stays with
local families for 2-3 days in Southern cities and counties. KMT
Tainan City Chairman Wu explained that Ma's "Long Stay" campaign was
focused on boosting Ma's support in the South, while DPP Tainan City
Chairman Chiu acknowledged that the campaign has negatively affected
the DPP's support. Chiu, however, is convinced that at the last
minute before voters cast their votes, they will weigh a candidate's
demonstrated commitment to "Taiwan identity" and find Ma lacking.
Kaohsiung KMT Legislator Lo, who has long urged Ma Ying-jeou to
focus on the South in order to build a grassroots base, pointed out
that Ma's "long-stay" campaign is his first direct effort to reach
Southern voters at the grassroots. The extensive media coverage of
Ma's long-stay campaign has turned out to be excellent -- and free
-- advertising, Lo told AIT/K, and has further helped build ties
between Ma and Southern voters. In the meantime, the long-stay
travel gave Ma an opportunity to present his proposed economic
policy to various professional groups down South. On the other
hand, DPP Legislator Guan argued that Ma's long-stay campaign will
have only limited effect because grassroots support cannot be built
in a matter of days. Concurring with Guan, Hsieh's Kaohsiung
campaign head Chang Ching-chuan nevertheless admitted to AIT/K that
Ma's "long stay" campaign had undercut some of the DPP's support in
Central Taiwan.

Legislative Elections
---------------------

9. (SBU) Legislators Lo and Guan both predicted that each party
would win two seats in Kaohsiung City, while the fifth seat is up
for grabs. In Tainan, the KMT is not confident that it could win
either of the two seats, though DPP Chairwoman Chiu anticipated both
races would be close, with each party likely to win one seat.

10. (SBU) Kaohsiung City KMT Chairman Hsu predicted that the KMT
will win a majority of more than 15 of the total of 113 legislative
seats island-wide, including half of the seats in each city/county
in Southern Taiwan where the DPP rules. Kaohsiung City Legislator
Lo told AIT/K that the DPP is focusing so heavily on the
presidential race because it believes this is more important than
winning a majority of LY seats, because in Taiwan's "presidential
system", the government budget is controlled by the Executive Yuan
and the Premier is appointed by the President.

11. (SBU) Professor Shin noted that vote-buying will still be a

TAIPEI 00002095 003 OF 003


factor in the coming legislative elections, but more indirectly than
in the past, with business interests exchanging support/votes for
"monetary values," such as profits from land transactions in
future-zoning projects. Shin noted that these type of transactions
are not unusual and can stimulate corruption among government
officials.

Comment
-------

12. (SBU) Presidential and legislative election campaigns remain
calm at this early date. The halving of LY seats from 225 to 113
seats will arouse fierce competition and creative campaigning.
Locals are closely watching turn-out for the September 15 DPP rally
in support of the U.N. referendum. The turn-out for this rally may
serve as a preliminary indicator of the DPP's ability to still use
ideology to draw crowds, since the DPP considers its support margin
in Southern Taiwan and a candidate's commitment to "Taiwan identity"
as key factors in winning the larger 2008 presidential election.


Thiele

Wang

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