The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Taipei mayoral candidate, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), mounted a challenge to rival James Soong (宋楚瑜), saying that if the People First Party (PFP) chairman won more votes in next month's poll, he would support a call for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) resignation.
Hsieh said he would also withdraw from the DPP if Soong wins because asking Chen to step down would violate the DPP's resolution made last Wednesday.
Hsieh told a press conference that he spent the night thinking about how to respond to Soong's questioning of his stance on the third recall motion against Chen and the president's future during the televised debate among Taipei mayoral candidates on Saturday.
He said he did not believe Chen and first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) were guilty in the "state affairs fund" case, but he admitted there that were "flaws" during the investigation. For example, he said, "some people lied."
Hsieh said he was being responsible in replying to his rival's question, but he did not make clear if this decision was part of his campaign strategy.
He also said that he had not discussed his reply with other DPP members or with Chen.
Hsieh's campaign headquarters announced yesterday that the latest opinion poll of Taipei voters showed that 25 percent of the respondents supported Hsieh while 16.5 percent liked Soong.
The PFP chairman received a slight boost from Saturday's debate, the headquarters said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Hau Lung-bin's (
Hsieh said Hau had disappointed him by claiming to be proud because the DPP could only attack him on the "utility bill" issue.
Hau has been accused of sharing his father Hau Pei-tsun's (郝柏村) privileges, as a former premier, to have his utility bills paid by the government.
DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday that Hsieh's comment about Chen was simply a campaign strategy and it did not mean Hsieh was trying to distance himself from the president. Yu is in Kaohsiung to campaign for DPP mayoral candidate Chen Chu (陳菊).
Meanwhile, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday voiced disapproval of Hsieh's remarks, saying that the people would not accept the conditions set by the former premier.
"More than 70 percent of people want President Chen to step down without conditions, but Hsieh offered to oust Chen under certain conditions. It's inappropriate," Ma said while campaigning for Hau.
Hau also condemned Hsieh for offering conditions.
"So President Chen won't need to step down if Hsieh gets more votes than Soong? In facing such an issue of major importance, politicians should not offer conditions linked to their own personal interests," Hau said.
Soong himself said Hsieh's comments highlighted the fact that the DPP has lost grassroots support.
"Damaged by recent corruption scandals, Hsieh is already out of the battle," he said.
He said many pan-green supporters, disappointed by the first lady's indictment and President Chen's alleged involvement in the case, have decided to teach the DPP a lesson by supporting him instead.