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2004-12-08 10:01:00
American Institute Taiwan, Taipei
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TAIPEI 003900 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2014

REASON: 1.5(d).


1. (C) In a December 1 meeting with visiting AIT Director
Paal, Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh downplayed the possibility
he would move to Taipei early next year to serve as Premier,
suggesting that Yu Shyi-kun would continue in the position
after the expected February cabinet reshuffle. Hsieh said
DPP Secretary General Chang Chun-hsiung would become the next
Legislative Yuan (LY) Speaker. Hsieh predicted the ruling
party would achieve a majority of votes in the next LY by
picking up support from independents and KMT defectors, even
if the Pan-Green did not achieve a majority on its own.
Hsieh estimated the DPP would win between 95-101 seats,
including six in Kaohsiung, and the TSU 13-17, with the bulk
of the Pan-Green gains coming in central and northern Taiwan,
rather than the South. Hsieh repeated familiar assertions
that President Chen's more extreme and provocative remarks in
the LY campaign were simply election rhetoric and that next
year would present more opportunity for progress on
cross-Strait issues. End Summary.

Hsieh Predicts Strong Gains for DPP in LY


2. (C) Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (Hsieh Chang-ting), who is
also one of the DPP's four LY campaign managers and
Vice-Chairman of the ruling party, expressed optimism to
visiting AIT Director Paal December 1 about Pan-Green
prospects in the upcoming LY election. Noting that he was
being run ragged circling the island to participate in
non-stop election events, Hsieh said he expected the DPP to
make major gains in the upcoming election, taking at least 95
seats and possibly as many as the 101 that President Chen had
recently set as a goal.

3. (C) Hsieh noted that, except for Kaohsiung County, the DPP
was unlikely to pick up any seats in the south; most of the
gains would come in the central region and to a lesser
extent, the north. In Kaohsiung City, Hsieh predicted the
Pan-Green would win 6-8 of the 11 seats (Note: the Pan-Green
won eight seats in 2001. End Note.), with a higher number
coming at the cost of the People-first Party (PFP) rather
than the Kuomintang (KMT). Hsieh noted that the DPP was
taking some real gambles in a few places, such as Hsinchu and
Miaoli, where the DPP had nominated two candidates but that
there was as much possibility both could lose as there was
that both could win.

But TSU Falling Short


4. (C) The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), Hsieh said, was not
likely to do as well as some had originally expected. While
former President Lee Teng-hui had originally predicted the
TSU could pick up between 27-36 seats, latest estimates were

that the TSU would win nor more than 13-17. (Note: Polls
taken later in the week by the DPP may have altered Hsieh's
lower TSU estimate. End note.)

Sovereignty Issue Key to Mobilizing Base


5. (C) Hsieh said that the election turnout was likely to be
low for Taiwan, around 65 percent, that there were few "swing
voters" and that getting a large turnout of the Pan-Green
base would be key. In this context, the Taiwan "sovereignty"
issue, highlighted by President Chen, was useful. Vote
allocation ("pei-piao") would also be a critical factor. The
DPP had used the strategy effectively in four previous
elections. He added that the Pan-Blue has had much less
success with the tactic in recent elections, with many of its
most popular candidates losing in 2001 due to zealous, but
poorly coordinated, attempts to pei-piao.

With or Without Majority, Ruling Party will Control LY



6. (C) Whether or not the Pan-Green achieves an LY majority
in the election, Hsieh was confident the ruling party would
obtain a majority with the help of sympathetic independents
and renegade KMT members. Given that LY reform would cut LY
seats in half before the next election, many Pan-Blue LY
members would assess that they were unlikely to get nominated
next time and this would encourage them to cooperate with the
ruling party to benefit from ruling party resources. Hsieh
noted, however, that the ruling party would likely find it
difficult to manage the LY, even if it obtained a simple

Yu Shyi-kun Likely to Stay on as Premier


7. (C) In response to a question about possible cabinet
changes, which traditionally come with the formation of a new
LY, Hsieh downplayed rumors that he was in line to replace Yu
Shyi-kun as premier. Hsieh said Yu had served for many years
as a subordinate to President Chen, while Hsieh had always
been a colleague on equal footing, implying that he would
find it hard to work directly under Chen's authority. Hsieh
did state unequivocally that DPP Secretary General Chang
Chun-hsiung would become the next Speaker of the LY,
emphasizing that Wang Jyn-ping had no chance to stay on in
that position.

Chen Rhetoric, Just Campaigning


8. (C) Hsieh repeated familiar assertions that the more
extreme and controversial statements of President Chen on
constitutional reform and "sovereignty" issues in recent
weeks were simply campaign rhetoric and should not be given
too much weight. Chen had assessed that voter turnout of the
Pan-Green base was essential to obtaining a Pan-Green
majority and that appeals to the more extreme "green" voters
would help ensure that turnout. Hsieh expected that next
year would provide more opportunity for Chen to find ways to
make progress in easing cross-Strait tensions, as there would
be no more "national-level" elections for a couple of years.

Hsieh in Minority Opposing Constitutional Reform



9. (C) Personally, Hsieh said, he believed the DPP should be
more confident in its dealings with China and not worry about
criticism from Pan-Green fundamentalists. He believed China
does not want and cannot risk war, since it has far too many
problems already with which it must deal. Taiwan needs to
find ways to achieve what it wants, but leave China with
"face", by avoiding the appearance that it is abandoning the
"one China" myth. In fact, Hsieh said that he did not
support the idea of changing Taiwan's constitution and
believed Taiwan should just work within the "one China" theme
that currently existed in its constitution. Hsieh readily
admitted he was in the minority in the DPP on this point,

Comment: A Moderate DPP Candidate for President?



10. (C) Hsieh, a former DPP Chairman and Vice Presidential
candidate, remains one of the DPP's most influential leaders
and is a leading candidate to follow Chen in a bid for
President. However, he is also more moderate than Chen and
clearly differs from Chen on a number of core issues,
including constitutional reform. Hsieh has been widely
rumored to be a possible replacement for Yu Shyi-kun as
premier in February, and before now had done little to
contradict those rumors. Why he is now, for the first time,
downplaying the possibility is unclear. It may simply be
that the time is nearing for Chen to make a choice and Hsieh
does not want to appear overly ambitious. Or, a decision may
have already been made to keep Yu on.

11. (C) Hsieh's predictions on the LY election are
consistent with what we have heard from other high-level DPP
officials and appear to reflect accurately the DPP's polls.
His confidence that, with or without a majority, the
Pan-Green will dominate the LY is also likely well-placed,
since the ruling party's resources assure that many
independents and even Pan-Blue LY members will find it
difficult not to cut deals on discrete issues with the

12. (C) Hsieh's advice not to take President Chen's campaign
rhetoric too seriously is something we have heard over and
over again from DPP officials before each of the last several
elections. Unfortunately, Taiwan always seems to be in
election campaign mode and we doubt next year, with National
Assembly elections and local Magistrate and council races,
will be any different. In addition, Chen's "campaign
rhetoric" rarely remains just that -- last year's campaign
rhetoric on constitutional reform and referenda quickly
became ruling party policy and, soon thereafter, law.