Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Opposition candidates avoid party bosses' pet disputes

PAN-BLUES Some politicians are downplaying their party ties and avoiding the election and arms budget disputes, saying that these issues are undermining their campaigns

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TAINAN

While Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) persist in their campaigns to uncover the "truth" of the March 19 assassination attempt and boycott the proposed NT$610.8 billion (US$18.6 billion) US arms deal, pan-blue candidates in the south are adopting a low-key attitude toward these disputes, and are fighting their battles mostly on their own.

The party affiliations of candidates in the Taipei metropolitan area are quite clear, and voters are choosing their candidates based mostly on their party preference.

But in the south, where the candidates rely heavily on vote captains (樁腳) in their campaigns, the party factor is overshadowed by candidates' own interpersonal networking efforts.

"We are running more like independent candidates than KMT candidates," an aide to a heavyweight KMT lawmaker in the Tainan area said.

Many KMT candidates in the south have chosen not to emphasize their party affiliations and are reducing the visibility of the KMT emblem on their campaign brochures and materials.

Red, White and Blue

KMT Legislator Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) from Tainan City, a former KMT legislative caucus whip, does not use the party emblem at all in his campaign brochure or advertisements, although he makes discreet use of the colors of the ROC flag with red, white and blue design elements.

Many KMT lawmakers also avoid highlighting issues such as the March 19 assassination attempt or the arms budget, pre-senting a more neutral image in their campaigns.

One KMT candidate in Chiayi County, Ho Ching-wen (何慶紋), is using the slogan "Viva la Taiwan and [I am] an expert in making a new Constitution" on a blue flag, making people wonder whether he was promoting the Taiwan Solidarity Union or the KMT.

"The pan-blue candidates are afraid of talking about these controversial issues in Tainan," said Lai Ching-te (賴清德), a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate in Tainan City.

Lai hinted that these issues are not beneficial to the pan-blues' campaign efforts.

Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財) said the disputes over the shooting probe and arms budget are not very meaningful in themselves, although they offer a means of unifying voter bases.

"The more the pan-blues dispute the different issues, the more united the pan-greens become," Hsu said.

Meanwhile, a KMT candidate in the south said that the pan-blue camp should have focused on regulating the number of nominations in the south, instead of arguing over the shooting probe and arms deal.

Lin Nan-shen (林南生), a KMT candidate in Tainan City, is a good example of how frantically southern candidates want to distance themselves from the dis-putes promoted by KMT headquarters.

Lin, who has found his main support base among veteran soldiers, is facing a serious challenge from PFP candidate Kao Si-po (高思博), son of KMT legislator-at-large Kao Yu-jen (高育仁).

But Lin is also working hard to separate himself from the pan-blue hardliners, despite his apparent hardliner background, and is stressing that he embraces localization.

He said that he had been following the party's guidelines on the nation's status, although his personal principles led him to believe that unification and independence should be abandoned.

"I did not agree with what [PFP Legislator] Chiu Yi (邱毅) did on March 20 when he led the crowd to the Presidential Office," Lin said.

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