Tue, May 08, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Frank Hsieh gets the nod

Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) emerged victorious on Sunday following the party member vote in what will be the only stage of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential primary.

Hsieh came first in 17 out of 24 cities and counties across the nation, gaining a large advantage over his rivals Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who subsequently announced they would drop out of the race.

This means that it will be Hsieh who faces off against the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the presidency next March in what is probably the nation's most important presidential election to date.

DPP members may have chosen Hsieh as their preferred candidate but winning over the broader electorate will be an entirely different challenge.

Opinion polls in the build up to the primary pitting Ma against the four DPP hopefuls placed Hsieh behind his KMT adversary, but experience shows that these polls should not be taken too seriously.

Still, Hsieh has a lot of hard work to do before March if he is to prevail and keep Taiwan on its present course.

Hsieh's choice for vice president will be vital. Reports suggest he may select former acting Kaohsiung mayor Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) as his running mate. This would be wise for two reasons. First, Yeh is a Hakka and her presence on the ticket could help the DPP secure at least some votes from a bloc that is traditionally pro-KMT. Second, Yeh and memories of her late husband Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who immolated himself in protest at the KMT's censorship of the media, will serve to remind people of Taiwan's sad history, thus galvanizing the pro-independence vote.

Hsieh's experience as Kaohsiung mayor, where he presided over a period of solid development for the city, will also serve him in good stead as it helped him gain a reputation as a good administrator and a politician who gets things done.

Certainly, Hsieh's pragmatic approach to cross-strait relations may also boost his chances, as Taiwanese have time and again shown they prefer maintaining the "status quo" when it comes to relations with China. Hsieh's practical, bide-your-time attitude to ties with Beijing will give more cautious voters a credible alternative to Ma's embrace-China-at-all-costs approach.

The only cloud hanging over a Hsieh candidacy is the corruption allegations related to the Kaohsiung MRT system during his stint as mayor. These allegations resurfaced during the primary and could cause Hsieh problems because the opposition is likely to bring them up during the presidential campaign.

Hsieh's troubles could increase if the investigation into special allowance funds of prominent DPP members turns up anything incriminating.

But Ma's trial on similar charges should soften the blow caused by any potential indictment.

The most positive thing to emerge from Sunday's vote, after all the infighting and smearing that went on in the build up to the primary, were the attitudes of Su, Yu and Lu, who graciously bowed out of the race and agreed to back the victor. Hsieh can now concentrate solely on his campaign, safe in the knowledge that he will not be challenged.

The same cannot be said for Ma, however, as disgruntled Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), disappointed by what he saw as ethnic discrimination and an unfair KMT primary system, has yet to make his intentions known.

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