Mon, Dec 06, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Taoyuan's overcrowded but key race

Taoyuan County has long been a pan-blue citadel; in the upcoming legislative elections the county will be vital since it's the nation's largest --and probably most complex -- electorate

By Bruce Jacobs

DPP legislative candidate Peng Tien-fu, front, yesterday rides a bicycle followed by members of his campaign rally in Chungli, Taoyuan County. Peng believes that riding a bicycle on the street is a healthy way to give his election campaign a final push.

PHOTO: LU SHU-CHING, TAIPEI TIMES

Each of Taiwan's 31 electoral districts has its own special characteristics. Taoyuan County, which elects 13 members of the Legislature, is the nation's biggest electorate. It is also one of its most complex.

Home to 1,800,000 people, Taoyuan County has long been divided into the North, focused on Taoyuan city, and the South, which has Chungli city as its key city. The North is mainly Hoklo while the South is predominantly Hakka. In addition, numerous military bases and large numbers of military villages throughout the county mean that many Mainlanders also live in Taoyuan.

In addition to the county's some 40,000 Aboriginal people, about one-half of the population is Hoklo, while one-third is Hakka and about one-sixth (or a bit more) is Mainlander.

In the authoritarian period, this ethnic division led to strong competition between a Hoklo and a Hakka faction. The divisions became so bad that the two sides agreed to a rotation of offices.

In addition to these ethnic elements, Taoyuan County also has a coastal region and a mountainous region. This interplay of ethnic and geographical differences makes the county extremely complex for any political party trying to win control. Yet, in the legislative election, Taoyuan elects over seven percent of the seats. Thus, Taoyuan County cannot be ignored.

Over the years, Taoyuan has tended to be a pan-blue citadel. In the March 2004 presidential election, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) won just over 55 percent of the vote while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) obtained just under 45 percent. This was actually a victory for the DPP as larger numbers of Hakka voted for the DPP than in the past. In the 2001 legislative campaign, the DPP won five seats while the Blue forces won eight.

People from all sides of the political spectrum agree about two key aspects of the current legislative campaign in Taoyuan.

First, all sides have nominated too many candidates. Nineteen of the twenty-eight candidates running for the thirteen positions are nominees of the four major parties.

In addition, there are at least one or two reasonably powerful non-partisans. Secondly, no party (with the partial exception of the KMT) has implemented a system of vote allocation.

For this election the DPP has nominated seven candidates, even though the presidential vote would suggest six candidates would have been more appropriate. Taoyuan has one seat guaranteed for a woman, and so the DPP added a woman to go with the six seats won by males in the primary election within the DPP.

However, this method of choosing candidates led to the selection of only three from the north -- the heartland of DPP support in Taoyuan -- and the nomination of four candidates in the south, three of whom are Hakka.

Into this mix the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) has now nominated two candidates. Most believe only one, Huang Tsung-yuan (黃宗源), can win. But if Huang wins, this will make it more difficult for one or more of the DPP candidates.

The pan-blues also have nominated too many candidates. The KMT originally nominated six candidates, though a seventh, actually a member of the New Party, has come in under the KMT banner. The KMT nominations seem to have considered geographical origins more carefully than the DPP.

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