Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Su and Hsieh boosted by elections, academics say

LEADERS US academics said that Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh had benefited and that mayor-elect Chen could be named as a vice presidential candidate for 2008

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) was the "big winner" in the battle for the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) 2008 presidential nomination as a result of last weekend's mayoral elections, but the position of the party's defeated Taipei candidate, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), was also enhanced, two US academics said on Monday.

Observers in Washington added that Kaohsiung's DPP mayor-elect Chen Chu (陳菊) may be in line for the vice presidential slot in 2008 because of her victory in that city's election on Saturday.

But they dismissed the idea that the electoral victory in Kao-hsiung and the DPP's strong showing in Taipei represented a vindication or groundswell of support for scandal-ridden President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Rather, they said, it means that DPP supporters remain devoted to the party and its ideals, despite Chen Shui-bian's troubles.

"I think Su is the big winner," said Shelley Rigger, a professor at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and one of the leading Taiwan scholars in the US.

She reasoned that through the elections and the scandals that preceded them, Su had continued to run the country in a competent manner. Had the DPP lost the election in Kaohsiung, Su might have been forced to step down, Rigger said.

She also pointed to Chen Chu as a big winner, who she described as "a very attractive candidate, a celebrity, a person who is really beloved."

As for Hsieh, Rigger said in an interview with the Taipei Times after appearing at a seminar at the Heritage Foundation on the mayoral elections, he was "in a funny way a winner, too."

"Remember," she said, "Hsieh did not want to run. He was basically drawn into being the candidate. So he lost by a respectable margin. It was the best that could be expected," she said.

Su would gain from his handling of the country's affairs, Rigger said, adding that he was "making some interesting progress in" economics, cross-strait relations, tourism, direct flights with China and the relaxation on business visitors from China.

"Su is running cross-strait policy in a way that will be very appealing to the moderate voter and he's getting to do it without a lot of scrutiny which ... would otherwise be directed at him, because everybody is focused on another place," Rigger said.

Vincent Wang (王維正), the coordinator of international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia, generally agreed with Rigger's assessment.

Su "is a rising star," Wang said in an interview after the Heritage program.

If the DPP had lost the Kaohsiung election, Su might have been forced to step down, Wang says.

"[Now] he can stay on at his job and he is doing a respectable job as the head of the Cabinet. Also, he has the tactical and strategic support from his new allies, the [DPP's] New Tide [faction] in all the counties and cities of southern Taiwan. So he is definitely one of the contenders, probably the front-runner, in the drive toward the presidential election," Wang said.

Wang also singled out DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun as having gained from the election results.

"[Yu] can point to Kaohsiung eking out a narrow win as a kind of a victory. And, of course, if the DPP performs respectably next year in the legislative elections, that means that Yu Shyi-kun is an effective campaigner. That will also put him in good stead for 2008," Wang said.

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