In the Dec.1 election, 225 people will be elected to the Legislative Yuan from a total of 584 candidates. The results will determine whether Taiwan's legislature and constitutional system can operate smoothly. Central to the re-drawing of the political map is whether the DPP can win the support of more than 115 legislators, enabling it to forge a majority government to secure political stability. If it succeeds, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will be able to cast off the "lame-duck" label which has been a millstone around his neck thus far in his term. \nIn the elections, the DPP's goal is to establish a legislative majority compatible with a presidential system by means of a coalition government, which would include members of opposition parties whose ideals are similar to the DPP's. The DPP is trying to realize this goal by having Chen lead major campaign rallies in hopes of gaining the support of at least a quarter of the voters. \nThe goal of the newly-established Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), whose spiritual leader is former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), is to end the chaos and inefficiency created by minority government. It seeks to strengthen "localized" and democratized parties within the legislature, and to participate in a majority coalition government led by the DPP. In this way, the parties will proportionately represent the popular will. \nThe TSU's strategy is to have Lee serve as the central figure at major campaign rallies and to seek the support of "localized" KMT members and "localized" voters not affiliated with a party. Winning over "localized" voters who might otherwise support the People First Party (PFP) is also part of the strategy. The hope is to persuade 20 percent of the opposition force to work with the DPP in creating a majority government. \nThe KMT's goal is to win back the right to head the Executive Yuan, to push for the establishment of a Cabinet-style system to enable it to control the Cabinet and turn Taiwan "blue." Its strategy is to target 40 percent of the popular vote through small gatherings and activities organized by its local party headquarters. It hopes to join forces with the New Party and the PFP to accomplish its goals. \nThe PFP wants to participate, as a minority party, in the forming of the Cabinet. It is willing to work with the DPP or the KMT to accomplish that end. The PFP hopes to be the leader of the pan-blue camp, as well as to win over 30 percent of the vote. \nAs a member of the blue camp, the New Party aims to preserve its identity as the real "Chinese KMT." Its strategy is to use this image to win popular support for "one country, two systems." \nThe parties' strategies vary, depending on the ethnic groups to which they appeal. The four superstars of the campaign -- Chen, Lee (who stumps for the TSU but is not a member of any party), KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) -- lead the parties' campaign machines. \nUnfortunately, some of them use radical policy proposals, a tasteless wars of words, deceit and even personal attack as tools. Through cynical manipulation of fabricated news they seek to twist views and generate publicity. \nThe Chen and Lee camps advocate campaigning by means of debate and the discussion of policy. The themes of the Lien and Soong campaigns, however, are to directly attack the integrity of Lee and to Chen's ability to govern. \nThe Ministry of Justice is mounting a tremendous effort to crack down on vote buying. Parties and candidates with the intention of buying votes therefore have few opportunities to bribe voters. \nIn addition, all the candidates are having a tough time raising campaign funds because of the recession. As a result, candidates are campaigning on the streets, as well as visiting voters at home and asking them to distribute campaign flyers. \nThe factors determining for whom the voters will cast their ballots concern not only policy, but ethnicity. About 18 percent of the population are so-called mainlander voters. They are loyal supporters of the pan-blue camp. Their votes are likely to be dispersed among the mainlander candidates of the KMT, PFP and the New Party. The PFP and TSU are also competing for past supporters of the KMT. \nWhile maintaining the 30 percent of the vote it traditionally holds, the DPP hopes to add another 10 percentage points to its support base by turning to younger voters who lack a strong sense of ethnic identity. The KMT is also targeting younger voters -- chiefly to prevent the PFP and TSU from recruiting its supporters. \nIn this election, publicity from TV news coverage is also exerting a critical influence on voters. TVBS, Power News, ET News, and China TV appear to support the pan-blue camp. Formosa TV, ERA News and TTV appear to support the pan-green camp. \nAs in past elections, cross-strait relations is the issue of most interest to voters. Proposals \nconcerning "one country, two systems" and "Taiwan first" will not have much impact on hardline supporters of individual parties, but they will have an impact on undecided voters. Chen's key position is that acceptance of the "one China" principle means the destruction of the ROC. Lee proposes continued localization and democratization. \nEconomic development, political stability, welfare for the elderly and ethnic relations, these are all fair topics for policy proposals and debate. Regrettably, these issues have become subject to a tasteless war of words and to character assassination. \nSoong's ferocious mudslinging tactics appeal to cab drivers and manual laborers. Attacks by the KMT and PFP on Chen's handling of Taiwan's economy may indeed win them some support. \nThe campaign has thus far been one characterized by proxy attack. The pan-green and pan-blue camps never directly confront each other, but simply leave it up to the voters to decide. \nThe pan-green camp, formed for the purpose of creating a stable ruling alliance, appears to be doing well. The DPP should become the biggest party after the election, with the KMT placing second and the PFP and TSU jockeying for third. Should the PFP secure third place, the stable alliance that the pan-greens hope for will be impossible to achieve. \nSome surmise, however, that the KMT's Taiwanese lawmakers may jump ship to the TSU after the election. Only if the TSU comes in third will a stable ruling alliance become a reality. \nLee Chang-kuei is the president of the Taipei Times and a professor of emeritus of National Taiwan University.
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