Tue, Mar 02, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Support for Chen at a record high

ELECTION RACE The 228 human-chain rally not only motivated voters, but also moved some KMT vote captains to express a desire to defect to the DPP

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH REUTERS AND AFP

The latest poll by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) indicated the support rate for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) re-election bid has reached a record high since November last year following the success of the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally.

DPP campaign spokesperson Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁) said yesterday that Chen's support rate has increased by 4 percentage points since Saturday's massive island-long human-chain rally.

Wu said the spectacle of the rally protesting China's military threat touched the hearts of many people and gave a boost to Chen's support rate.

The DPP poll shows Chen's support rate at 40 percent, the highest it's been since the peak of public support in November last year when the president returned from successful overseas visits to the US and Panama.

Meanwhile, Wu said yesterday that some of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) vote captains in central and southern Taiwan have expressed a desire to defect to the DPP after the success of the human-chain rally.

"These local vote captains working under certain KMT law-makers contacted us, saying they wanted to side with the DPP. They expressed the hope that the DPP could dispatch some heavyweights to invite them over to the DPP, so as to save face. This could help ensure a DPP victory in central Taiwan," Wu said.

According to a poll conducted by the pro-unification United Daily News, Chen remained three percentage points behind his opponent, KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

The United Daily News poll showed that support for both candidates fell by two percentage points, with only the number of undecided voters up sharply. Thirty-eight percent of the 1,070 people questioned said they would vote for Lien against 35 percent for Chen, according to the poll results.

The rates compared with 40 percent for Lien and 37 percent for Chen in a survey by the paper on Thursday.

The number of undecided voters was up seven points to 27 percent. Lien's support dipped below 40 percent for the first time this year after standing at 44 percent in January, the paper said.

Betting on the election result in the nation's widespread illegal gambling industry was now moving toward a 400,000-vote victory for Lien, down from 600,000 before the protest, according to the China Times newspaper.

Hu Fo (胡佛), professor of political science at National Taiwan University, said the event probably firmed up support among traditional Democratic Progressive Party supporters but any further impact remained unclear.

According to the latest survey by cable news network ERA, Lien could win 36.5 percent of votes against Chen's 35.0 percent, compared with 38.0 percent and 33.8 percent before the rally.

But a crucial 22 percent of the about 1,500 people it polled were undecided and the margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

Although the rally has greatly boosted the morale of the DPP, as well as Chen's prospects of being re-elected, Wu expressed concern about the expected turnout for the referendum.

"We are not as worried about the presidential election now as we are about the referendum. Chen will need at least 6 million votes to win the election, but 8 million votes -- half the number of eligible voters -- are required to validate the referendum," Wu said.

Wu said in the remaining days before the election the party will focus on campaigning for the referendum to build on the momentum that had been generated by the human-chain rally.

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