Independent presidential candidate Chen Li-an has stepped up his campaign with sharp criticism of the leadership of incumbent President and Kuomintang candidate Lee Teng-hui. But local experts said it was doubtful whether the former Control Yuan president would present a serious challenge. Jung Chi-ping, the director of election strategy for Mr Chen's national headquarters, said 'estimates by ourselves and other show that Mr Chen Li-an only trails Lee Teng-hui now'. If Mr Jung is correct, Mr Chen, who at 59 is the youngest of the four candidates, leads both pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party standard-bearer Dr Peng Ming-min and independent conservative and former KMT vice-chairman Lin Yang-kang. But Associate Professor You Ying-lung, of the Political Science Department of Soochow University, disagreed with that assessment. 'Chen gets good reviews, but he won't pull in ballots at the voting booth and is still a secondary actor in the campaign,' he said. Mr Chen's campaign initially put him forward with a soft image as a moral leader, accenting his Buddhist faith and appealing for a hiatus in the ideological debate between unification with mainland China or formal independence. He embarked on a week-long excursion by foot and car through many of the island's urban and rural townships dressed in simple clothes and a farmer's hat. But during the past week, Mr Chen has stepped up the level of rhetoric against Mr Lee. On Sunday, he said the current cross-strait crisis arose mainly 'because Lee Teng-hui doesn't consider himself to be Chinese'.