Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Race to be commissioner going down to the wire

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER IN HUALIEN

As the campaign for the Hualien County commissioner by-election wound up yesterday, it was still unclear which of the three main candidates would emerge victorious.

"I have never witnessed any election like this where up until the day before the election, there are still so many undecided voters, up to 30 or 40 percent," DPP candidate You Ying-lung (游盈隆) said yesterday. "This is a very unusual situation."

Each of the three key contenders has strong backing either from a party or grassroots support.

Big-name politicians from the DPP, KMT and PFP have swarmed to Hualien over the past few weeks to stump for their candidates.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Premier Yu Shyi-kun have all traveled to the east coast county to campaign for You.

KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have also made personal appearances on behalf of pan-blue candidate Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山).

Although Hsieh led opinion polls in the weeks leading up to the election, You and and independent candidate Wu Kuo-tung (吳國棟) may have gained some ground.

You has been trying to expand the DPP's support base of around 30 percent of the electorate by targeting Aboriginal and Hakka communities -- traditionally staunch supporters of the pan-blue camp.

The DPP candidate may benefit from central government moves to deliver better services to the county's Aboriginal communities and the around-the-clock police checks to prevent vote-buying in Aboriginal areas.

Hsieh's attempts to generate a "dump Wu to save Hsieh" campaign are also falling flat, as die-hard supporters of Wu have made themselves more visible.

On Thursday, for example, Wu's motorcade rally of about 6,000 supporters was much bigger than one the same day held for Hsieh that was joined by Lien and Soong.

Wu, a Hakka from Hualien, has played on his ethnicity and seems to be denting the DPP's appeal in Hakka townships.

Moreover, Wu has secured the support of several PFP stalwarts in Hualien, despite Soong's backing for Hsieh.

Local polling analysts predict a tight contest, with the winning margin likely to be no more than 5,000 votes.

They said the winner would need the votes of at least 55,000 of the 256,685 eligible voters.

In the last Hualien County commissioner election, the KMT's Chang Fu-hsing (張福興) garnered 59,591 votes, while the DPP's You received 47,596 votes and the PFP's Lai Cheng-hsiung (賴政雄) got 41,752 votes.

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