As Taiwan's Kuomintang struggles to keep its head above water under pressure from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, it may be thrown an electoral lifeline from historic arch-rival, the Communist Party, according to a Beijing analyst.
Honorary KMT chairman Lien Chan will this weekend hold a third joint cross-strait economic, trade and cultural forum with mainland authorities and is expected to meet President Hu Jintao .
Beijing United University Taiwan Research Centre head Xu Bodong said a close relationship with mainland authorities was a critical electoral card for the KMT.
'It will no doubt help the KMT to secure votes since it is the wish of the majority of Taiwan's people to have stable cross-strait relations,' Professor Xu said.
The mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi said yesterday that this year's forum would focus on fostering direct transport links, visits by mainland tourists to the island, and exchanges in areas such as education. In all, 500 delegates will attend the forum, 300 of them from Taiwan, but any agreements will need a nod from the DPP to have any chance of being realised.
Timothy Wong Ka-ying, from the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said Taiwanese media interest in the forum had rapidly dwindled since Mr Lien's landmark visit in 2005, suggesting the forum's role in Taiwanese politics had shrank.
'The positive effect of warming cross-strait relations [on the KMT's standing] is limited,' Mr Wong said. 'After all, Lien Chan is not running for president.'
He said the KMT's biggest problem was lack of unity and if this remained unresolved, 'nothing anyone else does will help [the KMT]'.
The head of the Xiamen University Taiwan Research Centre, Liu Guoshen , agreed that the electoral impact of Mr Lien's visit would be limited. 'Every party should build a closer relationship with the mainland, including the DPP,' Professor Liu said.
'However, the effect will not be substantial since the main factors in the elections will still be internal issues, for example, economic development and justice.'
Mr Yang also responded strongly to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's earlier request that his government should be admitted to the World Health Organisation under the name of 'Taiwan'.