(Updates with DPP survey in seventh paragraph.)
Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou maintained a lead over rival Tsai Ing-wen in the last opinion polls permitted before presidential and legislative elections.
Ma, the candidate of the ruling Kuomintang, would receive 44 percent of the vote while the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai would win 36 percent, according to a survey by United Daily News published today. That compared with 41 percent versus 33 percent in a Dec. 17 poll. The latest survey of 2,011 people had a 2.2 percent margin of error and was conducted from Dec. 28 to Jan. 2. Support for James Soong, chairman of the People First Party, fell to 7 percent from 10 percent.
Publishing opinion poll results is banned during the 10 days leading up to an election, according to the Central Election Commission. Exit poll results can’t be published until voting stations close at 4 p.m. on Jan. 14. Violators will be fined between NT$500,000 ($16,500) and NT$5 million, the commission said in a statement.
Ma, 61, who returned the Kuomintang party to power in 2008 after the opposition DPP had held the presidency for eight years, says Taiwan will reap economic benefits from the agreements signed with China since he took office. Tsai, 55, who has pledged to create more jobs, narrow a widening wealth gap and curb high property prices, says Ma’s government is too reliant on China and that the DPP wants to develop other international markets.
Two other polls also gave victory to Ma. A survey by the China Times newspaper showed support for the president at 39.5 percent versus 36.5 percent for Tsai. The poll of 1,104 people, conducted on Jan. 2, had a margin of error of 3 percent.
Ma would win 45 percent to Tsai’s 37 percent, TVBS Poll Center said today. The survey of 1,111 people had a 2.9 percent margin of error and was conducted from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2.
Tsai leads Ma by 1 percent, or about 100,000 to 150,000 votes, according to a DPP survey of about 70,000 respondents carried out from mid-November to the end of December, the party said in an e-mailed statement today.
In the 2008 presidential election, Ma beat the DPP 58 percent to 42 percent by pledging to abandon a pro-independence stance in favor of strengthening economic relations with China.
A win by the pro-independence opposition led by Tsai may strain cross-strait relations. China regards Taiwan, ruled separately since a civil war ended in 1949, as its own territory and was enraged when the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian pushed for recognition as a sovereign nation during his presidency.
If re-elected, Ma would retain control of a Taiwan economy that grew at the slowest pace in two years in the third quarter as the global recovery weakened. The government cut its 2011 gross domestic product forecast to 4.56 percent from 4.81 percent as exports declined.
Ma, who heads the KMT party that fought China’s communists six decades ago, reversed the DPP’s pro-independence stance when he took office in May 2008. Taiwan has since signed 16 agreements with the mainland, including a trade pact, and lifted a six-decade ban on direct air, sea and postal links. The rapprochement helped economic growth rebound to 13.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010, the fastest pace in more than 30 years.
--With assistance from Adela Lin in Taipei. Editors: Mark Williams, Peter Hirschberg
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