Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Chen to court Hakka vote

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

In a bid to attract more Hakka votes away from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) visited former Hualien County commissioner Wu Kuo-tung (吳國棟), a leading Hakka politician in his county, on Thursday night, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sources said yesterday.

This was at least the second visit Chen has made to Wu during the past three months to overcome animosity generated during the Hualien County commissioner by-election last August.

During the campaign, Chen said Wu was "guilty of being involved with financial scandals," an accusation Wu angrily denied.

Wu, a former member of the KMT, ran an independent campaign after criticizing the party's nomination process as "not transparent and unfair."

Wu finished third in the by-election, well behind the KMT's Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) and DPP candidate You Ying-lung (游盈隆), but played a influential role among the large Hakka communities in Hualien County.

According to Council for Hakka Affairs Chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), who has also visited Wu several times since last September, Wu's 93-year-old mother was encouraging her son to support Chen in the presidential election.

The first meeting between Chen and Wu was in December at Wu's residence, and the president even sang a traditional Hakka song for Wu's mother, Yeh said. Wu subsequently turned down the KMT-People First Party's (PFP) offer to head the alliance's presidential campaign headquarters in Hualien County.

Political analysts say young voters, especially the 1.6 million who will have the right to vote for the first time, as well as Hakka people are the key to the final phase of the presidential campaign.

"Hakka voters, who were pro-pan-blue camp during past elections, are now moving to the DPP, while the young voters, who usually support the DPP, seem to be attracted by Lien Chan's (連戰) campaign promises, such as cutting the army conscription period to only three months," Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝) said.

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