President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for pan-blue unity amid a possible split in the vote with People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong’s (宋楚瑜) participation in the election and pledged to carry out more reforms and lead Taiwan toward a prominent future if re-elected.
Ma spent the final day of his presidential campaign on a whirlwind tour of Miaoli County and Greater Kaohsiung before heading to Taipei.
Amid cheering and chanting of: “Ma Ying-jeou, dong suan,” which means “getting elected” in Hoklo, commonly known as Taiwanese, supporters in Miaoli County crowded the streets as Ma canvassed for support in a motorcade and rushed to shake hands with him.
During a visit to a temple in Miaoli, Ma urged pan-blue supporters to consolidate their vote and support him in today’s election to prevent a pan-blue split in the face of a neck-and-neck race with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“Let us unite the pan-blue forces and move toward a new era. The future of Taiwan is in your hands and everyone should consolidate our votes,” he said.
Ma’s plea for unity came one day after former Chinese National Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) urged Soong to recognize the consequences of a split in the vote, while stopping short of calling for strategic voting in fear of history repeating itself — Soong left the KMT in 2000 to run as a presidential candidate and contributed to the KMT’s defeat, because he split the pan-blue vote.
First lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青), who embarked on a solo campaign trip to drum up support for Ma last month, joined the president’s campaign yesterday afternoon in Kaohsiung.
The first couple’s appearance in a motorcade in Kaohsiung sparked excitement from supporters, as many cheered Chow, using her nickname: “Mrs Cool! We love you!”
Approached by reporters, Ma lauded his wife for her greater popularity and shrugged off concerns over injuries his hands might have sustained from shaking too many other hands during the campaign.
He attended another campaign rally in Greater Taichung, before flying to Taipei for the final KMT rally on Ketagalan Boulevard.
Long before his arrival in Taipei, passionate supporters started to gather at the rally venue early in the evening, leaving the boulevard and adjacent area with almost no space to move and filling every open space with red or blue campaign flags and balloons.
The last rally in Taipei attracted about 80,000 supporters, the KMT said.
Momentum at the scene reached a climax when Ma and Chow appeared on stage at about 9:45pm, attracting deafening cheers from supporters as they chanted: “Ma Ying-jeou, dong suan!” while waving campaign flags.
Before the first couple made their way to Taipei, KMT heavyweights and officials, led by Lien, took turns to campaign for the president.
A hoarse-sounding Lien questioned the “corruption record” of the DPP under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and reiterated his call for pan-blue unity in an attempt to minimize the influence of Soong in the election.
“Tomorrow’s [today’s] presidential election is a battle between the two parties. Let us consolidate our support for Ma and a government that will take care of its people while maintaining integrity,” he said.
Ma, speaking to supporters in Taipei via a live broadcast at the rally in Greater Taichung, challenged former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) public endorsement of DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and questioned Tsai’s ability to lead “a clean and capable government” if elected.