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
DEPT FOR EAP/RSP/TC DEPT PASS AIT/W / FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2014 TAGS: PGOV TW SUBJECT: KAOHSIUNG MAYOR ON LY ELECTION AND CABINET CHANGES
Classified By: ROBERT W. FORDEN, AIT KAOHSIUNG PRINCIPAL OFFICER. 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
SIPDIS 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 majority.
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, however.
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 government.
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.