Mon, Jan 28, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Hsieh has precious little time left

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL election but two months away, it remains difficult to determine what political parties will do.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) continues to say what he would do if he became president and will likely continue his down-to-earth meetings with people throughout the nation. This is what a candidate does -- and should do -- to gain the numbers of votes to win an election.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) at this point, has not had the complete support of the leadership in the party, much less that of the many voters who once supported the DPP but did not participate in the Jan. 12 legislative elections. Getting the support of the leadership of a party is crucial.

To gain broad support from both the leadership and the people takes time.

Time, unfortunately, is not on Hsieh's side and it is something he has precious little of.

The electoral battle that is now taking place in the US has similarities: One of the parties seeks to keep the presidency, while the other, the Democrats, has Senator Hillary Clinton, who initially seemed to be the obvious choice, but in a short period of time her lead was no longer assured.

About two months ago, Senator Barack Obama was hardly on the list of senior candidates, much less at the top. He was able to become one of the top-two candidates by first energizing young voters and even some Republican voters who are unhappy with the party. Today, various people from different sectors have rallied behind Obama.

Another similarity exists between Taiwan and the US, and it is the economy. In newspapers and on TV in the US, there is much discussion about a possible recession and whether the state of the economy is good or not.

It is clear that some segments of the country are being hurt by the mortgage crisis and that the high price of oil is also hurting many people financially.

This has costs jobs and and lowered wages in some important sectors of the economy. US President George W. Bush is now seeking an "economic growth package" from Congress.

Taiwan's economy, for its part, continues to grow, but like the US, some important sectors of the economy -- mostly small and medium businesses -- have seen a drop in sales. The rise in oil prices has had a marked impact there, too.

The two presidential candidates have both been talking about what they would do to remedy the situation.

Still, Taiwan is Taiwan. It has its own history and the DPP has gone down a road that many people did not like, including people who had supported the party.

It now falls on Hsieh to bring back those voters who did not participate in the legislative elections and energize as many voters as possible.

Two months to achieve all this is not much time, but it sill may be possible.

Meanwhile, the KMT has the triple advantage of a two-thirds majority in the legislature, more money and a divided opponent.

Hsieh needs a unified party and must find a way to distance himself from the past.

He has wisely supported bipartisan efforts with the KMT, which can be seen by voters as a man who, as evidence of willingness to work with the legislature in developing relations with China and the international community.

Both candidates have said a lot about the economy and, increasingly, about people's concerns over its state. The important difference between the two candidates has been China, including the "opportunities" in China for Taiwan.

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