The Taipei mayoral election is finally coming to life as attention switches from the flagging campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian (
The election was regarded by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) as an easy battle against the scandal-ridden Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) until People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and independent Legislator Li Ao (
Having enjoyed an overall support rate of about 50 percent, KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Hau Lung-bin (
About 14 percent of respondents said they supported DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh (
Soong, who has temporarily left his position as PFP chairman to run in the race as an independent candidate, shrugged off KMT concerns about a split pan-blue vote.
While it may still be early to predict the impact Soong will have on the pan-blue support base, analysts said the KMT is counting on the so-called "dump-save effect" for pan-blue voters to dump Soong and vote for Hau in the election, despite several failed attempts in previous elections.
"Hau is still leading the pack even though his support rate has dropped, and the KMT is expecting that Soong will be the one to be dumped by pan-blue voters. It's an old trick the party has played whenever there's a pan-blue split," said Ku Chung-hwa (
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the KMT chairman, had expressed his concerns over a pan-blue split, and said that the KMT would continue "until the last minute" to negotiate with the PFP in the hope of promoting just one pan-blue candidate.
Speaking to the the press last Friday, however, Ma declined to comment on the development of KMT-PFP negotiations.
History has proved that once there is a pan-blue split, the third party is likely to be the main beneficiary.
The pan-blue camp lost the 1994 Taipei mayoral election and the 2000 presidential election when two pan-blue candidates split the ticket, helping the DPP to victory.
Looking at past Taipei mayoral election statistics, the pan-blue camp acquired 60 percent of the votes, while the pan-green camp snatched an average of 40 percent of the votes.
As the "dump-save effects" played a crucial role in the DPP's bid to win the mayoral election in 1999, Ku said if Soong snatched 10-15 percent of votes, Hsieh would very likely be elected.
Hau has been facing attacks from Hsieh's camp over his utility bills and allegations concerning the alleged involvement of his father, former premier Hau Pei-tsun's (郝柏村) in the Lafayette frigate purchase scandal.
However, the KMT has retained its confidence in Hau, who it argued boasts a clean image and appeals more to middle-class voters in Taipei than political veterans like Soong, Hsieh and Li.
While agreeing that pan-blue voters may think of Soong as a veteran who refuse to give the next generation a chance and the DPP's attack may generate negative impact instead, political critic Liao Da-chi (廖達琪) of National Chungshan University warned that Hau, despite his clean image, lacks the charisma to generate great public support.