Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Party heavyweights hit campaign trail

STAR TURNS Leveraging support from the 'populars,' the political stars seen to be capable of adding votes, has become one of the most favored campaign tactics

By Huang Chung-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

Among them, Hsieh's quick wit and humor is quite popular with the candidates, making him the runner-up behind Shieh, Chuang said. President Chen and Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) are also popular star campaigners for their high fame and strong speeches, Chuang added.

DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) had sought out Tsai Ing-wen for the campaign stage, saying that her androgynous image and charismatic personality were good assets to have in his district, which is more pan-blue than pan-green.

But not all candidates favored the political stars as their campaign stumpers.

DPP Legislator Huang Chao-hui (黃昭輝) said his "Ms Popular" was his "better half," former Kaohsiung city councilor Chen Ling-li (陳玲俐).

Three years ago, when Huang ran for legislator, Chen Ling-li promised voters she would devote her full attention to helping her husband and give up her seat on the council should Huang be elected, Huang said.

To this day, Chen Ling-li's grassroots work with the voters during her term as councilor still offers Huang tremendous help, for which he is extremely grateful, he said.

KMT Legislator Shyu Jong-shyoung (徐中雄), who is seeking re-election in Taichung County, also said that he did not need the help of a star campaigner. Of course, he may feel a little less pressure -- the DPP failed to nominate anybody to oppose him.

One KMT candidate, who asked to remain anonymous, said he did not want party heavyweights campaigning by his side because they would manipulate partisan divisions and emphasize the "pan-green" versus "pan-blue" divide.

There were also mixed feelings in the pan-green camp toward having the big names appear on stage.

Under the old system of multi-representative districts, appealing to one's core support base was sufficient to win a seat. In this year's legislative polls, however, candidates are generally engaged in two-horse races where independent voters could decide their fates. They were voters who were likely to be less impressed by the endorsement of party heavyweights engaging in partisan rhetoric.

DPP candidate Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲), in a tight race against incumbent Non-Partisan Solidarity Union candidate Lee He-shun (李和順) in Tainan County, felt that with the DPP's historical strength in southern Taiwan, President Chen and other party heavyweights should attend more rallies there in order to energize the DPP's core support base.

Huang said he did not worry that the president's speeches might drive away centrist voters because he had plenty of campaigning experience and knew what he should or should not say.

On the other hand, incumbent DPP lawmaker Chiu Chuang-chin (邱創進) from Changhua County felt that emphasizing partisan rifts would be disadvantageous to his bid for re-election.

Chiu said star campaigners were useful in boosting a campaign team's morale, intimidating opponents and giving voters the impression that the candidate had a wide range of supporters, but that they do not necessarily win more votes.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling and Flora Wang

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