A damage-control exercise by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian to soothe anger in his ruling Democratic Progressive Party over his backing of mainland visits by opposition leaders has failed to ease concerns. In a late-night meeting on Friday with mid-tier party officials, including city and county chiefs and legislators, Mr Chen defended his recent U-turn, saying there was a need to seek reconciliation with the opposition to keep the government running. But DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui said: 'The policy of the president must be consistent. Otherwise, how can others listen to him?' Mr Chen originally criticised the trip by Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan as highly improper, especially after the mainland enacted the Anti-Secession Law authorising the use of force against Taiwan. But he toned down his criticism last week, saying visits by opposition leaders, including the one by People First Party (PFP) chairman James Soong Chu-yu can help pave the way for the government in cross-strait reconciliation. Supporters were even more angry after Mr Chen failed to correct Mr Soong when the latter insisted in Taipei last week that he and the president had agreed in their consensus that there is 'one China' as specified in Taiwan's constitution. Mr Lin said Mr Chen called for party unity but his frequent shifts in position made this difficult. A DPP opinion survey has showed its voter support dropping by 7 percentage points to 33 per cent and the KMT's rising by 10 percentage points to 44 per cent since September. Mr Chen's comment embarrassed DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang, who asked members to unite to ensure victory in the May 14 National Assembly election. 'It is my job to make sure that we have the necessary support to win the race,' he said yesterday, but was reluctant to say how he felt about Mr Chen's criticism. DPP legislator Wang To said the president must clarify his decision. 'Mr Chen must explain clearly why he decided to shift his position by choosing to co-operate with the opposition,' said Mr Wang, adding otherwise, it would be difficult for him to convince his supporters and members of the DPP. Kao Chih-peng, secretary-general of the Justice Faction of the DPP, however, said Mr Chen had clearly pointed out why he needed to co-operate with the opposition since it could ensure a smooth government in the next three years before his term ends in 2008. He said the president had never swayed from his position and supporters needed to understand this. Meanwhile, Mr Chen will give a public television address today and tomorrow to win understanding. He is expected to elaborate on his political stance to prevent more supporters from fleeing to the radical pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union.