Candidates in final push for Taichung by-election

DPP sees vote as plebiscite about President Ma Ying-jeou

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The ruling Kuomintang’s Yen Kuan-hen and Democratic Progressive Party candidate Chen Shih-kuan pulled out all the stops Friday on the final day of campaigning for the legislative seat in Taichung City vacated after the sentencing of Yen’s father, Yen Ching-piao.
The older Yen, for years an influential independent lawmaker, was forced to give up his seat after he was sentenced to three years and three months in prison for spending taxpayers’ money on visits to hostess bars.
The KMT, which often received Yen’s cooperation, nominated his 36-year-old son to run for the seat, resulting in allegations that the ruling party was supporting a local dynasty.
The DPP has pictured the election as a plebiscite on the government of President Ma Ying-jeou, who has consistently received opinion poll ratings of around 13 percent for the past few months. Ma has been conspicuous in the campaign by his absence, which has been seen as a sign that KMT politicians fear his image will damage their chances.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang has described the January 26 by-election as a choice between values. The opposition leader said his cold would only last a few days, but a wrong choice in the election would have negative consequences which would last years.
Yen Ching-piao has been campaigning for his son, drawing accusations that the courts have been too lenient in letting him stay out of jail until the election. He has denied allegations that he would enter jail on Friday, the day before the vote, in order to draw a sympathy vote.
Yen has also been adamant that his son is up to the task of representing the area at the Legislative Yuan. Yen Kuan-hen worked on his previous campaigns and served as his aide, the older Yen said.
He accused his son’s opponent of being the one without any experience or accomplishments. Chen is a member of the Taichung City Council. Throughout the campaign, he has received the support of numerous DPP leaders, including former Premier Frank Hsieh, ex-chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and former Vice President Annette Lu.
Su accompanied Chen Friday on a tour of his election district by jeep. The local DPP office said it was confident that victory was possible if the voting went smoothly.
The KMT accused the opposition of wanting to turn the vote into a national contest because it wanted to obscure Chen’s lack of successes on behalf of the area. If voter turnout was high, it would benefit the KMT because voters cared more about local than about national issues, party officials said. Taichung Mayor Jason Hu said he hoped turnout in the area could set a record and exceed 50 percent.
Important population centers in the electoral district include Wufeng, once the seat of Taiwan’s provincial government, Wujih with Taichung’s high-speed rail station, Shalu and Tatu. More than 275,000 residents are eligible to vote on January 26 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., officials said.
A third candidate, Yu Szu-chia, has registered to represent the All People’s Party in the election, but he is generally deemed not to have a chance at winning.
It was still not clear when Yen Ching-piao would be called to enter prison after he lost a special appeal.