Thousands rally to support candidates

FINAL PUSH::DPP frontrunners Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen held large-scale rallies ahead of polls that start today to choose the DPP candidate to run for president

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 - Page 1

Thousands of supporters packed streets in northern and southern Taiwan as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) frontrunners held their last major campaign rallies before the official polls open tonight.

Fighting for the presidential nomination, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) drew huge crowds well into the night in a last ditch effort to edge into the lead as the two-month-long primaries come to an end.

In a reverse order of events from the day before, Tsai held her final rally in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sanchong District (三重), a pan-green stronghold where Su spoke on Saturday, while Su held the last of a series of music concerts at Greater Kaohsiung’s Labor Park.

The mood at both rallies, with attendance well in the thousands, was upbeat and optimistic, reflecting the two frontrunners’ consistent and well-fought campaigns. Neither has pulled away in the polls, deadlocked since day one.

In Greater Kaohsiung, organizers at Su’s campaign pegged attendance at more than 10,000, with nearby streets clogged with supporters to hear the former premier speak. Su emphasized his experience as he called on voters to support him.

He aimed not at his main rival, Tsai, but at President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who he said has failed to stand on the side of Taiwanese.

“We want a leader that understands and sympathizes with the people, a person who can resolve Taiwan’s problems. Ma can’t — but I, alone, can,” Su told the crowd, amid calls of “Su Tseng-chang, the next president.”

“A strong leader must stand on the side of Taiwan,” he said.

Recapping to supporters his experience in government, first as a local county commissioner and then as premier, he said that people should trust him and that “I will stand up to the test.”

“I will never compromise my values,” he said.

Local folk singers, rappers and lawmakers took turns on the stage. The mayors of Greater Tainan and Greater Kaohsiung also reminded voters at the event to go out and support the DPP in the general elections next year.

Meanwhile, thousands of people wearing green and waving campaign flags also overflowed from a local elementary school in New Taipei City in what was one of Tsai’s largest campaign rallies since she announced her candidacy for president last month.

At the rally, Tsai sought to emphasize her leadership ability and portrayed herself as having the best chance of bringing about change next year.

“I see the expectations and the warmth in everybody’s eyes here today,” she said. “We are all waiting for that change: a change of president, a change in the legislature and most of all, a change in Taiwan’s direction.”

In attendance were labor and pro-independence representatives, as well as party lawmakers and folk singers, reflecting the broad base of support that Tsai is hoping can carry her into office next year.

Organizers pegged attendance in the thousands, but did not give a specific number.

Earlier in the day in Taipei City, Tsai spoke alongside women’s groups calling for Taiwan to “elect a female president” — following in the footsteps of other advanced democracies like Germany and Australia.

“Women have traditionally faced obstacles and difficulties in government and in the workplace,” she said. “We must work together to elect a female president — one that can take this country to a -better place.”

The third DPP candidate, Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), who has admitted his chance of winning the nomination is a “long shot,” spent yesterday seeking support in central and southern Taiwan where he met business and media figures.