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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Whirlwind campaigning marks final day of tight race

ROC Central News Agency

2008-03-21 22:44:06

    Taipei, March 21 (CNA) One day before Taiwanese voters decide their new president, the two candidates and their campaigns were desperately battling for every vote in a race once considered a cakewalk for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) but now seen as a potential toss-up.

    KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou was considered the hot favorite in the race after his party won a lopsided victory in Taiwan's legislative polls on Jan. 12, with local polls still giving him double-digit leads 10 days ago.

    But some missteps and unexpected incidents have apparently helped Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh narrow the gap significantly, with local analysts suggesting he could still win.

    An intrusion of four KMT lawmakers into Hsieh's headquarters on March 12, which set off memories among some voters of the KMT's authoritarian past, and China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters that raised doubts over Ma's more open approach to China, were seen as being particularly damaging to the KMT standard-bearer.

    Adding more suspense to the intensely contested race is that Taiwan's election code strictly prohibits any release of poll results during the final 10 days before the election, although both parties privately acknowledge that the race is tight.

    Election drama reached its climax Friday as both Ma and Hsieh made whirlwind tours of the island hoping for exposure to as many potential voters as possible.

    Ma canvassed streets in Taipei and Yilan counties in the morning, before heading south to Taichung, Chiayi, Kaohsiung cities and then returning to Taichung for the final rally.

    During the day, Ma and running mate Vincent Siew held a news conference to clarify issues such as the validity of Ma's green card, in an attempt to pre-empt any possible disruptions to their campaign by potential "dirty tricks" from the DPP camp.

    Hsieh's campaign rallies began in Taipei City and Yilan, moved south to Taichung and Kaohsiung, and then headed back to the KMT stronghold of Taipei City for the DPP's grand finale at night.

    Hsieh received a respectable 40.9 percent of the vote when he ran for mayor in Taiwan's capital in December 2006 and hopes to at least match the 43.5 percent share of the city's votes won by President Chen Shui-bian in the 2004 race.

    Hsieh also held a press conference Friday morning to accuse the KMT of vote buying and refute allegations of dirty tricks.

    He was also accompanied by Nobel Laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, who reiterated his endorsement of the DPP candidate. The DPP hopes that his endorsement and that of former president Lee Teng-hui made a day earlier would prove decisive.

    Local election regulations ban any campaigning after 10 p.m. the day before the election. In addition, the Central Election Commission announced Thursday that no campaigning would be allowed on election day, with violators subject to a fine of between NT$500,000 to NT$5 million.

(By Yeh Fang-hsun)

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