Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Chen leads Lien in latest poll

PULLING AWAY A poll by an influential Chinese-language newspaper found that 40 percent of respondents back President Chen-Shui-bian and 38 percent back Lien Chan

AFP , TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took the lead in the presidential election race for the first time this year after reaping the benefits of a huge government-backed anti-China protest last weekend, according to a poll by an influential newspaper, released yesterday.

A poll by the China Times of 3,391 eligible voters found that 40 percent backed Chen while support for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) stood at 38 percent.

The newspaper said the findings reflected a setback for the opposition following claims by Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that more than 2 million people joined a 500km human chain almost the length of the island a week ago.

The "228 Hand-in-Hand Rally" was called to protest against hundreds of Chinese missiles pointed at the island but was also designed to rally supporters of the pro-independence DPP ahead of the March 20 presidential poll.

Analysts said the KMT had to rally its traditional support base and encourage them to come out to vote during the final two weeks of campaigning.

Lien led most polls over the previous year after highlighting concerns about the economy and the nation's uneasy relations with China.

However the latest poll conducted by the China Times from March 1 to March 5 showed Chen and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) had overhauled the lead of Lien and his running mate James Soong (宋楚瑜).

The poll found that support for Chen and Lu had remained steady at around 40 percent but Lien and Soong's support had dropped 5 percentage points, compared with a poll conducted by the newspaper last month.

The number of undecided voters increased from 17 percent last month to 22, reflecting how the support of some opposition voters had been shaken by the human chain rally, according to the newspaper.

"Though the rally has not helped expand the DPP's support base, it was successful psychological warfare," it said.

The DPP has attempted to capitalize on the big turnout of its supporters with the release of a new party political broadcast featuring the rally calling it the "Great Wall of Taiwan."

Emile Sheng (盛治仁), a political scientist at Soochow University, said the challenge for the KMT-led opposition was to get its supporters to turn out to vote on March 20.

Sheng said the support base of the KMT and Soong's People First Party was marginally larger than that of the DPP.

"Incidents such as the rally can only intensify or weaken wavering voters' desire to express themselves and go to the poll," Sheng said.

The opposition has announced plans to stimulate its campaign with a series of mass marches a week before polling day to protest against alleged corruption within government ranks.

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