2007-12-23 23:35:20 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TAIPEI -- Taiwanese candidates kicked off a campaign for legislative elections on Sunday, with both ruling and opposition parties eyeing the style and outcome of last week's presidential poll in South Korea.
More than 200 candidates are vying for seats in a much slimmed down legislature to be decided in polling on Jan. 12. These elections are seen as a preview for the presidential poll two months later when Taiwanese also pick a successor to President Chen Shui-bian.
Several surveys show the governing Democratic Progressive Party may be losing out to the main opposition Nationalist Party because of widespread voter complaints about the sluggish economy under Chen's 8-year rule.
Both the main political parties are drawing inspiration from Lee Myun-bak's landslide victory in the South Korean presidential elections last week, when the former CEO of the conglomerate Hyundai Group won the poll on a wave of discontent for incumbent President Roh Moo-hyun. Roh was criticized for the country's slowing economy. Lee made reviving the economy a priority.
In a fresh television commercial, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh likens himself to the South Korean president-elect, who was also a former Seoul mayor.
Hsieh claims he displayed the same strong leadership as Lee when he cleaned up the polluted River of Love while mayor of Kaohsiung city in southern Taiwan in 1998-2005.
Nationalist presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou meanwhile told voters his party will strive to cut down Taiwan's jobless rate and raise the per capita income.
"We hope to do even better than Lee Myun-bak," Ma said at a rally in Taipei.
DPP officials say they hope to garner 50 seats in the legislative poll, while the Nationalists claim they could capture at least 60 seats. Another 9 tiny parties and an alliance of independents are also fielding candidates.
On Sunday, candidates cruised streets to solicit votes via blaring campaign slogans, some accompanied by the presidential hopefuls.
The legislative poll is more competitive than before -- it's the first for an assembly downsized in a move to bolster government efficiency. The new legislature will have 113 seats instead of the current are 225.
The Nationalists pledge to relax trade and investment restrictions with rival China. They claim the DPP's anti-China stance has marginalized the island at a time when its East Asian neighbors seek economic integration.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China still claims the island a part of its own territory to be unified with the mainland.