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Cablegate: Legislative Election Preview: The View From the South

VZCZCXRO4106
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #2611/01 3480825
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140825Z DEC 07 ZDK CORRECTED COPY ADDED CAPTION ZDK
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7600
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7537
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1531
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 2251
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 6224
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0714
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8814

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 002611

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y ADDED SENSITIVE CAPTION

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

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TW
SUBJECT: LEGISLATIVE ELECTION PREVIEW: THE VIEW FROM THE SOUTH

REF: A) Taipei 1387, B) Taipei 1470, C) Taipei 2501

TAIPEI 00002611 001.2 OF 003


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: With just four weeks to go before Taiwan's
Legislative Yuan (LY) elections, the ruling DPP appears to have the
upper hand in most districts of southern Taiwan, except for Taitung
and Penghu Counties. With a halving of the legislature and a
reduction in the size of most election districts, candidates are
pursuing more locally-focused campaign strategies. Under the new
election system, candidate constituency services, personal
connections and local image count more heavily than party
identification. The DPP has been campaigning on Taiwan identity
issues, while the opposition KMT has focused on improving the
economy. DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh, who has been
concentrating his campaign in the pivotal central Taiwan region, has
spent little time campaigning for LY candidates in the south. This
contrasts markedly with KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, who
has already visited all southern districts at least once to stump
for LY candidates. End Summary.

2. (U) This cable is one of a series of reports on the political
scene in important cities and counties in the run-up to the 2008
legislative and presidential elections.

DPP Has the Upper Hand in Southern Taiwan
-----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The ruling DPP and opposition KMT are competing
head-to-head in southern Taiwan, widely regarded as a DPP
stronghold, in the run up to the January 2008 legislative elections
(refs A and B). Other parties are a minor factor, with only one
candidate from the People's First Party (PFP) running in Kaohsiung
County and two candidates from the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)
running in Chiayi City. Local party officials and political
observers have told AIT/K that the DPP is likely to win the majority
of the LY seats in southern Taiwan. The KMT is expected to prevail
in the single-seat districts of Taitung and Penghu Counties, where
the races are tight. According to the press, President Chen
Shui-bian reportedly predicted in an internal meeting that all the
seats in Chiayi (two seats) and Tainan (three seats) Counties would
go to the DPP candidates.

Wooing the Undecided and Youth Voters
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Most LY candidates are campaigning hard to woo support from
undecided voters during the final weeks of the campaign period. KMT
Tainan City Chairman Wu Chao-yu told AIT/K he is trying to woo the
youth vote, piggybacking on presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's
appeal among young people. If the KMT can successfully mobilize
young voters, its candidates may have a chance to win more LY seats
in the south. DPP Tainan County Chairman Kuo Kuo-wen told AIT/K his
party has reenergized core supporters by pushing the UN referendum.
Kuo cited Tainan County Magistrate Su Huan-chih (DPP) as an example.
Although Su has criticized President Chen relentlessly over the
last couple of years on his poor performance, he is now vigorously
praising the President for raising the UN referendum as such a high
profile issue.

Change of Campaign Strategy - Small Gatherings Prevail
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) The campaign atmosphere ahead of the LY elections has been
inordinately "cold" in southern Taiwan. Under the new
"single-member district, two-vote" electoral system, the size of
constituencies has shrunk, forcing candidates to adjust campaign
strategies. Unlike the past, streets are not littered with campaign
literature, and banners are not flying from every available light
post. Instead of holding large, expensive, high profile rallies,
candidates are campaigning personally door-to-door. Multiple small
gatherings with family or social groups (e.g., community and
professional associations), have become a more efficient and
effective way for candidates to campaign. Since the small groups
usually provide tea and refreshments, such gatherings also reduce
campaign costs and keep charges of vote-buying at bay. As a result,
incumbent legislators who provide extensive constituency services
will have a better chance to win when running against non-incumbent
challengers. For incumbents running against incumbents, the need
for personalized campaigning is critical.

Where Is Frank Hsieh?
---------------------

TAIPEI 00002611 002.2 OF 003

6. (SBU) Without a doubt, presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou is
the KMT's hottest campaign star on the LY campaign trail, having
visited all southern districts (some more than once) to promote his
policies and to support LY candidates. On the other hand, DPP
presidential candidate Frank Hsieh seems to have disappeared
altogether from the southern LY campaign scene. DPP Tainan County
Chairman Kuo told AIT/K that some local DPP party leaders in the
south have complained about not seeing Frank Hsieh campaigning for
the legislative candidates. They note that President Chen, by
contrast, shows up almost every week, causing many constituents to
ask who is running for president. Kuo heard through party channels
that Hsieh tried hard to avoid coming to Kaohsiung on November 17
for the LY campaign rally that followed the November 16 High Court
verdict (reftel C) allowing Mayor Chen Chu to retain her seat. Kuo
indicated that there must be coordination problems between Hsieh's
camp and the DPP central office, and stressed it is unusual for the
southern DPP campaign offices to be so out of touch with a high
profile candidate's campaign headquarters. Taitung County DPP
chairman Hsu Wen-hsien suggested that Hsieh's absence is not all
bad. VIP visits, he said, just drain local resources and do not
necessarily result in greater turnout at the polls. Hsu indicated
it is obvious to him from press reports that Hsieh assumes he has
the south in his back pocket and is therefore focused heavily on
wooing central Taiwan voters, who will be key to deciding the
outcome of the presidential election.

Election Issues
---------------
7. (SBU) As in previous elections, the KMT is making the state of
Taiwan's economy its main campaign issue to highlight the poor
performance of the ruling DPP. To counter the KMT, the DPP has been
using Taiwan identity-related issues to keep the focus on more
emotionally based issues that energize its base, appeal to many
Taiwanese, and put the KMT on the defensive. Central News Agency
reporter Cheng Chi-fong told AIT/K that the DPP can still play the
identity card because people can endure a bad economy but do not
want to lose "national pride."

District Election Trends
------------------------

8. (SBU) Kaohsiung City (5 seats): The DPP is expected to win
three seats and is looking to win a fourth seat if a DPP maverick
running in the third district can be talked into pulling out of the
race. Most political officials, including from the KMT, indicated
the DPP is likely to pull out a victory in the third district. The
KMT is likely to win 2 seats and is campaigning hard to try to win a
third seat.

9. (SBU) Kaohsiung County (4 seats): This is a DPP stronghold, where
the DPP will win at least two seats. A third seat, which might have
fallen easily to the DPP, may go to the KMT due to a maverick
pan-Green candidate who could split the vote in the third district.
The KMT is cooperating with the PFP in the first district by
supporting a PFP incumbent legislator running under the KMT banner,
who has a strong shot at a pan-Blue win in Kaohsiung County.

10. (SBU) Tainan City (2 seats) - It is likely that the DPP and KMT
each will win one seat because the two KMT candidates are both
incumbents and only one DPP candidate is an incumbent.

11. (SBU) Tainan County (3 seats) - The DPP is likely to win all
three seats. If the KMT can pull out an unexpected win, it will
take one seat for which it is running an incumbent who has served
successfully for over ten years.

12. (SBU) Chiayi City (1 seat) - With a TSU candidate running in
the race and a strong possibility of split in pan-Green votes, the
KMT incumbent is likely to win the sole seat.

13. (SBU) Chiayi County (2 seats) - This is a DPP dominated area
with a County Magistrate campaigning hard behind the scenes in this
election. The DPP is likely to take both seats.

14. (SBU) Pingtung County (3 seats) - It is likely that the DPP
will win at least two seats and the KMT will take one seat. The DPP
would regard winning anything less than two seats as a defeat in
Pingtung.

15. (SBU) Taitung County (1 seat) - The DPP did not nominate a
party candidate because the KMT has long dominated the county. As a
strategic countermove, however, the DPP recruited and is publicly

TAIPEI 00002611 003.2 OF 003


and financially supporting a very popular former-KMT county
councilor, turned maverick, to run in the LY election as a
non-partisan in an attempt to split the KMT vote. The KMT incumbent
is fighting a hard race this time, but it is likely the KMT will
retain this seat.

16. (SBU) Penghu County (1 seat) - Although the KMT dominates this
county, the KMT did not nominate a candidate, but supports the
incumbent non-partisan legislator who is a former KMT member. In
addition, a KMT maverick is running in this election, as well as a
DPP candidate. The race could be very close and the DPP candidate
may win due to his local popularity and because the KMT votes could
split.

Comment
-------

17. (SBU) The LY elections in southern Taiwan have taken a
definite backseat to presidential election politics, with the main
public spotlight focused on KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou and President
Chen Shui-bian. The real competition for LY seats is taking place
away from the public eye and the press, however. LY contenders are
battling it out in family living rooms and small groups as they move
throughout the grassroots, giving a more personal touch to their
campaign efforts.

Thiele

Young

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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