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Tue, Nov 27, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Dec. 1 elections: The brawn behind local factions' influence 2

Though the jury is still out on how large a role local factions will play in Saturday's elections, analysts and insiders agree that while the influence of factions is waning, they still hold significant sway, especially outside of major cities. Built on connections based on lineage, marriage and geographic proximity, they often have ties to the mafia. One observer called their presence in politics `a great irony to the nation's democratic progress'

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Huang Pah-yeh (黃八野), two-term Fengsan mayor and a stalwart member of the Red Faction, has mounted a maverick campaign after failing to win the KMT nomination. Though trailing behind Wu and DPP candidate Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) in recent polls, the Huang campaign could be capable of tipping the balance in favor of a less disliked foe.

The Black Faction, built around outgoing commissioner Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) and his clan, has administered the southern county for the past 16 years.

But it remains to be seen if Yang, who belongs to the New Tide faction of the DPP, can bag the full support of the Yu clan.

DPP legislator Yu Jane-daw (余政道), the commissioner's younger brother, is said to owe 30 percent of the votes he garnered in 1998 to the mobilization of his family, though his colleague Lin Feng-hsi (林豐喜) said the figure is "underestimated."

"His clan contributed at least 70 percent to [the younger] Yu's vote count three years ago," Lin said.

With organization becoming increasingly important in planning campaigns, the parties have all courted local factions, which in the past all but aligned with the KMT.

"That explains why the DPP has dumped its own candidate, Ho Chia-jong (何嘉榮), in favor of an independent lawmaker Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) in the race for Chiayi County commissioner," said Wang, the political scientist.

The Lin faction, one of the two largest in Chiayi, has thrown its support behind Chen, and is expected to help mobilize some 50,000 to 60,000 votes, aides said.

The Huang faction, on the other hand, is endorsing KMT contender Wong Chung-chun (翁重均).

In the counties of Hsinchu and Taoyuan, large clans outperform political parties in rallying supporters.

In Hsinchu, where ethnic Hakka account for 85 percent of its population, clans with such last names as Chen, Lin, Liu and Fang maintain a larger membership than any single political party.

"It is true residents here value their clans more than their partisan tags," said Lin Yu-lu (林鈺如), aide to KMT lawmaker Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金), who is putting up an aggressive campaign against DPP incumbent commissioner Lin Kwang-hua (林光華).

"Traditional and united, they tend to vote for the candidate they best identify with. As such, endorsement by major clans, though not necessarily decisive, is indispensable to carrying the election."

As both candidates are ethnic Hakka, folks have dubbed the race as a Hakka vs. Hakka duel.

Without direct control of political and economic resources, those clans are not as notorious for illicit campaigns, former justice minister Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪) said, adding that the crackdown on vote-buying leaves ample room for improvement.

Chen, the sociologist, echoed the disappointment, saying: "Like it or not, local factions are here to stay so long as interpersonal bonds continue to dominate voters' decision-making."

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