Ko Wen-je sees low-key campaign as he leads in polls

With the latest polls showing continued strong support for Ko Wen-je in the race of mayor of Taipei City, Ko pledged to wage a campaign based on speeches and conversations with people at the grassroots level, saying that he does not believe in “spending a lot of money to stand on a stage and wave flags and beat drums.” With the latest opinion poll from Apple Daily showing Ko ahead of KMT candidate Sean Lien by more than ten points, Ko expressed confidence in his chances for election in November, saying the biggest challenge in his campaign is the sheer size of the city with its 456 boroughs.

An Apple Daily poll released Sunday pegged support of Ko at 44.33%, followed by Sean Lien at 32.82% and former KMT legislator Shen Fu-hsiung, who is running as an independent, far behind with 9.36%.

Ko’s remarks on campaign strategy were a reference to a KMT rally on Friday in which party chairman appeared along with Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin and City Councilor Chung Hsiao-ping at Chungshan Girls High School. The event was designed to bring together 1200 young political activists who will work to promote Sean Lien’s candidacy among younger voters in the city.

While Lien and his supporters met in a number of large rallies over the weekend, Ko confined his activities to appearances in small neighborhood gatherings as well as a speech on “Wisdom in Life and in Death” at the Bei-men Christian Church north of Taipei Station on Sunday morning. He told reporters after the speech that he plans to limit the scope and number of campaign events, focusing instead on more personal appearances designed to give him face-to-face contact with citizens of the city. He said that if the DPP wants him to take part in some activities he will do so, saying that he has an obligation to the party as the “integrated” candidate of the opposition.

Some media analysts had speculated that Shen Fu-hsiung may eventually prove to be a factor in opinion polls, but Ko said that opinion surveys would never cause him a great deal of worry. He said the polls are like the stock market – they are constantly fluctuating up and down, and if a person spends too much time watching the stock prices he won’t have time to do anything else.

One point of contention in the mayor’s race was settled over the weekend as workers took down a massive billboard touting Sean Lien which had soared over the Ximenting area of the city. The DPP had complained that the space was being donated by a businessman who supports Sean Lien, saying that the value of the space if it were rented out for advertising would be NT$800,000 per month. At that rate, in the three months it has been in place it would have represented a contribution of some NT$2.4 million, far more than the NT$1 million limit imposed on campaign contributions from private companies.

DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang criticized the Lien campaign last week for the sign, which was located on top of an 8-story-high building overlooking one of the busiest areas of the city. Tuan urged Lien to have the sign taken down but got no reaction from the campaign. The billboard finally disappeared over the weekend, with a KMT spokesman saying that heavy traffic in the area meant that they had to remove it at night when there are not so many people and vehicles moving around.