Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been low-key during the first part of her five-day visit to the western coastal counties of Changhua and Yunlin.
However, her meetings with several township chiefs belonging to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) as well as independent local councilors and opinion leaders have not gone unnoticed.
The so-called “pile pull-out (拔樁)” strategy, election slang for the practice of appealing to members of opposing parties or local political heavyweights for support, has received extensive news coverage and caught the attention of her rivals.
That likely explained why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) decided to hold the KMT’s weekly Central Standing Committee meeting in Yunlin yesterday and why first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) recently began to campaign for her husband in the region.
People First Party presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) also visited Yunlin yesterday.
Despite the KMT’s denial that it is panicking because of the DPP’s moves and Tsai saying yesterday her meetings with pan-blue officials should not have been interpreted as “pile pull-out” because officials must do what is best for their regions, both parties know what is at stake.
With most opinion polls showing the KMT holding a comfortable lead in northern Taiwan and the DPP standing firm in its stronghold of southern Taiwan, central Taiwan has become the main battleground. Overall, the DPP has fared better in Yunlin than in Changhua. More than half of the voters in Yunlin supported the DPP in the past three presidential elections, with Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) in office since 2005.
The situation is more complicated in Changhua, where the KMT and the DPP have taken turns leading in the past three presidential and commissioner elections. However, in the 2008 legislative elections, the county’s four seats went to the KMT.
Speaking on Tsai’s meeting with Cheng Chun-hsiung (鄭俊雄), chief of Changhua’s Tianjhong Township (田中) and a KMT member, a local DPP campaigner, who wished to remain anonymous, said the pile-pulling move “was probably only symbolic, but it was able to create a momentum.”
Voters in the western coastal areas are leaning toward the DPP this time because their wellbeing has suffered under the Ma administration, he said.
“Split voting” — whereby voters cast ballots for the DPP in the presidential election, but vote for the KMT legislative candidate — could also play a role in the region, he said, either because of the impact of local factions or campaign momentum.
A female KMT legislative candidate has been telling her supporters to “vote for two women” — herself and Tsai.