Wed, Jul 30, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Hualien candidates vie for Aboriginal vote

CRUCIAL FACTOR The ability of the contenders to woo native voters will have a direct bearing on the closely fought by-election for county commissioner

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung, center -- along with DPP Legislators Ker Chien-ming, right, Chiu Chui-chen and other party officials -- holds a press conference yesterday, calling on KMT-PFP alliance candidate Hsieh Shen-shan to show his appreciation for former president Lee Teng-hui's firm support in the past.

PHOTO: YANG YI-CHUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

As the race for Hualien County commissioner moves into the final stretch for Saturday's by-election, the Aboriginal vote -- which remains largely undecided -- has become a crucial factor that could end up favoring the dark horse.

"Hualien County's population is made up of four major ethnic groups: Hakka, Hokkien, Aborigines and mainlanders," said Wu Tsai-hsun (吳采勳), a veteran journalist with China Television stationed in Hualien.

Wu Tsai-hsun said that votes from the Hakka, Hokkien and mainlander groups have been largely secured by KMT maverick Wu Kuo-tung (吳國棟), the DPP's You Ying-lung (游盈隆) and the KMT-PFP alliance nominee Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) according to their campaign and party appeal. But, the journalist noted, the majority of Aboriginal voters have yet to show any clear preferences.

A Hakka himself, Wu Kuo-tung's strength in the county's Hakka community is unquestionable.

You is trying to pick up Hakka votes in addition to securing the DPP's traditional 30 percent support from Hokkien voters in the county.

Hsieh, with stumping from both KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) this past weekend, has largely consolidated the region's mainlander votes.

"The Aboriginal voters -- which make up to 23 percent of the Hualien population, or about 50,000 votes -- therefore will now become the crucial factor and have a direct bearing on the outcome of Saturday's election," Wu said.

To woo support and votes from the Aboriginal community, You has already promised in his campaign to offer NT$5,000 per month to the county's 200 Aboriginal chiefs so that they can provide better services to their communities.

You has also pledged to create 2,000 jobs for Aborigines.

In addition, Premier Yu Shyi-kun last Saturday announced that the Truku people (太魯閣) of Hualien County will be recognized as the nation's 12th indigenous tribe -- a gesture interpreted by some as an attempt to buy off the region's Aborigines.

In another bid to help boost You's candidacy in the Aboriginal communities, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), visited Hualien last Sunday and is slated to revisit the county tomorrow to watch a baseball game.

It is largely believed that Chen's visit to Hualien for a baseball game is meant to illustrate support and concern for the region's Aborigines and its baseball programs.

It is probably no accident that the visit comes in the wake of news that Tsao Chin-hui (曹錦輝) -- a right-hander from the county's Amis tribe -- had done Taiwan proud by appearing as the starting pitcher for the Major League Bseball's Colorado Rockies.

"East coast Aboriginal communities have long been staunch supporters of the pan-blue camp," Wu said. "But with the appealing pledges made by You, it is hard to predict who the Aboriginals' votes will eventually go to."

Meanwhile, Hsieh has also tried to portray himself as a "friend" of Aborigines. This past weekend, Hsieh, accompanied by both Lien and Soong, made frequent street processions through the regions' Aboriginal communities such Hsiulin and Sofang townships and took part in Aboriginal festivities.

With the approach of the election then, it seem that Aboriginals -- generally regarded as a minority and disadvantaged group -- have suddenly been propelled to the top of the heap and become the favorite of all political parties.

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