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Hsieh: Pres. Chen to be held responsible for election loss

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Apparently resigned to an election loss today, Democratic Progressive Party standard-bearer Frank Hsieh holds President Chen Shui-bian responsible and wants him to quit calling the shots in the 2008 campaign.

Official campaigning for the legislative elections ended last night, and voters go to the polls this morning to elect 113 lawmakers. Turnout is estimated at 60 percent.

While rallying for voter support in Kaohsiung, Hsieh said yesterday President Chen, who doubles as DPP chairman, must take responsibility for a possible election rout.

"President Chen is directing the parliamentary campaign," Hsieh said, "it is therefore incumbent on him as chairman of the party to take responsibility for a loss."

Hsieh did not openly call on President Chen to resign as chairman of the ruling party, but noted Wu Po-hsiung has vowed to step down as Kuomintang chairman, if the DPP wins 50 seats in the new Legislative Yuan.

"Wu wants to take responsibility for a Kuomintang loss," Hsieh said, suggesting that Chen should follow suit if he fails to achieve the 50-seat target he has set for the ruling party going into the elections.

After the elections, Hsieh went on, Chen should let him take command of his own presidential campaign. As late as Thursday, Chen said there is only one 2008 campaign for parliament and presidency.

The president has stayed in command of that campaign since he assumed DPP chairmanship again early last year.

"I will be very grateful, if he will hand me the leadership of the presidential campaign after the elections," Hsieh told the press.

Should the ruling party fail to garner at least 45 seats, DPP leaders would be pointing an accusing finger at the president, demanding that he be rid of his concurrent job and let Hsieh mind his own campaign.

But a few DPP leaders may not like Hsieh to completely take over.

Vice President Annette Lu, whose bid to replace Chen Shui-bian was nipped in the bud by Hsieh in the party primaries, said the president does not have to give up his DPP post.

"Even if Chen wants to give up," Lu said, "I don't believe anyone wants to take his party job. It's the inescapable duty of the president to complete his term as party chairman, and if Hsieh were elected, he could be the next chairman of the party as well."

Despite such opposition, Hsieh is more strongly determined than ever to be his own man in the run-up to the presidential election on March 22.

No matter how hard it may be, Hsieh is prepared to get into the saddle in his race for the nation's highest public office, his close aides said.

"The candidate has to take command, and would take responsibility if he should lose to Ma Ying-jeou," one aide said. Hsieh certainly does not want Chen to direct an unsuccessful campaign, leaving him alone to suffer the bitter consequence.

Ma, Hsieh's Kuomintang rival, is a vote getter in his party's parliamentary campaign.

Unlike Hsieh who stayed in Kaohsiung whole day yesterday, Ma was commuting between south and north Taiwan to call for support. He is scheduled to stay overnight at Wujih near Taichung.

On Election Day, he will proceed from Wujih to Kaohsiung to accompany Kuomintang candidates to the polls and then return to Taipei for another round of escort trips before he casts his two ballots, one for a nominee and the other for his party.

The chances are that the opposition party will at least keep its parliamentary majority in the seventh Legislative Yuan, which will be inaugurated on Feb. 1. The simple majority is 57 seats.

That majority will help Ma beat Hsieh in the March 22 election.

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