Sun, Dec 05, 2004 - Page 3 News List

`Pan-blue pillars' outshining the old guard

POPULARITY Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and other pan-blue leaders are replacing Lien and Soong as the heavyweights the pan-blue candidates want to be seen with

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

During the legislative elections three years ago, the face of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) was a popular one among pan-blue supporters. It was easily spotted on the campaign billboards or brochures taken jointly with KMT legislative candidates. So was the face of People First Party (PFP) chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), whose photo, coupled with a legislative candidate, virtually guaranteed a boost to the candidate's electoral outlook.

That was then.

Today, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has four political heavyweights -- dubbed by media the "Four Kings" -- campaigning for DPP legislative hopefuls, the pan-blue camp has its own "Four Kings." They are Lien, Soong, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and KMT Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Through the eyes of many pan-blue legislative hopefuls who are running a seat this year, Ma and Wang exceeded both Lien and Soong in terms of popularity as their favorite stumpers.

"A walk around the constituency here, it is not hard to see that the visibility of Lien is relatively less than [that during the previous legislative elections]," said Tainan City Councilor Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) a DPP member.

This year's pan-blue candidates count more on their own interpersonal networks to win the support of voters, rather than expecting a boost to their campaign by getting their picture taken with Lien, Huang said, who comes from the same town as Lien.

The stubborn behavior and rhetoric displayed by both Lien and Soong in the wake of the March 20 presidential election contributed to a sense of disapproval among voters, especially those in southern and central Taiwan, political observers say.

"In comparison to Wang and Ma, the reputation and public appeal of both Lien and Soong had slipped, especially after the presidential election," said political commentator Yang Hsien-hung (楊憲宏).

Lien and Soong, who ran on the pan-blue joint presidential ticket in March, refused to concede defeat after they lost to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) by a margin of less than 30,000 votes. Immediately following the election result, Lien and Soong led pan-blue supporters to stage a weeks-long protest in front of the Presidential Office. They also allowed party members to lead pan-blue mobs who stormed the Central Election Commission building and broke into local district courts all over the country.

Lien on Nov. 5 vowed to appeal the ruling handed down by the Taiwan High Court, which dismissed the pan-blue camp's position that the March 20 presidential election was unfair and that its result should be nullified. Soong predictably followed suit and gave his full support to Lien's appeal vows. To many voters, mention of Lien and Soong now invokes the image of a couple of old men who are sore losers, political analysts say.

The recent rhetoric uttered by both Lien or Soong at public settings further demonstrated their position as hardliners which, according to political observers, did not help in gaining support from undecided voters.

During the KMT's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting on Nov. 3, Lien said Chen was a "cheating president" and that "President Chen Shui-bian is nothing."

He even went so far as to say that "anyone could kill President Chen."

While stumping for KMT legislative candidate Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) in Taipei, Lien attacked the DPP campaign managers: Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Premier Yu Shyi-kun and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

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