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Sat, Jan 29, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Analysts disagree on Soong's new drawing power

SUPPORT Critics argue the significance of a shift by two former KMT heavyweights to support James Soong

By Lauren Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

As a result of two former government officials pledging to throw their weight behind independent presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) coupled with Soong's renewed lead in many opinion polls, observers said yesterday that the "bandwagon effect" within the KMT toward Soong could lend extra impetus to the independent candidate's presidential bid.

However, critics said the exodus toward Soong's camp was more symbolic than a substantive indication of a change of support.

Soong's campaign manager, Wu Rong-ming (吳容明) told the Taipei Times yesterday that endorsements from both former legislative speaker Liu Sung-fan (劉松藩) and ex-justice minister Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪) have had a positive impact on their presidential campaign.

"The participation by Liu and Liao, in their capacity as former legislative speaker and minister respectively, have not only boosted our morale, but also helped us to further demonstrate our momentum," Wu said.

According to the latest poll released by the TVBS cable network, Soong's popularity rating has moved from 25 percent to 29 percent, while the DPP's candidate, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) held steady at 24 percent and the KMT's hopeful Lien Chan (連戰) took 23 percent.

Critics, meanwhile, said recent developments can be looked at on two different levels.

"Both Liu and Liao have connections with local factions. And while Liu is seen as the `godfather of the red faction' in Taichung County and holds an impressive mobilization ability among farmer's associations, the Liao family is also associated with the powerful Lin faction in Chiayi County," said Wang Yeh-lih (王業立), political scientist at Tunghai University (東海大學).

Nevertheless, Wang added: "Despite their channels to local factions, on the national campaign battlefield, their influence will be limited."

Liu is the most senior figure in the legislature, having been elected nine times and serving as the first native Taiwanese legislative speaker.

Liao became popular as justice minister Liao and was touted as a "hero for cracking down on organized crime."

Wang pointed out that Soong's camp has paid more attention to Liu and Liao's symbolic value rather than to their ability to secure factional voters.

"Liao's reform-minded appearance could help to repair Soong's tarnished image after the revelation of the money scandal last December," Wang said.

But DPP New Wave faction leader Wu Nan-jen (吳乃仁) warned that if Soong's popularity rating rebounds, the KMT may launch a negative campaign against either Liu or Liao.

"Judging from their deep affiliations with the KMT, I believe that KMT could easily gather evidence to challenge their credit," Wu said.

Moreover, Wu said Soong's weakness lies in the fact that he may have already maximized his support base.

"Most of Soong's backers are active voters, who are willing to express their pro-Soong tendency. Compared to Soong's rivals, no matter whether Chen or Lien, Soong's space [to expand support] is narrow,'' Wu said.

Other critics disagreed.

"Ever since the exposure of the irregular financial dealings surrounding Soong's family, based on my own experience, part of Soong's supporters have been inclined to conceal their preference for Soong, probably to avoid harassment," Wang said.

Under such circumstances, Wang said, "I would prefer not to underestimate Soong's mobilization power."

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