KMT stars pull out all the stops in appeal to voters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am

Heavyweight Kuomintang politicians made last-ditch efforts to drum up support for party candidates across the island yesterday, with the party's political star, Ma Ying-jeou, spending most of his time in Kaohsiung to consolidate support in the south, seen as a stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Thousands of supporters joined two large KMT rallies last night - one in Taipei and the other in Kaohsiung - with emotions running high when party heavyweights took to the stage.

KMT candidates used all sorts of gimmicks to appeal to supporters to vote, with the streets of Taiwan dotted with flags, banners and campaign vehicles touring around the island canvassing for votes.

In one dramatic act, a teary-eyed KMT candidate in Kaohsiung city, Hou Tsai-feng, had her head shaved in front of Mr Ma and fellow party members during a press conference in the city in what she described as a 'silent protest' against the 'dirty tricks' and accusations launched against her by the DPP.

While suggestions abound that the KMT is set to secure a majority in the new legislature, party chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, who had earlier vowed to step down if the DPP won 50 seats, refrained from making any prediction on the number of seats the KMT could secure.

'The Kuomintang has had too many painful experiences before, so I dare not make any early prediction,' Mr Wu said. 'I can only say, each seat will be a tough fight, and we've made our utmost effort to save every seat.'

Those cautious remarks were echoed by Mr Ma, who said during his campaigning in Kaohsiung that 'competition is very fierce'.

'On the last day before the election, dirty tricks [by the DPP] are particularly serious, so there're still uncertainties as to our performance.'

Southern Taiwan has long been seen as a DPP stronghold, with the ruling party's presidential candidate Frank Hsieh Chang-ting staying in Kaohsiung to campaign for its candidates on the eve of elections yesterday, but the presence of KMT big guns in the southern city also highlighted the fierce rivalry across the island.

Mr Ma chose to spend the whole day yesterday accompanying KMT candidates in Kaohsiung, capping his southern campaigning off with an appearance at a night-time rally. KMT vice-presidential candidate Vincent Siew Wan-chang and legislative speaker Wang Jin-Pyng also joined the rally, with Mr Wang also campaigning in Tainan.

KMT rallies in Taipei and Kaohsiung were linked by television at about 9.45pm, with Mr Ma telling supporters: 'We believe chairman Wu definitely won't need to resign.'

Mr Ma waved to supporters along the streets of Kaohsiung as he accompanied candidates.

Mr Wu and KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan, meanwhile, were in Taipei to consolidate support there while Mr Siew also visited Taichung and Nantou in central Taiwan.

Pundits have suggested the KMT is set to win 65 to 70 seats in the 113-seat legislature, and some Taiwanese media quoted KMT sources saying that it could even win 75 if it could break into the DPP strongholds like Tainan, the hometown of President Chen Shui-bian.