Taiwan Elections Arrive

  • Share
  • Read Later
TAIPEI: Voters go to the polls tomorrow in the first fully free election in Taiwan. President Lee Teng-hui is expected to win reelection despite attempts by China to scare the electorate into voting for another candidate. Beijing bureau chief Jamie A. FlorCruz predicts China's tactics won't work and Lee will win a relatively easy reelection. "The outcome is almost a sure thing," FlorCruz says. "The only question is how big a mandate Lee gets." Polls are prohibited in the 10 days leading up to the election, so it is difficult to determine the effect of China's tactics. Lee led the polls with 35 percent of the vote in a March 5 survey, well ahead of his closest competitor, Lin Yang-kang, with 10 percent. About 40 percent of the voters were undecided. If Lee wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the four-man race, he could capitalize on the credibility he would gain in the international arena and push for independence. FlorCruz says the more likely scenario has Lee using the mandate to his advantage in upcoming negotiations with Beijing. "He could negotiate from a position of strength and that may make him more partial to being conciliatory," FlorCruz predicts. "His self-confidence could translate into specific measures to break the impasse." One such measure is opening direct sea links between China and Taiwan - a move that would benefit both sides. Taiwan has been using sea links as a card to help achieve equality in previous negotiations, and FlorCruz believes Lee could play his hand soon after the elections. Taiwan began its shift to democracy in 1987 when the Nationalists lifted martial law. Lee took office one year later and legalized opposition parties.