Huang Kuo-chang’s recall vote

November 18, 2017

The Central Election Commission has announced the date – December 16 – for the vote to recall New Power Party legislator Huang Kuo-chang 黃國昌, which gives me a convenient opportunity to rant about how stupid the new law is.

Recall that after the Sunflower movement, activists tried to recall several KMT legislators, including Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠, Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇, Alex Tsai 蔡正元, and Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池. All of these efforts failed, and activists believed that the requirements for recall were unreasonably stringent. (The effort may have had some effect. None of the targeted legislators won re-election in 2016.)

When the NPP entered the legislature, one of its first goals was to revise the election law to make recall easier. Strangely, neither of the two big parties put up much resistance, and the revision was passed last December. I’ll steal this table from a UDN article summarizing the main changes:

  Previous law New law
Initiate a petition 2% of eligible voters 1% of eligible voters
Signatory period 30 days 60 days
Advertising Prohibited Allowed
Signatory threshold 13% of eligible voters 10% of eligible voters
Voting day concurrent with other election? Not allowed Allowed
Turnout threshold 50% of eligible voters Abolished
Yes votes Yes > No Yes votes must exceed 25% of eligible voters;

Yes > No

Let’s focus on those last two rows, since they are the most important. Previously, 50% turnout was required to pass a recall. This made it nearly impossible to pass a recall. The legislator could simply advise supporters to ignore the vote and stay at home. That meant that the opposition had to supply 50% of all eligible voters. In normal conditions and in normal districts, this was nearly impossible.

Huang’s district, New Taipei 12, had 251,191 eligible voters in 2016. (It’s probably a few thousand more now since Xizhi is a fast-growing area, but for the sake of simplicity I will ignore that.) This means that to recall Huang under the old law, opponents would have had to mobilize 125,596 votes. In winning the seat, Huang had only gotten 80,508 votes. That was in a general election concurrent with a presidential election, featuring campaign that dominated news in Taiwan for several months. The recall would have to mobilize 50% more votes without the benefit of a general election atmosphere. Not gonna happen.

As I’ve stated before, I think that is exactly how it should be. It should be nearly impossible to overturn an election result. One of the main ideas behind fixed terms is that we don’t need to continually re-litigate elections. We have a general election period, and then the winners get some time to focus on governing. The next election comes along in only a few years, so the wait is not oppressive. There is no need to overturn an election result except in the most exceptionally egregious cases. As a general principle, recalls should be doomed to fail unless most of the people who originally voted for the winner turn against him or her. In most such cases, the legislator will resign unilaterally, and there will be no need for a recall. However, if the legislator has really lost the confidence of his or her original supporters and refuses to step down, a recall may be necessary. In this case, that high threshold might be manageable.

The new law makes recall far too easy. Instead of 125,596 yes votes, recall supporters only need half that number, 62,798. How low is that number? In the 2016, Huang’s main opponent Lee Ching-hwa 李慶華 got 68,318 votes. That was nowhere near enough votes to win the seat, but if every one of those voters supports the recall, they can remove Huang from his seat. Take note, in this scenario, not a single person who originally supported Huang has changed his or her mind. It is now easier to recall Huang than it was to elect him in the first place.

Of course, the previous paragraph is ignoring the difficulties of mobilizing 62,798 yes votes without the atmosphere of a general election. This threshold is still probably unreachable. However, it is low enough that I have some doubts. 63,000 is difficult, but by no means impossible.

This puts Huang Kuo-chang in a difficult position. He now has to decide whether to try to mobilize his supporters to defend his seat. Even if they can pass the 62,798 threshold, he could still keep his seat if he can mobilize his original 80,508 supporters to come out to the polls and vote no. However, mobilization is expensive and difficult. The burden should be on the side trying to recall the legislator, not on the incumbent legislator. They are the ones trying to overturn a previous election result.

In a vacuum, I’d simply advise Huang to ignore the anti-gay marriage groups behind the recall effort. It’s highly unlikely that they have enough penetration in society to mobilize 10,000 votes, much less 63,000. However, there are other politicians making strategic choices. In particular, there are four city councilors who would love to have Huang’s seat. For the two KMT city councilors, this is a golden opportunity. Huang removed the old KMT incumbent, so now they have a wide open seat staring at them if the recall passes. You can bet that they are mobilizing their networks trying to recall Huang. The two DPP city councilors have to be more careful, since many of their supporters also voted for Huang. However, I suspect they wouldn’t be heartbroken if the seat were to come open. The point is, there are a lot of well-connected people who have an interest in Huang’s recall. The anti-gay marriage activists don’t have to supply all 63,000 votes; self-interested politicians will supply a substantial number of yes votes. It’s still a longshot, but it isn’t impossible.

Huang Kuo-chang won over 50% in 2016. Imagine how the calculations would be different for a candidate who had won a three-way race. For example, Tsai Shih-ying 蔡適應 won the Keelung seat with only 41.5% of the vote. He got 78,707 votes, but 111,162 people voted for one of the three blue camp candidates. The threshold in a recall election would only be 74,736, so a successful recall would be quite likely even if no voters who originally supported them had changed their minds. Recall elections are supposed to be tools to remove legislators who have betrayed their electoral contract, not second chances for when one side can’t agree on a single candidate. However, if Huang’s recall succeeds, this is where we are headed. Every legislator elected on the other party’s turf with less than 50% had better start looking over their shoulder.

If there is any ironic justice in this episode, it is that Huang and the NPP brought this recall on themselves. They insisted on drastically revising a law that was working well. At least they are the first ones to face the consequences of their lousy choice. And if the recall does pass, it won’t just be Huang personally who suffers. The outcome will be widely interpreted as an indicator that the general public is not ready for marriage equality, and the NPP will have succeeded in kneecapping one of its most cherished goals. Good going, guys.

Hopefully after the recall vote, the parties will decide to revise the election law again to make recalls harder and end this stupidity. In the meantime, Huang deserves to sweat a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the state of (out of date) public opinion

September 26, 2017

I’d like to take a look at the general state of public opinion in Taiwan these days. I’m not really interested in exactly what it is right this moment. After all, the next election is still more than a year away, and by then no one will care whether Tsai Ing-wen had a 27% or 29% approval rating 14 months ago. I’m more interested in taking stock of the general trends over Tsai’s first year and a half in office. Over the past few months, we have seen headlines screaming that Tsai has a lower approval rating than Donald Trump or that her administration is sinking fast as it loses popularity. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who assume that the KMT is doomed and that continued DPP rule is inevitable, unless the New Power Party replaces it.

Public opinion is always a bit murky, but right now it is murkier than usual. To put it bluntly, reasonable people can see whatever they want to see in the data. None of the trends are sharp or clear enough that you can’t easily explain them away with other readily available numbers. It’s like staring at clouds: maybe it’s a duck, and maybe it’s a train. Not only that, but the person who thinks it is a duck can see the duck clearly, while the moron who thinks it is a train can’t see how anyone could look at that train and see a duck. I think that one interpretation of public opinion is more correct, and I’ll argue for that one. However, keep in mind that the other interpretations aren’t necessarily stupid or misguided.

I’m relying on data from the Taiwan Election and Democratization Studies (TEDS). TEDS is the main academic project for political surveys. The surveys are done by academic institutions (mostly the Election Study Center, NCCU) for scholarly purposes. They are not contracted out to private survey companies, nor are they designed to make a splash in the public discourse. Questions are designed by committees of scholars with all political stripes, so a leading question designed to make one side look good or the other side look bad will simply not make it onto the final questionnaire. We all have lots of questions that we want to ask, and space is severely limited. Only items that can be rigorously defended from an academic perspective make it through. You might wonder why you have never seen a media report trumpeting the latest finding from a TEDS survey. The reason is simple. TEDS doesn’t hold press conferences to announce its newest results. In fact, it doesn’t release results immediately at all. Data usually are only released several months after the interviews are completed. For example, I am using quarterly surveys in this post. These surveys are only released when interviewing for the next survey begins. For example, TEDS just released the data for the June 2017 survey, but we currently have a small army of students doing calls for the September 2017 survey. Who cares about the June 2017 results? We want up-to-the minute information! When the June survey was done, pension reform hadn’t passed, the brouhahas over the infrastructure plan were still in the future, Mayor Ko was still planning for the university games, and Lin Chuan still had a couple more months to go as premier. Everything is different now! Well, it is precisely because the media doesn’t pay attention to TEDS results that they are so trustworthy and valuable. Unlike all the other data you see, you can be confident that these results weren’t produced with the goal of manipulating your opinions. And if you want to know what the state of public opinion is today, I guess I’ll be able to tell you that in three months, even if by then you will no longer care what people thought before Trump’s nuclear attack on North Korea, the Bangladeshi refugee crisis following the massive cyclone, or the upheavals in China following Xi Jinping’s aborted attempt to name his housekeeper’s mentally deranged son as Crown Prince of the CCP.

 

Let’s start with the headline number. Everyone has been talking about President Tsai’s low approval rating. How far did she sink over her first year in office?

請問您對她擔任總統以來的整體表現滿不滿意?

“How satisfied are you with Tsai Ing-wen’s overall performance as president?”

(Chinese question wordings are from the TEDS website: teds.nccu.edu.tw. Some of the English translations are from that website, and some are my own.)

Tsai approval

As you can see from the chart, Tsai’s satisfaction rating dropped quite a bit from June 2016 to June 2017. In the first survey, she was over 50%, the next three surveys were in the mid-30s, and the latest survey was in the upper 20s. That looks pretty terrible. If you want to see the electorate as unhappy with her performance and primed for a change, you certainly can.

It gets worse. TEDS asks about Tsai’s performance in four specific policy areas, cross-straits relations, foreign affairs, the economy, and national defense. These all mirror her overall satisfaction rating fairly closely, except that the trend lines for economy and cross-straits relations are 5-10% lower than the overall trend line. That is, Tsai’s general satisfaction is the optimistic number. As you drill down into specifics, people are even less satisfied.

那您對蔡英文在處理兩岸關係的表現滿不滿意?

那您對她在外交方面的表現滿不滿意?

那您對她在國防方面的表現滿不滿意?

那您對她在促進經濟發展的表現滿不滿意?

Tsai approval areas

We can go further. People are even less satisfied with the cabinet’s performance than with President Tsai’s. Tsai just changed premiers, but most of the unpopular cabinet is still in office. (Premier Lin did slightly better than the cabinet but significantly worse than Tsai.) Ick.

cabinet approval

On the surface, it doesn’t look good. However, I think Tsai’s approval ratings probably mean a lot less than the international media thinks. Comparison with American presidents is especially misleading. Taiwanese are simply more skeptical of their presidents. Unlike American voters, Taiwanese voters historically do not connect expressing satisfaction and intention to vote for a politician. To give a famous example, Mayor Chen Shui-bian had an approval rating in the 70s during his 1998 re-election bid but only got 46% and lost. Looking at presidents, perhaps Ma Ying-jeou’s experience is instructive. Ma had fairly pedestrian approval ratings during his first term, and yet he was comfortably re-elected. In fact, President Ma’s first term approval ratings look shockingly similar to Tsai’s thus far. At roughly this point (August 2009 – February 2010), Ma hit his nadir and then slowly recovered as the 2012 election approached and partisan loyalties reasserted themselves. It probably didn’t hurt that Ma appointed a professional politician who could communicate effectively with the public as premier at about this time. You will also notice that Ma started with a sky-high approval rating. Both he and Tsai had honeymoon periods that quickly evaporated. If you ignore those first data points, the declines for both don’t look quite so dramatic. Somewhere between 25% and 40% approval seems to be normal for Taiwanese presidents. (In contrast, anything below 40% is a disaster for an American president.)

Anyway, I increasingly don’t believe in the predictive value of satisfaction. Lots of the people who are dissatisfied are unhappy that Tsai Ing-wen has been too timid. These people wanted more of her program, not less. Someone who is angry that transitional justice has been too slow or that pension reform wasn’t drastic enough is not itching to vote for the KMT in future elections.

 

So let’s turn to party ID, a much more important and accurate indicator of which way the winds are blowing. Here are the five quarterly surveys from Tsai’s first term:

在國內的政黨之中,請問您認為您比較支持哪一個政黨? (if none, follow-up) 那請問您有沒有比較偏向哪一個政黨?

“Among the political parties in our country, which do you support most?” (if none, follow-up) “Which party do you lean toward?”

party id recent.png

The initial impression is that the DPP is bleeding support and the KMT is gaining. The gap between the two parties has shrunk from about 20% in June 2016 to about 3% a year later. Wow!

Again, some caution and some longer-term perspective is useful. That first survey showing the DPP with 39% party ID is wildly out of line with historical patterns. The DPP has never been near that high in any other survey. Let’s chalk that up as a fleeting honeymoon effect and discard it. Still, the last few surveys show the DPP falling from about 30% to about 25% and the gap between the two main parties narrowing. The KMT is making a comeback!

About that, maybe we should look at a longer time period. The TEDS quarterly surveys started in September 2012, so we don’t have the same sort of regular data before that. Nevertheless, party ID is always asked on every ESC and TEDS survey, so we have fairly reliable numbers going back to the mid-1990s. I’ve started this chart at the end of the Chen era to compare current party ID trends to the relatively stable period during Ma’s first term. As you can see, during Ma’s first term the KMT generally had a 10-15% advantage over the DPP in party ID. During his second term, the KMT hemorrhaged support, going from the mid-30s to the low 20s while the DPP gained slightly, going from about 25% to 30%. Put into that context, party ID in June 2017 doesn’t look anything like party ID in 2009. We are still in the post-Sunflower world in which the DPP is the more popular party and the KMT is in second place. In the chart with only five surveys, it looks like the KMT is making a comeback. In the longer perspective, it doesn’t look like that so much. The KMT is still mired in the low 20s, where it has been since late 2014.

party id since 2008.png

One interesting thing about this chart concerns the DPP’s honeymoon peak. The DPP’s peak comes in June 2016, after Tsai’s inauguration. The KMT also has a massive peak, when it hit 43% at the end of 2011. The difference between these two peaks is that one occurred right around election day. The KMT’s 2012 campaign apparently peaked perfectly, with a spike in support for the party just when the voters were going to the polls. This spike (and the 15% advantage in party ID) produced 51% of the votes in the presidential election. In 2016, the DPP’s spike was well after the election, so it did not translate into more votes. At the election, the DPP had an advantage of just a bit more than 10% in party ID, not the 20% it would have in June. The DPP’s party ID in the low-30s around election day produced 56% of the vote for Tsai.

Historically, the DPP has added more voters to its base of identifiers than the KMT has. If the DPP still has a narrow lead in party identifiers, it probably has a somewhat larger lead in actual votes.

The past two data points are not good for the DPP. However, I’m not ready to proclaim them as a tipping point or the start of a new trend. On party ID, it looks to me like we are still in the same post-Sunflower world. Nonetheless, it is something I’ll be keeping my eye on.

 

If I want to know what will happen in the near term, I look at party ID. If I want to know about the longer and deeper trends, I look at national identity. This is measured using a very simple yet telling question:

我們社會上,有人說自己是「臺灣人」,也有人說自己是「中國人」,也有人說都是。請問您認為自己是「臺灣人」、「中國人」,或者都是?

“In Taiwan, some people think they are Taiwanese. There are also some people who think that they are Chinese. Do you consider yourself as Taiwanese, Chinese or both?”

national id recent.png

Looking at the recent data, it doesn’t appear that there is any honeymoon peak. Rather, there is simply a decrease in exclusively Taiwanese identity and a commensurate increase in Chinese and dual identity. This is wrong. Actually, the June 2016 data point is higher than either 2015 or the rest of 2016.

TaiwanChinese.jpg

A look at the longer trend shows that the decline in Taiwanese identity is not merely something that has happened over the past year. The gap between the lines peaked in 2014, when exclusive Taiwan identifiers outnumbered people with some Chinese identity by about 60 to 35%. Over the past three years, that gap has slowly narrowed to roughly 56 to 40%. This is not merely a statistical blip. These data points in the ESC chart combine data from numerous surveys; each data point represents over 10,000 respondents. There is a real decline in Taiwanese identity over the past three years; the only question is how we should think about it.

Many smart people think that 2014 was a real inflection point, and the historical trend toward more and more Taiwanese identifiers has now reversed. They expect that Chinese identity will continue to increase over future surveys. I have not yet heard a convincing explanation for why this might happen, but then I don’t have a airtight explanation for the last three years either.

For now, my working hypothesis is that long-term drivers of Taiwanese identity are still in place. Younger people identify more strongly as Taiwanese than older people, and this is driven by education and real-world experiences in which China clumsily continually reminds Taiwanese that they are a different group of people. If the fast-growing China of a decade ago couldn’t attract Taiwanese youth, I don’t see how the slower-growing and more oppressive version of today will win over many hearts and minds.

For the time being, I am considering the peak in 2014 to be the outlier. My guess is that after the dramatic upheavals of the previous few years, many respondents who would have normally been on the fence were inspired to describe themselves as exclusively Taiwanese. As things calmed down, those people may have drifted back to their more “normal” dual identities. There is a rapid growth in Taiwanese identity from 2011 to 2014, and I suspect at least some of the people who changed their minds then have changed them back again. If you look in longer terms, the basic trend line over the past two decades still looks like it fits the current data.

It is also important to note that, even with the changes over the past three years, we are still not back in the world of 2008, when Taiwanese and Chinese identities were roughly equal. Exclusive Taiwanese identifiers still significantly outnumber people with Chinese identity, and the current trends will require several more years to close that gap. However, if my interpretation is correct, there may not be many more wafflers to convert back to Chinese identity. Closing the gap much further will require some fundamental change in the relationship between China and Taiwan to make Chineseness more appealing to Taiwanese youth. Perhaps that has already happened, and I am simply oblivious to it.

Regardless, this is an important indicator to keep an eye on. It is not at all an overstatement to say that Taiwan’s political future depends on the distribution of opinions about national identity.

 

The TEDS quarterly surveys mostly ask the same questions each time, but they also stick in one or two questions on topical issues each time. Some of these are illuminating.

In September 2016, respondents were asked a question on the recent Illicit Party Assets bill:

立法院在今年7月通過「不當黨產處理條例」(全名: 政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例),請問您對政府在處理不當黨產的表現滿不滿意?

“In July the legislature passed the Illicit Party Assets Act. Are you satisfied with the government’s performance in handling illicit party assets?”

35.0% of respondents said they were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied, while 42.0% said they were either somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the government’s handling of this issue. The easy interpretation might be that the public sides with the KMT’s insistence that the DPP is conducting a vengeful, unjustified, and undemocratic witch hunt against it. However, digging a little deeper casts doubt on that interpretation. 26.0% of people who self-identified as DPP or NPP supporters also expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of illicit KMT assets. Of course, we can’t know exactly what each individual was thinking and every individual thinks something slightly different, but it isn’t too difficult to imagine that the overwhelming majority of these people were dissatisfied because they thought the efforts to recover illicit KMT assets were not aggressive enough. If you want to know how much support the KMT has for its position, you probably need to subtract the vast majority of these people – 9.9% of the full sample – from the 42.0% who were dissatisfied. Similarly, a considerable chunk of non-identifiers were probably also dissatisfied for the same reason. What starts out looking like a good result for the KMT is probably actually nothing of the sort. People might be dissatisfied with the Tsai government, but this does not necessarily mean they are jumping over to the KMT.

 

Both the March and June 2017 surveys had a question on pension reform. Note that the June survey was conducted about two weeks before the legislature passed the pension reform bill.

In March, the survey asked about the preferential savings rate:

有人說: 「公教優惠存款(十八趴)的廢除對退休公教人員不公平」,請問您同不同意這種說法?

“Some people say, “Abolishing the preferential savings policy (18%) is unfair to retired public employees.” Do you agree or disagree?”

Agree Disagree
All 30.2 58.7
KMT identifiers 45.3 44.2
DPP + NPP identifiers 21.8 72.7
Public employees 42.7 47.6

This question wording is a particularly strong one for proponents of pension reform. This focuses attention on the most easily understood aspects of a very complex topic. The preferential savings rate has been the horse that advocates have loved to beat for years, as a guaranteed 18% interest rate on savings deposits is far out of line with anything a normal person could hope to obtain. In fact, nearly twice as many people disagree with the statement as agree with it. Even among KMT identifiers and public employees, the two groups most hostile to pension reforms, nearly as many people disagreed as agreed with this statement.

In June, TEDS asked a very different question:

整體而言,請問您對政府處理公教人員年金改革的表現滿不滿意?

“Overall, are you satisfied with the government’s performance in handling public employees’ pension reform?”

satisfied Dissatisfied
All 31.7 56.4
KMT identifiers 17.6 77.5
DPP + NPP identifiers 49.9 43.0
Public employees 20.1 75.4

(Remember, this is before the legislature passed the bill.)

By now, you should know how I feel about these satisfied/dissatisfied questions. Taiwan’s population is highly critical. If they don’t get their ideal outcome, they do not hesitate to express dissatisfaction. In fact, the Tsai government moved deliberately and cautiously on pension reform, angering a lot of green supporters who wanted a more radical approach. In this survey, not even half of DPP and NPP supporters were satisfied.

On this topic, I have a little private data. I’m doing a project on fighting in the legislature, and I did an internet survey before and after the pension reform was passed. Now, internet surveys have to be interpreted with extreme caution since they are not representative samples. Our goal was to study how attitudes changed after a brawl, not to make statements describing the Taiwanese population. However, that is what Nathan Batto, rigorous scholar, does with the data. Frozen Garlic, the irresponsible blogger, is going to throw caution to the wind and give you some results that you shouldn’t take at face value.

First, let me tell you that my data are biased. My respondents are extremely highly educated, have too many middle aged people, too many northerners, not enough farmers or homemakers, and too many public employees. KMT and NPP identifiers are overrepresented, while DPP identifiers are underrepresented. In general, all the results in my survey skew much bluer than those of a representative telephone sample.

Unlike the TEDS questions, we framed our question in terms of partisan positions:

在年金改革的議題上,您比較支持國民黨的立場還是民進黨的立場?

“On pension reform, do you support the KMT position or the DPP position more?”

Wave 1 Wave 2
KMT position 20.8 21.1
DPP position 39.9 42.1
Neither/no opinion 39.3 36.8

In this sample, roughly twice as many people preferred the DPP position as the KMT position. Remember, this sample is too blue, so in the actual population it was probably more than a two to one ratio.

Think about this. The general population was generally dissatisfied with the government’s handling of the pension reform, even though it preferred the DPP’s position over the KMT’s position by a large margin. Taiwanese people are not easily satisfied! Nevertheless, even if the general public isn’t happy with the DPP’s performance, the pension reform issue is definitely not a winner for the KMT.

 

How about marriage equality? TEDS has questions from March and June 2017:

有人說: 「應該修改民法讓同性可以結婚組成家庭」,請問您同不同意這種說法?

“Some people say, “The Civil Code should be amended to allow gays to marry and form a family.” Do you agree?”

 

This question wording presents a stricter test for support of marriage equality than a less specific question, such as “Do you agree that gay should be allowed to marry?” Amending the Civil Code is the strongest version of marriage equality. There are people who support a weaker version of marriage equality, such as enacting a special law but not amending the Civil Code. Nonetheless, the degree of opposition to amending the Civil Code is striking.

agree Disagree
March 2017 39.1 52.1
June 2017 33.7 57.0
Breakdowns of June sample
KMT identifiers 21.9 69.4
DPP identifiers 37.5 54.3
NPP identifiers 64.6 32.3
Taipei City 40.3 44.8
Age 20-29 71.1 21.1
Age 30-39 50.0 40.5
Age 40 and up 18.6 72.1

KMT identifiers are overwhelmingly against amending the Civil Code, while DPP identifiers also have a clear majority against it. NPP supporters are clearly the outliers. Geographically, Taipei City sticks out. While Taipei residents are split evenly, every other place has 60-70% against amending the Civil Code. When Taiwanese sarcastically talk about Taipei residents living in a bubble (天龍國), maybe this is part of what they are talking about. There are dramatic differences by age. People in their 20s are overwhelmingly for marriage equality, while people in their 30s are somewhat for it. However, most eligible voters are over 40, and these people are overwhelmingly against amending the Civil Code.

In May, the Council of Grand Justices ruled that the current law is unconstitutional and gave the government two years to change it. Looking at these numbers, you can see why the Tsai government is not eager to push through an amendment to the Civil Code, regardless of President Tsai’s personal sympathies. I don’t think the very vocal supporters of marriage equality have yet realized that the government is on their side. (Don’t forget, Tsai appointed most of the Grand Justices.) With these numbers, the only realistic action is a special law, which the activists don’t want. Instead, the government has chosen a third path: wait for the two year period to expire and then simply consider the Civil Code to allow gays to marry. At the cost of a two year wait, the marriage equality activists will get their most favored outcome while not inflicting enormous political costs on a sympathetic government.

 

The final item to consider echoes newly elected KMT chair Wu Den-yi’s proposal that Taiwan should revert to the 1992 Consensus. This was asked in the June 2017 survey.

在處理兩岸關係上,有人主張我們應該使用九二共識與中國大陸協商,也有人主張我們不應該再使用九二共識,請問您比較支持哪一種看法?

“On cross straits relations, some people say the we should use the 1992 Consensus as a basis for negotiations with mainland China, other people say that we should not use the 1992 Consensus again. Which side do you support?”

use Don’t use Doesn’t exist
All 41.8 29.4 3.7
DPP + NPP identifiers 21.6 52.9 6.9
Exclusive Taiwan identity 26.0 41.4 5.6

I have to admit, I was quite surprised by this result. 42% of people were in favor of re-adopting the 1992 Consensus, while only 33% were against it. (I’m counting the 4% who refuse to admit the existence of the 1992 Consensus as being against using it.) I guess Wu Den-yi’s position is more popular than I thought.

Let’s take a minute to think about polling and the 1992 Consensus. For years, the Ma Ying-jeou government would shove reams of polling data showing a solid majority in support of the 1992 Consensus in the face of any journalist willing to look. Many eagerly and unskeptically repeated the government numbers in their stories. It wasn’t just journalists, though. I’ve heard academics reference the Mainland Affairs Council survey numbers. Here’s the problem. The MAC was producing survey results in order to justify – not to inform – its policies. The typical MAC question wording was both leading and confusing. (Is it possible to be both leading and misleading?) Here’s a footnote from one of my recent papers on this point:

“For example, a July 2014 survey asked, “The government’s position on the 1992 Consensus is that the ‘one China’ in ‘one China, each side with its own interpretation’ refers to the ROC. Do you support this position?” 52.3% expressed support, which was a fairly typical result. Sometimes the MAC preceded this question with other leading questions or employed even more loaded question wordings. For example, a May 2015 survey asked, “Some people say, ‘Since 2008, the important result of the government’s mainland policy has been to maintain cross-straits relations and a stable peace.’ Do you agree with this statement?” It then asked a loaded question on the 1992 Consensus: “Since 2008, on the foundation of the 1992 Consensus – One China, each side with its own interpretation, One China means the ROC, the government has steadily promoted cross-straits negotiations and exchanges. Do you support this position?” 53.9% expressed support.”

Note that in all of the MAC surveys, the formula is spelled out in its strongest version, emphasizing “each side with its own interpretation.” This matters a lot. The more you spell out the parts of the formula that the PRC doesn’t agree with, the more support there is. In these questions, they further emphasize the constitution and confusingly (at least to me) allow people to think they are agreeing with the statement that the government’s position is that One China refers to the ROC (and not the PRC), and so on. That’s how you get over 50% for this question. When TISR asked the questions in a more neutral manner two years ago, they got about 40% support for “one China, each side with its own interpretation”, 30% for “1992 Consensus,” and 20% for “one China, both sides with the same interpretation.”

Nearly two years later, support for the 1992 Consensus seems to have risen a bit. The 1992 Consensus gets 42% support, even though the wording does not include the phrase “each side with its own interpretation.” Moreover, this item has a response category for opposition, not just for support. 42% support turns out not to mean 58% opposition. In fact, 33% is not anywhere close to 58% opposition. A large chunk of the population is ambivalent on this question. Like many people, I interpreted the 2016 election result as a death sentence for the 1992 Consensus. I still think the chances of the Tsai government ever accepting it are between razor-thin and zero, but, in light of this result, I can see why Wu Den-yi and the KMT are holding out hope that the 1992 Consensus can still be the basis for a winning election campaign.

 

To sum up, I think these data suggest that the DPP is still on track to win another term in 2020. There are some encouraging numbers for the KMT, but they are easily exaggerated. Overall, I think these data are at least as discouraging for the KMT as for the DPP. I think we are most likely going to have something like the previous Japanese election in which a somewhat unpopular government easily beat an even more unpopular opposition.

PS: If these results trouble you in any way, don’t worry. They’re all horribly out of date. Everything is probably completely different now.

Musings on the old and new premiers

September 11, 2017

It seems I don’t get around to blogging very much these days. Hopefully I’ll pick up the pace as we move into the next election cycle. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts on the recent cabinet reshuffle.

 

Former Premier Lin Chuan’s 林全 resignation did not come as much of a surprise. After 16 months, it was time for a reset. His satisfaction ratings were not great, but it’s easy to overstate that point. We’ve had several stories in the international media gasping about President Tsai’s cratering satisfaction ratings in the high 20s or low 30s (“worse than Trump!!!!”), and Lin’s ratings were a notch below those levels. However, the Taiwanese electorate is historically much stingier with its approval for national politicians than the American electorate, and ratings in this range haven’t historically heralded disaster. I’ll have more to say on public opinion in a subsequent post. For right now, let’s just say that Lin’s ratings weren’t spectacular.

Taiwanese cabinet members come in two broad prototypes: elected politicians and technocrats. Lin is a classic technocrat, having served in various administrative and policy-focused positions since the mid-1990s. It is somewhat ironic that his biggest failings were technical rather than political. In recent weeks, the KMT has enthusiastically thrown the legislature into chaos protesting the Forward-Looking infrastructure package. They have made some substantive arguments against the package, such as claiming that spending on railways is wasteful, but their first and most effective argument was that the documentation was sloppy and incomplete. The cabinet’s original proposal for the massive eight year package came with a pitifully thin set of documents explaining exactly what the money would used for. In other words, the technocrats had not bothered to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. This is the kind of problem you might expect a career politician – with a focus on power and coalitions – to make, not a career technocrat who supposedly revels in the details of public policy. Lin ran into the same sort of problem in his biggest failing, the revision of the Labor Standards Law that has left almost no one satisfied. The broad and inflexible brush strokes of the new policy are the kind of thing you would not expect from a policy nerd with a detailed understanding of labor markets. They are exactly what you might expect from a politician catering to the whims of a specific interest group and ignoring all the others.

Meanwhile, Lin passed one of the most important political tests for any premier: he could almost always count on support from a majority in the legislature. The DPP LY caucus may not have been thrilled with the amendments to the Labor Standards Law, but they were willing not only to vote en masse for those amendments but even to physically push KMT legislators off the speaker’s podium so that they could vote for Lin’s bill. Likewise, in the fight over infrastructure, the DPP LY caucus allowed the KMT caucus to make noise and express their discontent, but at the end of the day, they passed the cabinet’s plan relatively unchanged. For the most part, the LY had Lin’s back. If you think that is trivial, try talking to former KMT Premier Jiang Yi-huah 江宜樺about whether a majority party in the LY always supports the premier’s agenda.

From a political perspective, Lin also handled marriage equality quite deftly. In the face of strident demands from pro-marriage equality forces to amend the Civil Code and deep trepidation from DPP legislators staring at polls showing substantial opposition to this among back in their districts, Lin simply sidestepped the issue. By interpreting the Grand Justices’ ruling as implying that the language in the Civil Code requiring marriage to include one man and one woman was unconstitutional, Lin decided that there was no need to amend the Civil Code. Gay marriages can be registered under the current law. In this way, Lin did not force DPP legislators into a no-win situation by forcing them to offend either their young voters or everyone over forty.

This is not to say that Lin has been a terrible technocrat and a genius politician. He has had plenty of political failings. For example, somehow the DPP managed to tackle the very thorny issue of pension reform, pass a bill that the KMT didn’t dare try to physically block in the legislature, and still leave the majority of people dissatisfied. What should have been a crowning triumph of Lin’s tenure is instead something that most people think should have been handled better. The technocratic efforts are, by nature, less visible, but it is reasonable to assume that he has quietly launched drives to remake government policy in a number of areas. Still, it is striking to me that his highest profile setbacks were mostly technical in nature.

 

Tainan mayor William Lai 賴清德 is the new premier, and there is a lot of speculation about his next move. Some people think he will run for New Taipei mayor next year, while others think he is planning to run for president in 2020. I don’t think either of these are likely.

The timetable for a mayoral run is very tight. The election will be in late November or early December next year, so he would have to start his campaign (and resign as premier) by May or June at the latest. However, he would have to announce his intention (or “reluctant capitulation” to the intense arm-twisting pressure from the rest of the DPP) to run a month or two before that. In other words, he would ony have a maximum of eight months in office as premier before starting the campaign. In April 2010, Eric Chu 朱立倫 announced he would be willing to run for New Taipei mayor after only eight months as deputy premier, so maybe the calendar isn’t too tight. However, I think premier and deputy premier are fundamentally different positions. The deputy premier isn’t the one in charge of the executive branch; Chu was not the one determining policy directions. When the deputy premier resigns, there is no need to formally reshuffle the cabinet. Mayor is arguably a step up from deputy premier, while it is almost certainly a step down from premier. It just doesn’t make sense for the premier, after only eight months, to claim that he has successfully accomplished everything he wants to do in his current job and is now ready to move on to a new and less important challenge. For the deputy premier, though, that makes perfect sense. Perhaps Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 is a better model for this proposed jump than Eric Chu. Hsieh was re-elected as Kaohsiung mayor in 2002, became premier in 2005, and then ran for Taipei mayor in 2006. However, Hsieh served as premier from February 2005 to January 2006, almost a full calendar year. Moreover, he took over as premier much earlier in the cycle (February rather than September) and he resigned well before the nominations for the next mayoral elections were decided. His calendar was much less compressed than Lai’s. Still, one year is not a particularly long time as premier, and Hsieh did not exactly resign in triumph. This lackluster record as premier probably contributed to his landslide defeat in the Taipei mayoral race. It is hard to see Lai arguing that he was a successful premier with only eight months in office. Running for mayor would probably require him to talk defensively rather than brag proudly about his tenure as premier.

Lai is even less likely to run for president in 2020 than to run for mayor in 2018. For one thing, as premier, he will now be tightly identified with Tsai. His triumphs are her triumphs, and her failings will rub off on him. More fundamentally, there simply is not much demand within the DPP right now for someone to split the party by running against their incumbent president. Tsai is still the leader of the party. Some of the shine may have come off her leadership, but she is still the unquestioned top dog and still on track to win a second term.

Lai’s goal should be for the DPP’s 2024 nomination. He is not necessarily in a great position for this. Premiers tend to have a relatively short shelf life. If he does very well, he might make it to the 2020 presidential election as premier. It is almost unthinkable that he might make it all the way to the 2024 election as premier. Perhaps his best scheme might be to persuade the current VP to yield that spot to him in order to guarantee his survival to 2024. However, it seems highly unlikely at this point that Chen Chien-jen 陳建仁 would want to step aside or that Tsai Ing-wen would ask him to. If we are still thinking of Lai as a presidential contender after his tenure as premier ends, he will have to find some other platform to keep him in the public eye for a year or three until the 2024 presidential campaign begins. However, that is a problem that we don’t have to worry about right now.

 

We are hearing a lot about how Lai is a leader of the New Tide 新潮流 faction, and some people are wondering if the New Tide faction is becoming dominant within the DPP. After all, it now controls the cabinet, many important local governments (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taoyuan, Changhua, Pingtung), and it has a powerful presence in the LY. This is correct on the surface, but it is worth asking how cohesive the New Tide still is. From the 1980s through the Chen presidency, New Tide was famous for its internal discipline. There were three leaders (Lin Cho-shui 林濁水, Chiu I-jen 邱義仁, and Wu Nai-jen 吳乃仁) who ran the faction. They defined the ideals and policy priorities, built the organizational network, raised money, recruited and trained talent, made deals with other factions, and generally cultivated a tightly disciplined faction. Those three leaders have mostly faded from the scenes. Today’s New Tide is led by a disparate group of local leaders (the aforementioned mayors) and legislators (especially Tuan Yi-kang段宜康). There is no longer any central authority. Chen Chu 陳菊 may be a New Tide member, but she is primarily the mayor of Kaohsiung and her highest priority is on Kaohsiung’s problems. She isn’t going to take orders from William Lai or any other New Tide member. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to think that she has organized her own Kaohsiung-based faction including many people who are not necessarily New Tide figures and who answers to her rather than to any national New Tide leadership. The same goes for Cheng Wen-tsan 鄭文燦 in Taoyuan and every other mayor. In the legislature, the New Tide faction might help win nominations, but I don’t think it exercises quite as much control over its members as it once did. During the Chen-era, we started hearing about the North Tide 北流, Central Tide 中流, and South Tide 南流. These three had very different attitudes about whether to support the embattled President Chen. The North Tide led calls for him to resign, while the South Tide was much more supportive (reflecting difference in the larger population among northern and southern voters). The New Tide didn’t quite fracture, but its cohesion did suffer. I don’t think it has or will ever fully recover. So while it is not meaningless that Lai is a New Tide member, this doesn’t imply that New Tide is taking over everything. New Tide isn’t really a cohesive (unitary) actor with a distinctive set of policy preferences these days.

 

I’m not exactly buying into the hype about William Lai. I think there are a lot of parallels between Lai and Eric Chu. Both were relentlessly promoted by the media as the party’s great savior without having done very much to earn that mantle. Chu was a scholar and Lai was a doctor, both were singled out at a fairly young age and placed into a solidly blue/green district that they could win without much challenge. Both are physically attractive enough, neither is brimming with charisma, and neither has actually accomplished as much as you have the impression they have. Yet, somehow, we all have been led to believe that they are presidential material. In their first forays into cross-straits affairs, they even employed similar strategies by playing superficial word games. Chu tweaked the 1992 consensus, changing one character and advocating One China, both sides with the same interpretation 一中同表. Lai tried to coin a vacuous pro-China, love Taiwan 親中愛台. Both seemed to think that they could cleverly clear away all the obstacles to cross-straits relations by coming up with a better four-character slogan than anyone else. Neither seems to have bothered to think through the implications of these formulae the way Ma, Tsai, or Hsieh did.

In early 2015 when Chu took over as KMT party chair, I wrote that he was now stepping out of the easy aura of a local mayor, in which most every action is reported with a favorable tinge by an accommodating local reporter, and into the harsh light of national politics, where every action would be scrutinized and (fairly or unfairly) attacked if any partisan advantage could be gained. Likewise, Lai now steps into that harsh limelight. Rather than taking credit for the mango harvest or paving a road, he will more likely be blamed for not having a quick and painless solution to a variety of intractable problems such as the low birthrate, systemic youth unemployment, or companies willing to compromise food safety in order to cut costs. Lai just stepped into the big leagues, and the vague hero image that his boosters have so assiduously cultivated won’t survive if he doesn’t deliver the goods.

The parallel to Chu isn’t perfect. Lai has faced and overcome a few more electoral challenges than Chu. Chu won one term in the legislature; Lai won four terms. In particular, Lai survived the 2008 KMT tidal wave even though Ma beat Hsieh in his district. In addition, while Chu had both the Taoyuan and New Taipei mayoral nominations handed to him, Lai won an intense primary in 2010 to secure the mayoral nomination. However, if Lai has a few more substantial victories than Chu, he also has a couple of red flags. Lai has not been able to forge a compromise with affected residents over the rerouting of a rail line. He was also unable to manage a Dengue Fever outbreak.

But most disturbing was his response to the election of a KMT politician as speaker of the Tainan City council. Lai accused the speaker of buying votes and refused to attend city council meetings until the speaker was removed. The speaker probably had bought votes, but that is hardly justification for Lai’s behavior. The mayor does not have the power to assign guilt; that is job of the judiciary. Lai’s certitude in his right to assign guilt and ignore his legal duty to give reports and answer interpellations in the city council belies a stunning moral arrogance. The KMT sarcastically dubbed him Deity Lai 賴神, and, dishearteningly, he has not shied away from that moniker. It is very easy to imagine him refusing to see a flawed decision or even doubling down on it. If he is to have a successful tenure as premier, he will have to show a bit more humility that he has thus far.

 

Apportionment Formula, Act Three

July 25, 2017

This is a continuation of my last post. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to go back and read it first. You could probably understand most of this without reading it, but you wouldn’t have that warm feeling that comes with a fuller understanding of a topic.

 

Act Three: The political machinations

 

There is a prologue to this post. In 2010, Taiwan carried out an administrative reform increasing the number of direct municipalities from two to five. As I discussed in the last post, under the old boundaries Kaohsiung City and County had both rounded up and gotten a total of nine seats while both Tainan City and County had rounded down and only gotten five seats. When the units were combined and the apportionment formula recalculated, the new Kaohsiung should only have eight seats and the new Tainan should get six. The wily Kaohsiung politicians did not like the prospect of losing a seat, so they introduced a bill to freeze the districts for ten years rather that reapportioning every cycle, as had always been the practice. Like the USA, Taiwan would now only carry out redistricting once every ten years. (Never mind that Taiwan doesn’t base its population statistics on the decennial census like the USA does or that since Taiwan has a four-year cycle it doesn’t even have elections on the tenth year.) Since a lot of other legislators were not crazy about the possibility of adjusting to a new set of voters, the bill sailed through the legislature. Kaoshiung cleverly stole a seat from Tainan, and it has kept this extra seat for the past two terms. Now the ten-year reprieve is up, and reapportionment is due. The time has come for Kaohsiung to finally lose that extra seat.

Apparently Kaoshiung politicians are not going to just sit by and let that happen. They tweaked the rules once to keep their extra seat, so maybe they can do it again. The mechanism they have seized upon this time is the apportionment formula. Someone noticed that the Central Election Commission changed the apportionment formula in 2006 and that under the previous formula Kaohsiung would have kept its ninth seat. All the news reports point to demands for the CEC to reconsider the formula as coming from Kaoshiung, particularly from legislator Chen Chi-mai. Chen is one of the sharper members of the legislature and he is angling to succeed Chen Chu as mayor, so I’m not terribly shocked to see that he is the one who came up with a credible plan to protect Kaohsiung’s ninth seat. This is not necessarily a DPP power grab; I have been told that KMT legislator Huang Chao-shun might also be one of the primary conspirators.

(There is a possibility that I am responsible for this whole thing since I wrote a post in March pointing out the formula had changed and that the old formula would have given Kaohsiung an extra seat. I have no evidence that some evil genius on Chen Chi-mai’s staff read that post and started evolving a scheme, but it is a plausible scenario. I prefer to think they dreamed it up independently. Otherwise I may have to be more careful in the future about my irresponsible musings on this blog.)

Let’s take a step back and look at the differences between the formulae. There are eight cities and counties that might experience a change from their current number of seats:

  2016 T7 T4 (June) T4 (Nov)
Taoyuan 6 6 6 7
Hsinchu Cn 1 2 2 1
Taichung 8 8 9 9
Nantou 2 2 1 1
Kaohsiung 9 8 9 9
Chiayi Cn 2 2 1 1
Tainan 5 6 6 6
Pingtung 3 2 2 2

No matter what, Tainan is going to finally get the sixth seat that it should have gotten back in 2012. This seat will be taken from Pingtung. From a partisan standpoint, this is means that one southern, mostly rural, deep green place will lose a seat to another southern, somewhat less rural, even deeper green place. It’s bad for Pingtung and good for Tainan, but there isn’t a lot of difference to the rest of us. Anyway, this change is set in stone, so this isn’t the part we should focus on.

Using current (June 2017) population data, the difference between the two formulae is that under the current formula (T7) Taichung and Kaohsiung will get eight seats while Chiayi County and Nantou will get two seats while under the previous formula (T4) Taichung and Kaohsiung will do better while Nantou and Chiayi County will do worse. However, the final apportionment will be done using November 2017 population figures, and, if current trends hold, T4 would also give Taoyuan another seat at the expense of Hsinchu County.

From a geographic standpoint, there isn’t a dramatic shift. One seat in north-central Taiwan (Hsinchu County) would be shifted slightly north to another place in north-central Taiwan (Taoyuan). One seat in central Taiwan (Nantou) would be shifted slightly northward within central Taiwan to (Taichung). And a seat in the south (Chiayi County) would be shifted slightly further south to Kaohsiung. It isn’t the case that the north would be getting three seats from the south or anything like that. The regional balance is basically unchanged.

There is slightly more effect from a partisan perspective, though again, it isn’t that big of a deal. Taoyuan is currently governed by the DPP while Hsinchu County is governed by the KMT, which makes it seem like a big deal to shift a seat from one to another. However, Taoyuan and Hsinchu County have historically voted in quite similar ways. If the KMT can’t dominate both areas, it isn’t coming back into power. The extra seat in Taoyuan might be in the fast growing areas around Taoyuan and Luzhu Districts, which the DPP has done particularly well in. However, a second seat in Hsinchu County would create a safe KMT seat centered around Zhudong and a very competitive seat centered around Zhubei. Overall, I consider shifting a seat from Hsinchu to Taoyuan to be at most a very minor DPP advantage. The story is roughly similar in central Taiwan. While Nantou is governed by the KMT and Taichung is governed by the DPP, the partisan difference between the two is not all that great. Moreover, the biggest beneficiary of a ninth Taichung seat might be KMT rising star Chiang Chi-chen, whose current district is dangerously green and also very small. With only eight seats, Chiang’s district will have to add a lot more green-leaning voters, making an already-challenging district nearly impossible. Again, shifting a seat from Nantou to Taichung is at best a minor DPP advantage. In the south, shifting a seat from Chiayi County to Kaohsiung is probably not very consequential. As things currently stand, both areas are completely dominated by the DPP. I think the KMT probably has a better chance of winning a district in Kaohsiung. Their best chance is in the Zuoying area with as few other voters added to Zuoying as possible. That is, the KMT would probably prefer to shift a seat from Chiayi County to Kaohsiung, though the advantage isn’t very large. Overall, there isn’t a whole lot of partisan impact. Changing from T7 to T4 might have a slight advantage to the DPP, but it probably isn’t worth losing sleep over.

The KMT representative at the CEC public hearing (Huang Teh-fu 黃德福) clearly didn’t see it that way. His arguments were unilaterally against the change. For whatever reason, he has decided the KMT is decidedly better off with the current formula than with T4. Huang is a top-notch brain, and it is quite possible that he is seeing something that I am missing.

Where there clearly is an impact of the proposed change from T7 to T4 is in the balance between urban Taiwan and rural Taiwan. All three shifts would be toward a more urban setting. The shift from Hsinchu County to Taoyuan would be only a modest increase in urban power (Zhubei is already pretty urban), but shifting as seat from Nantou to Taichung and especially from Chiayi County to Kaohsiung would be significant increases in urban political weight. The current apportionment formula is systematically biased against urban areas, so this would be a welcome adjustment. In the current system, the constitution gives extra representation (beyond what their population implies) to the east coast and the outlying islands. It further overrepresents indigenous voters, who are more rural than the rest of the population. As a result, cities are systematically underrerpresented. Taiwan’s main political cleavage isn’t centered on urban-rural divides or even on economic divides that might be related to urbanization, so the underrepresentation of urban areas doesn’t translate directly into an advantage for one party or the other. However, it does mean that progressive ideas (which tend to be centered in cities) such as marriage equality will face more obstacles than they should. Further, since clientelism tends to work best in rural areas, underrepresentation of urban areas arguably helps vote buying and factional politics survive. In Act Two of this post, I discussed malapportionment in general terms, noting that T4 is slightly fairer than T7. Here, I expand on that idea by pointing out that the specific form of malapportionment is to skew power toward rural voters. T4 would (somewhat) help redress that imbalance by transferring some power to urban voters.

 

This is all great, but what is actually going to happen? Will we get T7 or T4? After the CEC finishes its three public hearings, it will meet and decide to adopt one or the other. It will almost certainly opt for T7 since there is no real reason for it to want change. The CEC will especially want to reject the suggestion that it has been violating the constitution for the past three election cycles, and it has an interest in a depoliticized, stable process. What it does not want is pressure to rewrite the rules every election cycle.

After that, the legislators will get their chance. They can override the CEC’s decision by writing the formula into the election law. There isn’t a lot of time to get this done before the November deadline, but there is enough. A decade ago, Kaohsiung politicians quickly built a coalition to revise the law and protect their ninth seat, and now they need to do it again. We’ll see just how good Chen Chi-mai and his allies are at this game of politics.

I think they will probably succeed for the simple reason that the numbers should be in their favor. There are 23 legislators from Kaohsiung, Taichung, and Taoyuan but only 5 from Nantou, Chiayi County, and Hsinchu County. The legislators from Taichung and Taoyuan might not be aware that a seat is about to fall into their laps just yet, but this is not hard to explain. Once you make the effects clear to the legislators and voters from those three cities, it will be hard for any of the 23 legislators to oppose the change. He or she would have to explain to voters why it wasn’t important to protect their hometown’s interests. The Kaohsiung politicians also have an advantage when it comes to expanding beyond the initial 23-5. Their natural allies are the 20 legislators from Taipei and New Taipei who don’t benefit in this round but might benefit in the next reapportionment. T4 is clearly more advantageous to populous cities. That might seem to imply that T7 is better for small cities and counties, but that is not necessarily the case. The smallest cities and counties are guaranteed a seat by the constitution, and they aren’t going to get a second seat no matter what the formula is. The group of legislators with a direct interest in keeping T7 are those from smaller cities and counties that might actually lose a seat under T4, including Miaoli, Yunlin, Pingtung, and Changhua. That’s only 11 more votes. The enlarged potential coalitions are thus 43-16 in favor of T4. If the party leaderships stay out of the matter, that’s probably enough to pass an amendment. Surely the urban coalition could find a few allies among the party list representatives, most of whom are from urban areas.

The rural coalition’s best hope is probably to turn this into a partisan issue, accusing the DPP of manipulating the electoral rules to its own advantage. This might force the DPP leadership to intervene to snuff out the effort to amend the law in order to protect its own image. (Remember, there isn’t actually much of an advantage for the DPP or disadvantage for the KMT.) One of the KMT caucus leaders is already trying to do this. Several of the KMT floor leaders held a press conference lambasting the DPP for trying to manipulate the rules. You might notice that one of the KMT floor leaders is Lin Wei-chou 林為洲, who is from Hsinchu County (and is planning to run for county magistrate). He’s working hard to mobilize the KMT on his behalf. Another one of the KMT floor leaders is John Wu 吳志揚, a party list legislator from Taoyuan. Wu is the former Taoyuan County magistrate, and he is also maneuvering for the Taoyuan mayoral nomination. He might not realize yet that Taoyuan would directly benefit from T4. Once someone explains it to him, I’d be shocked if he continues to dance to Lin Wei-chou’s tune. If he has any political sense at all, he will insist that the KMT caucus should remain neutral on this question and leave the decision up to individual legislators. Otherwise, he’s going to have some questions to answer when Taoyuan voters ask him why they should vote for someone who wasn’t interested in defending Taoyuan. In short, the rural coalition’s best chance is to make this a partisan issue, but that will be very hard to do since many people within the KMT will favor T4.

In the end, I expect the legislator to amend the election law and write T4 into the law. I’m not terribly happy or unhappy about this. I would prefer a stable law that rarely changes, especially to benefit short term interests. However, I also place importance on equal representation, and I think underrepresentation of urban voters is a significant flaw in the current system. If I had a vote on the CEC I’d probably vote to keep T7, since the CEC’s primary responsibility is institutional stability and neutrality. If I had a vote in the legislature I’d probably vote for T4, since by that time the question has already been politicized and it is the responsibility of elected politicians to make the normative tradeoffs such as how much malapportionment is too much. Fortunately, I don’t have a vote in either body, so I can sit back and watch while other people make the choice.

Apportionment formula, Acts 1 & 2

July 19, 2017

A couple weeks ago, the Central Election Commission invited me to speak at a public hearing on changing the formula for apportioning legislative seats to the 22 cities and counties. I assume roughly half the people who read that first sentence are already nodding off to sleep. Let’s say that my reaction was exactly the opposite: my heart started pumping faster and my brain started racing. Change the formula! What in the world is going on!?!

I’m not quite sure how to best tell this story, so I guess I’ll tell it in three acts.

Act one: The technical details

Act two: The CEC public hearing and my testimony

Act three: The political machinations

 

Act one: the dry, boring, technical stuff that you need to understand everything else

 

Before the hearing, the CEC sent me an official notification of the meeting in which they laid out the reason for the meeting. The CEC is holding three public hearings in reaction to the demand from legislators, since legislators have raised concern that the current formula violates the constitution. The constitution sets out two criteria for allocating the 73 district seats: 1) every city and county should get at least one seat, and 2) the seats should be allocated according to the population of each city and county (not including the indigenous population, since they are represented by other legislators). The current formula uses a two stage process, and the legislators questioned whether the two stage process violates the second criterion. They suggested returning to an earlier formula which only uses one stage.

The current formula has been used for the three elections since 2008 (7th, 8th, and 9th Terms), so it has been dubbed the “7th Term Formula.” For simplicity, I’m going to label it T7. In T7, you take the national population and divide it by 73 to get a quota (Q1). Using June 2017 population, Q1=315019. There are six cities and counties whose population is less than one full quota, so we first give them each a seat (S1). Then the population of the other 16 cities and counties is summed and divided by 67 to obtain Q2=329837. This Q2 is used to apportion the remaining 67 seats. For every full quota, a city or county gets a seat (S2). If there are remaining seats after all the full quotas are allotted, they go to the cities or counties with the largest remainder (S3).

 

T7 Formula (using June 2017 population)

  Pop S1 Pop S2 R S3 S
total 22996448 6 22099102 60   7 73
Taipei 2673539   2673539 8 34843   8
New Taipei 3927273   3927273 11 299066 1 12
Taoyuan 2096623   2096623 6 117601   6
Taichung 2743103   2743103 8 104407   8
Tainan 1878892   1878892 5 229707 1 6
Kaohsiung 2744102   2744102 8 105406   8
Yilan 440228   440228 1 110391   1
Hsinchu Cn 528325   528325 1 198488 1 2
Miaoli 545096   545096 1 215259 1 2
Changhua 1278821   1278821 3 289310 1 4
Nantou 474319   474319 1 144482 1 2
Yunlin 690196   690196 2 30522   2
Chiayi Cn 507270   507270 1 177433 1 2
Pingtung 773446   773446 2 113772   2
Taitung 141245 1         1
Hualien 237493 1         1
Penghu 102908 1         1
Keelung 362548   362548 1 32711   1
Hsinchu Ci 435321   435321 1 105484   1
Chiayi Ci 268652 1         1
Kinmen 134527 1         1
Lienchiang 12521 1         1

 

The proponents of change want to go back to the formula used in the 1998, 2001, and 2004 elections, which I will label the “T4” formula. In T4, there is only one quota (Q=pop/seats=315019), which is identical to Q1 in the T7 formula. First apportion one seat to every city and county (S1), then if they have enough population for two or more full quotas, give them any additional full quotas (S2). Finally, allot the remaining seats according to the largest remainders (S3).

 

T4 Formula (using June 2017 population)

  Pop S1 S2 R S3 S
Total 22996448 22 46   5 73
Taipei 2673539 1 7 153387   8
New Taipei 3927273 1 11 147045   12
Taoyuan 2096623 1 5 206509   6
Taichung 2743103 1 7 222951 1 9
Tainan 1878892 1 4 303797 1 6
Kaohsiung 2744102 1 7 223950 1 9
Yilan 440228 1 0 125209   1
Hsinchu Cn 528325 1 0 213306 1 2
Miaoli 545096 1 0 230077 1 2
Changhua 1278821 1 3 18745   4
Nantou 474319 1 0 159300   1
Yunlin 690196 1 1 60158   2
Chiayi Cn 507270 1 0 192251   1
Pingtung 773446 1 1 143408   2
Taitung 141245 1       1
Hualien 237493 1       1
Penghu 102908 1       1
Keelung 362548 1 0 47529   1
Hsinchu Ci 435321 1 0 120302   1
Chiayi Ci 268652 1       1
Kinmen 134527 1       1
Lienchiang 12521 1       1

 

As you can see, the difference between the two formulae is not insignificant. In T7, Taichung and Kaohsiung both get 8 seats, while in T4 they get 9. In T7, Nantou and Chiayi County get 2 seats, but T4 only gives them 1 seat each.

To reiterate, the normative argument that proponents of T4 are pushing is that the two quotas (Q1 and Q2) in T7 are somehow violating the requirement that seats be apportioned according to population. Since the constitution and election law say nothing about discarding the populations of the small cities and counties and calculating a new quota, they argue that it is forbidden to do so.

Before we move on, there is one more (quite important detail). We are all using June 2017 data. However, according to the election law, seats are apportioned according to the population 26 months before the end of the term. That means that critical data is the November 2017 population. We still have five months to go. As my friend Donovan Smith keeps pointing out, Taichung is growing faster than Kaohsiung and is about to overtake it as Taiwan’s second largest city. For this exercise, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Taoyuan is growing fastest of all. Over the past year, Taoyuan has increased an average of a little more than 3000 people per month. By November, it should have at least 15000 more people. Right now, Taoyuan’s remainder is 206509. With another 15000, it will have a remainder of about 221000, which might even pass Kaohsiung for the fourth largest remainder. The loser will probably be Hsinchu County, which is growing by about 300 people per month. If you add 1500 people to its current remainder of 213306, it will be at about 215000, about 6000 behind by Taoyuan and Kaohsiung. Poor Hsinchu County! For a couple of years, it has been excited that it will get a second seat and now that second seat is about to be ripped away. Worse, nobody seems aware that this is happening. I also have no indication that the Taoyuan politicians are aware a seventh seat might fall into their lap.

From here there are two things that might happen. After the three public hearings, the CEC will assess the public feedback, hold a meeting, and vote on which formula to adopt. For reasons that I will delve into in Act Two, I’d be shocked if they didn’t vote to maintain the current formula (T7). Following that decision, the legislators have a choice. If they are dissatisfied with the CEC’s decision, they can choose to override it by writing the formula into the election law. I suspect most legislators will favor T4, and so this will be the eventual outcome. Those calculations are the subject of Act Three.

 

Act Two: The CEC public hearing

I’ve never been asked to speak at a public hearing before, so I really didn’t know quite what to expect. I was told that everyone would get only five minutes, with the possibility of another round if time permitted. Five minutes is not long, so I had to be concise. I think this is the shortest powerpoint presentation I’ve ever made. Here it is in its entirety.

Slide1

Slide2.PNGSlide3.PNG

Slide4

The first point is simple. Neither of these formulae violate the constitution. The constitution mandates the CEC to allot seats according to population, but there are many ways to do that. The constitution does not specify which formula to use, so the CEC has leeway to use its judgment as to which is the most appropriate. Every person who spoke today agreed on this point. In other words, we all explicitly rejected the current normative argument for changing from T7 to T4.

The second point is that there is, in fact, a solid normative argument to be made in favor of T4. T4 reduces the overall level of malapportionment relative to T7. My hope is that, since the politicians will probably continue to press for T4, I hope they will use this argument instead of the constitutional one. I’d like for all discussions of electoral system fairness to be conducted in terms of disproportionality.

I will say that one of the other scholars, Huang Kai-ping 黃凱苹 (NTU), and the KMT representative, Huang Teh-fu 黃德福 (who is also a political scientist and was one of my teachers two decades ago when I was a MA student at NCCU), disagreed with me about which system was fairer. They focused on comparing the four cities and counties that would change seats, looking at the ratios of voters in each one. For example, Huang Teh-fu, looked at the ratios of the each of the three larger districts to the smallest district among the four, adding up the differences to get a deviation index as follows:

T4 formula

  Pop Seats Ave Ratio Ratio-1
Taichung 2743103 9 304789 1.0000 .0000
Nantou 474319 1 474319 1.5562 .5562
Chiayi Cn 507270 1 507270 1.6643 .6643
Kaohsiung 2744102 9 304900 1.0004 .0004
Sum         1.2209

T7 formula

  Pop Seats Ave Ratio Ratio-1
Taichung 2743103 8 342887 1.4458 .4458
Nantou 474319 2 237159 1.0000 .0000
Chiayi Cn 507270 2 253635 1.0695 .0695
Kaohsiung 2744102 8 343012 1.4463 .4463
Sum         0.9616

As you can see, T4 yields a deviation index of 1.22, much higher than the T7 deviation index of 0.96. Huang’s conclusion was that T7 is fairer.

I have two responses to this. First, a deviation from the mean in Taichung is not equivalent to a deviation of equal magnitude in Nantou. In T7, Taichung has four times as many seats as Nantou, so a deviation of equal magnitude affects four times as many people in Taichung as in Nantou. If you think about the total number of people affected, it is more important that Taichung not be too far over or under whatever the fair number is than Nantou. Second, you should not consider the four cities and counties that will be affected in isolation. Malapportionment is a national level problem, and you have to look at it from a national perspective.

The standard measure used in the academic literature to measure is the Loosemore-Hansby Index, which considers the difference between how many seats each district should have according to its population and how many it actually has.

Taiwan has 79 nominal seats (73 district and 6 indigenous). I made a spreadsheet with 79 rows to calculate this index, but since that is a tad long I’ll just do one line for each county. Taipei has eight seats, so you should imagine eight identical rows for Taipei 1 through Taipei 8. (After the actual districts are drawn, Taipei 1-8 will each have a slightly different population, so each one will deviate slightly differently. This will increase the overall level of malapportionment slightly. For now, we will ignore that part.)

T7 Formula: modified Loosemore-Hansby Index

  S Ave Pop Exp obs Abs(diff)
Taipei 8 334192 0.0142 0.0131 0.0011
New Taipei 12 327273 0.0139 0.0130 0.0009
Taoyuan 6 349437 0.0148 0.0133 0.0015
Taichung 8 342888 0.0146 0.0132 0.0013
Tainan 6 313149 0.0133 0.0129 0.0004
Kaohsiung 8 343013 0.0146 0.0132 0.0013
Yilan 1 440228 0.0187 0.0145 0.0042
Hsinchu Cn 2 264163 0.0112 0.0122 0.0010
Miaoli 2 272548 0.0116 0.0123 0.0008
Changhua 4 319705 0.0136 0.0129 0.0006
Nantou 1 237160 0.0101 0.0119 0.0018
Yunlin 2 345098 0.0147 0.0133 0.0014
Chiayi Cn 1 253635 0.0108 0.0121 0.0013
Pingtung 2 386723 0.0164 0.0138 0.0026
Taitung 1 141245 0.0060 0.0107 0.0047
Hualien 1 237493 0.0101 0.0119 0.0018
Penghu 1 102908 0.0044 0.0102 0.0058
Keelung 1 362548 0.0154 0.0135 0.0019
Hsinchu Ci 1 435321 0.0185 0.0144 0.0041
Chiayi Ci 1 268652 0.0114 0.0123 0.0009
Kinmen 1 134527 0.0057 0.0106 0.0049
Lienchiang 1 12521 0.0005 0.0090 0.0085
Plains Indig 3 86959 0.0037 0.0100 0.0063
Mountain Indig. 3 98382 0.0042 0.0101 0.0059
Sum/2         0.0729

In Taipei, each of the eight districts has 334192 people, which is 1.42% of the total population of Taiwan. Since each Taipei district has 1.42% of the population, each should also have 1.42% of the representatives. What do they actually have? There are 113 legislators and each district gets one, so Taipei 1 has 1/113 of the representation. But wait, what should we do about the 34 party list legislators? We assume that they are perfectly apportioned to each district according to its population and thus do not create any further malapportionment. (This is the “modified” part of the modified Loosemore-Hansby Index.) Thus, Taipei 1’s total representation is (1/113) + (.0142*34/113). Taipei 1 thus has 1.31% of the total legislators, or somewhat power less than its 1.42% of the population would receive under perfect apportionment. The eight districts in Taipei are thus collectively underrepresented by 0.88% of the total legislature.

To get the total malapportionment, you add up the absolute value of all these deviances and divide by two. T7 will thus produce 7.3% malapportionment. What this means is that 7.3% of the seats in the legislature are apportioned to places that would not receive them under perfect apportionment. From a cross-national perspective, 7.3% is fairly high. When you consider that Taiwan is not federal system with an upper house (two factors that tend to be associated with higher malapportionment), Taiwan’s malapportionment problem is actually quite serious. I’ll skip the table for T4, but the answer is that T4 yields 6.7% malapportionment, or a slightly fairer outcome than T7. The difference is not enormous, but neither is it insignificant. If you care about malapportionment, T4 is better.

What’s going on with this? The essence of the problem is that the constitution requires a significant level of malapportionment. Politicians have made value judgments that it is important to overrepresent indigenous voters and voters from sparsely populated cities and counties. The six indigenous seats and six seats from cities and counties that are below the quota account for 6.3% malapportionment. That is, these voters are getting an extra 6.3% of the representation in the legislature beyond what their raw numbers would confer. Lianchiang County is the most extreme; it gets 0.90% of the power with only 0.05% of the population. Since the constitution mandates that these voters be overrepresented by 6.3%, voters in the other 67 districts must be underrepresented by 6.3%. Remember how Taipei is collectively underrepresented by 0.88%? In essence, Taipei is making up for Lianchiang’s 0.85% overrepresentation.

So why is T4 better than T7? In T4, other than the 12 constitutionally mandated overrepresented seats, there are also four other overrepresented districts (two in Miaoli and two in Hsinchu County). This means that in addition to making up the 6.3% deficit, the remaining 63 districts have to further give back an additional 0.4% of the total power. In T7, Nantou and Chiayi County both get two seats, making them overrepresented. This means that the remaining 59 districts now have to spit up 7.3% of the total power. Think about this from the perspective of Taichung. Under T4, Taichung gets 9 seats. Each of those nine seats accounts for 1.29% of the population but only gets 1.27% of the power. Under T7, Taichung gets only eight seats, each of which has 1.46% of the population but only 1.32% of the power. Taichung is already underrepresented under T4, but under T7 it becomes much more underrepresented.

(As noted above, if current population trends hold, T4 would take one seat away from Hsinchu County and give it to Taoyuan. This would reduce the malapportionment to 6.5%, an even fairer outcome. A reduction from 7.3% to 6.5% is not too shabby.)

 

Remember when I said my remarks at the CEC hearing were concise? Suffice it to say I didn’t have time to go into all that detail.

 

My third point was that T4 is vulnerable to a mathematical problem. If the populations are distributed just right, you can actually apportion more full quotas than there are seats. The slide gives an example of how you might apportion 74 seats with full quotas.

Now, this probably won’t happen. You need all the remainders to be pretty small. However, it isn’t impossible. I was able to manipulate the numbers to apportion 75 seats. And then with even further manipulation I got up to 76 seats. And in an extreme case, I got to 77. Theoretically, I think with six cities or counties below the quota, the absolute limit would be 78 seats. So 74 seats is quite possible, even if it isn’t likely. But as the world has seen repeatedly over the past couple years, improbable things happen all the time.

This isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw. As long as the bureaucrats are aware of the problem, they can write a rule for how to deal with it. The obvious fix is that the lowest remainder should lose a seat. However, you have to have this rule clearly spelled out in advance. Otherwise, if you try to tell a city that, even though it has a full quota for each seat, it isn’t getting all those seat, all hell will break loose. Remember, you can’t just compromise and allot 74 seats because the constitution clearly says that there will be exactly 73 district seats.

Fantastic! Now we are aware of the problem, and we can avoid the great constitutional crisis of 2037.

By the way, I suspect this mathematical vulnerability is probably the reason the CEC switched from T4 to T7 a decade ago.

 

My fourth point was a simple, normative point. In electoral systems, stability is a value. You shouldn’t change the rules of the game unless there is some compelling reason to think that the system is significantly unfair. The electoral rules are the playing field, and you shouldn’t modify the playing field for a particular party or area’s short-term interests. This time you lose; next time you might win. Populations grow or shrink in ways that are hard to predict. Further, it is entirely possible that we might have some administrative reform. Ten years ago, there were 25 cities and counties; now there are only 22. Ten years ago, Kaohsiung was a winner because it was still split into two pieces. Kaohsiung City had enough people for 4.7 seats and Kaoshiung County had enough for 3.8. Because they were independent, both numbers were rounded up. If they had been combined, as they were in 2010, Kaohsiung would have only had enough people for 8.5 seats, and this would not have been enough to get the 9th seat. Tainan had exactly the opposite situation. In 2006, Tainan County had the population for 3.4 seats, which Tainan City had enough for 2.4. Both remainders were too small to get an additional seat. After the two were combined in 2010, Tainan had enough people for 5.8 seats, so this time it will get a sixth seat. If you change the formula every time based on your immediate political interests, people will lose faith in the neutrality of the system.

 

You might have noticed that my four points don’t all point in the same direction. Points 1, 3, and 4 favor T7, while Point 2 favors T4. As a scholar, it isn’t my job to make the value judgement about which priority is most important. Rather it is my responsibility to point out whether the system has any serious flaws and what the impact of the various options might be. It’s up to the CEC and the legislators to make the value judgements.

(Don’t worry, I’ll take off my scholarly hat and tell you what I really think in Act Three. However, I’m too tired to write that story now.)

CEC hearing.php

Pension reform

June 30, 2017

As I start this post, the legislature has just passed the third reading of the civil servants pension bill. It now moves onto the bill for teachers, and the legislature has yet to take up the bill for military pensions. Nonetheless, now that the rules for civil servants have been rewritten, the others should follow along those basic lines. There is a lot of cleanup work still left for the legislature, but the basic fights have already been waged.

We all have a basic understanding that the current system needed some adjustment. There was too much money going out and too little coming in, and the system was going to go bankrupt in fairly short order. Even President Ma recognized the need for reform. (He quickly aborted his nascent reform in the face of a backlash from public servants, who constitute one of the KMT’s most important voting blocs.) The retirement benefits were simply too generous. Civil servants could often retire in their early fifties and collect monthly stipends nearly equal to their full salaries. Since benefits were based on their last month’s salary (ie: the highest they had collected in their entire career), that meant that the state was often paying people more in their retirement than it had while they were working AND their retirements might be as long as their working careers had been. This system may have been defensible when the GDP was growing by double digits every year, the birth rate was high, and civil servants earned a relatively low base salary. However, those conditions haven’t described Taiwan for two or three decades. Things had to change.

Pension reform was one of the three or four most important goals for Tsai Ing-wen’s first term; arguably it is the single most important domestic reform item on her agenda. Tsai has taken a lot of criticism over the past year. People who didn’t vote for her (predictably) think she is doing a terrible job, and they point to things like China’s more antagonistic stance toward Taiwan and the resulting drop in group tourism from China. They are also furious about the effort to nationalize the KMT’s ill-gotten party assets, which they see as a witch hunt (the “green terror”). Many people who did vote for Tsai are also somewhat disillusioned. Her support for marriage equality has been less than strident, her cabinet is full of old men (many of whom have ties to previous discredited administrations), some of the government’s economic policies have been presented and implemented clumsily (labor standards law, infrastructure package), the economy isn’t growing at 8% a year, transitional justice hasn’t been achieved yet, and the world isn’t perfect yet. Against this background, achieving pension reform should be a shining star on Tsai’s report card.

In fact, I’d argue that pension reform has almost perfectly embodied Tsai Ing-wen’s vision of consensus democracy. There were a lot of people who wanted the DPP to present their ideal bill and ram it through the legislature. After all, what is a majority for? Instead, Tsai took the process slowly and deliberately. Tsai’s cabinet included Minister Without Portfolio Lee Wan-yi, whose sole job was to oversee pension reform. The government held a national forum on pension reform, and Lee’s committee held several other hearings. These hearings were somewhat contentious and the opposition did not always participate in good faith. Still, most of the important political arguments were presented, and the committee was able to filter through them. One of Tsai’s stated goals at the outset was not to treat public servants as an enemy. As she put it, they were to be seen as partners in the reform rather than objects to be reformed. The Executive Yuan committee ultimately came out with a fairly moderate bill. At about the same time, the Examination Yuan came out with its own bill. The Examination Yuan members have fixed terms, and over half of them are still left over from the Ma era. As might be expected, the Examination Yuan bill was even more modest than the Executive Yuan bill. Transition periods were stretched out over more years and various formulas were adjusted to be somewhat more favorable to public servants. However, the two bills were surprisingly similar. By the time the Examination Yuan was ready to propose its bill it had become clear that some sort of reform was unavoidable, so the Examination Yuan proposed a substantive reform bill. During the first half of 2017, anti-reform forces were trying to arouse public opinion against Tsai. Various veterans, civil servants, and teachers groups held rallies, but these were generally not well attended. Surveys showed that public opinion was solidly in favor of reform, and this did not soften as a result of anti-reform activism. If anything, public opinion solidified in favor of a more aggressive reform. By the time the bills got to the legislature, the anti-reform movement was largely played out. In the legislature, the pro-reform forces took their turn trying to pass a more aggressive bill. Both the DPP and NPP caucuses demanded changes to various formulae and transition periods. They succeeded in some of these demands, and the law that eventually passed was somewhat more aggressive than the Executive Yuan bill. Nonetheless, Tsai stepped in to ensure that the most radical demands would not be adopted.

By the end of the process, the KMT found itself in a quandary. Public servants constitute a core constituency, and the KMT wanted to speak for them. However, public opinion was clearly against them, and the DPP caucus showed no signs of wavering. As the saying goes, there are two ways to resist in the legislature: civil and military (文、武). The “military” method involves physically occupying the speaker’s podium and disrupting the normal parliamentary procedures. The “civil” method involves using dilatory tactics such as introducing hundreds of amendments to stretch out proceedings as long as possible. In general, if you are sure of your position and your support in society, you go for the military option. If you are on shaky ground, the civil option is the best you can do. For months, I expected we were heading for a “military” showdown. However, the KMT will eventually crumbled. The KMT could not agree on an alternative bill, so the caucus was reduced to supporting various bills proposed by individual members. Instead of occupying the podium or offering hundreds of amendments, the KMT opted for a very weak battle plan. They would have several people speak on every clause, thus taking several days to pass the bills. The DPP was relatively happy to oblige, so the legislature has been engaged in marathon sessions all week. (A minor but telling point: When the DPP made a motion to extend yesterday’s meeting until midnight, it passed unanimously. If the KMT were really trying to resist, it would have opposed lengthening the meeting.) I’ve been sick this week, so I watched a fair amount of these debates on the LY channel. The KMT offered two main arguments against the reform. On the one hand, they suggested that the reform unfairly cut civil servants’ pensions too much. On the other hand, since the pension fund is forecast to go bankrupt in about 2049 (as opposed to in about 5-10 years under the current system), this reform doesn’t really solve the financial problem so there is no point in doing it. Note that those two positions are contradictory. If you want a reform that will be permanently sustainable, you are going to have to cut pensions even more.

In the end, Taiwan got a pension reform that both sides were a bit unhappy with, which is probably a pretty good indicator that it is a moderate compromise. Public discussion was allowed to percolate until some arguments were discredited and others emerged as superior. Opposition was marginalized, with the street protesters painting themselves into an ever smaller box. Instead of forming the vanguard of a public movement against reform, the anti-reformers demonstrated themselves to be merely selfishly interested in defending a system that unfairly privileged them. As they got smaller, their appeals got cruder and further discredited their moral position. (Example: a sign referring to President Tsai’s genitalia is not a smart way to make the case that civil servants are being unfairly discriminated against.)

If you had asked President Tsai after her inauguration when she expected to pass pension reform, I suspect she would have replied that it would take about a year. In fact, it has taken just over a year. One year to study the problem, hold public discussions, allow protesters to make their case, for supporters to reaffirm their insistence on this reform, and to pass a new law. Don’t expect the media to come out with glowing editorials praising President Tsai’s leadership. Democracy is messy, and we have been watching a messy and aggravating process unfold for nearly a year. Moreover, we ended up with something of a compromise, and no one loves a compromise. Nonetheless, I suspect this is exactly how President Tsai thinks democracy should work.

KMT party chair election, revisited

June 22, 2017

Wu Den-yi was elected KMT chair about a month ago. At the time, one of the popular theories about his win was that it represented a victory of the Taiwan-oriented local factions over the orthodox Chinese nationalist wing. (Or, if you prefer, the Taiwanese wing defeated the Mainlander wing.) In this line of thought, Wu was inheriting the support previously won by Lee Teng-hui, Wang Jin-pyng, and Huang Min-hui. The unspoken implication was that native Taiwanese Wu would lead the KMT in a more localist direction, perhaps even becoming another Lee Teng-hui.

I’ve never been too enamored with this discourse, but I keep talking with smart people who believe it is more or less what happened. I see Wu as a firm believer in the orthodox KMT catechism. He may not be as extreme as Hung Hsiu-chu, but all of his statements and actions over the past four decades seem to me to indicate someone who is quite comfortable with the direction established by Lien Chan and Ma Ying-jeou. That is, he should be acceptable to both wings of the party. I think what happened in the chair election is that KMT members – who want to return to power – simply chose the strongest leader.

So what if I’m wrong? What if Wu was elected because the local factions mobilized to support him? What would that look like? One notable difference between the KMT chair elections in 2016 and 2017 was that there were about 50% more eligible voters and valid votes in the 2017 election. Many people have speculated that this was the result of local factions signing up new party members in support of Wu. If so, we should see a clear pattern. There should be far more new voters in central and southern Taiwan, where the local factions are strongest. Moreover, if Wu inherited and built on Huang Min-hui’s 2016 support, the increase should be greatest in places where more new people signed up for KMT membership.

Let’s look at the results of the 2016 and 2017 KMT party chair elections. The KMT tallied results for individual ballot boxes, but I can only find the full results aggregated up to the city and county level:

 

2016 KMT party chair election

    陳學聖 李新 黃敏惠 洪秀柱
    Chen Lee Huang Hung
合計 139558 6784 7604 46341 78829
.          
台北市 12802 756 901 2990 8155
新北市 16694 723 916 4131 10924
基隆市 1931 121 136 504 1170
宜蘭縣 2845 139 138 1110 1458
桃園市 10745 1597 787 1698 6663
新竹縣 3378 153 191 1389 1645
新竹市 1944 74 112 485 1273
苗栗縣 5204 216 265 1796 2927
台中市 11238 548 751 3484 6455
彰化縣 8074 249 325 4217 3283
南投縣 4038 159 210 1905 1764
雲林縣 4354 148 188 2627 1391
嘉義縣 3842 47 92 2765 938
嘉義市 2678 27 62 1748 841
台南市 11102 316 561 3895 6330
高雄市 15996 632 1048 4956 9360
屏東縣 6358 197 370 2808 2983
花蓮縣 3420 189 243 795 2193
台東縣 2738 121 117 1315 1185
澎湖縣 1367 86 79 361 841
金門縣 1606 74 23 132 1377
連江縣 445 33 14 65 333
海外黨部 6759 179 75 1165 5340

 

And here is the 2017 election:

  valid Hung Han Pan Hau Chan Wu
  有效票 洪秀柱 韓國瑜 潘維剛 郝龍斌 詹啟賢 吳敦義
合計 272704 53065 16161 2437 44301 12332 144408
.              
台北市 26887 5209 1689 248 6250 1338 12153
新北市 28684 6486 1658 240 4544 984 14772
基隆市 4537 461 217 33 1586 156 2084
宜蘭縣 6055 1244 302 63 749 180 3517
桃園市 18372 4001 998 132 4067 458 8716
新竹縣 7192 955 400 70 1413 346 4008
新竹市 5253 1576 355 78 696 212 2336
苗栗縣 9671 1641 693 100 1579 445 5213
台中市 22588 3934 1121 151 4035 707 12640
彰化縣 18808 2566 889 172 2770 1002 11409
南投縣 8566 879 234 31 577 179 6666
雲林縣 8765 1062 1476 95 1390 288 4454
嘉義縣 5038 898 198 19 524 391 3008
嘉義市 4810 1078 267 63 817 675 1910
台南市 20535 4588 1262 178 3124 1882 9501
高雄市 36623 6657 2239 389 4645 1695 20998
屏東縣 14798 2377 667 108 1418 476 9752
花蓮縣 9645 2681 690 156 1424 318 4376
台東縣 5100 810 255 42 1193 114 2686
澎湖縣 2711 768 124 32 546 302 939
金門縣 2382 747 148 20 448 91 928
連江縣 574 124 53 1 97 26 273
海外黨部 5110 2323 226 16 409 67 2069

 

You will notice right away that the total number of valid votes nearly doubled, increasing by 133,146. At the same time, the number of votes won by the (supposed) representative of local factions (Huang in 2016, Wu in 2017) increased by 98,067. It seems plausible that these two shifts are related.

98,068 divided by 133,146 is .74. A reasonable interpretation is the pre-existing party members voted basically as they had in 2016, but 74% of the new party members voted for Wu. However, once you start looking at individual cities and counties, things start to break down. We expect Wu’s mobilization efforts to be most effective in central and southern Taiwan, where the local factions supposedly went all out to mobilize new party members for Wu. Assuming Wu’s increase came entirely from new members, he only won 8% of the new members in Chiayi City and 20% in Chiayi County. Those results can perhaps be explained away because Huang was from Chiayi, so they might have already mobilized for her in 2016. However, if you accept the hometown effect for Chiayi, you also have to discount the high ratio in Nantou, since that is Wu’s home. Throughout the rest of the region, the ratio does not differ markedly from the national average; if anything it is slightly lower. At any rate, Wu’s supposed share of new voters is lower in all of central and southern Taiwan (excepting Nantou) than in New Taipei (.89) and Taoyuan (.92). These are not the supposed loci of local factions in Taiwan.

    Increase Increase  
    Wu-Huang Valid ratio
合計   98067 133146 0.74
.        
台北市 Taipei 9163 14085 0.65
新北市 New Taipei 10641 11990 0.89
基隆市 Keelung 1580 2606 0.61
宜蘭縣 Yilan 2407 3210 0.75
桃園市 Taoyuan 7018 7627 0.92
新竹縣 Hsinchu Cnty 2619 3814 0.69
新竹市 Hsinchu City 1851 3309 0.56
苗栗縣 Miaoli 3417 4467 0.76
台中市 Taichung 9156 11350 0.81
彰化縣 Changhua 7192 10734 0.67
南投縣 Nantou 4761 4528 1.05
雲林縣 Yunlin 1827 4411 0.41
嘉義縣 Chiayi Cnty 243 1196 0.20
嘉義市 Chiayi City 162 2132 0.08
台南市 Tainan 5606 9433 0.59
高雄市 Kaohsiung 16042 20627 0.78
屏東縣 Pingtung 6944 8440 0.82
花蓮縣 Hualien 3581 6225 0.58
台東縣 Taitung 1371 2362 0.58
澎湖縣 Penghu 578 1344 0.43
金門縣 Kinmen 796 776 1.03
連江縣 Lienchiang 208 129 1.61
海外黨部 Overseas 904 -1649 -0.55

 

Maybe I’m thinking of this wrong. Maybe the point is that the growth in new KMT voters was much higher in central and southern Taiwan. The valid votes grew by 95% from 2016 to 2017. In 2016, Huang Min-hui won 33.2% of the votes, while Wu Den-yi won 53.0% in 2017, for an increase of 19.7%. If it was mobilization, these two numbers should move together. For example, valid votes increased by 129% while Wu beat Huang by 26.4%. Both of these numbers are larger than the national average, and Kaohisung is in the south. The problem is that we don’t see similar numbers throughout the rest of center and south. For example, in Changhau valid votes increased substantially, by 133%. However, Wu only bested Huang by 8.4%. All those extra voters didn’t seem to be going to Wu. In Tainan, valid votes only grew by 85% and Wu only outperformed Huang by 11.2%. In fact, some of Wu’s best areas were in the north. Wu outperformed Huang by 31.6% in Taoyuan and 26.8% in New Taipei, but neither one of these places had a particularly large increase in new voters. If you stare really hard and long at this table, you might convince yourself that you see a pattern. However, you are probably hallucinating. The correlation between the two columns is 0.05, just about as close to zero as you will ever see.

    % increase Vote share
    Valid votes Wu-Huang
合計   95 19.7
.      
台北市 Taipei 110 21.8
新北市 New Taipei 72 26.8
基隆市 Keelung 135 19.8
宜蘭縣 Yilan 113 19.1
桃園市 Taoyuan 71 31.6
新竹縣 Hsinchu Cnty 113 14.6
新竹市 Hsinchu City 170 19.5
苗栗縣 Miaoli 86 19.4
台中市 Taichung 101 25.0
彰化縣 Changhua 133 8.4
南投縣 Nantou 112 30.6
雲林縣 Yunlin 101 -9.5
嘉義縣 Chiayi Cnty 31 -12.3
嘉義市 Chiayi City 80 -25.6
台南市 Tainan 85 11.2
高雄市 Kaohsiung 129 26.4
屏東縣 Pingtung 133 21.7
花蓮縣 Hualien 182 22.1
台東縣 Taitung 86 4.6
澎湖縣 Penghu 98 8.2
金門縣 Kinmen 48 30.7
連江縣 Lienchiang 29 33.0
海外黨部 Overseas -24 23.3

In the end, there just isn’t any compelling evidence for the idea that local factions elected Wu chair by mobilizing tons of new voters for him. Heck, there isn’t evidence that anyone mobilized new voters for Wu.

I think the increase in new KMT voters is related to party morale, not to the KMT party chair election. Morale was at a nadir in the aftermath of the 2016 wipeout, and lots of party members let their membership lapse. As morale has recovered (slightly), some of those party members have drifted back (and paid their dues). The turnout rate was also markedly higher this time. However, the number of eligible voters and valid votes are far below the levels of 2005, when the winner was widely expected to become the next president.

  Valid votes Eligible voters turnout
2005 518324 1033854 50.2
2016 139558 337351 41.6
2017 272704 476147 58.1

At any rate, I think the evidence suggests that Wu Den-yi was elected by a fairly broad base of support within the KMT rather than by any specific group such as local factions or Taiwan nationalists. Admittedly, there is a limit to what we can see with crude data like this, so maybe it is best to state my conclusion in the negative. I don’t see any clear evidence for the local faction mobilization thesis.

 

 

 

KMT party chair election

June 5, 2017

(I’ve been working on this post on and off for a couple of months now. Rather than revise it again, I’m just going to post it.)

 

The votes are in and Wu Den-yi has been elected the next KMT party chair, so I guess it is just about time for me to write up my election preview.

 

Here are the results:

吳敦義 Wu Den-yi 144408 52.2%
洪秀柱 Hung Hsiu-chu 53063 19.2%
郝龍斌 Hau Lung-pin 44301 16.0%
韓國瑜 Han Kuo-yu 16141 5.8%
詹啟賢 Chan Chi-hsien (Steve) 12332 4.5%
潘維剛 Pan Wei-kang 2437 0.9%

That is roughly twice as many votes (and KMT party members) than the last KMT party chair election. However, before you get too excited about a certain member mobilizing new members, remember that this is actually quite a bit fewer votes (and party members than the 2005 party chair election when over a million people were eligible to vote and over half a million votes were cast.

I was out of the country when the accusations of vote buying exploded, so I mostly missed that. However, I did watch both debates on Youtube, and I learned quite a bit from those forums about how each candidate was presenting him or herself. I’ll discuss the candidates in reverse order of their finish.

 

Pan Wei-kang

Pan was elected to the legislature in 1992 and has spent most of the last 25 years in the legislature, often also serving on the KMT central committee. For someone who has been at the center of national politics for so long, I was somewhat surprised by how little I knew about her. She is a second generation politician, and she comes out of the Huang Fu-hsing (military) system. However, I can’t remember hearing her speak very many times, and I never thought of her as particularly extreme. As such, I was a bit taken aback when she came out in the first debate breathing fire, demanding state reparations for the current wave of Green Terror against the KMT. She seemed determined to displace Hung Hsiu-chu as the candidate of the reactionary nostaligists. She toned down the rhetoric a bit in the second debate, but she managed to redefine herself in my eyes.

I don’t know what Pan was doing in the race. She never seemed to matter, and she never carved out a distinct niche for herself.

 

Steve Chan Chi-hsien

Chan was a complete mystery to me when this contest started. He had served as Economics Minister, but I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to governing. I’m into politics. I had heard his name bandied about as a possible running mate for the KMT presidential candidate, but that came to nothing. In retrospect, the high moment for Chan’s party chair campaign might have been when they announced the final results of the signature drives. All six candidates easily passed the minimum threshold, but Chan somewhat surprisingly finished second, edging out Hung and Hao. This turned out not to be predictive of the voting results though, as Chan actually got fewer votes than signatures.

In the second debate, Chan mentioned that his mother had been a Changhua county councilor and his brother had been Yuanlin town mayor. This was news to me, and I’m supposed to know these sorts of things. However, there was a reason I had never heard of them: they were elected back in the dark ages. Chan’s older brother was elected mayor in 1973, and we don’t have systematic records from town elections that far back. In fact, Chan comes from an elite local family with several prominent doctors. A bit of googling revealed that he is distantly related in some way to most Taichung and Changhua local faction families and even a few opposition politicians. However, the family’s electoral activities were decades ago and the old nework is almost certainly long gone today.

In the debates, Chan was the embodiment of a bureaucrat. He exuded as little charisma as possible and gave me the impression that he understood all of the details of problems without necessarily grasping the big picture. He spoke of visiting grassroots party members as if they were some abstract idea. People who routinely interact with ordinary voters don’t talk about those interactions as if they require some special effort. Someone told me that Steve Chan is close to Lien Chan. I don’t know if that is true, but they have very similar styles.

 

Han Kuo-yu

Five of the candidates sounded rather similar. Han sounded completely different. During both debates, Han didn’t talk about things like the 1992 Consensus, KMT party assets, or other partisan topics. Instead, he talked about the difficulties of everyday life for lower income and less educated people. Good jobs are scarce, drug use is common, things are too expensive, and life is generally hard. Notably, he did not blame all of these woes solely on President Tsai and the DPP. He was complaining about the effects of President Ma’s policies just as much. His discourse was limited to expressing the pain felt by the lower class. He did not bother to offer any solutions, not even Trump-esque claims that everything could be easily fixed if only someone really wanted to. This was a campaign aimed at the people who know the system is rigged against them and will continue to be rigged against them. It was also aimed at young men, especially the types who might drive a truck or join a gang. This may not have been the best strategy for a KMT party chair race, since I would wager that KMT members are less likely than the general population to be young, unemployed, financially struggling, or to feel that the system is rigged against them. Nevertheless, Han didn’t do terribly. I wonder how many candidates will pick up this campaign strategy for the city and county councilor elections next year.

 

Hau Lung-pin

Hau Lung-pin had exactly one remarkable idea. He stressed repeatedly that if he were elected chair, he would not personally run for president in 2020. Instead, he would ask Hon Hai boss Terry Gou to be the KMT candidate. Let’s think about this for a minute. There are a few reasons that this might be a good idea. 1) The KMT doesn’t exactly have a stable of qualified, charismatic candidates foaming to challenge President Tsai in 2020. Everyone is flawed, and no one is terribly popular. 2) The conventional approach failed dramatically in 2016, so the KMT needs to try something new. 3) Public opinion surveys show that Gou is more popular than any current KMT politician. 4) Donald Trump just showed that the USA was willing to vote for a business tycoon with no political experience, so maybe Taiwanese voters will follow suit. There is the small matter that Gou is currently busy running Hon Hai and may not have the time or desire to run for or serve as president. Nonetheless, Gou didn’t shoot the idea down, and there have been a few discreet trial balloons hinting that he might be willing. Rich people think they can do anything, that their immense wealth proves their superior wisdom and vision. Gou’s availability may not be the fundamental flaw in Hau’s plan.

There are two basic problems with Hau’s plan. The first is that Gou would probably bomb miserably as a presidential candidate. Gou has reasonably good poll numbers now, but the public hasn’t thought carefully about Gou as a potential president. He is a very successful business leader – with a far more impressive record than Donald Trump – and the public evaluates him mostly as a business leader. Once he becomes a politician, the media scrutiny will intensify and become much more critical. The halo surrounding Eric Chu in 2014 melted away in only a few months under the harsh spotlight of national politics in 2015. Gou’s current good (not great) polling numbers are almost irrelevant; six months after entering the political fray the public will think of him in a completely different light.

What about Gou’s fantastic business record? (Unlike Trump) Gou has built an enormous, world-class company. Hon Hai is one of the pillars of Taiwan’s economy, and it employs over half a million people around the world. Gou is good at business. Unfortunately, his business talent might not translate into a political appeal. For one thing, Taiwan does not have the traditional reverence for free enterprise that America does. Especially for Republicans, you often hear voters say that they prefer a person who understands business. As the chair of General Motors once said, the business of the US government is business. There is a significant slice of the electorate that sees pro-business policies as a moral appeal. Taiwanese voters are different. Among traditionalists, Confucianism views commerce with a skeptically. Politics and agriculture are honorable and create a better world; people in commerce are not much better than parasites and must be carefully regulated and restrained by the state. Contemporary mainstream Taiwanese society views business more favorably, especially since the Taiwan economic miracle was built on exports by small and medium sized business. Still, there is nothing like the American or British reverence for the invisible hand of the market. Not many people believe that an unregulated economy would produce a better society. Moreover, there is a growing worry about the increasing gap between rich and poor, and business tycoons may not be the ones preoccupied with addressing these concerns. Suffice it to say, Trump’s victory in the USA doesn’t necessarily mean that a business leader in Taiwan will do well in Taiwan. (Also, there is the strong possibility that by the time 2020 arrives, Trump’s disastrous presidency will be widely seen as evidence that business leaders do not make good politicians.)

Trump’s international dealings were never more than a side note among the perpetual storm of astounding news swirling around his campaign. For Terry Gou, it is unthinkable that his ties in China would not be at the center of his campaign. Hon Hai is the single biggest private employer in China. One way to interpret that is that Hon Hai has some leverage over the Chinese economy. Another interpretation is that China has enormous leverage over Hon Hai’s (and Terry Gou’s personal) fortunes. When China demands that Hon Hai does something, Hon Hai has little choice but to comply. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that the prime duty of Taiwan’s president is to defy China. There is a fundamental conflict of interest on the overriding question in Taiwanese politics. Gou’s loyalties would be continually questioned, and he would have no way to reassure the dubious public. Moreover, it isn’t like Gou is a strident democrat. The Gou Doctrine (“You can’t eat democracy.”) might find sympathy in a society that takes democracy for granted, like the USA. In Taiwan, democracy is what keeps Taiwan from being absorbed by a voracious China. (Note: Many people believe Taiwan’s economy keeps it independent. Hong Kongers wish that were true.)

I don’t care what the current polls say. I can’t see any way that Terry Gou wouldn’t be a disaster as a presidential candidate. Hau Lung-pin bet his political career on a terrible idea.

The second problem with Hau’s plan to ask Gou to be the presidential candidate is that it shows that Hau fundamentally misunderstands the nature of power in Taiwanese politics. Quite simply, power flows from the presidency. This is not unique to Taiwan. When there is an elected president with significant power, parties organize themselves to capture that big prize. Parties are presidentialized. Regardless of who holds the formal position of party leader, the de facto leader of the party is the incumbent president, the presidential candidate, or the person who could potentially become the presidential candidate. By promising not to run for the KMT’s presidential nomination in 2020, Hau basically ensured that he would never wield any power. His campaign appeal boiled down to, “Elect me as your leader so that I can refuse to be your leader.” Not only is this an illogical appeal, we’ve just seen how badly it works in practice. Eric Chu tried being a neutral referee in early 2015 when the entire party was practically begging him to run for president. That didn’t work out well for either Chu or the KMT.

To recap, Hau made a terrible choice in choosing to outsource the KMT presidential nomination, and he made another terrible choice by selecting Gou as his target. He deserved his humiliating third place finish with a pathetic 16% of the vote.

Where does Hau go from here? He probably won’t leave politics simply because the KMT has so little talent at the top levels. However, I think he is probably spent as a serious political force. It has been a very bad few years for him. As a two-term mayor, he was not on the ballot in 2014 and so was spared that humiliation. Nonetheless, his satisfaction ratings were routinely among the lowest of all the mayors and magistrates. It certainly isn’t good for your reputation when the other party wins your formerly unwinnable city after your eight years of lackluster performance in office. In early 2015, when the KMT was casting around desperately for a presidential candidate, Hau was one of those who boldly decided to sit on his hands and watch Hung Hsiu-chu’s rise. He bears a share of responsibility for the damage she inflicted on the party. Instead of running for president, Hau managed to secure the KMT nomination for Keelung City, one of the few safe KMT seats remaining. His calculation seemed to be that he did not want to sacrifice himself in the coming DPP tidal wave. Someone else could do that. He would position himself as leader of the KMT legislative caucus, which would be the de facto center of KMT power after the election. He would be able to pick up the pieces and lead the party back from defeat. There was one flaw in that plan: he lost the Keelung election. It wasn’t that there weren’t enough votes. The winning DPP candidate only got 41%. The problem was that MKT and PFP candidates combined to siphon off 24% of the votes, leaving him with only 36%. He was not able to unify the blue voters around his candidacy. The same thing happened in the KMT chair election. He did not lose because the general electorate rejected him. He lost because KMT party members – supposedly the group most enthusiastically supporting him – looked at him and collectively mumbled, “meh.”

 

Hung Hsiu-chu

I don’t have a lot to say about Hung that hasn’t been said many times over the past two years. She is far too extreme for the Taiwanese electorate. She was a disaster as a presidential candidate and party chair, and if it had elected her to another four years as party leader the KMT would have been sentencing itself to political oblivion. This wasn’t working, and even most of the KMT members who like what Hung stands for could see that the party needs to go in a different direction if it ever wants to return to power.

 

Wu Den-yi

It wasn’t a surprise that Wu won the race. He acted like the front-runner and the other candidates and the media treated him like the front-runner throughout the campaign. His first-round victory was perhaps a surprise, though. I had thought that he would get somewhere around 45% and need a second round to dispatch Hung or Hau. Instead, he won 52% and beat the second place candidate by 33%. In a race with five candidates getting significant numbers of votes, 52% is a fairly impressive result.

Wu’s strategy can be summed up quite simply: Let’s party like it’s 2011! In this view, there was nothing wrong with the party that won the 2008 election and was re-elected in 2012. Everything was going well until the party got derailed during Ma’s second term. The KMT flubbed things like the gas and electricity pricing and the capital gains tax. They failed miserably at political communication, and the population came to believe that nuclear power was dangerous and that the Services Trade Agreement would somehow risk Taiwan’s political sovereignty while transferring enormous wealth to the rich elite. The KMT failed most disastrously by shifting away from the 1992 Consensus under Hung Hsiu-chu. The task at hand is simply to return to that winning strategy. That means the entire package. For example, the KMT has to rebuild its ties with the local factions, assuring them that they are still a critical component of the KMT coalition. It also means returning to the greater ambiguity of the 2008 campaign, in which Ma repeatedly promised “no unification, no independence, no war.” In subsequent years, the KMT seemed to forget the “no unification” part of that formula. However, this does not mean that Wu Den-yi is a modern-day version of Lee Teng-hui, secretly scheming to lead the KMT and Taiwan toward independence. Wu is a deeply conservative person who believes in traditional values and deference to authority. He is well-schooled in the Church of Sun Yat-sen, and there is very little evidence he is not a sincere and committed believer. Lin Yang-kang and Wu Po-hsiung are much better models for Wu than Lee Teng-hui. Wu firmly supports returning to the 1992 Consensus, including the part about insisting that there is only One China. The Ma presidency was built on the premise that Taiwan’s economy should be further integrated into the larger Chinese economy for both economic and political purposes. Economically, Ma believed that integration would lead to faster economic growth for Taiwan. Politically, Ma saw an economic appeal as a way to win votes from a public skeptical of the glorious history of the Republic of China. The message was, “Don’t worry so much about China. We won’t take any steps toward unification. Instead, we will use them to make ourselves rich.” Of course, this strategy depended on negotiating a better economic relationship, and China would not negotiate with Taiwan unless Taiwan accepted the One China principle. The ambiguity that Ma was so proud of involved telling China, “Look, One China! Don’t worry about independence!” while simultaneously telling Taiwanese, “Look, each side with its own interpretation! Don’t worry about unification!” This delicate balancing act arguably produced two election victories before, in Wu’s interpretation, the KMT blundered by walking away from it. Wu promises to resume the friendly (but still arm’s length) relationship with China by reaffirming and adhering to the One China principle.

Is Wu correct to think he can simply put the old band back together? I have some doubts. For one thing, China in 2017 (and 2020) is not the China of 2005 or even 2012. Today’s China is much less deferential to the international order and much more aggressive about pursuing its international interests. In 2005 the world was still talking about the peaceful rise of China, and it was marginally plausible that Taiwan could have an exclusively economic relationship with China (win-win!). These days, China looks far more predatory and menacing. Further, in 2005 the two economies were more complementary, matching Taiwanese capital and technology with Chinese labor. Today, the two compete directly in many critical sectors. Finally, the Chinese economy is no longer growing at miraculous rates; it is now entering phase of relatively slower growth.

A second and more important point is that Taiwan of 2017 (and 2020) is no longer the Taiwan of 2005 and 2012. Identity has shifted. I assume that my readers are all familiar with the NCCU Election Study Center trends on national identity. Prior to 2008, more people held a Chinese identity (either exclusive or dual) than an exclusive Taiwanese identity. After 2008, that has no longer been the case. Nowadays, exclusive Taiwanese identity outpaces Chinese identity by a large margin (58.2% to 37.7% in the most recent data point). This is partly due to generational replacement, partly because some people have changed their minds, and partly because the language of political discourse has changed and Taiwanese are simply less likely to use the term “Chinese” to refer to themselves regardless of their political stance. Nonetheless, a KMT promising One China will face a far more skeptical electorate in 2020 than in 2008.

The third problem for this strategy is that the 1992 Consensus is no longer the same thing. In 2008, no one knew how the 1992 Consensus would work in practice. If you wanted to project optimistic or pessimistic visions on it, you could. Now we have eight years of experience. By the last few years, China was increasingly unhappy with Taiwan’s reluctance to take more concrete steps toward unification, and the Taiwanese electorate was increasingly unhappy with the continual degrading prostrations and erosion of sovereignty necessary to keep the official channels open. Ma’s implicit promise to voters, “Don’t worry about the political implications; this is just going to be pure economics,” was increasingly far-fetched. Instead of the wink-wink-nudge-nudge promise that the 1992 Consensus would allow Taiwan to enjoy both political sovereignty and close economic relations, it became increasingly apparent that the two were, in fact, inseparable. Accepting One China would have political consequences. In Taiwanese politics, whenever one issue (in this case economic strategy) clashes with the China cleavage, the China cleavage subsumes and absorbs the other one. I don’t think Wu can simply ignore eight years of history and pull them back apart.

My guess is that Wu will be fairly successful at holding the broader KMT coalition together. I don’t expect a spate of new splinter parties from the blue side, at least not in the next year and a half. However, I think Wu is overestimating the number of voters who are waiting to be pulled back into the KMT coalition. In 2012, 54% voted for Ma or Soong. In 2016, only 44% voted for Chu or Soong. Wu might consolidate that vote, but his plan to return to the good old days of 2011 doesn’t seem to me to hold much promise of expanding it much. Wu Den-yi is betting otherwise. I guess we’ll see.

Is marriage equality a cleavage?

May 12, 2017

Last week, my colleague Wu Yu-shan gave a stimulating talk about changes in political cleavage structures around the world. Most of the talk was about the rise of pre-material cleavages (ie: nationalism) in western industrial democracies, but he also had something to say about Taiwan. He believes that we are seeing the rise of materialist (ie: a left-right cleavage) and post-materialist (ie: marriage equality and environmentalism) cleavages in addition to the old nationalism cleavage. In Taiwan’s political science world, Wu is the major voice staking out this position. The opposite view, that national identity is still basically the only cleavage that matters, has most recently and forcefully been voiced by Chris Achen and T.Y. Wang in their forthcoming edited volume, The Taiwan Voter. It is hard to overstate the importance of this debate. Depending on whether you believe Taiwan has one or multiple important political cleavages, you might come to different conclusions on many of the most central questions facing Taiwan today. Does the KMT need to change its position on China, or is returning to the 1992 Consensus a viable option? Will the NPP be able to encroach on the DPP’s pool of voters? Will it be able to appeal to voters that the DPP cannot? Did the 2016 election mark a fundamental break with the past, or is it merely a deviance from a well-established pattern? Should President Tsai push for marriage equality? Why isn’t President Tsai aggressively pushing for admission to the United Nations under the name “Taiwan”? This question of one or many cleavages gets right to the heart of our understanding of how Taiwanese politics work.

During his talk, Wu presented a fascinating graph, taken from a story on Commonwealth Magazine’s website. In this post, I want to explore what we should and maybe should not learn from this graph.

CW UI ME plot.jpg

This graph plots legislators’ positions in the political space along two dimensions. The X axis is the Independence-Unification dimension (with independence on the left), while the Y axis is support or opposition to marriage equality (with support at the top).

I don’t understand exactly what the authors did to produce this graph, but I’ll do my best to explain the methodology. The authors looked at Facebook data from each legislator. They used the two party chairs as anchors, examining people who followed both the party chair and the legislator. (Note: I don’t understand exactly how they used these overlapping followers. However, they presented this part in detail, as if they believed it was the most important thing for us to know.) They examined the “likes” on various posts and put that data into a factor analysis model. The purpose of factor analysis is to condense many variables into a smaller number. If you start with n variables, the model calculates a matrix to multiply each variable by to produce n new variables that are completely uncorrelated to each other. However, these n variables are not equally useful. Some have a lot of explanatory power, while others have almost none. Typically, we throw all the variables that account for less than 1/n of the total variance in the data. They have kept two dimensions, though they did not report how much explanatory power each one had or how many variables cleared the 1/n threshold. The final challenge in factor analysis is naming the new variables. Remember, the algorithm has simply produced new variables that are orthogonal to each other; it doesn’t care what went into them. The researcher typically looks at the coefficients that were multiplied with the original variables and decides on a name. Factor analysis has the veneer of cold, objective data analysis, but interpreting it is actually highly subjective. At any rate, I’m going to assume that the authors made reasonable assumptions and inferences in handling the data. For example, I’m going to assume that the dimensions are appropriately labeled. I’m also going to mostly ignore the possibility that Facebook likes and followers don’t necessarily mirror a legislator’s own positions or even the preferences of that legislator’s constituents.

What are we supposed to see in this graph?

I suspect the first thing people will notice is the position of the two party chairs. Tsai Ing-wen is fairly distant from her party median on both dimensions. On the IU axis, she is in the center of the political spectrum. This looks reasonable; most of us think of her as a moderate on identity and nationalism. The Y axis suggests she is also a bit out of touch with the rest of her party on marriage equality. She is noticeably higher on the plot, suggesting she is a stronger supporter of marriage equality than the average DPP legislator. I think this also fits in with the conventional wisdom. There are a few DPP legislators who are more stridently in favor of marriage equality than Tsai, but there are also a lot of hesitant legislators terrified of angering their socially conservative constituents. So Tsai is moderate on China and somewhat progressive on marriage equality. Hung Hsiu-chu’s position is rather more surprising. Hung is widely known as an extremist on national identity questions. Yet here she is smack dab in the center of the KMT caucus. Further, she has made several statements that indicate she is more pro- marriage equality than the average KMT legislator, yet here she is, again, right in the middle of the KMT caucus. These data suggest that Hung Hsiu-chu is not an extremist. She is actually a nearly perfect representation of the average KMT legislator!

CW1.png

The second thing people might notice is how lonely Jason Hsu looks up at the top of the graph. He is the only KMT legislator firmly in the pro- marriage equality camp. Reporters love to interview him on this topic, and this gives the impression that there is a significant wing favoring marriage equality in the KMT. Nope. Not according to this plot.

CW2.png

Third, there is a relationship between the two dimensions. In the DPP, there seems to be a tradeoff. Extreme nationalists tend to be social conservatives, while social progressives tend to be moderate on identity. Why does someone choose to be in the DPP? It is one or the other. I don’t know why it isn’t both, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. The same relationship also exists to a lesser extent in the KMT. Social progressives are slightly more moderate on identity.

CW3.png

Fourth, the NPP is all located in roughly the same position (though Hsu Yung-ming is slightly less progressive and more nationalist than the other four). It is socially progressive but moderate on nationalism. I think this will surprise many people. The common perception is that the NPP is extreme on both dimensions. Here it simply looks like an extension of the progressive wing of the DPP.

CW4.png

I think those are the obvious things we are supposed to see. What are some of the less obvious things?

First, this is a two dimensional plot, giving the impression that there are two equally important cleavages in Taiwan. However, the second dimension isn’t necessary. A vertical line perfectly separates the blue and green camps.

CW5.png

The authors did not report the eigenvalues of the two factors, which indicate how much of the variance each factor accounts for. We don’t know that the second value was at least 1/n or that the first dimension wasn’t several times as powerful as the first. Maybe instead of a square box, this graph should have been flattened into a short and wide rectangle like this to give a better sense of the actual political space:

CW7.png

If you think about the plot this way, one of the takeaways is the extent to which the DPP has captured the middle ground and the KMT has been pushed back into the far right. I’ll bet the KMT held much more of the middle ground in 2008.

Second, look at that cluster of DPP legislators in the top half of the graph. Notice anything about them? How about if I list all the DPP legislators higher than the top KMT legislator (roughly from top down):

尤美女 You Mei-nu, party list

鄭麗君 Cheng Li-chun, party list

林靜儀 Lin Ching-yi, party list

蔡培慧 Tsai Pei-hui, party list

林淑芬 Lin Shu-fen, New Taipei 2

鍾孔炤 Chung Kung-chao, party list

段宜康 Tuan Yi-kang, party list

邱泰源 Chiu Tai-yuan, party list

吳焜裕 Wu Kun-yu, party list

陳曼麗 Chen Man-li, party list

Kolas Yotaka, party list

蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen, president and party chair

余宛如 Yu Wan-ju, party list

何欣純 Ho Hsin-chun, Taichung 7

蘇嘉全 Su Chia-chuan, party list

施義芳 Shih Yi-fang, party list

徐國勇 Hsu Kuo-yung, party list

吳思瑤 Wu Si-yao, Taipei 1

That’s 14 party list legislators (of 22 total) and 3 district legislators (of 51). Lin Shu-fen is the only district legislator occupying a clearly pro- marriage equality position. This radically changes the way I look at this chart.

CW6.png

For one thing, as the party chair, Tsai Ing-wen had the final say on the composition of the party list. She seems to have packed it with social progressives. So while she might be somewhat out of favor with gay rights activists for her current tepid stance, most of the strong voices in favor of gay rights in the legislature are there because she put them there.

From another point of view, if you only consider district legislators – the ones who actually go out and win votes – the DPP and the KMT don’t look all that different. The two big parties both cover roughly the same portion of the Y axis. The DPP may be slightly more progressive, but the difference isn’t all that great.

Ignoring the DPP list legislators also makes the NPP stand out. They now occupy a distinctive space on the political spectrum (assuming the second dimension is important). They are basically the only politicians who take a clear pro- marriage equality position before the voters.

One way to think about this is that elected politicians are socially conservative, and this social conservatism probably reflects a cold strategic judgement that full marriage equality is too radical for the electorate to swallow. A different way to think about it is that Lin Shu-fen, Huang Kuo-chang, Hung Tzu-yung, and Freddy Lim all won district elections while occupying this part of the political space, so maybe there wasn’t a marriage equality penalty in 2016. It certainly didn’t seem to hurt the other major politician in the top half of the chart, Tsai Ing-wen. It could be the case that (a) there are plenty of socially progressive voters, or (b) the second dimension simply doesn’t matter. Of course, it could also be the case that the cleavage simply hadn’t fully emerged in 2016.

Still, that vertical line perfectly dividing the space is a major problem for the idea that the second dimension matters. I’ll be more open to the idea when that line needs to be drawn at a 60 degree slope. To me, it looks as though there is still one dominant cleavage line in Taiwanese politics, and it isn’t marriage equality. However, this debate is far from settled.

2016 Taipei LY races revisited

May 11, 2017

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, but I actually have been mulling over a topic for a few months now. I want to write about the KMT chair election. Nope, just kidding. I want to write about the past rather than speculate about the future. I want to revisit the 2016 legislative elections. More specifically, I want to take another look at the DPP’s choice to cooperate with non-DPP candidates, especially in Taipei City. Did that strategy work well? Did DPP voters obediently vote for their party’s electoral ally? Did the non-DPP candidates bring in other voters that the DPP wouldn’t normally win? Should the DPP (or KMT) try this again in the future? I won’t provide definitive answers to any of these questions, but maybe we can unearth some suggestive evidence.

 

Caution: This section is about methodology. It is extremely boring. I suppose you could skip it, but I will judge you and think you are a bad person who probably believes all the fake news on the internet. If you can’t stand to read boring stuff, you aren’t educated. Also, what are you doing reading my blog.

Normally the way to attack this topic would be to look at individual-level vote choices from survey data. If we wanted to look at national-level vote choices, that is exactly what I would do. I’d go to the TEDS survey data and put together a table of how people voted in the presidential and district elections. Imagine if there were only two presidential candidates and two legislative candidates:

  LY: DPP LY: KMT
Prez: DPP p 1-p
Prez: KMT 1-q q

Of the people who voted for the DPP presidential candidate, some percentage p also voted for the DPP legislative candidate, while the rest (1-p) defected to the KMT legislative candidate. Similarly, q of the KMT presidential voters were loyal while 1-q defected. We have two fairly large post-election surveys from TEDS for the 2016 election (one face-to-face, one telephone), so we could put together fairly good estimates for p and q.

However, I’m interested in Taipei 4, where the DPP supported PFP city councilor Huang Shan-shan. I’m also interested in Taipei 8, where the DPP supported independent (and former KMT and New Party) city councilor Lee Ching-yuan. For any given legislative district, we only have about 50 or 60 respondents from the two surveys combined. That isn’t enough to produce even a really bad estimate. National surveys simply aren’t much help; we would need a dedicated post-election survey for each legislative district. Unfortunately, I don’t have such data, and I am not aware that any such surveys were ever conducted. We will have to look elsewhere for evidence.

Instead of surveys, I look to the aggregate election results. The CEC has provided electoral returns from each precinct. In 2016, Taiwan had 15,582 precincts, so the average legislative district had 200 to 300 data points. The problem is that these are aggregated data, not individual-level data. These reports do not tell us how individual voters voted, which is what we really want to know.

This problem, which is known as ecological inference, has a long and not very distinguished history in political science. W.S. Robinson identified the basic problem in 1950. Aggregate data from the American states showed that states with higher levels of foreign born residents also had higher levels of literacy. In other words, the ecological inference should be that foreign-born residents had higher levels of literacy than native-born residents. However, it was well known that the opposite was actually true. The ecological inference was not just off by a little; the basic relationship was backward! From this, social scientists have learned to beware of what is called the ecological fallacy: inferring individual-level relationships from aggregate data can go horribly wrong.

Nonetheless, there are many instances in which all we have to work with is aggregate data. About twenty years ago, two of political science’s leading methodologists, Gary King (Harvard) and Chris Achen (then at Michigan, now at Princeton) published books about this problem. King’s book made the bigger splash. King put together a software program that would take the aggregate data, run thousands of simulations, and provide estimates for p and q. Unfortunately, there were a few limitations. King’s method worked well in a 2×2 case, but much less well with 2×3 or larger tables. His program might be able to manage 3×3, but as the number of rows or columns increased, the program often simply couldn’t converge to a solution. Second, his program didn’t handle covariates well. Imagine you wanted to control for the percentage of Hakka voters. His program could usually handle one covariate. However, if you wanted to control for the percentages of Hakkas, university graduates, farmers, and people who had moved into the district within the past five years, the program was likely to crash. I tried using King’s program a few times in grad school and gave up in frustration. (Another problem: Chinese language fonts make the interface go bananas, so it is hard for me to navigate.) That was probably fortunate for me. Not a whole lot of articles using his method were ever published, and I suspect many were rejected by reviewers who couldn’t be sure that they weren’t still running up against the ecological fallacy. At any rate, I thought I’d download the program and try some models for this blog post, but his software won’t run on my computer. Apparently, Gary King hasn’t bothered to update his software since 2003, which I take as a pretty good indication that he doesn’t consider it to have been a smashing success. But don’t feel too sorry for him, he’s got lots of other triumphs. Recently he has made headlines analyzing government funded posts on Chinese social media.

Unlike King, Chris Achen didn’t make any grandiose claims to have definitively solved the ecological inference problem. Achen’s book, co-authored with W. Phillips Shively (Minnesota), explored the old warhorse of ecological inference, the ecological regression, which is what I will use in this blog post. If you’ve taken any basic social science methodology course, you have probably studied ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. If you have a dependent variable Y and two independent variables X1 and X2, the normal equation is:

Y=b0 + b1X1 + b2X2 + e, where e is an error term (that we will henceforth ignore).

The normal model has a constant, b0. However, in an ecological regression, there is no constant. Effectively, the regression line is forced to go through the origin. This makes the equation:

Y = b1X1 + b2X2

In the above table, Y is the DPP’s district LY vote share, X1 is the DPP’s presidential vote share, and X2 is the KMT’s presidential vote share. B1 is an estimate of p, the percentage of DPP presidential voters who remained loyal and voted for the DPP legislative candidate. B2 is an estimate of (1-q), the percentage of KMT presidential voters who defected to the DPP in the legislative race.

Easy! Except it isn’t. Theoretically, b1 and b2 should never be less than zero or greater than one. Unfortunately, that happens quite frequently. You get results saying that 107% of DPP presidential voters voted for the DPP legislative candidate, and negative 11% of KMT presidential voters defected to the DPP legislative candidate. That doesn’t make any sense at all.

Achen and Shively suggest putting a squared term in the model to get a slightly less biased estimate. Unfortunately, this also makes it harder to interpret. Since the benefit is small and I’m looking for something quick and dirty, I’m going to just live with biased estimates.

Fortunately, Achen and Shively do tell us something about how the estimates are biased. First, loyalty rates are overestimated and defection rates are underrated. Second, if one election is more polarized than the other, estimates will commonly exceed the 0-1 range. Third, if there is a uniform swing, every ecological regression will have at least one estimate outside the 0-1 range (Achen and Shively 1995, 85). Let’s not worry too much about the second and third points, which simply suggest that it is nearly impossible to avoid having some estimates outside the 0-1 range. Unlike surveys, getting more data will not necessarily result in a better estimate. However, the first point is very important to keep in mind. The results I show you will probably overestimate the prevalence of straight-ticket voting for the KMT and DPP. When you see an estimate for straight-ticket voting, you should mentally insert “at most” in front of that number.

Achen and Shively have not solved the problem of the ecological fallacy. Strictly speaking, ecological regressions should be seen as evidence of aggregate-level trends rather than individual-level trends. As in most empirical inquiries, the best way to avoid falling victim to an unwarranted inference is a thorough knowledge of the facts and a robust theory explaining how the pieces fit together. It is usually a mistake to think the facts can speak for themselves, and this is more true than normal in the case of ecological inference.

 

[Digression: I first met Chris Achen about 20 years ago, when he spent a few months as a visitor at the Election Study Center. In fact, I have a vague memory of him teaching me how to do an ecological regression to estimate the incidence of split ticket voting in the 1997 Chiayi City mayoral election and the concurrent LY by-election. Chris is a wonderfully sunny and generous person; we quickly dubbed him 阿陳 (A-Chen). He has regularly returned to Taiwan over the past two decades, and he has trained several prominent Taiwanese political scientists. You might be most familiar with Hsu Yung-ming, who is now a New Power Party legislator. He is also one of the driving forces behind The Taiwan Voter, which will be the authoritative work on voting behavior in Taiwan for the next generation and the go-to source for anyone wishing to understand identity politics. (It will be published by University of Michigan Press later this year and is co-edited by Chris Achen and T.Y. Wang.) Chris is an awesome dude; everyone loves Chris.]

 

To recap the methodology section: I’m using ecological regressions to infer individual-level voting decisions from aggregate level data. This risks falling afoul of the ecological fallacy, and no reputable academic journal would publish such dodgy research. Nonetheless, the results are quite suggestive, and I believe they have some value. Moreover, we have fairly strong suspicions of how votes might have been distributed; we will want to see evidence that the results are more or less “reasonable.” Finally, remember that these results will overestimate straight-ticket voting and underestimate defections. When two people split their tickets in opposite directions, in the aggregate data it looks like they have both voted straight-ticket. There is a lot more churning under the surface. Proceed with caution. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have spent all this time working on this post if I didn’t think I wasn’t learning anything.

 

Substantive Results:

For each legislative district, I attempted to learn how the district candidates’ votes were produced by trying to figure out how the party list vote and the presidential vote translated into the district votes. For each important district candidate, I thus ran two regressions. The cases were precinct-level vote percentages. (Indigenous voters do not vote in normal legislative districts, so I only used precincts in which the number of eligible voters in the district election was at least 90% of the eligible voters in the presidential election.) For both regressions, the dependent variable was the vote share of the district candidate. In the first model, the independent variables were the vote shares of the party lists. However, the nine smallest parties kept producing crazy results, so I lumped them all together. Sorry. Next time win more votes. In the second model, the independent variables were the vote shares of the three presidential candidates. As you will see, the results of the two models generally tended to be consistent with each other, which should provide a small measure of confidence in the results.

 

Taipei 1

Taipei 1 is a good place to start since it was the only district in Taipei in which a KMT candidate faced a DPP candidate. The presidential and party list votes showed that this formerly blue district had turned light green:

Tsai 55.3 DPP 42.5
Chu 34.8 TSU 2.1
Soong 9.9 NPP 6.2
    KMT 27.2
    PFP 5.1
    New 6.5
    MKT 2.1
    F&H 2.2
    G/S 3.2
    Nine 3.0

There were five total candidates, but two got negligible votes and the third candidate got just a hair over 5%. It was fairly close to a straight KMT-DPP contest.

丁守中 Ting KMT 82649 43.77%  
吳思瑤 Wu DPP 95951 50.81% *
黃清原 Huang 台灣獨立黨 379 0.20%  
王靜亞 Wang MKT 9480 5.02%  
吳忠錚 Wu 健保免費連線 348 0.18%  

The overall totals are fairly similar across the three elections. However, this will not necessarily imply massive straight-ticket voting. If there are variations from precinct to precinct, the ecological regressions might show significant split-ticket voting. This could result if a candidate has a geographical stronghold, has done large and effective amounts of constituency service, or has some other cross-party appeal.

So what do the ecological regressions tell us? I ran regressions for the top three candidates:

  DPP KMT MKT
DPP .985 .008 .008
TSU 1.050 .061 -.139
NPP .712 .102 .173
KMT -.085 1.071 .016
PFP .031 .713 .240
New .138 .928 -.063
MKT .015 -.107 1.074
F&H .023 .961 -.010
G/S .827 .147 -.003
Nine .327 .531 .116
.      
Tsai .949 .033 .016
Chu -.041 1.050 -.009
Soong -.026 .550 .446

These results show a fairly straightforward party to party fight. Of the voters who voted for the DPP list, 98.5% also voted for Wu Si-yao. Likewise, these results show that 107.1% of the people who voted for the KMT list voted for Ting Shou-chung. Technically speaking that isn’t possible, so we should probably state the results much more imprecisely: Almost all of the DPP and KMT list voters also voted for that party’s district candidate. Supporters of the two smaller parties in the green camp, the TSU and NPP, mostly followed suit, though the number is a bit lower for the NPP. On the blue side, New Party list voters mostly supported Ting. However, the fourth blue camp party, the MKT, had its own district candidate. The regression results show that MKT list voters overwhelmingly voted for the MKT district candidate. The PFP and MKT allied on the presidential ticket. However, in the district race, PFP voters mostly supported the KMT district candidate rather than the MKT candidate. Of the two non-aligned parties, the Green/SDP Alliance voters mostly opted for Wu, while the Faith & Hope League overwhelmingly supported Ting.

I was particularly heartened to see that latter result. F&H is led by conservative Christians whose main demand is to stop marriage equality. Ting Shou-chung has been one of the strongest voices against marriage equality. It makes perfect sense to see overwhelming F&H support for Ting, though the regression models, which know nothing of the fight over marriage equality, would not have been predisposed to produce this result. Ecological regressions CAN impart knowledge!

Looking at the district race from the presidential perspective, the story is roughly the same. Almost all Tsai voters supported Wu; almost all Chu voters opted for Ting; and Soong voters split roughly half and half between Ting and the MKT candidate.

Remember, these coefficients overestimate party loyalty, so there was probably a bit more split-ticket voting than these results suggest. Still, Taipei 1 was pretty darn straightforward. I couldn’t have asked for a better example to set the stage for the other seven Taipei districts.

 

Taipei 2

Taipei 2 is the DPP’s strongest district in Taipei, and it is the only one that the DPP won in 2012. This year, the KMT basically gave up on this district and did not nominate its own candidate. Instead, it nominated a New Party city councilor. Nominating a candidate from a more extreme party seems a somewhat dubious strategy to appeal to the median voter in a green-leaning district. For this post, an obvious question is whether KMT supporters and other more moderate blue camp supporters all lined up behind the New Party candidate.

Here are the presidential and party list results:

Tsai 61.6 DPP 48.6
Chu 28.7 TSU 2.6
Soong 9.7 NPP 6.3
    KMT 23.4
    PFP 5.5
    New 4.9
    MKT 1.4
    F&H 1.8
    G/S 2.7
    Nine 2.8

The district race had seven candidates, but the top two candidates took over 95% of the total votes:

王銘宗 Wang IND 1342 0.74%  
陳民乾 Chen 台灣獨立黨 865 0.47%  
吳俊德 Wu F&H 3550 1.96%  
林幸蓉 Lin 健保免費連線 1561 0.86%  
潘懷宗 Pan New 65967 36.42%  
姚文智 Yao DPP 107366 59.29% *
陳建斌 Chen 自由台灣黨 433 0.23%  

The ecological regressions:

  DPP New Faith
DPP 1.012 -.014 -.004
TSU 1.284 -.532 .067
NPP .681 .209 .045
KMT -.056 1.058 -.010
PFP .228 .512 .037
New -.062 1.033 .029
MKT .236 .328 .237
F&H .030 .510 .622
G/S .457 .574 .083
Nine .446 .551 -.044
.      
Tsai .979 .000 -.002
Chu -.094 1.055 .050
Soong .178 .629 .068

The regression coefficients for party lists are a little far out of the bounds, especially for some for some of the smaller parties. -53.2% of TSU voters supposedly voted for Pan Huai-tzong, and the coefficients for the three equations don’t add up to anything near one for the NPP, PFP, or MKT. Maybe we shouldn’t take these results too seriously. Instead, let’s look at the regression coefficients for the presidential race. With only a 3×3 table, these bottom coefficients place fewer demands on the data. The bottom set of coefficients show another fairly straightforward green-blue contest, in which both sides mostly stayed loyal. The major exception is with Soong voters, of whom 17.8% voted for Yao Wen-chih. So KMT supporters did not seem to defect, but a fair proportion of Soong voters did. I would be cautious about attributing this to an extremist New Party candidate, though. As we go through different districts in the country, you will see that coefficients for Soong voters vary significantly from district to district, and 17.8% is a bit high but not terribly extreme.

 

Taipei 3

Now we are getting to the messier and more interesting districts. In Taipei 3, Wayne Chiang Wan-an defeated the KMT incumbent Lo Shu-lei in the primary, thus avenging his father’s own defeat at Lo’s hands in the primary four years prior. The DPP made a mess of this district. It originally nominated city councilor Liang Wen-chieh, but the self-appointed moral authority Lin Yi-hsiung protested and Liang was forced to withdraw. For months, it was not clear who the main green camp candidate would be. The DPP finally agreed to throw its support behind Billy Pan, a physician running as an independent who styled himself as a second Ko Wen-je. (Ko, however, did not seem so interested in supporting Pan.) This was a contentious decision in the DPP. Pan was strongly supported by the Hsieh faction, but he had less support from the rest of the party. Many green camp voters were also attracted to Social Democrat Lee Yan-jung. However, she ran a lackluster campaign. Until the last few weeks, she seemed more interested in her ideals than in actually winning votes, leading her to do things such as print fewer leaflets (such nasty and unenvironmental waste!).

The district, which had previously been solidly (though not overwhelmingly) blue turned a light shade of green. Here are the presidential and party list results:

Tsai 52.1 DPP 39.7
Chu 37.5 TSU 2.1
Soong 10.4 NPP 6.0
    KMT 28.3
    PFP 5.7
    New 8.4
    MKT 1.2
    F&H 2.2
    G/S 3.5
    Nine 2.9

The district race had ten candidates, but only three mattered:

高士恩 Kao 大愛憲改聯盟 541 0.28%  
潘建志 Pan IND 73797 38.41%  
林新凱 Lin 台灣獨立黨 794 0.41%  
趙燕傑 Chao IND 352 0.18%  
邱正浩 Chiu 和平鴿聯盟黨 450 0.23%  
陳科引 Chen IND 1448 0.75%  
李晏榕 Lee G/S 23706 12.34%  
李成嶽 Lee 軍公教聯盟黨 721 0.37%  
黃麗香 Huang IND 607 0.31%  
蔣萬安 Chiang KMT 89673 46.68% *

Chiang Wan-an won the district, putting the KMT’s first family back into the political fray. However, he did not get a majority; the combined totals of Pan and Lee would have defeated Chiang. Was Chiang’s victory due to the green camp’s failure to concentrate its support on one candidate?

  IND KMT G/S
DPP .867 .000 .125
TSU 1.041 -.080 .002
NPP .466 .155 .360
KMT .097 .878 .010
PFP -.362 .915 .236
New -.061 1.214 -.089
MKT -.376 .570 .587
F&H -.004 .612 .386
G/S -.024 .264 .792
Nine -.212 .932 .019
.      
Tsai .783 .020 .181
Chu -.049 1.023 .044
Soong -.052 .702 .123

The ecological regressions suggest that green camp supporters were not enthralled with Pan. Only 87% of DPP list voters supported Pan. 87% may sounds high, but in normal districts this figure was generally close to 100%. 87% is actually a disaster. Pan’s support was even lower among NPP voters, who gave almost as much support to Lee as to Pan. This ambivalent green camp support for the designated DPP ally is also evident in the presidential candidate regressions, where only 78% of Tsai voters supported Pan. In short, Pan failed to consolidate the green camp vote.

But wait, there’s more. Pan was an independent. When Ko Wen-je ran for mayor, we heard endless arguments that blue camp voters might be able to defect to Ko because he was not a DPP member. Did Pan eat into the blue camp vote? Or was Chiang able to consolidate all the blue votes?

The evidence here is mixed. The top set of regressions have some numbers that suggest there may have been significant numbers of voters who crossed the normal boundaries. Chiang only has 88% of KMT list voters, while nearly 10% of them voted for Pan. However, the bottom set of ecological regressions seems to indicate that Pan got almost no support from Chu or Soong voters. My guess is that the bottom numbers are probably closer to the actual result.

Both sets of regressions indicate that the blue camp lost some votes to the Social Democratic candidate. In the party list regressions, Lee took 24% of the PFP votes and 59% of the MKT votes. In the presidential regressions, she won 12% of Soong’s votes.

Overall, it looks to me as though Lee took votes from both camps, but she took significantly more from the green side. In the alternate world in which the DPP nominated Liang Wen-chieh and he consolidated almost all of the green camp support, it would have been a much closer race. The Chiang family had better remember to send a Christmas card to Lin Yi-hsiung.

 

Taipei 4

Taipei 4 might be the most interesting race of all; the rest of this post was mostly a by-product of a crazy idea that maybe I could figure out what happened in Taipei 4. In past years, this district had been nearly hopeless for the DPP. Several DPP city councilors were eager to run, but the party leaders refused to nominate any of them. Instead, Tsai Ing-wen doggedly insisted on cooperating with PFP city councilor Huang Shan-shan. I will not delve into the various strategic angles of this decision at this time. For this post, we simply note that it was a bit controversial for the DPP to collaborate with a PFP stalwart, even as the PFP chair ran against Tsai in the presidential race. Many traditional DPP supporters were unhappy at being instructed to vote for Huang Shan-shan. Without a major “true green” candidate in the race, minor party candidates volunteered to fill the void. TSU, NPP, and Social Democrat candidates all picked up significant numbers of votes. The top two candidates finished within 2% of each other, so a minor shift from any of the three minor candidates to Huang would have delivered the seat to her. Of course, as a PFP candidate, Huang presumably tapped into pools of support that normal green candidates could never hope to win.

At the national level, in 2016 the district shifted from a deep blue district to a tossup district.

Tsai 51.3 DPP 38.0
Chu 37.3 TSU 1.8
Soong 11.5 NPP 6.8
    KMT 28.9
    PFP 6.2
    New 7.8
    MKT 1.5
    F&H 2.4
    G/S 3.3
    Nine 3.3

The district race was extremely fragmented, with five relevant candidates:

何偉 Ho IND 2497 1.16%  
陳尚志 Chen G/S 10278 4.78%  
黃珊珊 Huang PFP 85600 39.86%  
李岳峰 Lee 和平鴿聯盟黨 251 0.11%  
陳兆銘 Chen 台灣獨立黨 568 0.26%  
李彥秀 Lee KMT 89612 41.73% *
蕭亞譚 Hsiao TSU 13648 6.35%  
林少馳 Lin NPP 12246 5.70%  

Here are the ecological regressions:

  PFP KMT TSU NPP G/S
DPP .627 .121 .128 .077 .033
TSU -.080 .760 .270 -.074 .123
NPP .399 .081 .082 .228 .142
KMT -.124 1.106 -.021 .005 .043
PFP .721 .377 -.041 .009 -.056
New .736 .288 .010 -.008 -.048
MKT .048 .047 .187 .353 .134
F&H .750 .035 .202 -.131 .099
G/S 1.152 -.929 .134 .219 .397
Nine .339 .538 -.001 .082 .001
.          
Tsai .501 .200 .131 .091 .061
Chu .202 .739 .004 .007 .050
Soong .573 .359 -.048 .065 -.019

There is exactly one coefficient in this table that looks normal. 111% of KMT voters supported Lee Yen-hsiu. Ok, that isn’t quite logical, but the idea the almost all of the KMT party list voters also voted for the KMT district candidate is the most normal thing about this table. Lee didn’t get a lot of the other blue camp votes, though. Nearly three-fourths of PFP and New Party voters opted for Huang. On the other hand, Lee did get 12% of DPP list voters. In addition to that 12%, a further quarter of DPP list voters plumped for one of the three minor party candidates, leaving a mere 63% for Huang. A very, very large number of DPP voters were unwilling to support a PFP nominee, regardless of Tsai Ing-wen’s entreaties.

It’s important to note that there are a lot of really strange results on this table that are probably simply wrong. If we take the numbers literally, most TSU list voters supported the KMT candidate (even though there was a TSU candidate in the race); the models can’t figure out what happened with nearly half of the MKT voters; and negative 92% the Green/Social Democrat voters supported Lee Yen-hsiu. We are probably demanding too much of the data.

Nonetheless, the regressions from the presidential election largely echo those from the party list election. Tsai’s voters were fragmented in the legislative race, with half voting for Huang and the other half splitting their votes among the other four candidates. Three fourths of Chu’s voters supported Lee, but 20% opted for Huang. Among Soong voters, more supported Huang than Lee.

What can we conclude? The DPP strategy partly succeeded and partly failed. Their ally took quite a few blue votes. If Huang had been able to add all the green votes to her blue votes, she would have won. However, the green camp clearly did not unite behind Huang. Hordes of green voters could not stomach supporting a candidate from the other side of the political spectrum. Judged narrowly by the district election outcome, the DPP’s alliance strategy was a failure. Not only did it not win, it also angered and frustrated a large number of sympathizers.

 

Taipei 5

Taipei 5 was one of those districts that the DPP erroneously deemed as “difficult.” It had lost by a lot in 2008, and by a fair amount in 2012. Nonetheless, this was a district that the DPP could hope to compete in with a mildly favorable partisan swing. In the tidal wave of 2016, this district turned a clear green.

Tsai 53.4 DPP 41.3
Chu 36.3 TSU 2.2
Soong 10.4 NPP 5.9
    KMT 28.3
    PFP 5.7
    New 7.1
    MKT 1.4
    F&H 1.9
    G/S 2.8
    Nine 3.3

The district race was essentially a two man race, featuring two of the most different people imaginable. On the on hand, the KMT featured a long-term incumbent, Lin Yu-fang. Lin was straight-laced, professional, conservative, and a committed Chinese nationalist. Facing him was Freddy, the death-metal rocker. In a result that almost certainly still bewilders Lin Yu-fang, Freddy won:

林郁方 Lin KMT 76079 45.58%  
李家幸 Lee 台灣獨立黨 885 0.53%  
黃福卿 Huang IND 587 0.35%  
洪顯政 Hung 大愛憲改聯盟 478 0.28%  
龔偉綸 Kung IND 1710 1.02%  
林昶佐 Lim NPP 82650 49.52% *
尤瑞敏 You 樹黨 4506 2.69%  

How did Freddy win? Did the NPP open up some new constituency, or was it simply a DPP campaign clad in yellow? The ecological regressions:

  NPP KMT Tree
DPP .971 -.014 .018
TSU .845 .242 -.130
NPP .953 .048 .057
KMT -.038 1.021 .023
PFP .116 .765 .042
New -.043 1.037 .008
MKT -.261 .935 .163
F&H .308 .682 -.037
G/S .749 .046 .146
Nine .064 .611 .123
.      
Tsai .936 .019 .020
Chu -.056 1.030 .021
Soong .152 .699 .085

For the most part, this looks like a classic blue-green contest. Lin Yu-fang got almost all of the KMT, New Party, and MKT votes, while Freddy soaked up almost all of the DPP, TSU, and NPP votes. The only number that might be a bit surprising is the 11% of PFP voters who opted for Freddy. In doing this exercise, I’ve noticed again and again that there seems to be a minority of both NPP and PFP voters who will support the other one. During the campaign, I also remember social movement activists who seemed to differentiate between the PFP and the other blue parties. I suspect that there was a pool of voters that liked both the PFP and NPP (and perhaps also the Social Democrats). If so, it would make sense that this pool was prone to split its support among those parties.

 

Taipei 6

This is the forgotten race of Taipei. Taipei 6 has always been a deep-blue stronghold, and the DPP was fully justified in looking for an ally here. They opted to support Fan Yun, the well-known sociologist and activist. Unfortunately, she turned out to be an uninspired candidate. It turns out that elections and social movements are completely different animals.

Tsai 47.0 DPP 34.2
Chu 42.9 TSU 2.0
Soong 10.1 NPP 5.5
    KMT 30.3
    PFP 5.2
    New 11.1
    MKT 1.6
    F&H 2.9
    G/S 3.9
    Nine 3.2

This is the most highly educated district in Taiwan, and, perhaps not coincidentally, it always draws large numbers of useless candidates. This time there were twelve candidates, but only two got more than 4%. That isn’t to say this was a classic one-on-one race; the two top candidates combined for only 81% of the votes.

陳家宏 Chen 樹黨 1986 1.23%  
范雲 Fan G/S 56766 35.35%  
龎維良 Pang IND 2963 1.84%  
趙衍慶 Chao IND 3212 2.00%  
林珍妤 Lin 台灣獨立黨 1328 0.82%  
周芳如 Chou IND 4120 2.56%  
蔣慰慈 Chiang IND 271 0.16%  
鄭村棋 Cheng 人民民主陣線 4927 3.06%  
曾獻瑩 Tseng Faith 4826 3.00%  
蔣乃辛 Chiang KMT 74015 46.09% *
古文發 Ku 大愛憲改聯盟 184 0.11%  
吳旭智 Wu MKT 5962 3.71%  

Chiang Nai-hsin, the KMT incumbent, was held under 50%, but he won by a comfortable margin since Fan Yun only managed 35%. Did she fail to consolidate all the potential green camp voters? Was her poor showing the result of the same process as in Taipei 4, where DPP voters refused to obediently follow their party leaders’ instructions? Here are the ecological regressions for the top five candidates:

  G/S KMT MKT Faith Cheng
DPP .857 -.038 .008 .018 .046
TSU .733 .180 .012 .105 -.050
NPP .542 .337 -.175 -.046 .061
KMT -.066 .998 .066 -.019 -.006
PFP -.017 .744 .026 .007 .153
New .136 .828 .006 .012 .086
MKT -1.172 .662 1.312 -.014 -.002
F&H .367 -.074 -.028 .842 -.002
G/S .963 -.034 -.045 .005 -.052
Nine -.287 .361 .124 .122 -.027
.          
Tsai .788 .017 .004 .032 .034
Chu .018 .871 .036 .036 .027
Soong -.238 .782 .195 -.006 .029

These results indicate that both of the two main candidates had some difficulties consolidating potential votes, though it was nowhere near the scale of Taipei 4. Chiang was somewhat more successful, winning almost all of the KMT votes and 87% of Chu’s voters. Most DPP voters went along with Fan, but not all. 86% voted for her, and 79% of Tsai’s supporters also did so. Perhaps the most interesting numbers are from the NPP supporters. Since the NPP and Social Democrats were both born out of the Sunflower Movement, I expected that NPP voters would enthusiastically support Fan Yun. The regression coefficients say otherwise, indicating that she only won 54% of NPP list voters.

 

Taipei 7

Taipei 7 nearly turned out to be one of the biggest shocks of election night. This had always been a deep, deep blue district. I questioned the DPP’s decision not to nominate its own candidate in many districts, but not this one. Defeating incumbent Alex Fai with an ordinary DPP candidate seemed rather hopeless to me, and the DPP needed to try something new. It turned to Yang Shih-chiu, an erstwhile KMT city councilor. Yang had dropped out of the KMT to run as an independent, but he had longstanding blue credentials. The DPP’s hope was that Yang could keep some of his blue voters and that they could deliver all of their green voters. This was a reasonable strategy, though I had very little reason to believe it would succeed.

Shockingly, this deep blue district experienced such a big partisan swing that that the district seat came into play.

Tsai 49.6 DPP 37.2
Chu 39.6 TSU 1.9
Soong 10.8 NPP 6.0
    KMT 29.9
    PFP 5.6
    New 8.9
    MKT 1.5
    F&H 2.2
    G/S 3.4
    Nine 3.4

The district race turned out to be very close. This was even more surprising since there was a G/S candidate available to soak up any protest votes from green camp supporters who couldn’t stomach voting for Yang:

林文傑 Lin IND 1063 0.64%  
呂欣潔 Lu G/S 17747 10.73%  
詹益正 Chan IND 625 0.37%  
蘇承英 Su 和平鴿聯盟黨 689 0.41%  
范揚律 Fan 大愛憲改聯盟 231 0.13%  
林芷芬 Lin 台灣獨立黨 588 0.35%  
費鴻泰 Fai KMT 74455 45.04% *
楊實秋 Yang IND 69882 42.28%  

Here are the ecological regressions for the top three:

  IND KMT G/S
DPP .832 -.015 .161
TSU 1.162 -.004 -.152
NPP .971 -.230 .368
KMT -.072 1.062 -.019
PFP .160 .544 .201
New .258 .845 -.046
MKT .306 .636 -.027
F&H .612 .496 -.044
G/S .138 .100 .686
Nine -.008 .678 .145
.      
Tsai .789 .009 .182
Chu .024 .985 -.007
Soong .200 .518 .186

The picture these numbers paint is fairly clear. Fai consolidated almost all of the KMT votes, but Yang ate away at rest of the blue camp vote pool. If DPP voters had unified behind Yang, he would have won. However, they were unable to do this, and about 16% of DPP voters protested by voting for the G/S candidate. Probably the very same qualities that enabled Yang to win a number of blue votes were also the qualities that prevented him from getting all the green votes.

A quick note: Alex Fai has been a prominent opponent of marriage equality, so you might expect him to win all the Faith & Hope votes. However, Yang Shih-chiu is a Christian, something I know because most of his campaign ads featured a cross somewhere in the logo. It is thus reasonable to see that they split the F&H vote.

 

Taipei 8

Taipei 8 was almost exactly the same story as Taipei 7. This was a hopeless district for the DPP, so they cooperated with a KMT city councilor who had left the party to run for legislator. In this case, they cooperated with independent Lee Ching-yuan, who had previously been a member of the KMT, PFP, and New Party. As in Taipei 7, there was also a G/S candidate ready to soak up protest votes.

The big difference between Taipei 7 and Taipei 8 is that the latter is even deeper blue. There would be no election night suspense in this district. Even with the 2016 DPP tidal wave, this remained a solidly blue district.

Tsai 44.2 DPP 31.5
Chu 44.3 TSU 1.7
Soong 11.4 NPP 6.0
    KMT 32.1
    PFP 5.9
    New 10.4
    MKT 1.4
    F&H 3.2
    G/S 4.0
    Nine 3.8

The KMT incumbent easily won the district race:

李慶元 Lee IND 60459 35.79%  
賴樹聲 Lai IND 1071 0.63%  
苗博雅 Miao G/S 21084 12.48%  
賴士葆 Lai KMT 83931 49.69% *
陳如聖 Chen 台灣工黨 808 0.47%  
方景鈞 Fang IND 1540 0.91%  

The ecological regressions:

  IND KMT G/S
DPP .956 -.054 .077
TSU .029 .302 .615
NPP -.036 .420 .540
KMT .124 .921 -.045
PFP .584 .370 .021
New -.372 1.220 .120
MKT -.037 .650 .362
F&H .015 .867 .113
G/S .586 -.437 .884
Nine -.004 .530 .366
.      
Tsai .828 -.022 .171
Chu -.088 1.020 .066
Soong .274 .477 .169

There are some differences from Taipei 7, but I think the overall story is roughly the same. In these models, the top set of regressions don’t seem quite right to me. I’m a little skeptical that almost zero TSU or NPP supporters voted for Lee Ching-yuan, but 30-40% of them voted for the KMT candidate. I think it may be wiser to look to the bottom set of results. Nearly all the Chu voters stayed loyal to the KMT, but roughly a quarter of Soong voters shifted to Lee. However, Lee could not win all the Tsai voters, as 17% of them defected to the G/S candidate.

 

Conclusions

We observed several patterns. (1) When the KMT or DPP nominated its own candidate, that candidate was generally able to consolidate the entire KMT or DPP vote as well as most of the allied small party vote. (2) When the KMT or DPP supported a candidate from an allied party (New Party in Taipei 2, NPP in Taipei 5), there wasn’t much difference from the cases in which they nominated their own candidates. (3) When the DPP supported an independent who had formerly been part of the blue camp, that candidate was able to win some blue votes. However, roughly a fifth of DPP voters refused to go along with the strategy, thus negating those gains. (4) When the DPP supported Huang Shan-shan, who was still a member of a party actively competing with and usually opposed to the DPP, there was a widespread rebellion within the party. Only about half of Tsai’s voters voted for Huang. The losses from unhappy green voters probably outweighed the gains from luring over blue voters.

Please remember that ecological regressions are a very shaky method. These results are not definitive in any way, and there is a possibility that they are entirely wrong. I don’t think they are generally misleading, but I might be wrong.