Mon, Feb 16, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Infighting taking toll on DPP's chances in south

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Lee Teng-hui, second right front, joins hands with Kaohsiung residents at the Kaohsiung Girls' Senior High School during a rehearsal for a campaign event scheduled for Feb. 28 in which a million people are expected to join hands and form a line from north to south. Southern Taiwan is considered a stronghold for the DPP, but factional fighting is hampering the party's efforts in the region.

PHOTO: CNA

Grassroots support for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stronghold of southern Taiwan has weakened due to infighting between the party factions, according to party heavyweights.

Many important figures from both the pan-green and pan-blue camps said Chen is losing his support in the region, seen as key to his victory in 2000.

"The political ideology of Kaohsiung residents does not change easily. But there have been many people who used to be supporters of Chen expressing privately that they will not vote for him this time," said former Kaohsiung City Council speaker Huang Chi-chuang (黃啟川).

"These local factions won't necessarily vote for the Lien-Soong ticket, so the voter turnout may decline in the end," Huang said.

"If the voter turnout rate in the Kaohsiung region goes down to 70 to 75 percent, then A-bian [Chen Shui-bian] has no chance," Huang said.

The turnout for the 2000 election was 82.5 percent.

In the presidential election four years ago, there were three strong teams competing -- Chen of the DPP, Lien Chan (連戰) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and James Soong (宋楚瑜) as an independent.

Chen won only 51 percent of the vote in his hometown of Tainan County.

Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said recently that since this election is an one-on-one contest, Chen must win at least 55 percent support in the seven southern counties and cities in order to make up for deficiencies in the other areas.

But Huang also said that, because the person in charge of the DPP's election campaign in the south has not been responsible, the pan-blue camp has been given the opportunity to gain votes in the region.

"Chen said he will win 60 percent of the vote, but this is not going to happen," Huang said.

Conflicts between factions of the DPP are largely to blame for the loss of support.

Both former DPP Kaohsiung city councilor Chu Hsin-yu (朱星羽) and Kaohsiung County legislator Liang Mu-yang (梁牧養), who had many confrontations with the DPP, have rejected the invitation to help with the party's campaign.

"Even the campaign's deputy director, Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who is responsible for the coordination of the campaign in southern Taiwan, has done little for the campaign, as though he is waiting for President Chen to make a deal with him," Huang said.

The head of the KMT campaign in Kaohsiung, Lin Hsiang-neng (林享能), agreed, saying that whether Chen is re-elected will have little impact on Hsieh's status in the south.

If Chen fails in his bid for a second term, Hsieh, who has abundant political experience, may have the opportunity to compete against Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) for the future leadership of the DPP.

Albert Lin (林耀文), director-general of the Department of Information of the Kaohsiung City Government, defended his boss.

"This is a rumor created by the pan-blue camp in order to create frictions in the pan-green camp. It's the method the KMT has always used -- creating conflicts in their opponent's party," he said.

"Mayor Hsieh has competed against President Chen inside the party in the past. It is exactly this kind of healthy competition within that party that has helped the DPP grow. Voters are not blind. Can't they see who is working hard? If A-bian fails, of course mayor Hsieh will be blamed too," Lin said.

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