Thu, Jan 06, 2000 - Page 8 News List

A-bian must strengthen his image

By Julian Kuo

The James Soong (宋楚瑜) scandal has caused support for him to plummet while Chen Shui-bian's (3?糮?/CHINESE>) popularity has surged, and backing for Lien Chan (3s戰) has remained relatively constant. This turn of events has drastically improved Chen's prospects for the presidency.

Let us use a Dec. 26 survey as an example. In that poll the support rate for Chen surged to 29 percent, while support for Soong and Lien was, respectively, 26 percent and 20 percent.

"A-bian" (Chen's nickname) has stayed on top for two consecutive weeks. Even more importantly, more and more people, 20 percent, are beginning to believe that he will actually win the election.

This increase has eradicated concern that voters might "dump Chen to save Lien" out of a fear that Soong might win the election.

As a result, the morale of the pro-Chen voters is going through the roof. It looks like the Chen camp may very well strike while the iron is still hot and push him directly into the presidency.

In fact, word has it that Beijing is re-evaluating the possibility of ties with a DPP regime in the future.

The Soong scandal has once again highlighted "black gold" politics and put emphasis on the push for government reforms.

This is, of course, advantageous to A-bian who is less bogged down by "black gold" politics. He has been quite successful in winning voters' support by riding on the scandal to publicize his reform platform -- beginning an islandwide campaign tour with an anti-black-gold theme and bolstering his image as a fighter against dirty money politics.

The problem is that election day is still two-and-half-months off. Once the heat from the Soong scandal cools off, can this anti-black-gold platform continue to be the central theme of A-bian's campaign?

After all, the KMT is beginning to realize that the Soong scandal has not done much to help Lien. In addition, Soong has gone on the offensive to try to counteract the damage. Now almost one month old, the Soong scandal should soon enter its final stages.

However, the end of the scandal would not necessarily mean that the war over black gold is about to end. The KMT might designate A-bian as its next target. Soong and A-bian might both attack Lien by looking into his finances.

On the other hand, even if A-bian has skeletons in his money closet, they could not possibly be as great as the sum of money involved in the Soong scandal.

It is also unlikely that voters would be taken by surprise if it turns out that Lien owns a mountain of gold, since once again it is unlikely that anything comparable with the Soong scandal would result.

Now that the anti-black-gold fever has pushed A-bian into the front-runner's position, he has begun taking steps to secure his position.

Recently, he promised, in Tainan and Kaohsiung counties, that he would invite Chen Tang-shan (3??s) and Yu Chen-hsien (余政憲) to join his Cabinet. He also indicated in Hsinchu County that prominent Hakka community leaders, including Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄), Hsu Hsin-liang (3信良) and Fan Chen-tsung (-S振宗), are on the list of talents that he would recruit.

In addition, a new Web site has been set up by the A-bian camp to encourage voters to nominate their choice for the next premier.

All these signs indicate that A-bian intends to introduce the concept of a "coalition cabinet" to expand and secure his support.

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