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September 26, 2017

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Geopolitics rule as KMT, DPP eye poll flash points

Central Taiwan is definitely one of the key battlefields in the 2012 presidential election, but the two major political parties cannot agree on the region's strategic importance, observers have noted.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) thinks that victory in southern Taiwan is its to lose, while the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) will triumph in the north.

For the DPP, the presidential race will be determined by results in central Taiwan, and the opposition party is placing heavy emphasis on campaigning in Taichung and Changhua, observers said.

But the KMT cannot agree to such a geo-political topography, fully aware of the implications of the DPP's line of thinking: the ruling party will definitely lose in the south. For the KMT, the decisive battle will instead take place in southern Taiwan.

The DPP's logic is based on the party's historical popularity in the south and the KMT's dominance in the north.

But central Taiwan is actually not really as open as it sounds. The KMT still has an upper hand there -- at least until the mayoral elections last year.

KMT Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, seeking a third term serving the central city, could only narrowly defeat his contender, DPP Secretary General Su Chia-chuan.

The narrow defeat was a good sign for the DPP, indicating its rising support in central Taiwan, and it is the reason why it is giving top priority to the area in the presidential campaign.

Su's strong showing has also confirmed his heavyweight status among the younger generations.

The DPP is expected to open its campaign office in Taichung next month. Su, widely tipped as DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's running mate, will be put in charge of the office.

Su may have everything that Tsai needs for a running mate. He is a low-key person who is already the DPP chief's right-hand man in running the party. Su has strong support in central Taiwan, particularly from farmers, as he has headed the Cabinet's Council of Agriculture.

DPP spokesman Michael Chen has noted that the party has made substantial gains through recent developments in central Taiwan, such as last year's mayoral elections and environmentalists' success in blocking a petrochemical project in Changhua.

Chen was cited by the United Evening News as saying the DPP's central Taiwan campaign office will play the most crucial role.

But he dismissed speculation that the appointment of Su to the leadership of the central Taiwan office has increased his chance of becoming the DPP chairwoman's running mate.

DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu, a former magistrate of Changhua County, claimed Hu's declining numbers in recent years is the result of estrangement from his supporters.

But the KMT still considers southern Taiwan to be the most crucial area for the presidential race, and this is the reason why re-election-seeking President Ma Ying-jeou chose to hold a press conference in Tainan to mark his third anniversary in office, the United Evening News cited KMT sources as saying.

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