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Cablegate: Ma Ying-Jeou's "Long Stay" Campaign in Southern Taiwan:

VZCZCXRO3850
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #2301/01 2820221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090221Z OCT 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7090
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7336
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1401
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2136
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6109
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0587
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8618

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 002301

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TW
SUBJECT: Ma Ying-jeou's "Long Stay" Campaign in Southern Taiwan:
Early Indications

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

REF: TAIPEI 2095

1. (U) Summary: KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's "long
stay" campaign strategy appears to be having a positive effect in
south Taiwan, as indicated by recent opinion polls showing his
approval rating increased by 5 percent following his recent long
stay effort. Southern DPP party operatives acknowledge their own
polling indicates Ma's long-stay drive has diminished the DPP's lead
in this traditionally heavily "green" part of Taiwan. Ma apparently
learned about and took to heart the political influence of
underground radio stations in the south, for the KMT has started
buying broadcast time from legal radio stations to counteract the
anticipated negative impact underground stations will have on Ma's
presidential campaign in the South. Ma's campaign aides in the
south express optimism that his personal charisma, reinforced by his
long stay campaign, will encourage swing voters and maybe even
"light green" supporters to vote for him and the KMT. End Summary

2. (SBU) Ma Ying-jeou's senior election campaign advisor Dr. Steve
Chan told AIT/K that Ma Ying-jeou's long stay project in southern
Taiwan has been beneficial to his campaign there and has given Ma a
better understanding of southern attitudes and of the depressed
state of the economy in southern Taiwan. According to Chan, Ma's
popularity increased by 5 percent after his recent long stay in
southern Taiwan from August 9 to September 18. Chan noted that as
he escorted Ma during his long stay project in southern Taiwan
(covering brief periods in every major city and county), he came
away convinced that many business people who had previously
supported the DPP, appeared increasingly ready to switch and vote
for the KMT out of disappointment over the Dip's poor economic
performance. Chan also stressed the positive response Ma received
from the general public and wide recognition from the "silent group"
of centrist swing voters. (Bio note. Chan was President of Chi Mei
Hospital in Tainan, where President Chen Shui-bian received
emergency medical treatment for a gunshot wound during his 2004
election campaign. He served as Director of the Executive Yuan's
Health Department in the 1990's. End Note.)

3. (SBU) According to Chan, the KMT is buying time slots from
formerly underground, but now legal, radio stations in southern
Taiwan to counteract underground radio stations that have served as
mouthpieces for the DPP and earlier for the opposition movement in
the 1970's and 1980's. Chan noted that some local radio stations
have even offered to put on talk shows and advertise for the KMT
free of charge because the radio station owners, as entrepreneurs,
believe the KMT is the best hope for change and rescuing the
southern Taiwan economy. On the other hand, some legal radio
stations have been unwilling to sell time to the KMT so as not to
offend their major advertising clients in the south, including DPP
candidates and party. Some of them have bluntly told the KMT that
they do not expect to receive any KMT advertising following the 2008
presidential election campaign and do not want to jeopardize their
long-term income stream for the few dollars they can earn during
campaign season.

4. Chan told AIT/K that Ma was warmly received by local people
during his "long stay" visits in southern Taiwan. This face-to-face
contact, he said, was helping change people's impressions about Ma,
who has long been viewed by southerners as born to a privileged KMT
family. According to Chan, Ma made a number of campaign promises to
boost economic development in southern Taiwan during his long stay
in southern Taiwan, including cross-strait direct links, government
funding for local infrastructure and financial assistance for local
fishery, agriculture and traditional industries.

5. (SBU) According to Chan, Ma is planning to come back to southern
Taiwan for another "long stay" campaign visit to further strengthen
his ties with southern Taiwan. Chan said that during his meetings
with various local professional groups he has discovered that
southern Taiwan is no longer an exclusive DPP political stronghold.
For example, some medical groups that have traditionally been deep
green supporters have changed their views on Taiwan politics and
their attitudes toward certain political parties. Chan attributed
some of the credit for this shift to his own active efforts reaching
out and speaking to large and small medical associations throughout
the south, in particular explaining the KMT's proposed health care
program. Chan did note, however, that the Frank Hsieh and Su
Tseng-chang team will be formidable and that the DPP has the most

SIPDIS
disciplined politicians in Taiwan.


TAIPEI 00002301 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) Separately, Central News Agency Reporter Cheng Chi-feng
told AIT/K that he believed Ma's long stay campaign had helped him
consolidate hardcore KMT voters and encourage swing voters, "light
blue" (i.e., tending toward the KMT) or maybe even "light green"
supporters to vote for him and the KMT. In southern Taiwan, he
noted, light blue supporters and swing voters tend to be silent and
politically apathetic, and usually do not vote. If these voters can
be stimulated to go vote, he continued, Ma's chances of winning the
presidential race will be greatly strengthened, since the KMT
already has a larger voter base than the DPP in northern Taiwan.
Taiwan Daily News reporter Tsui Chia-chi separately told AIT that
Ma's long stay campaign is helping him in the south. Ma's effort to
learn the Taiwanese language, moreover, is another plus in his
election campaigning in southern Taiwan.

7. (SBU) In various meetings with DPP and KMT party operatives in
Tainan and Kaohsiung (reftel), AIT/K learned that both DPP and KMT
private opinion polls show Ma's long-stay campaign has eaten into
DPP support in the South. In a recent meeting with former Chiayi
mayor Chang Bo-ya (non-affiliated, but green leaning during her
tenure) AIT/K learned that Chang, who is greatly disillusioned with
the DPP, thinks Ma's short stay in Chiayi could have minimal effect.
Although she indicated she may personally support Ma's policies,
she cannot declare public support for him in order to sway her
grassroots supporters. She characterized her supporters as solidly
green, indicating her public support for Ma would win her a lot of
public criticism while Ma would gain no votes. Chiayi County's DPP
and KMT party chairs agreed that Ma's one day visit to Chiayi had
some small effect, but neither felt Ma could capture any significant
votes in Chiayi unless the KMT wins one of the two LY seats in the
upcoming legislative election. Neither the DPP nor KMT chairs
expressed optimism about that outcome in Chiayi County.

8. (U) Comment: While DPP leaders publicly denigrate Ma's southern
long stay campaign as "useless' and "a joke," privately they
acknowledge concern that Ma's campaign appears to be increasing his
popularity in southern Taiwan. For their part, KMT operatives
appear more upbeat as their messages seem to be falling on fertile
ground. End Comment.

Thiele

Young

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