Holding balloons and waving flags, tens of thousands of Taiwanese paraded throughout the island Sunday to support their favored presidential candidates less than a week before what is expected to be an extremely tight election. President Ma Ying-jeou, who has improved relations with rival China during his 3 1/2 years in office, led a large crowd of supporters in a three-mile (five-kilometer) march down a main Taipei thoroughfare.
“If you want peace with the mainland and friendly international communities, join me and let’s walk together,” the 61-year-old Ma told supporters. Ma’s Nationalist Party said at least 200,000 people joined the Taipei parade. Police did not give an estimate. Pro-Ma parades were held simultaneously in three other cities. Polls indicate that Ma is locked in a virtual dead heat with his main challenger, Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive party, ahead of Saturday’s election.
The 55-year-old Tsai stood on a truck encased with bulletproof glass as she cruised the streets of the southern city of Tainan, waving to prospective voters. Thousands of her supporters also staged a parade in Taichung city in central Taiwan.