DPP assessing effect of Chen verdict on voters


TAIPEI — The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has started an internal survey on the impact of the latest corruption sentence for former President Chen Shui-bian, even though it claims the case will not hurt its chances in the Nov. 27 elections, according to sources familiar with DPP affairs.

The sources said the DPP has begun with a survey to weigh the impact of the verdict on public opinion out of concern that it might drive away swing and young voters as the mayoral elections for the five special municipalities draw near.

The Supreme Court handed down its ruling Thursday of a total of 19 years in jail plus fines of NT$150 million (US$4.87 million) each for Chen and his wife on charges of taking bribes from businessmen, casting an even darker shadow over the DPP’s chances in the coming elections following controversy resulting from a pro-DPP talk show host who recently used coarse language to denounce President Ma Ying-jeou during a campaign rally.

Chen was a DPP member when he served as Taiwan’s president from 2000 until 2008. He has been detained since December 2008 for various charges of corruption, document forgery and money laundering.

Although the DPP has claimed that the verdict will not affect its election performance to any great extent, the party’s move to carry out the survey to gauge the potential threat indicates that the Chen case could influence some voters, the sources said.

According to some analysts, the outcome of the elections could serve as a major indicator of any power shift before the 2012 presidential race.

However, some DPP members are optimistic that the latest court action against Chen could actually help the party cement unity and gather voter support.

Most swing voters are indifferent to politics and are more concerned about their own interests, these party members have said. Against such a backdrop, the DPP has set “ruling capabilities” as its campaign theme in the municipality elections as a means of avoiding partisan confrontation and seeking the ballots of middle-of-the-road voters.

Judging from the results of several public opinion polls conducted by the DPP, the party over the past two years has built a better image among the public, making it more likely that it can grab the swing voters, according to the DPP.