02/23/2004, 00.00
taiwan - china
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Heated presidential campaigns in China's shadow

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) –  Lat Saturday, Feb. 21,  Taiwain's presidential election campaign season got underway when current president Chen Shui-bian, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition candidate Lien Chan, of the conservative nationalistic Kuomintang Party (KMT) squared off during a heated debate over Taiwanese-Chinese relations, a crucial issue in this year's elections. No other debates are scheduled before election day, March 20. 

Based on Taiwan law presidential election campaigns last only 28 days. Yet already last year both candidates began making moves to win people's support. Currently, neither of the two appears to be a sure winner.

Last Saturday two very popular national newspapers, the China Times and United Daily News, performed a survey on who people felt won the debate. The China Times contacted 920 people, while the United Daily News surveyed 1077.

Of those interviewed by the China Times, 37% said Chen was the winner, while 28% opted for Lien and 15% were undecided; the remaining 20% said they had no opinion on the matter or preferred neither of the two.

Among those surveyed by the United Daily News, 39% said Lien won, 38% Chen, while 9% liked neither of the two and the remaining 14% said they were undecided or had no opinion.    

Regarding who they would vote for, the China Times reported that 42% favored Lien if elections were held today, while 37% would reelect Chen and 21% said they were undecided or had no opinion. 

The United Daily News survey found that 40% of citizens favored Lien and 35% Chen; the other 25% said they didn't know or had no opinion.

The margin of error for both surveys was estimated at 3%.

On Thursday, Feb. 19, the TVBS television network conducted a survey which showed a larger percentage of difference between the two candidates: 44% of those questioned said they would vote for Lien, while 34% favored Chen.   

Lee Yuan-tseh, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Price for Chemistry and president of Academia Sinica, said he would support Chen, since he favors the president's parlamentary reform platform. Lee, who is highly respected in Taiwan, helped Chen win the 2000 elections by exposing KMY party corruption.    

Chang Chun-hong, former DPP party chairman, predicted hundreds the party's supporters would not vote for Chen, blaming his government's poor performance. Many Taiwanese businessman and investors operating in China are dissatisfied with Chen's policies and accuse him of jeopardizing economic relations with China with his pro-independence statements.

Eric Teng, a hotel keeper in Taiwan living for 9 years in Shanghai, has helped organize the return of tens of thousands of investors for the March elections. Teng estimates that 200,000 citizens will return to Taiwan to cast their ballots.     

The KMT party governed Taiwan during 51-year  period of rule, since Chiang Kai-shek  left the country with his troops in 1949 after the Maoist mainland army claimed victory on the island. The KMT party was defeated for the first time in the 2000 elections by the DPP party.

Both political parties have divergent opinions regarding Taiwan's relation to China. The KMT party supports the "one country, 2 systems" policy promoted by Beijing: that is, a reunification of the two countries but with 2 distinct political and economic systems. The DPP party, on the other hand, favors Taiwan's independence from China and the recognition of the country's sovereign status throughout the world. (MR)

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