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China Times: A race to grasp trends in public opinion

2011/04/28 13:44:15

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman TsaiIng-wen won her party's primary for the 2012 presidential election onWednesday. On the same day, President Ma Ying-jeou was formallynominated by his ruling Kuomintang (KMT) for a re-election bid.

Ma and Tsai will be in a tight race over the next nine months.Neither party can afford any mistakes.

Despite her primary victory, Tsai will have to fight an uphillbattle to try to unite her party. With Tsai beating her rival SuTseng-chang by only a slim margin, DPP supporters definitely willexpect Su to play a role in the election. This leads to the questionof how she will deal with Frank Hsieh, the DPP's 2008 presidentialcandidate. Although Su was Hsieh's running mate in 2008, the two mendo not see eye to eye on many issues. During the primary, Hsieh threwstaunch support behind Tsai, which was crucial to her win.

If the DPP resolves its cutthroat party in-fighting, it canbecome a high-performing electoral machine. This poses a greatchallenge to Ma's re-election campaign.

As a challenger, the DPP cannot rely on election tricks alone.The key factor that will determine the winner lies in each party'sability to present policies that best grasp the trends in publicopinion.

A noteworthy phenomenon in this election is that the DPP and KMTare converging on many issues. For example, the Ma administrationpushed for the luxury tax to fight off the DPP's onslaught on thewidening wealth gap, and has withdrawn the government's support forthe Kuokuang petrochemical project to address Tsai's call for"intergenerational justice."

The DPP, too, is changing its direction. Both Tsai and Su haveopenly expressed support for direct transport links with China.Despite the series of strong protests staged by her party against theEconomic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), Tsai has been mum onwhether the DPP will terminate the agreement if it returns to powerin 2012.

Ma and Tsai, who were both academics before entering politics,have a very similar public image, and such resemblance will make Tsaia formidable opponent to Ma. In short, none of the parties holds anabsolute advantage in the 2012 race. (Editorial abstract -- April 28,2011)

(By Y.F. Low)