The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has a good chance of securing the important battlefield of Taipei County in the year-end elections because its candidate has carved out a better niche than his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rival, who is suffering from an undefined strategy and lack of unity in the pan-blue camp, political analysts said.
According to the latest poll conducted by the United Daily News, the KMT's Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) and the DPP's Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) are tied, with Chou's voter support at 30 percent, while Luo has about 29 percent.
About 39 percent of voters said they were undecided.
But the most significant information from the survey is that Chou, who was selected by the KMT to win back the county government, has not acquired much support over the past three months, while Luo has gained steadily in terms of voter recognition.
Political analyst Hsu Yung-ming (
Luo is a veteran campaigner, having helped President Chen Shui-bian (
Luo has served as a DPP legislator, was chairman of the Hakka Affairs Commission, vice chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs and director of the Taipei City Government's Information and News Department.
Hsu said that Luo is targeting the younger generation, women and swing voters with a practical platform, and his energy and congeniality have impressed voters.
In addition to the full support of Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) -- former Taipei County commissioner and the current DPP chairman -- the key to Luo's good prospects is that he has garnered the assistance of his rival for the DPP nomination -- Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), secretary-general of the Executive Yuan -- which has enabled him to concentrate on his campaign.
In contrast to the unity and integration in the DPP camp, Chou is still vexed by the split in the pan-blue camp and has not outlined a theme for his campaign, Hsu said.
Moreover, Chou, who was a PFP legislator, has been criticized for defecting to the KMT.
His nomination has irked his pan-blue rivals, including KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), Sanchung Mayor Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍), former minister of justice Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪) and Wang Lin-huei (王玲惠), head of the Taipei County Federation of Chinese Businesswomen, who claim that Chou did not win the nomination through a fair and open primary.
"Chou's betrayal of the PFP has offended staunch supporters of the PFP and has triggered others to leave [the party], giving him the image of a renegade, which is unfavorable to him being elected," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.
Chou's "me too" strategy is also to blame for his declining poll numbers, Hsu said, noting that Chou has followed each stop on Luo's campaign route, claiming that he would disintegrate Luo's territory step by step.
"Chou's seemingly smart tactics have aroused voter antipathy and doubts about his creativity and ability to lead the county government," Hsu said.
Taipei County is one of the most crucial battlefields in the year-end elections given that it is the largest county in the nation, with over 3.6 million residents.
Most of the county's residents were not born there, with about 80 percent having relocated there from 10 other cities and counties.
As such, Taipei County has been labeled "the people of Taiwan's second hometown," and voter preferences in the county are often a predictor for national elections.
The outcomes of previous ommissioner elections closely match the results of presidential elections, according to materials from the DPP's poll survey center.
Over the past 16 years, the DPP's candidates have prevailed in the county even though pan-blue supporters account for nearly 50 percent of the county's eligible voters. The DPP has been able to best the KMT's candidates -- by a narrow margin -- because of the disunity within the pan-blue camp.
"Whether Chou can learn the lessons that the pan-blue camp has not yet been able to learn will decide the outcome of the elections," Chin said.
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