A long-shot candidate for the Taipei mayorship has become the focus of campaigning for the nation's two largest political parties as only hours remain before voting stations open.
People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), running in the Taipei mayoral election as an independent, lashed out at both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for "targeting him" in their election campaigns, saying both parties will pay the price if he wins the election.
While the KMT's strategy is to prevent Soong from peeling enough votes away from its candidate to cause a pan-blue split, the DPP is trying to use the prospect of a Soong mayorship to energize pan-green supporters.
Most polls released before the pre-election ban on publishing poll results showed Soong as having virtually no chance of winning the mayorship, with some polls showing single-digit percentages in support for the one-time presidential contender. But his candidacy has remained a prominent talking point for both major political parties.
The DPP yesterday carried a print ad in major Chinese-language newspapers which carried the warning "If James Soong wins the election, the DPP crashes," urging voters to "save" its candidate, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).
Meanwhile, Soong sought to capitalize on the attention he was receiving.
"The KMT is worried about the election, but the DPP is more desperate about the situation. If I win the election, Hsieh will have to fulfill his promise by leaving the DPP and calling on the president to step down," Soong said yesterday while canvassing for support in Xinyi District.
Soong condemned DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun for "spreading rumors" about holding a private meeting with him, while also accusing his KMT counterpart Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) of lacking the ability to lead Taipei City.
"The two parties are panicking about losing the election, and so now they are losing their minds," he added.
Accompanying city councilor candidates to canvass supporters in the city, Yu yesterday urged voters not to allow Soong to win the election, while once again pledging to resign from his post if the DPP lost the elections in both Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Hau, on the other hand, ignored Soong's remarks, calling on pan-blue supporters to get out and vote, rather than be "fooled" by his high support rates in most polls, which show him with as much as a 7 percentage point lead over the next closest candidate, Hsieh.
According to Hau camp spokesman Yang Hsiao-tung (羊曉東), Hau will focus the final efforts on visiting local districts, and will not issue any attacks on either Hsieh or Soong.
"It's very tight ... We predict that Hsieh could attract about 40 percent of the vote, and so it's a close game," Hau said yesterday while visiting Wenshan District.
Meanwhile, DPP lawmakers could hardly stop talking about Soong.
A scheduled press conference aimed at accusing Hau of illegally purchasing land designated for conservation was canceled, and DPP legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) called a last-minute press conference demanding Soong quit politics if the percentage of his votes obtained was "low."
Later in the day, PFP Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said that both Ker's press conference and the DPP's newspaper ads were actually designed to get pan-blue supporters to rally behind Soong to boost Hsieh's chances.
"We appreciate the DPP's kindness. However, the strategy is so tricky that swing voters won't like it. Hsieh is probably out, as he can't get elected by DPP diehards alone," Liu said.
At a separate event yesterday, Hsieh urged the public not to assume that the election was decided.
"Nobody can be 100 percent sure about the results of the election," Hsieh said. "Eight years ago, nobody was expecting my victory in the Kaohsiung mayor election. I am sorry to say that my victory also made gamblers lose lots of money."
Hsieh said that more and more rumors will be spread as election day nears.
"But, rumors are rumors because they are created by those who try to manipulate the result of the election," he said.
Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang
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