Hualien County experienced unusual political excitement yesterday as political heavyweights from both the ruling and the opposition parties simultaneously staged appearances in the region to stump for their respective candidates contending for the job of Hualien county commissioner.
While President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and several high-profile DPP mayors and commissioners such as Taipei County Commissioner Su Chen-chan (蘇貞昌) and Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) were seen campaigning alongside DPP candidate You Ying-lung (游盈隆), the KMT-PFP Alliance nominee Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) had his own super-campaigners, consisting of KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), PFP chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and a herd of fellow party legislators from Taipei.
At You's rally last night, Chen recommended You's candidacy and praised him as a fine individual displaying courage and modesty.
"Despite three previous failed election bids in Hualien, You still chose to run again in the by-election. The people of Hualien should recognize his courage to run again and should give him an opportunity," Chen told a crowd at You's campaign rally.
Switching his focus, Chen, referring to Lien's rhetoric that emphasized the by-election as a forerunner to next year's presidential election, said that such rhetoric demonstrated that both Lien and Soong have only their best intentions set for next March's presidential election and not the by-election.
"Besides firing criticisms at others, what other contributions have [Lien and Soong] offered Taiwan during these past three years?" Chen said.
At the rally, You took the opportunity to dismiss the pan-blue camp's allegation that his candidacy in the by-election came after pressure from the DPP and was not his own choice.
"The most important reason behind my running in the by-election is my strong desire to realize many wishes long harbored by the Hualien populace," You said.
Stressing that convenient transportation is the backbone to developing Hualien into a world-class tourist destination, Chen, endorsing You's vision for the region's tourist industry, promised that construction of the long-delayed Su-hua Highway would kick off no later than December this year.
Chen also pledged to help upgrade the Hualien airport to meet international standards.
"Enhancing Hualien's transportation system will help develop the area's tourism industry and lead to more job opportunities for the region's people," Chen said.
Meanwhile, at Hsieh's campaign rally, both Lien and Soong delivered volleys of criticism at the Chen administration's governing record, branding You's pledges to the Hualien electorate as "empty promises" and saying that "Chen's visit to Hualien is not to campaign [for You] but to deceive [Hualien voters.]"
With that said, Lien and Soong called on Hualien's people "to throw their support behind Hsieh this year and the Lien-Soong ticket in next year's [presidential election.]"
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