Kuomintang presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou has gained support from an influential pro-independence hardliner in southern Taiwan, giving him yet another strong boost ahead of this month's election. Chien Cheng-shan, former secretary general of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, met Mr Ma yesterday for a 20-minute closed-door meeting along with Dr Chien's wife, Chien Lin Hui-chun, a former TSU legislator. 'The Democratic Progressive Party has ruled Taiwan for eight years, but corruption has got even worse. Election ballots are the best weapon to counter it,' said Dr Chien, a prominent pro-independence figure in Tainan, the southern hometown of President Chen Shui-bian. Dr Chien, who follows former TSU chairman Su Chin-chiang in giving his blessing to Mr Ma, said his meeting with the candidate did not necessarily mean that he would give up his pro-independence position. The TSU is an informal ally of the pro-independence DPP, but late last year Mr Su addressed Mr Ma as 'president-to-be' during a meeting with the popular KMT politician. Yesterday's blessing from Dr Chien and his wife shocked DPP legislators, but they sought to play down its significance. DPP secretary general Lee Ying-yuan, a campaign manager of the party's presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, said the DPP understood the frustration of the TSU, which wanted the best for Taiwan. The DPP's biggest concern is the opinion of former president Lee Teng-hui, who has yet to say whether he will support Mr Hsieh, despite the DPP candidate having visited him several times to seek his support. Mr Lee has said that friendship is one thing, while the election is another. He made the comment after reporters asked him why he did not attend the inauguration ceremony of a committee set up by the Friends of Lee Teng-hui Association to back Mr Hsieh. Political analysts said that with the election just three weeks away, the bandwagon effect had become more apparent, with more groups and individuals siding with Mr Ma, who holds a comfortable lead of at least 20 percentage points over Mr Hsieh, according to various opinion polls. 'More people have shifted their support to Ma Ying-jeou, who has a bigger chance to win the election,' said George Tsai Wei, a political science professor at Chinese Cultural University.