KMT in last-minute push before mayoral elections
Taiwan's Kuomintang made a last-ditch effort to encourage supporters to vote in elections today for the mayors of five special municipalities, which are seen as a midterm test of President Ma Ying-jeou and his mainland engagement policy.
The last-minute appeals could be vital for the prospects of the ruling party, whose supporters are generally considered less enthusiastic than those of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
Supporters of the pro-independence DPP are generally considered more united and more willing to vote, even in bad weather, whereas KMT voters are known to be less enthusiastic and more likely to stay home in inclement weather.
'Save Hau Lung-bin, and save Eric Chu,' KMT campaign aides shouted through loudspeakers as their campaign trucks travelled along the streets of Taipei and Xinbei city yesterday.
Hau, the incumbent Taipei mayor, is fighting a tough battle for a second four-year term in the island's capital against former Taiwanese premier Su Tseng-chang of the DPP.
Just across the river in Xinbei city - which used to be called Taipei county - Eric Chu, former vice-premier and Taoyuan magistrate, was neck and neck with his DPP opponent, Dr Tsai Ing-wen, the party's chairwoman and another former vice-premier.
The moderate approach adopted by the DPP during the campaigns, shunning the rhetoric that in the past has seen it slam the KMT as Beijing's running dog, appears to have been successful in preventing the campaigning from becoming a showdown over mainland engagement or Taiwanese independence. It has also succeeded in appealing to some neutral voters or even more moderate KMT supporters who believe DPP candidates could do a better job.
This has created a sense of crisis for the KMT, which had hoped to hang on to the three cities - Taichung in central Taiwan and Taipei and Xinbei in the north - it currently holds.
In the final countdown to the polls, a busy Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, yesterday toured the five municipalities, which also include the DPP strongholds of Kaohsiung and Tainan, to solicit votes for his party's candidates.
KMT spokesman Su Jun-pin acknowledged yesterday that a high voter turnout could be vital for the ruling party, given the general 60-40 support ratio between the KMT and the DPP.
'Without your vote, we would be in danger,' Su said.
Meanwhile, in Kaohsiung, incumbent mayor Chen Chu is involved in an intriguing battle, not only facing attacks from KMT challenger Huang Chao-hsun, a legislator, but also from a DPP maverick, Kaohsiung Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing, who quit the party to run against her after losing the DPP nomination race.
Although Chen has maintained a substantial lead over her two main rivals, she could face defeat if Huang and Yang manage to co-operate.
There have been whispers of a campaign to 'abandon Huang to support Yang' within the city, which would pose a serious threat to Chen. Since quitting the DPP, Yang has reportedly received support from the blue camp - the informal coalition between the KMT and the People First Party.
Elsewhere in Kaohsiung, the son of former president Chen Shui-bian, who has been sentenced to 19 years' jail for corruption by the Supreme Court, is reported to be well placed in Kaohsiung city council polls.
Chen Chih-chung, who recently lost a libel suit over reports that he hired prostitutes, has firm support from the hardcore pro-independence camp which backed his father. Taiwanese media said if the junior Chen was elected, his wife, Huang Jui-ching, convicted by the high court for money laundering, would run in the legislative election next year.
The share of voters thought to support the KMT is estimated at: 60%