possible party realignment?

April 22, 2015

Caution: This is one of those crazy ideas that probably won’t happen. Still, I can’t shake the idea that lots of various forces are aligning. I’m probably wrong.

I’m starting to think that party realignment might be coming. This is not about the DPP; they’re doing just fine these days. If any of this happens, it will be the blue side of the spectrum that is thrown into utter chaos. Nevertheless, if the blue side goes into wild convulsions, the green side will inevitably be affected, though I have no idea how.

There are a couple of linchpins to my scenario. One is Eric Chu 朱立倫. If he accepts full leadership of the KMT – including running for president – the KMT probably holds together, at least for the immediate future. Chu is the one person who everyone in the KMT can agree on. For the record, I still think they will prevail on him to run, but for the purposes of this post let’s assume that he is serious about not running. If Chu isn’t the candidate, the KMT has to come up with someone else. That is a problem.
Wang Jyn-ping 王金平 is the obvious replacement, as he is clearly the second most popular KMT figure in the polls. I think Wang has two fundamental challenges facing his presidential bid. On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to have any vision for Taiwan’s future. Wang has never set out a set of policies that he wants, talked about what sort of relationship Taiwan and China should have, or staked out a position about wealth inequality. His entire career has been devoted to seeking consensus. In other words, he has resolved the conflicts between other people’s visions. The closest he has come to staking out a courageous or controversial political position was his refusal to allow the police into the legislature to clear out the sunflower students. That, however, was a reflection of his vision for what the legislature should be – an institution that resolves conflict by seeking compromise and consensus rather than by allowing a bare majority to run roughshod over the minority. It was not a reflection of his vision for the country. As a presidential candidate, that won’t work. He can’t lead if he doesn’t stand for anything.
Much of Wang’s popularity stems from voters’ willingness to project their hopes and dreams onto him, rather than to anything he has told them he stands for. There are many people who think that Wang will become a second Lee Teng-hui 李登輝 and transform the KMT into a Taiwan-first party. Thus, every so often someone will propose the idea of a Wang-Tsai ticket, with Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 taking the second place. In the general electorate, being positioned as a Taiwan-First candidate is an advantage. Within the KMT, that is a big problem. Wang will have to make overtures to the deep blue part of the party to prevent a party rebellion. And because suspicions of him are so deep, he will have to be explicit and forceful in making these statements. Of course, as soon as he starts making statements about how Taiwan is part of China or how the relationship between Taiwan and China is not an international one, he will disillusion many of the light green people who are dreaming of a second LTH. I don’t think the effort to reinvent himself as a Chinese nationalist would be credible or successful. After all, LTH and Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 said all kinds of things in order to win power; once they got into power it was a different story. Everyone, including the deep blue people, remembers this history.
If Wang somehow gets the KMT nomination, I think it is very possible that we will see an open rebellion from the Chinese KMT wing of the party. Remember, from their point of view, the biggest catastrophe in recent years was NOT Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁 winning two terms as president. Rather, it was LTH usurping their party. During the Chen era, they could openly complain, oppose policies in the legislature, and march in the street. When they discredited him, they roared back into power. When LTH took control of the party and turned it into a vehicle promoting Taiwanese sovereignty, they were stuck. Their own party was doing the wrong things; they could hardly go on talk shows or write angry editorials demanding that the KMT step down. Moreover, when the LTH-led KMT finally lost power, it issued in eight years of DPP government. If Wang Jyn-ping could become the second LTH, it would be far better for the deep blue wing of the party if Tsai and the DPP won outright. They could go into open and vocal opposition and try to win back power in four or eight years. If Wang wins and steals their party again, they might never be able to wrestle control back again. As such, if Chu doesn’t run, I suspect we will start hearing louder and more intense warnings from the deep blue wing that Wang is not acceptable under any circumstances.
If not Chu or Wang, then who? Everyone else is deeply unpopular, and most are closely associated with Ma Ying-jeou and his vision of pursuing unification by tying the Taiwanese economy closely to the Chinese economy, especially by encouraging large companies to develop in China. This economic unification strategy draws on worldwide ideas of free-market economics. China is seen as an economic opportunity (not a irredentist threat), and Taiwan and China can pursue mutual gain by developing more and more economic ties. Thus, the Ma government continually trumpets the gains from this trade, pointing to numbers such as GDP growth and the potential of the vast Chinese market. This argument was very powerful in 2008 and still had fairly widespread acceptance in 2012. However, it is coming under intense scrutiny.
On the one hand, there is a growing concern with inequality in the global economic discourse. The most important voice has been Picketty, whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century argued that since governments are no longer pursuing redistributive policies, returns to capital have outstripped economic growth. This has led to an increasing concentration of global wealth. Picketty’s argument implies that more economic activity will not necessarily lead to a fairer, more just society, since it is highly possible that all the gains will be monopolized by a small group of plutocrats. In fact, as this elite becomes richer and more powerful, it can use its influence to try to block any redistribution or regulation. That might make the world a worse place for the vast majority of people. For example, the world’s tech companies are sitting on trillions of dollars of cash right now. Much of this money is parked in Ireland, where they pay a negligible tax rate. The companies could repatriate this cash and invest it in new technologies or increased production, but then they would have to pay taxes to the governments of their home countries. Instead, they are demanding a tax holiday, effectively blackmailing the home governments. Are the 99% better off if the economy grows but the companies that make most of the profit don’t pay any taxes?
On the other hand, the domestic version of this argument has become more and more powerful over the past few years. In the 2012 election, Tsai Ing-wen was already raising concerns about the M-shaped society (with lots rich and poor people but not many in the middle). The Sunflower Movement really focused the argument and transformed it into mainstream opinion. They argued that the gains from cross-strait integration have been monopolized by a small elite. The costs, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and low wages, have been borne by the rest of the population. Leading KMT politicians were seen as “compradores,” middlemen selling out the interests of the larger society for their own personal gain.
The effect of these arguments has been to transform the way the general public sees Ma and the KMT. Ma has increasingly come to be viewed as allied with wealth and capital, and he is increasing seen as indifferent to the plight of the average person. In an election, being framed as a champion of the rich and powerful is usually not a good thing. I believe that this transformation of the KMT party image was intimately tied to the KMT’s poor performance in the 2014 elections, especially in the urban north. If Wu Den-yi 吳敦義 wins the KMT nomination, he will not repudiate Ma’s policies. Hau Lung-bin 郝龍斌 probably wouldn’t fundamentally try to attack the KMT’s entrenched big business interests either. They are closely connected to Ma’s big business policies and have almost certainly completely bought into the idea that an alliance with capital is necessary in order to integrate economically with China in pursuit of the dream of unification. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Hau or Wu would win the presidency. However, their candidacy would signify that the deep blue wing still controls the party and will pursue business as usual. Unfortunately, the KMT’s current position looks increasingly precarious. It has painted itself into a corner with a minority of voters on both national identity and economic justice. Business as usual probably means facing life as a long-term opposition party.
A continuation of Ma’s policies leaves a big hole in the political spectrum. To be sure, I don’t think that Chu or Wang is ready to transform the KMT into a party for the working or middle classes either. However, Chu is popular enough that he might be able to hold the whole edifice together. With an unpopular candidate heading the ticket and a vacuum in the middle of the political spectrum, the existing party system might be ready for an earthquake. Nature abhors a vacuum.
There are many people on the blue side of the divide who are uneasy about the growing wealth gap and would like to work more for the average person than for the economic elite. During the CCK era, the KMT used to talk a lot about “the people’s livelihood,” an idea that goes back to Sun Yat-sen. For the past few years, James Soong 宋楚瑜 has been the most vocal proponent of this strain of thought within the blue camp. Unfortunately, Soong is old, and his time is past. He has been unable to organize the anti-capitalist forces. Now, however, there is another possibility.

The second linchpin is Ko Wen-je 柯文哲. Remember that crazy hypothetical poll from a few weeks ago that showed a Ko-Soong ticket leading the presidential race? While Ko and Soong won’t be appearing on a joint ticket any time soon, it’s actually not that crazy to think that they should be political allies.
In his campaign, Ko had the good fortune to run against Sean Lien. Positioning himself as an ordinary person who did not drive a Porsche or drink expensive red wine was a fairly easy and obvious tactic. In fact, I suspect his victory came precisely because he won over the votes of what the New Party used to call the “little people in the city” 小市民 who had no love for the economic elite. However, since taking office, Ko has shown that he actually meant his rhetoric by staking out a clear position as someone willing to fight against big business and elite privilege.
Ko is ambitious. He isn’t running for president in 2016, but I think it’s safe to say he wants to be re-elected in 2018 and 2020 may be crossed his mind once or twice. He can’t count on a repeat of 2014 in 2018. Even if – and this is a big if – the DPP yields to him, the KMT will probably find someone more competent than Sean Lien. He will be better off if he can reshuffle the party structure.
Ko won his office as a green candidate who developed ties with the blue side. Since taking office, he has continued to work with the blue side. In fact, he has arguably appointed more blue people to more powerful offices. Even more interesting, Ko’s position toward China has been ambiguous. As it becomes more and more likely that Tsai Ing-wen will win the presidency, China has been trying to come up with a new China policy. They want to stay engaged with Taiwan, but they don’t want to concede any ground on symbolic issues or help a pro-independence DPP in any way. It appears that one of their strategies is to reach out to Ko. If these ties deepen over the next few years, it is not impossible that Ko could play a critical role in cross-strait relations. While Ko denies that he is either blue or green, I can easily see Ko shifting to the blue side of the divide.

By now, you should be able to see where I’m going. If the KMT persists in its pro-rich agenda, Ko will have an opportunity to organize a political party representing the ordinary citizens on the blue side of the spectrum. Yao Li-ming 姚立明 might run the party, and he might build alliances with established politicians such as Soong, Wang, or defectors from the KMT legislative caucus. However, Ko would be the star, and everyone else would revolve around him. In 2018, instead of running against the KMT, he would cooperate with the KMT to defeat the DPP. In my scenario, the KMT wouldn’t particularly be happy about cooperating with Ko in 2018, but their supporters would demand it since a three-way race would probably be won by the DPP. I’m assuming Ko would easily win a polling primary against anyone the KMT could throw against him. Ko might then try to extend this model to the 2020 presidential race.

I’m not sure exactly why the KMT was able to fend off the PFP challenge a decade ago. I suspect the KMT party assets were a major factor in holding the party together. Neither side could access the resources of the state, but the KMT chair had a big pile of money he could throw around. The KMT still has those, but, unlike Soong and the PFP, a party led by Ko could draw on the resources of the Taipei City government, the richest local government in Taiwan. We’ll see how energetically Ko works for “his” legislative candidates this year; the legislative races might be a test run.

Separately, the KMT nomination difficulties, Ko’s political ambitions, and the shifting economic discourse could each lead to a minor reshuffling. If the KMT nominates Wang, I can easily see a deep blue rebellion. If the KMT nominates Wu or Hau, the Taiwan KMT wing might defect to the green side or support a Soong candidacy. Regardless of KMT presidential politics, Ko might organize a party as his best bet to win re-election. However, none of these seem likely to bring about a fundamental partisan realignment. It is the confluence of these factors that piques my interest. There is an outside chance that everything could mesh together perfectly to completely reshuffle politics in the blue half of the spectrum.

Taipei 3 update

April 20, 2015

The KMT announced the results of its preliminary poll in Taipei 3. (For background, see my previous post.) Incumbent Lo Shu-lei羅淑蕾 did not win the poll by more than 5%, so there will be a full-blown primary in this district between Lo, Wang Hung-wei王鴻薇, and Chiang Wan-an蔣萬安.

Lo immediately cried foul, saying there were irregularities in the polling process. According to her, several of her supporters who answered phone calls complained that they were not allowed to answer the survey. When a man answered, the interviewer asked to speak to a woman. When a woman answered, the interviewer asked to speak to a man. Sounds bad, eh? Actually, not at all. This is called “in-house sampling,” and it is a standard part of the KMT’s survey protocols. The basic idea is that while the telephone number is randomized, the person answering the telephone may not be. In order to ensure randomization, the interviewer first asks how many people live at the residence and then, according to a predetermined table, asks to speak to the second oldest female, the youngest male, or whoever else the table demands. With in-house sampling, it is quite normal that the person answering the phone is not sampled. Either Lo simply has no idea how this process works (note: they usually brief the candidates on the process, and the candidates are allowed to have observers watch the process), or she is simply making up a fake complaint. I think it is the latter.

(Aside: The DPP does not use in-house sampling. The KMT’s philosophy is that the polls should reflect public opinion as accurately as possible. The DPP’s philosophy is that polling primaries are partially a contest of mobilization capacity, so they encourage candidates to mobilize supporters to go home and sit by the phone, especially if opinions inside their household are divided. Generally speaking, in-house sampling is theoretically superior, but, in practice, it doesn’t affect results all that much. In this case, since Lo reportedly won by 4.2%, it is conceivable — though certainly not obvious — that in-house could have driven her lead under 5%.)

Lo hasn’t lost yet; why is she crying foul? More than most candidates, Lo needed to win in the first round. Over the next six weeks, her three biggest advantages will all fade. First, now that she has been shown to be vulnerable, her organizational base will start to crack. She has built fairly close ties with all the neighborhood heads, going to all their local events and representing their demands to the bureaucracy. This organizational base was one of her main advantages. However, now that she is not an overwhelming favorite to get the nomination, some of these neighborhood heads will reconsider their affiliation. Many of these loyal KMT footsoldiers probably were never that happy with her in the first place, due to her tendencies to openly criticize party leaders. If Chiang looks like he will be the local legislator for the next four years, many will decide that the smart thing is to change sides, and that will happily allow them to support a more reliable party member. Second, Chiang Wan-an somehow succeeded in garnering a substantial level of support in only 17 days. Most voters only know one thing about him, that he is John Chiang’s son and Chiang Kai-shek’s great grandson. Some voters may have been uncomfortable supporting someone whose last name was his primary (only?) appeal. Now he has about six weeks to introduce himself to voters and flesh out that picture. If he does this wisely, he should be the favorite to win the nomination. It is instructive that almost none of the media reports mentioned Wang. If Chiang can frame the election as a contest between a loyal KMT member who seeks to better the country by improving the party from within versus a loose cannon who doesn’t hesitate to damage the party’s reputation for the sake of making a splash on TV, he will win the nomination easily. However, if Chiang fails to define himself appropriately to the media, this could easily become a contest between Lo and Wang. Lo’s third advantage in the first round was that Wang’s support was heavily concentrated in a small part of the district. Only about a third (the parts in Songshan District) of the legislative district falls within Wang’s city council district. In the other two-thirds (Zhongshan District), Wang is relatively unknown and has little organizational support. Wang now has another six weeks to work on getting votes in Zhongshan. A fourth advantage for Lo could also disappear in a hurry. Right now, the anti-Lo vote is roughly split between Chiang and Wang. If a neutral media source, such a TVBS, were to publish a poll of this race that showed either Chiang or Wang as significantly ahead of the other, this three-way race could quickly become a two-way race. Lo would almost certainly lose that contest.

As of today, I no longer think that Lo is the favorite. As I see it, Chiang is now most likely to win the nomination and the seat. It will be interesting to see if Lo or Wang turn to negative campaigning to try to take him out. Because he is so unknown, he is the perfect target for mudslinging. With an established politician, you know enough about him or her that it is nearly impossible for any single new bit of information to fundamentally change the way you think about him or her. With an unknown, every bit of information can completely rewrite the story. If I were in the Lo, Wang, or DPP camp, I’d be thinking about how to redefine Chiang Wan-an as the 2016 version of Sean Lien. If I were in the Chiang camp, I’d be trying to build up a more robust image of him as someone who has not relied on the family name, who has lived a modest lifestyle, and who is earnest and down-to-earth.

In the end, Lo has no one to blame but herself. She simply could not discipline herself. Time after time, she lambasted President Ma and other KMT leaders on TV and in print, and she seemed to love being in the limelight and willing to say anything to attract attention. Many people have observed that she sounded more like an opposition politician than one from the KMT. It should not be all that surprising to her if the KMT voters who dominate her district want a legislator who represents the values, ideas, and interests of the KMT.

Eric Chu declines … maybe

April 17, 2015

This morning Eric Chu said he would not run for president in 2016. I have a few thoughts.

First, this wasn’t really an announcement. It was more like something that just slipped out. Chu was touring a temple, reporters were badgering him about whether he would serve out his mayoral term, and an exasperated Chu spat out, “I won’t run in 2016, is that good enough?” In other words, this was not something that came out at a carefully planned press conference, and it might not be his final decision. He might have been trying to get the media to stop asking him that same damn question for the n thousandth time!

Second, it sounds like he means it, and today’s slip (if that is what it was) will make it a little harder to backtrack and accept the KMT’s nomination. It might also cost him a handful of votes from people who won’t trust him.

Third, Chu’s strong point is supposed to be his coolness. He is not supposed to get rattled. I don’t care if he was having a bad day. Dodging routine questions about future plans is basic politics 101. If he can’t handle this sort of minor pressure, how is he going to hold up in a full campaign?

Fourth, this is a signal to the rest of the KMT to start the high pressure tactics. Chu is the only viable candidate who isn’t hated by a large part of the party and who is acceptable to the general electorate. Wang is detested by a large chunk of the party, including the Ma group and the military Huang Fu-hsing system. If Wang gets the KMT nomination, the best case scenario is that Ma and Huang Fu-hsing will smile politely and stay seated. At worst, they might decide to go down swinging and back a minor party candidate representing the “true spirit of Sun Yat-sen.” There is no chance that they will thoroughly mobilize to elect Wang. Wu has the opposite problem. He is too closely associated with Ma, and he is extremely unpopular in the general electorate. Hau is not exactly in the Ma camp, but his family background labels him clearly in the Chinese KMT camp. If either one of those (or Hung Hsiu-chu) is at the top of the ticket, the KMT is going to suffer massive losses in the legislature and Tsai is going to win in a landslide. The KMT needs Chu. If I had clout in the party, I would be using every tactic possible to put pressure on him to run. In the party chair race, he seemed to want the party to beg him to run. Now is the time for massive, shameless, overt, craven begging. They’ve got about two weeks until he makes a final final decision. Apparently, he is planning on not running at this point. It would be a disaster for the KMT if they can’t get him to change his mind.

A side note while I’m on the topic of the KMT presidential nomination. Yesterday the KMT announced that of its 350,000 members, only 90,000 or so are eligible to vote in the party primary. There are two large blocs in this 90,000: Huang Fu-hsing (military) system members and people over 75 years old. (Longtime members over 75 are exempt from paying party dues.) This means that while President Ma has very little support in the society at large, he and his faction will be very powerful in any vote of party members.

Currently, the presidential nomination is to be decided by 70% polls and 30% party member votes. Wang and Chu both favor changing this to 100% polls. I think they want to cut Ma out of the process. Wang’s only chance of winning is to draw on his support in the general electorate. If Chu runs, he is favored to win no matter what the process is. However, with 100% polls he wouldn’t have to go to Ma and ask for support. There are always costs to things like that.

One of the downsides to the KMT’s culture of waiting for the rest of the party to beg you to take the crown rather than actively and overtly pursuing it is that no one has prepared for the party vote. Since no one is officially a candidate, no one has done the dirty work of making sure that their supporters within the party bothered to pay dues. As a result, the KMT expression of “party will” will reflect the preferences of old soldiers and older geriatrics.

five KMT incumbents in trouble

April 15, 2015

I’ve been delinquent in writing about the legislative nominations, but today we have some big news that I absolutely need to mention. Today the KMT announced that four incumbents did not pass the first round polls. The four are Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠 (New Taipei 8), Lu Chia-chen 盧嘉辰 (New Taipei 10), Lu Yu-ling 呂玉玲 (Taoyuan 5), and Tsai Chin-lung 蔡錦隆 (Taichung 4). In addition, Lu Hsueh-chang 呂學樟 (Hsinchu City) announced that he is forgoing his opportunity to win a quick nomination in the first round. This was not a generous gesture to his opponent. Rather, the polls indicated that Lu was losing. I don’t have any concrete numbers, but the stories I read seemed to indicate that Lu might be losing by a significant margin. That makes five KMT incumbents who are in serious trouble. At the very least, they will have to go to a second round. That means they will need to go through the full primary procedures, including paying a deposit, gathering signatures, and finally going through another round of decisive polls in a month or so. These five aren’t dead yet, but the red lights are flashing.

Remember, several other KMT incumbents have already declared that they are not running for re-election. This includes Alex Tsai 蔡正元 (Taipei 4), Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池 (New Taipei 6), Hsieh Kuo-liang 謝國樑 (Keelung), Hsu Chi-jung 徐志榮 (Miaoli 2), Chang Chia-chun 張嘉郡 (Yunlin 1), and Weng Chung-chun 翁重鈞 (Chiayi County 1). In addition, Hsinchu County incumbent Hsu Hsin-ying 徐欣瑩 withdrew from the KMT to found her own party. I think Weng and Chang might eventually be persuaded to represent the KMT in the south; they are probably holding out in an effort to get the KMT to reward them for carrying the party flag in what promise to be very difficult races. Still, that makes 12 incumbent KMT district legislators who might not be seeking re-election, and we aren’t even done with the first round of nominations. By my count, 23 have already been renominated, and no decisions have been made on another 12.

This is in marked contrast to the DPP’s incumbents. Of the 26 DPP district incumbents, only two, Hsu Tain-tsair 許添財 (Tainan 4) and Chen Tang-shan 陳唐山 (Tainan 5) retired. All 24 who registered for the primary won renomination, including all five who faced a primary challenge.

One interesting way – though probably the wrong way – to look at the KMT’s primary season is to think about the Sunflower Movement. Several of the KMT’s most prominent voices might not be in the legislature come February 2016. Alex Tsai and Lin Hung-chih are not running for re-election, while Chang Ching-chung and Lu Hsueh-chang are in serious trouble. (On the other hand, Wu Yu-sheng (New Taipei 1) and Alex Fai (Taipei 5) easily won re-nomination.) It is tempting to wonder if there is a relationship. My gut tells me that the backlash from the Sunflower period might play a role, but it is probably not the most important factor. Tsai has been saying he would not run for re-election for several years. Lin is rumored to be preparing to run in the by-election for New Taipei mayor when and if Eric Chu runs for president. I don’t know much about Lu Hsueh-chang’s primary opponent, other than that he is a city councilor. However, I do know something about the politician challenging Chang. Chiu Chui-yi 邱垂益 was mayor of Zhonghe City for nine years, and he has been the appointed district head for the past four years. Zhonghe factional politics are messy and largely familial. In the last two elections, Chang has beaten a cousin representing the DPP. The other families may finally have become fed up with Chang’s family monopolizing the legislative seat. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Chiu’s appeal is that he will be a better legislator and won’t do stupid things that might kick off a major student rebellion. However, Chiu is a powerful politician in his own right, and he could easily displace Chang.

Nomination races

April 15, 2015

The following table shows the nomination races for the two major parties so far. Candidates in the 43 DPP regular districts are those who registered with the party according to the official press release. The KMT did not issue a single press release for its registrations, so I have collected names from various news stories. For the DPP’s 30 “difficult” districts, some, such as the three Taichung districts, have release official lists of registrants. However, most have not. Candidates for the others are collected from whatever news report I could find. In some of these cases, the “candidacy” may be more of a rumor or cheerleading by supporters than an actual intent to run.

The numbers next to DPP candidates are the results from the party polling primaries, as published on the party’s website. The DPP had two different sorts of polls. When the numbers are four decimal places (.XXXX), respondents were asked to pick which of the DPP aspirants they preferred. When the numbers have two digits plus four decimal places (XX.XXXX), respondents were asked whether they preferred the DPP aspirant or a likely KMT opponent. To save space, I did not list the KMT candidate’s support. In Taitung, the DPP held a poll but did not release the numbers.

The KMT has not released the results of the first round of polling. Instead, they have merely announced that an incumbent did or did not lead all others by at least five percent.

Candidates who have won a nomination are marked in blue for the KMT and green for the DPP.

(I apologize if this table is hard to read. WordPress is making it more and more difficult to produce legible tables.) (Update: I finally broke down and learned some basic HTML code. Now the table is readable. It would be nice if this were simply easy to do.) (I know I’m whining, and you don’t care. It’s my blog; it’s my right to whine.)

[most recent update: April 27, 2015]

district KMT DPP
Taipei 1 ‡ 丁守中 何志偉
Taipei 2 姚文智
Taipei 3 ‡ 羅淑蕾 $
Taipei 4 ‡# 邱毅
Taipei 5 ‡ 林郁方 *
Taipei 6 ‡# 蔣乃辛 *
Taipei 7 ‡# 費鴻泰 *
Taipei 8 ‡# 賴士葆 *
New Taipei 1 ‡ 吳育昇 游盈隆
New Taipei 2 林淑芬
New Taipei 3 高志鵬 49.5396
李余典 45.4604
New Taipei 4 李鴻鈞
陳茂嘉 withdraw
吳秉叡 .5413
鄭余豪 .0320
New Taipei 5 黃志雄 蘇巧慧 .3809
歐金獅 .1173
廖宜琨 .1023
New Taipei 6 林國春
游秉陶 .1263
余莓莓 .1570
莊碩漢 .1468
張宏陸 .2004
New Taipei 7 江惠貞 蔡瑞堂 withdraw
New Taipei 8 ‡# 張慶忠 $
New Taipei 9 ‡# 林德福 *
New Taipei 10 盧嘉辰 $
蔡美華 26.3224
吳琪銘 42.9647
New Taipei 11 ‡# 羅明才
New Taipei 12 ‡# 李慶華
Taoyuan 1 陳根德 鄭運鵬
Taoyuan 2 廖正井 *
彭紹瑾 .1471
陳睿生 .0650
彭添富 .0949
陳賴素美 .1871
郭榮宗 .1518
Taoyuan 3 ‡ 陳學聖 *
Taoyuan 4 ‡ 楊麗環 *
Taoyuan 5 ‡ 呂玉玲 $
Taoyuan 6 ‡ 孫大千
Taichung 1 蔡其昌
Taichung 2 顏寬恒
陳世凱 .3278
王至劭 .0706
Taichung 3 ‡# 楊瓊瓔 吳則磐
Taichung 4 蔡錦隆 $
張廖萬堅 .3679
陳淑華   .2735
Taichung 5 ‡ 盧秀燕
陳天汶 withdrew
Taichung 6 黃國書
Taichung 7 何欣純
Taichung 8 ‡ 江啟臣 翁美春
Tainan 1 葉宜津 .3365
賴惠員 .1817
李退之 .1966
Tainan 2 黃偉哲 .5766
林宜瑾 .1428
Tainan 3 陳亭妃 .6015
邱莉莉 .1680
Tainan 4 林俊憲 .5089
蔡旺詮 .1442
李文正 .0703
Tainan 5 王定宇 .4459
郭國文 .2231
Kaohsiung 1 邱議瑩
Kaohsiung 2 邱志偉
Kaohsiung 3 黃昭順 林瑩蓉 .3132
劉世芳 .3464
Kaohsiung 4 林岱樺
Kaohsiung 5 管碧玲
Kaohsiung 6 李昆澤
Kaohsiung 7 趙天麟
Kaohsiung 8 許智傑
Kaohsiung 9 林國正 陳信瑜 .2879
賴瑞隆 .3370
陳致中 withdraw
Yilan 陳歐珀
許南山 withdraw
Keelung ‡ 楊石城
Hsinchu County ‡ 劉文禎
Hsinchu City ‡ 呂學樟 $
Miaoli 1 ‡ 陳超明 *
Miaoli 2 ‡# 傅偉哲
Changhua 1 ‡ 王惠美 陳文彬
Changhua 2 林滄敏 *
賴岸璋 withdraw
邱建富 withdraw
Changhua 3 鄭汝芬 洪宗熠
李俊諭 withdraw
Changhua 4 陳素月
Nantou 1  ‡ 馬文君
Nantou 2 許淑華 蔡煌瑯 .3087
陳翰立 .1557
賴燕雪 .2987
Yunlin 1 張嘉郡 @ 蘇治芬
Yunlin 2 劉建國
Chiayi County 1 蔡易餘 .4087
林國慶 .3789
Chiayi County 2 陳明文
Chiayi City 李俊俋
Pingtung 1 蘇震清
Pingtung 2 王進士 李世斌 .1447
鍾佳濱 .2237
李清聖 .2200
施錦芳 .1738
Pingtung 3 莊瑞雄
Taitung 張家瑋
Hualien 王廷升 *
Penghu 楊曜
Kinmen 陳水龍
Lienchiang 陳財能
Plains Aborigines 鄭天財
Mountain Aborigines 孔文吉

‡  DPP “difficult district”

#  DPP designated district as possible one to yield to other parties

*  won the first round poll by over 5% to win KMT nomination

$  did not win the first round poll by over 5% (or renounced right to first round poll)

@ initially did not register; later recruited by party

The Fourth Generation?

April 3, 2015

One of the more interesting races on the KMT side can be found in Taipei 3, where the always outspoken Lo Shu-lei 羅淑蕾 is running for re-election. She is being challenged by Chiang Wan-an 蔣萬安, who is the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek, and city councilor Wang Hung-wei 王鴻薇. There are two angles that will be interesting to most observers. On the one hand, Chiang Wan-an is the first member of the fourth generation of the Chiang family to enter politics. Simply because of his heritage, his candidacy has important symbolism for democracy in Taiwan. On the other hand, Lo Shu-lei has always been a controversial legislator. She has never hesitated to speak out against her own party leaders and has offended many within the KMT. In the past year or so, she has also made provocative statements angering many supporters of the student movements and the Ko mayoral campaign. After making so many enemies, it will be interesting to see if she can survive another election. Most people are ignoring Wang Hung-wei, which might be a mistake. I would not be surprised in the least if Wang ended up winning the nomination and the seat.

Let’s start the story several decades ago in China, where Chiang Ching-kuo had twin sons out of wedlock with a woman named Chang Ya-juo 章亞若. The two sons were brought to Taiwan and raised in a military community in Hsinchu city by their aunt. Unlike Chiang’s legitimate children, the twins grew up in relative anonymity. By most accounts, Chang Hsiao-yan (John) 章孝嚴 and Chang Hsiao-tsu (Winston) 章孝慈 had a modest upbringing, interrupted only by occasional visits by surprisingly high-ranking KMT figures who wanted to make sure the Chang family’s needs were taken care of. Of course, they knew of their lineage as did many other connected people, but it was a taboo topic during the authoritarian era. The legitimate heirs were extremely protective of their Chiang Fang Liang’s 蔣方良 legacy, and would brook no discussion of the existence of other CCK children. The legitimate members of the third generation grew up in power and privilege, and there was a period of time when it seemed possible that CCK would pass power dynastically to his son Chiang Hsiao-wu (Alex) 蔣孝武. It was a major milestone when CCK instead publicly declared in 1983 that there would be no third generation of Chiangs and sent Alex to Singapore. No one considered the possibility that John or Winston were suitable heirs to power; indeed they were not even publicly acknowledged as part of the family. Perhaps because of their grounding in normal society, the twins eventually went on to have far more distinguished careers than their half-siblings. Winston went into academia, and eventually rose to become President of Soochow University. He was renowned for his dedication to liberal ideals, and people from both sides of the political spectrum mourned when he died suddenly of a stroke in 1994.

John Chang entered politics, coming up through the diplomatic corps. His family connections, which became public when Taiwan democratized, probably guaranteed that he would not be stuck in the lower levels of the foreign service. However, he would not have risen quite so high without the patronage of Lee Teng-hui, who appointed him to Foreign Minster, Vice Premier, and KMT Secretary-General. In early 1998, Ma Ying-jeou was equivocating about whether he would run for Taipei Mayor. Lee did not want Ma to re-enter politics, and he set out the word that the KMT had plenty of other suitable candidates, notably John Chang and Jason Hu. Eventually, Ma declared his willingness to run, and Chang was put on the back burner. He never again reached the same level of influence.

In 2005, Chang and his family members changed their surname to Chiang, taking the imperial surname and all the symbolism and baggage that went with it.

Chang went into the legislature in 2001. While he was one of the more famous members of the legislature, he wasn’t really a legislative leader. Still, he seemed fairly well entrenched in Taipei 3, so it was a shock to everyone when he unexpectedly lost the primary to Lo Shu-Lei in 2012.

Originally an accountant, Lo Shu-lei entered the legislature in 2004 on the PFP’s party list. In 2008, all the PFP legislators joined the KMT. As part of this deal, the KMT put Lo in a good spot on its 2008 list. During Ma Ying-jeou’s first term, Lo repeatedly spoke out criticizing the government. She was on TV talk shows nearly every night, and if you didn’t know better you might have thought she was from the opposition, not the government, camp. This behavior grated on the nerves of the more loyal party soldiers, and many KMT members started calling on party leaders to muzzle her. At one point, party leaders ordered her to go out into society and listen to KMT voices to see how they felt. The implication was that if her statements didn’t start reflecting mainstream party views, she would face party discipline. Of course, if her party membership were revoked, she would also lose her seat in the legislature. This threat seemed to work, as she was decidedly more orthodox in the last months of her first term.

Of course, it could have been that she was moving toward standard party positions because she was worried about re-election. There was no way the KMT was going to give her another party list seat in 2012. If she wanted to stay in the legislature, she would have to win a district seat. She chose to challenge John Chiang in Taipei 3. Chiang was not widely considered to be vulnerable, but Lo unexpectedly won the polling primary by a razor-thin 0.58%. In retrospect, there are two common explanations for Lo’s upset win. First, Chiang had become complacent. He may not have done enough constituency service, attended enough weddings and funerals, or whipped his ground network hard enough. Second, Lo may have won considerable cross-party support. This is speculation, but many suspect that many DPP sympathizers supported Lo in the polling primary because they liked her willingness to criticize the KMT and because they wanted to deal a blow to the Chiang family.

Lo started out the current term by going back to her critical ways. Once again, she was a regular guest on the TV talk show circuit, and she never hesitated to criticize her own party. However, about halfway through the term she once again shifted to a more orthodox stance. This was most notable during the mayoral campaign. Lo was the spokeswoman for Sean Lien’s campaign, and, true to form, she was always quick to speak her mind. However, now the incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric was aimed at the Ko campaign and the opposition camp. This may have been a strategic move to shore up her support in the KMT, but it probably had the effect of alienating any cross-party support she may have enjoyed.

So now the Chiang family is challenging Lo in an attempt to retake the Taipei 3 seat. From what I can glean in the newspaper accounts, Chiang Wan-an doesn’t seem to have any particular qualifications to be a legislator other than his family background. His campaign doesn’t seem that organized. No one seemed aware that he was planning to challenge Lo until the day the KMT accepted applications. I go to that district quite often, and I’ve never seen any of his banners or billboards. His name recognition must be extremely low.

Chiang’s best hope is that KMT supporters are unhappy with Lo. Moreover, assuming that Lo had considerable cross-party support in 2012, she probably won’t do as well with non-KMT sympathizers in 2016. Her scorched-earth performance in the 2014 campaign probably dashed any illusions that green voters had of her being a “reasonable” or half-green voice.

If voters are unhappy with Lo and unfamiliar with Chiang, they have a credible third choice. Wang Hung-wei is a city councilor. She won her first two terms as a representative of the New Party before joining the KMT and winning a third term in 2014. As an established politician, she has sufficient name recognition and local organization to mount a significant challenge to Lo.

The three candidates are all positioned in the deep blue end of the spectrum. Wang is a former New Party member, Lo is a former PFP member who has spent the past year blasting everything to do with the opposition camp, and Chiang is, well, a direct descendent of the ROC imperial family. If Lo has an advantage, it might be that she is perhaps a little less clearly identified with that corner of the spectrum. Alternatively, everyone might be mad at her, while Wang and Chiang probably have some enthusiastic supporters.

We should probably stop to consider the rules of the game. According to the KMT’s latest rules, the contest proceeds in two rounds. First, the party will do a survey to determine if a primary is necessary. If the incumbent wins the survey by at least 5%, he or she will be renominated. (Technically, the incumbent’s performance in the legislature also has to be approved by the committee; I’m still waiting to see the first time they reject someone.) If the incumbent doesn’t win or wins by less than 5%, a full-blown primary is necessary. Unlike the first round (which the KMT does not consider a “primary”) which is a telephone survey, the second round (the “primary”) is a telephone survey. Wait. That is exactly the same thing. Why do we need two rounds again?

Actually, there is a reason. The two-round design protects incumbents. First, there is a quick first survey. If the challenger is not organized and hasn’t done much advertising (like Chiang right now), the incumbent can win the nomination before a full-blown challenge is mounted. Second, if the incumbent loses the first round, he or she gets another chance to regroup and mobilize. If this system had been in force four years ago, John Chiang would have had a second chance to beat Lo, and he would probably still be in the legislature. Now Lo has those advantages. This system doesn’t guarantee that she will win the nomination, but it gives her an advantage.

Wang is probably the most disadvantaged. I suspect she will beat Lo in the first round, but Wang cannot be nominated simply by winning the first round. If there is a second round, Chiang will be allowed to participate no matter how poorly he does in the first round. What Chiang needs more than anything right now is time so that he can get his name out and convince KMT sympathizers that he is their ideal representative. It is plausible that he might overtake Wang in the second round.

The DPP has an uphill fight in this district. They seem to have settled on city councilor Liang Wen-chieh 梁文傑, though this has not yet been finalized. For now, let’s assume that Liang is the DPP candidate. Liang would love to face Chiang. For one thing, Liang has a solid political resume, whereas Chiang is a complete novice. Both Lo and Wang have longer resumes than Liang, but experience would be a winning issue against Chiang. For another, Chiang would be easy to paint into the deep blue corner of the political spectrum. Liang’s strategy would be to define Chiang as a representative of the old regime and to try to win all the independent and some light blue voters. Most significantly, Liang has experience fighting political aristocracy. As head of the DPP’s policy research division, Liang spearheaded the investigation into the Lien family assets. He spent 2014 railing against Sean Lien, a fourth-generation heir of a prominent political family. He could easily transfer that campaign over to the Chiang family.

(I’m pretty sure that if one of the three has to win, the DPP would prefer Chiang as well. On the one hand, Chiang might turn out to have different political views from his forefathers. On the other, it could be very useful to have a Chiang in the legislature to kick around as a symbol of Chinese nationalism and the reactionary KMT history.)

Lo and Wang would be harder for Liang to defeat. The deep blue voters might be upset with Lo, but they aren’t going to vote for Liang. It will be harder for him to define her to the public, since she has already defined herself. With her past, it will be hard to call her an extremist deep blue figure. She has been many things at various times. Wang is a deep blue figure, but she has a much lower profile. For many voters who don’t pay close attention to politics, she will be a generic KMT candidate. In Taipei 3, the generic KMT candidate almost always beats the generic DPP candidate. Of course, neither Lo nor Chiang is what anyone would call “generic.”

How about open list?

March 26, 2015

Last week DPP legislator Kao Chih-peng 高志鵬 proposed that Taiwan should adopt open list proportional representation for the party list tier. Taiwan currently uses closed lists to elect the 34 party list seats. In closed list systems, the parties submit ranked lists to the electoral commission, and voters cast votes for party names. If a party has enough votes to win five seats, the candidates ranked #1 through #5 are elected. Open list is slightly more complicated. Parties submit unranked lists to the electoral commission. On the ballot, voters still only make one choice. They can vote for any name on any list, and in some systems they also have the option of simply voting for a party rather than any individual candidate. So, in a 3 seat district with three parties, the ballot would look something like this:

 □ People’s Party  □ Business Party  □ Fifth Column Party
 □ Chen  □ Yin  □ Xi
 □ Lin  □ Tsao  □ Li
 □ Huang  □ Kou  □ Hu

Voters can mark their stamp in any of the twelve boxes. The votes are then all pooled up to the party level, and seats are distributed to parties just as in a closed list system. For example, all the votes in the first column are summed to get the total for the People’s Party. Let’s assume that the People’s Party got 1000 votes: 700 people voted for the party without expressing a preference for any individual, 80 voted for Chen, 20 voted for Lin, and 200 voted for Huang. If the 1000 party votes were enough to win one seat, that seat would go to Huang. If it were enough for two seats, Huang and Chen would be the winners.

Vote totals for individual names are not compared across lists. For example, assume the Business Party got 220 votes (4 for the party, 201 for Yin, 7 for Tsao, and 8 for Kou) and the Fifth Column Party got 215 votes (2 for the party, 210 for Xi, 1 for Li, and 2 for Hu). According to the current formula, the People’s Party would get 2 seats (Huang, Chen) and the Business Party would get one (Yin). The fact that Xi got more individual votes than Huang, Chen, or Yin is irrelevant. (This is the major difference between open list and the single non-transferable vote system used in local elections and in legislative elections until 2004.)

I like open list PR. In fact, if you let me choose Taiwan’s next electoral system, I’d probably opt for some version of open list PR. Some of the attractions include:

Proportionality. Unlike the old SNTV system and especially unlike the current mixed system, open list distributes seats according to the party vote.

Opportunities for small parties. This depends on the size of the districts. With larger districts, smaller parties have an opportunity to win seats. It isn’t quite as easy as in the old SNTV system. For example, in the old 10 seat SNTV districts in Taipei City, a candidate might win a seat with as little as 3-4% of the vote. In open list, a party would probably need to get closer to 7-8% to win a seat in that district. However, winning seats is still far easier for small parties in open list than in the current single seat districts.

Parties can win seats all over the country. One of the worst things about the current system is that the KMT has become a northern party and the DPP has become a southern party. The KMT legislative caucus thus is constantly tempted to ignore the south while the DPP caucus has almost no one to speak for northern interests. The two big parties also have a hard time fielding credible candidates for executive races in the other area since they don’t have any incumbent legislators in those areas. Whatever the next system is, it is imperative to remedy this flaw.

Disincentives for party unity. The current system empowers party leaders. The party lists are ranked by the party leaders. This means that anyone who wishes to win a seat on near the top of the party list has to curry favor with party leaders. (Note that “leaders” can be plural; winning the favor of the party chair is a good strategy, but you might also try to impress some other faction, party power broker, or interest group that can demand a space on the party list. For example, the military traditionally gets one or two spots on the KMT party list.) Legislators from single seat districts have to worry more about the general public. However, many of those legislators represent safe seats. They are more likely to lose their seats because of internal party challenges than because the voting public turns against their party. In sum, legislators in the current system have strong incentives to respond to the demands of party leaders. My personal judgment is that this has swung too far in the direction of party power, and I would like to see legislators become more responsive to the general public. Open list gives party leaders far less power over whether a legislator can win re-election. (It may even go too far in the opposite direction, which is why my ideal system would be some sort of modified list in which parties rank candidates but voters have the power to modify those ranks.)

Empower list legislators. For the past 20 years, Taiwan has had two types of legislators: list legislators and “real” legislators. List legislators have always been seen as second class legislators. On the one hand, they are looked down upon because many believe they didn’t win their seats in an open contest. Instead, the seat was given to them by a party leader. On the other hand, because they weren’t forced to contest a general election, many of them have never needed to develop power resources (networks, money, mass popularity). District legislators have these sorts of power resources and can often simply push list legislators aside. You can see this condescending attitude toward list legislators in the two term limits. No one thinks of limiting district legislators to two terms since they win their seats and do a service to the party, but list legislators are seen as consuming party resources and are therefore a net drag on the party. Sooner or later, Taiwan is going to have to come to grips with this caste system, especially if the legislature is expanded by expanding the number of list legislators. The open list system would force list legislators to “earn” their seats by winning large numbers of votes, and it would thus narrow the gap in power between district and list legislators.

Drawing districts. Open list uses multi-member districts, so it is not necessary to manipulate district lines for political advantage. This is one of the worst problems with the current system.

One thing that I don’t care about might be the prime attraction to political parties. I have a suspicion that the reason Kao Chih-peng wants open list is that the DPP has had such a hard time figuring out a fair way to rank the lists. Open list would sidestep this problem by delegating it to the electorate. I say, if a party can’t figure out how to make a decision on a relatively simple matter such as constructing a party list, it might not be qualified to tackle more complex tasks, such as governing the country.

There are a few downsides to open list. As you might expect given its similarity to SNTV, most of these complaints are familiar to us in Taiwan. The most common complaint is that open list encourages localism, particularism, pork-barrel politics, and money politics. This is almost certainly correct. In general, the more party-centric a system is, the cheaper elections will be. If campaigns are primarily done by national figures on a party vs party basis (such as in closed list or a presidential election), they can use the ample national media coverage to communicate party positions to the electorate. This takes advantage of economies of scale. Individual candidates in a candidate-centered system (such as open list) have to target smaller groups of voters with some appeal that differentiates them from all the other candidates in their party. Local construction, vote buying, and one or two extreme positions are great ways to set yourself apart from all the other wonderful candidates on your party’s list. In particular, we should probably see a lot more wasteful development projects with open list. Pork is great for the constituency that gets it, but everyone else hates it. If you are only appealing to a small part of the country, pork is wonderful. If you are talking to the entire country, pork may alienate more voters than it attracts.

The other major downside is that open list can create factionalism. In SNTV, one of the primary roles of factions is to secure nominations for faction members. In open list, nominations are not as scarce. Since every vote counts toward the party total, parties have a strong incentive to nominate as many candidates as are legally permitted. So nominations are only a minor source of factionalism. The major impetus comes from the way that open list rewards superstars. A superstar who vacuums up large numbers of votes in an SNTV election hurts her party by causing fellow party members to lose. In open list, those votes are pooled and help the other party members to win, so the other party members appreciate the superstar and want to run in the same district with her. If the superstar clashes with the party chair or other party leaders, she can count on support from other legislators in her district. They certainly don’t want her to leave the party and run on a different list. If a party has several of these superstars, it might be difficult to hold the party together.

Let me reiterate: I think Taiwanese parties need a bit more fragmentation. Taiwan does not have many access points for dissatisfied people to press their claims. Taiwan is not a federal system, and local governments do not have lawmaking authority. Taiwan does not have an upper house. The judicial system is not really a co-equal branch of government, to say nothing of the useless Control Yuan. The unicameral legislature has no formal procedures requiring a supermajority, and the current electoral system can lead to a lopsided majority of seats with only a plurality of votes. In sum, a unified party with a plurality – not even a majority – of votes at election time has unchecked power for four years. This can lead governing parties to ignore changes in public opinion and press ahead with unpopular policies, which in turn can lead to systemic instability. I think the system would be healthier and more stable if it were a bit harder for a party to maintain unity in the face of low public popularity. The fragmentation argument is actually one of the primary attractions of open list to me, though I think most people might disagree with me.

With all these attractive features, it might surprise you that I don’t think Kao Chih-peng’s proposal is wise. His proposal is simple, only changing one thing about the current system. Changing from closed list to open list might work, but you’d have to tweak a couple other things as well.

From a practical standpoint, voting would be a nightmare. In 2012, eleven parties presented party lists for the 34 list seats. Since every party has a strong incentive to nominate a full list, that would be 385 options for each voter. How large would the ballot paper have to be? In Brazil, each candidate gets a four digit code that the voter writes down. In another country in Latin America (Colombia?), they did away with the enormous ballot paper and simply put a huge poster with all the candidates and their codes in each voting booth. However, in Taiwan there is a long tradition of only allowing voters to stamp something. Maybe you could use electronic voting and sort them by party, but can you imagine Grandma with Alzheimer’s trying to scroll through all those options trying to find that one that she can barely remember to begin with?

More importantly, 34 seats is a large district. With electoral systems, larger districts exaggerate the effects. Thus, you would get an extremely proportional result. Instead of mild incentives toward pork barrel politics and factionalism, you would get very strong incentives. Worst, I fear extremists and corrupt politicians rather than mainstream politicians would be the biggest winners.

Remember those superstars? In larger districts, they will get enormous numbers of votes. Mainstream voters will gravitate toward these better known people, perhaps even hoping to send a message that they support mainstream values. These superstars will win the top seats on the party list. However, if they soak up all the mainstream votes, the lower ranked and relatively anonymous winners can win seats by relying on much narrower constituencies. They might depend on a particular locality, they might buy votes, or they might mobilize a small segment of extremist voters by taking a particularly extreme position.

To give an extreme example, in the 2010 election for the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, Rio de Janeiro elected 46 seats. The Party of the Republic (PR) got 1,202,364 votes, which entitled it to 7 seats. The first winner was Anthony Matheus de Oliveira, who won 694,862, or over half the total votes cast for the PR in Rio. I think it is fair to say he represents the mainstream of that party. The sixth and seventh seats were won by Liliam sa de Paula and Paulo Feijo Torres, who won a mere 29,248 and 22,619 respectively. I don’t have any idea who voted for them, but they clearly represent a much narrower slice of voters than Matheus. Given the conventional stories about Brazilian politics, it is quite possible that they got most of their votes from a specific town or special interest.

What would happen in Taiwan? The KMT had enough votes to elect 16 people in 2012. It’s pretty easy to imagine that famous people, such as Speaker Wang and Deputy Speaker Hung would have gotten sizeable chunks of votes. However, it is also easy to imagine the 15th and 16th winners securing their victories with far narrower support bases.

I think that if Taiwan were to adopt open list voting for the party list tier, it would be wise to divide Taiwan smaller districts. For example, you might do use north, central, and south districts, each electing 10-15 people. This would greatly reduce the size of the ballot paper. More importantly, it would reduce the gap between the first and last winners on each party list and force contenders to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters. The downside is that smaller parties would be disadvantaged by the higher effective threshold. Rather than needing to get 5% to cross the legal threshold, a party might need 9% to win one seat in a 10 seat district. However, a further tweak borrowed from Germany could remedy this problem. In Germany, seats are determined by the national party votes. These seats are then assigned to each state, where winners are determined by the ranks on those state lists.

I don’t think Taiwan will end up with an open list system. I think we will move toward the obvious changes that are already on the table and cause the minimum amount of disruption. I think we eventually will get a German-style MMP system. To increase the number of seats, the easiest fix is simply to maintain the current 73 districts and 6 aboriginal seats and increase the number of list seats to 79. They’ll make a big deal of minor changes (lowering the threshold to 3%) or almost irrelevant changes (lowering the voting age to 18). More critical parts of the system, such as whether dual candidacies are allowed will be ignored or dealt with as an afterthought. I’m not aware of any MMP systems in which candidates are not allowed to register in both tiers, but Taiwan might become the first. This reform would improve on the awful current system in a number of ways, but it wouldn’t do anything about the concentration of power. In fact, that system would make party leaders even more powerful than they are now. I’d rather have some version of open list, but I suppose it isn’t my choice.

Kaohsiung 9 primary results

March 21, 2015

In the conclusion of my previous post about the DPP primary in Kaohsiung 9, I casually suggested that Chen Hsin-yu of the Hsieh faction was probably well ahead of Lai Jui-lung of the Chen Chu (CC) faction. Today the results were released, and, as you probably should have expected, I was wrong. Lai won the polling primary by a clear 5%, 33.70 to 28.79%.

This was a shocking result to me. I don’t know much about either Chen or Lai, but based on the little I did know, Chen should have been the superior candidate. Chen is an incumbent city councilor while Lai was the head of the city Marine Bureau. Time and time again, some bureaucrat runs for office. The national media loves him, pundits talk about how qualified he is, and people in the bureaucracy praise him for his hard work at solving substantive problems. Then he gets crushed by some local politician who no one has ever heard of. The thing is, politics is a difficult game, and local politicians have been working at it (successfully) for years. They have been going to local housing association meetings, mediating car crashes, convincing schools to enroll voters’ children, getting roads paved, showing up at countless weddings and funerals, and so on. They have been building ties, one at a time, for a long time. Chen Hsin-yu, for example, has been working her district for over a decade.  Lai, in contrast, was a last-minute entrant into the race. Bureaucracy, on the other hand, is a very different game. Bureaucrats develop connections primarily with other bureaucrats. Those are great for working the levers of power, but they don’t do a whole lot when it comes to wooing ordinary voters. Politicians are almost always better than bureaucrats at elections. This is even true when the bureaucrat is sponsored by a popular elected politician. Many popular mayors or magistrates at the end of their second term have tried to pass the office on to a trusted deputy. However, the few that manage to make through the party nomination stage generally fare poorly in the general election. Voters historically don’t buy the idea that “a vote for him is a vote for me.”

Moreover, Chen Hsin-yu (and everyone else) acted as if she expected to win. Leading candidates are the ones who keep repeating that everyone should just follow the process and have a fair and clean test of strength. Calls for more negotiations, delays, or changes in the process always come from people who think they are losing.

So what happened? I think this has to be considered a huge triumph for Chen Chu. Because Chen Shui-bian’s son was involved and because this turned into a fairly nasty fight between Hsieh and CC, this race got a lot of media coverage. By the time the polling was held, we all had a pretty clear idea that this was a proxy war between the CC and Hsieh factions. Normally, even in nasty faction battles, the individual candidates are the deciding factors. I assume most of the 28% who supported Chen Hsin-yu made their decision because they supported her personally. However, I simply can’t make that assumption for the relatively anonymous Lai. His 33% almost certainly reflects a tremendous vote of confidence for CC.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that CC is different. She is more popular than almost any other mayor. Her satisfaction ratings have been in the 70s for several years, and she is consistently rated as one of the best two or three mayors in the country. She just won re-election with an unthinkable 68%. Moreover, she runs Kaohsiung, a major city with a big budget. She has a lot of resources to spread around, and she is very good at spreading them around. She has been so effective at building her faction in Kaohsiung that people commonly talk of the “Chu Faction” rather than of the local New Tide faction. (Among the current seven DPP legislators from Kaohsiung, Li Kun-tse is her nephew, Chiu Chih-wei was previously in her mini-cabinet, Chiu Yi-ying (who is usually considered part of the Su faction) is married to the deputy mayor, and Lin Tai-hua has connections to the New Tide faction. I don’t know anything about Hsu Chih-chieh, and the other two are in the Hsieh faction.) Given the overwhelming dominance of the DPP in Kaohsiung 9, she has almost certainly just added another major post to her faction’s power base.

If Chen Chu is the big winner, Frank Hsieh and Chen Shui-bian are the big losers. The former president no longer has enough popularity to win a primary for his son, even when deep green voters were jolted back to 2007 by unfounded accusations of corruption. At least he withdrew before suffering a humiliating defeat. The former premier went into this battle with a clear advantage in candidate quality and suffered a stunning loss in the city he governed for six years. If other races go like this, this could be the year that the old factions formed in President Chen’s second term give way to new factions oriented toward politics in the next decade.


I should note that this primary has worked out quite well for Tsai Ing-wen. For one, she has always had better relations with Chen Chu and New Tide than with Hsieh and A-Bian. For another, her top goal was simply for the green side to settle on a single candidate in order to win the seat. That seems to have been achieved. For a third thing, this contest may have silenced Chen Shui-bian. Tsai didn’t want to have Chen Chih-chung running for the simple reason that she didn’t want the blue camp and the media constantly talking about him. She wants voters to think about what a lousy president Ma Ying-jeou is, not what a lousy president Chen Shui-bian was. By allowing Chen Chih-chung back into the DPP, she forced him to take part in the party primary where he could be defeated. Even better, the Chen family withdrew, perhaps because they were made aware of how tenuous Chen’s medical parole is. I can’t imagine the former president will stay completely out of the limelight, but he made have come to understand that a lower profile has some advantages. A silent Chen is exactly what Tsai wants.


Finally, I want to make a point about intra-party fights. These fights are healthy for the DPP. If Chen Chu’s power is increasing and Hsieh’s is waning, it will be better for the party if that is out in the open. Conflict can be papered over in the short-term, but eventually they will burst out into the open. Now, a full ten months before the election, is the perfect time to have those fights. Remember what happened four years ago when the DPP tried to avoid having a fight over its party list. They delegated power to Tsai Ing-wen to determine the list. Inevitably, people were unhappy with the result. Moreover, since the losers had not had a chance to have an open fight, they felt cheated. They raised the issue deep into the presidential campaign, complaining that Tsai’s list was “the same old people” and it didn’t have any social activists or progressives, and demanding that it be revised. In addition to damaging party unity, this long, drawn-out fight tarnished Tsai’s image as a leader and the DPP’s image as a reformist party. They would have been much better off with a vicious but fair and open fight in the early spring. Almost as much as fights between parties, fights within parties are an essential part of the democratic process.

Why did Chen Chih-chung drop out of Kaohsiung 9?

March 19, 2015

Last week, former president Chen Shui-bian’s 陳水扁 son, Chen Chih-chung 陳致中, dropped out of the DPP’s contest for the nomination in Kaohsiung 9. This took me (and most people I talked to) by surprise. What’s more, Chen Chih-chung justified his action with a very strange explanation: He didn’t want people to think the struggle between Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 and his father was still raging. Great, but no one seemed to think that this struggle was tearing apart the DPP in the first place.

After reading a few media reports and reflecting on the history, I think there is an interesting story behind all this. The short answer is that this is, in fact, a raging factional conflict. However, it isn’t the one Chen Chih-chung tried to make us think about. Rather, this is all about the conflict between Hsieh and Kaohsiung mayor and New Tide faction bigwig Chen Chu 陳菊. The A-bian faction is involved, but it isn’t the main player. The long answer starts years and years ago, and even though this is a story about Kaohsiung it starts in Taipei.

Chen Shui-bian and Frank Hsieh were arguably the two brightest stars to emerge from the cohort of defense lawyers at the 1980 trials for the Kaohsiung Incident. They both went into electoral politics in 1981, winning seats to the Taipei City council. In 1985, Hsieh easily won re-election. Chen went back home to Tainan, trying to become the Tainan County magistrate. He lost that race, and days after the election his wife, Wu Shu-chen 吳淑珍, was run over in a mysterious (that is, not mysterious at all) traffic accident and permanently paralyzed. Legislative elections were held in 1986, and both Hsieh and Chen decided to contest them. Chen was convicted of libel and spent several months in jail, so he could not personally run. Instead, he put his wife forward as a candidate. There were three main opposition candidates in the Taipei City race, Hsieh, Wu, and senior opposition leader Kang Ning-hsiang 康寧祥. Everyone expected that Hsieh would win a huge victory. Indeed, many were worried that Hsieh would win too many votes and cause both Wu and Kang to lose. On election eve, Hsieh famously told the crowd to cast their first vote for Kang, the second for Wu, and only the third vote should go to him. Apparently they took this advice to heart, because both Kang and Wu won, while Hsieh unexpectedly lost. In 1989, Hsieh ran again while Chen replaced his wife as the candidate. By this time, the two were developing a friendly rivalry, vying for leadership in the DPP. Hsieh still had the upper hand at this point, clearly outpolling Chen, though both easily won. Once both entered the legislature, however, Chen began to overtake Hsieh. Chen was a master at getting favorable media coverage, and he was an extremely effective legislator. In 1992 Chen outpolled Hsieh, and he was widely considered the DPP’s most outstanding legislator. By this point, the rivalry between the two was in full gear. Moreover, since the regime had agreed to open up the Taipei mayor to elections, the two were now fighting over something concrete. By early 1994, it was apparent that Chen would win the nomination, but it was not clear how Hsieh would deal with the loss. Many people wondered if Hsieh would quit the DPP and run an independent campaign rather than yielding to Chen. In the event, Hsieh decided to stay in the DPP and support Chen’s candidacy. When Chen won and became a superstar mayor, Hsieh seemed to be out in the political wilderness.

Hsieh had grown up in Taipei City and his whole career had been based in Taipei City, but with Chen in the mayor’s chair Hsieh decided to look elsewhere. He cast his gaze southward, to Kaohsiung City, where the mayor’s seat was held by future Premier and Vice-President Wu Den-yi 吳敦義. Before challenging Wu, however, Hsieh had to first secure the DPP nomination. His prime competition came from Chen Che-nan 陳哲男, a member of Chen Shui-bian’s inner circle. Chen Che-nan had been a Kaohsiung legislator when Chen Shui-bian appointed him as head of the Civil Affairs Department in Taipei City. After several years of experience in governing, Chen Che-nan was ready to return home to put his training to work. Hsieh would have won a popularity contest, but it might have been draining and acrimonious. Chen Shui-bian stepped in to prevent this by convincing Chen Che-nan to withdraw. Mayor Chen didn’t rely merely on his personal charisma or appeal to party loyalty, he cemented the withdrawal by promoting Chen Che-nan to secretary general of the Taipei city government. After the path to the nomination was cleared, Hsieh shocked everyone by beating Wu despite a double digit poll lead for the incumbent.

As mayor, Hsieh embarked on several new projects. The most famous of these included cleaning up Kaohsiung’s rivers, improving the city’s water quality, and building the MRT lines. He easily won re-election in 2002 and was promoted to Premier in February 2005. Chen Che-nan’s son, Chen Chi-mai 陳其邁 was appointed as Acting Mayor of Kaohsiung City and seemed primed to win a full term in 2006. (If you are counting, we are now up to five people named Chen. Isn’t anyone named Lee or Chang anymore?) Up to this point, the story is one of Chen and Hsieh sometimes competing, sometimes cooperating, and always as rivals. The New Tide faction hasn’t really entered into this particular story yet.

In August 2005, Thai laborers working on the MRT project rioted. This would eventually turn Kaohsiung politics upside down. The workers were protesting working conditions and low pay. Investigations showed that the workers were being severely underpaid. They were only being paid for some of the overtime hours they worked, and they were only actually being paid NT20000 a month when the government had budgeted NT29500. The story got dirtier and dirtier the deeper investigators probed. As former mayor, Premier Hsieh bore some responsibility for the corruption. However, he managed to avoid any legal charges and, for the most part, he also avoided taking political responsibility. A second person who might have born responsibility was the head of the Council of Labor Affairs, Chen Chu. Labor Affairs, after all, was the office in charge of managing foreign workers, and it should have overseen working conditions to ensure that the Thai workers were treated appropriately and paid on time. Chen Chu managed to avoid any connections with the corrupt aspects of the case, but she did resign her office. The responsibility for the corruption fell most squarely on Chen Shui-bian’s close advisor, Chen Che-nan. Chen Che-nan had been deeply involved with arranging several of the contracts. The smoking gun came when the TV news showed a video of him with one of the company executives at a casino at a resort in South Korea. Chen Che-nan was eventually convicted and went to jail, while his son, Chen Chi-mai, had to resign as Acting Mayor.

Let’s stop the Kaohsiung story here for a minute to jump up to national politics. During President Chen’s first term, he forged an alliance with the New Tide faction. Indeed, since most members of his own Justice faction were very junior, the New Tide faction was able to put many senior members in several key positions in the government. Chen Chu was one of the most prominent. While Labor Affairs is not a particularly powerful ministry, Chen Chu turned it into something of a training agency for New Tide politicians and the Labor Affairs bureaucracy was widely considered to be a major center of New Tide power. After President Chen’s re-election, New Tide started to distance itself from him. Several New Tide members resigned posts in the executive branch, and in the legislature New Tide ceased pushing Chen’s agenda. Chen Chu’s resignation from Labor Affairs was a key step in this process. President Chen did not insist that she stay in the cabinet, and many saw this as a clear sign that the Justice-New Tide coalition was decisively shattered. During 2005 and 2006, more and more stories of corruption in the Chen administration emerged, and New Tide moved into open warfare with the administration. Two New Tide legislators resigned their seats in 2006, calling for reflection and self-renewal. This did not sit well with the rest of the party. The Red Shirt protests and the attempts to impeach Chen led the rest of the party to close ranks in defense of his presidency. Increasingly, all the other factions saw New Tide as traitors and enemies. Eventually, Frank Hsieh would win the 2008 DPP presidential nomination by portraying Su Tseng-chang as an ally of New Tide and running against New Tide.

Returning to Kaohsiung, the next fight was over the 2006 mayoral nomination. Chen Chi-mai’s candidacy was fatally damaged by the MRT scandal. He was replaced as Acting Mayor by Yeh Chu-lan 葉菊蘭, a Hsieh ally. Hsieh had perhaps resigned himself to losing control of the city to the Justice faction as the cost of becoming Premier. Now, with Yeh in charge, he had a chance to retain the city within his own faction. Unfortunately for him, Yeh was only the second most popular candidate. Chen Chu was the leading candidate. A United Daily News poll published March 18 showed Chen Chu supported by 23%, Yeh Chu-lan 12, Chen Chi-mai 11%, and legislators Kuan Pi-ling 管碧玲, Tang Chin-chuan 湯金全, and Lin Chin-hsing 林進興 had 6%, 5% and 5%, respectively. (On the KMT side, Huang Chun-ying 黃俊英 had 12%, Huang Chao-shun 黃昭順 and Chen Hsueh-sheng 陳學聖 each had 9%, Chiu Yi 邱毅 had 7%, and Huang Chi-chuan 黃啟川 had 6%.) Knowing that she could not win a polling primary, Yeh refused to register for the DPP primary. Hsieh tried to maneuver to get the party to simply draft Yeh or to change the decision process to some other criteria, but Chen Chu refused to budge. She insisted that the process should proceed according to the established party rules. However, she did agree to restart the process to give Yeh another chance to register. When Yeh still refused to register, Kuan Pi-ling (Hsieh’s other stalking horse) dropped out and conceded the nomination to Chen Chu. To recap, Chen Chu managed to swoop in and take over the Kaohsiung City government, which both the Chen and Hsieh factions thought they had prior claims to. This occurred in a very acrimonious atmosphere, with Chen Chu’s New Tide faction locked in vicious party infighting with the other factions. All sides were deeply scarred by this experience.

Fast forward to today, nine years later. Chen Chu has been a very energetic and popular mayor, but now she is in her final term and the various sides are beginning to prepare for the fight to control the city after 2018. As she did at Labor Affairs, Chen Chu has used the city government to train a new generation of politicians, building up a powerful faction of people loyal to her. These are not exclusively New Tide members, but many are. As the end of her term nears, she will undoubtedly try to promote one of her protégés as her successor. However, the Hsieh faction is also plotting to take back the city, and they have the early front-runner in legislator Kuan Pi-ling. There is even a chance that Chen Chi-mai, who has re-emerged from obscurity as an ally of Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文, might be able to regain the mayor’s chair. At this point, it is all very early. The 2016 legislative elections are seen as a key opportunity to bolster each faction’s strength before the 2018 battle.

Hsieh fired the first shot, by mooting the possibility of contesting the Kaohsiung 3 seat. The Hsieh faction already has two legislators in Kaohsiung (Kuan and Chao Tien-lin 趙天麟), and the Chen Chu faction did not want to see it win a third. They immediately responded by recruiting former deputy mayor Liu Shih-fang 劉世芳 to contest the nomination in Kaohsiung 3 and simultaneously by shaming Hsieh for choosing to contest such an “easy” seat. Hsieh promptly withdrew.

This finally brings us to Kaohsiung 9. Until the last day of registration for the DPP nominations, this looked like a race between Chen Chih-chung and a city councilor from the Hsieh faction surnamed (what else?) Chen. At the last minute, Lai Jui-lung 賴瑞隆, who had worked in the city government as head of the Marine Bureau, also registered. The race was then suddenly catapulted into the national limelight when remarks by a New Tide faction leader, Hsu Chia-ching 徐佳青, surfaced accusing President Chen of taking millions of dollars from construction companies and asking what Chen Chih-chung had ever done that he should deserve a legislative seat. Then, after a couple of days of complaining about being wronged and seeming to be on the offensive, the Chen family suddenly surrendered, with Chen Chih-chung withdrawing from the race even though he claimed to be leading by 10 points, promising not to continue the Hsieh-Chen (Shiu-bian) conflict, and suggesting that Chen Hsin-yu 陳信瑜 should also withdraw.

In retrospect, it seems as though the hidden story might go like this. Chen Chu’s primary aim was to prevent the Hsieh faction from winning the nomination. If Chen Chih-chung could beat Chen Hsin-yu, that would be fine. However, it seems plausible that Chen Hsin-yu was actually leading. We don’t have any public media polls, but the key players all have private polls and they certainly knew how the race was shaping up. In order to block Chen Hsin-yu, Chen Chu sponsored her own candidate. She then had to persuade Chen Chih-chung to withdraw and endorse Lai. This was complicated by Hsu Chia-ching’s incendiary comments. Both Hsu and Chen Chu belong to the New Tide faction, so it is natural to assume that Hsu’s comments were made with the aim of advancing Chen Chu’s goals. In fact, the end result was that Chen Chih-chung withdrew and endorsed Chen Chu’s candidate. However, I don’t think that Hsu’s comments were a part of any master plan, and they probably impeded rather than aided Chen Chu. During President Chen’s second term, cracks began to appear in the previously rock-solid New Tide faction. Northern and southern wings of the faction began to emerge, with the northern wing more stridently opposed to President Chen and the southern wing being more pragmatic and more sympathetic to Chen. Hsu is from the northern wing, and her distaste for Chen Chih-chung is probably a lingering aftermath of a decade ago. I think her attacks were sincere rather than strategic, since (a) she had no expectations they would be made public and (b) they ruined her otherwise promising career. I don’t think her primary goal was to stop Hsieh or help Chen Chu. I think she was simply disgusted by Chen Shui-bian and Chen Chih-chung. Chen Chu, who represents the southern wing of New Tide, was trying to make an alliance with Chen Chih-chung, and these attacks potentially complicated that effort. However, she eventually persuaded Chen Chih-chung to withdraw. The rivalry with Hsieh was a smokescreen. Several media reports suggested that this appeal originated from Chen Chu’s camp, not Chen Chih-chung’s. In fact, there was considerable pressure on Chen Hsin-yu to withdraw, as many DPP supporters bought into the idea that the principal contestants should all withdraw in the interests of party unity and healing the scars opened up by Hsu Chia-ching’s accusations. I suspect that the real reason Chen Chih-chung withdrew is that he was trailing in the polls. If he had actually run and lost decisively, it might have been a devastating blow to his family. Clear evidence of weak public support combined with new accusations of corruption might be enough for the Ma government to revoke Chen Shui-bian’s medical parole. Chen Chih-chung was intent on framing his withdrawal to appear as if he was acting for the greater good. As he told it, he withdrew, even though he was leading and even though his family had been slandered, for the greater good of the party and to heal factional rifts. He even apologized to the previous DPP incumbent, Kuo Wen-cheng 郭玟成, for splitting the green camp vote in 2012. Even thought he has endorsed Lai, the Hsieh faction was probably also somewhat happy to see him withdraw. Assuming that Chen Hsin-yu was clearly in first place and Chen Chih-chung was clearly leading Lai, Chen Chih-chung’s withdrawal effectively left the seat wide open for Chen Hsin-yu. It is very hard to transfer support from one candidate to another, so Chen Chu’s gambit will almost certainly fail. Like Chen Chu in 2006 and most other leading candidates in countless other races, Chen Hsin-yu has insisted that the party has a standard nomination mechanism, and, rather than asking specific people to withdraw, they should simply respect the institutional rules. If Chen Shui-bian can’t win power, he at least needs goodwill. Pulling out made Chen Chu happy since he endorsed her candidate. It made Hsieh happy since it clears a path for his candidate. It made the New Tide faction happy since he stopped the counteroffensive against them and he stopped trying to put his son in the legislature. It made Tsai happy since the media won’t be able to talk about Chen Shui-bian every day for the next ten months. It made DPP supporters happy since it resolved a potentially nasty party conflict. Withdrawal was a smart option.

DPP nomination contests

March 10, 2015

Last week, the DPP published the list of aspirants for nominations in the 43 legislative districts.20150306180657_link I think it is time that I should write about this.

First, why 43? Aren’t there 73 district seats? Yes, but the DPP is only holding open nomination contests for 43 of them. The DPP only holds open nominations in districts in which it has a reasonable chance of winning. In “difficult” districts, the party chair is empowered to identify and nominate whoever she thinks has the best chance of winning. Difficult districts are defined as those in which the DPP legislative candidate got less than 42.5% in the previous election.

The DPP currently holds 26 of the 43 districts. 24 incumbents are running for re-election, and two are retiring. 19 of the incumbents are running unopposed, while five face primary challenges. 15 of the other 17 districts have more than one aspirant. Former Yunlin County magistrate Su Chih-fen 蘇治芬 is running unopposed for the Yunlin 1 nomination, and nobody registered for the Taoyuan 1 seat, though everyone seems to think that former legislator and current DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng 鄭運鵬 will be drafted.

The DPP’s 27th district legislator is Liu Chao-hao 劉櫂豪, from Taitung County. Since Liu won a three-way race in 2012 with only 41.6%, he represents a “difficult” district and does not have to face a primary. This is somewhat ironic. In early 2010, the DPP shocked everyone by winning several by-elections in deep blue territory. Taitung was one of these, with the DPP’s Lie Kun-cheng 賴坤成 narrowly edging a KMT candidate awash in corruption allegations. This was the first time the DPP had won anything in Taitung, so you might have expected they would go out of their way to protect this precious asset. Instead, Lie was forced to defend his hard-earned seat in a party primary, where he was challenged by and lost to Liu Chao-hao, the only other prominent DPP politician in the county. I don’t know if Lie was planning to try to regain his seat by challenging Liu in this year’s primary, but because Taitung is a “difficult” district, he doesn’t have a chance. He has to be wondering why that rule couldn’t have been put in place four years earlier.

I’m going to look at a few of the more interesting nomination contests, but let’s first consider a basic bit of electoral math. There are 73 district seats, 6 Aboriginal seats, and 34 party list seats. If the DPP wants to win a majority, it will probably need to win 40 district seats. This seems a more reachable goal than winning an Aboriginal seat or winning an 18th party list seat. So how hard would it be for the DPP to win 40 district seats?

The DPP’s presidential vote share is a good indicator of how difficult a given district is before adding in all the local considerations. We can rank the 73 districts from Tsai Ing-wen’s highest vote share to her lowest vote share. The green bars are seats the DPP won in 2012, while the pink bars are seats the blue camp won. In the first 25 districts, Tsai broke 50%, and the DPP generally won these districts. In the 26th through 40th districts, Tsai got between 45 and 49%. These districts were the battleground, with the DPP and KMT roughly splitting them. In the 41st through 73rd districts, Tsai got below 45%, and the DPP lost all of them except for Taitung, where the KMT’s vote was split.

73 ly dists by 2012 tsai

There are a few things to note about this. First, the KMT did relatively well in the DPP’s territory and in the battlegrounds, but they had two big advantages. For one thing, most of the races featured a KMT incumbent. For another, in almost all of those battleground districts, Ma actually outpolled Tsai. That is, the DPP managed to win a hefty share of seats in districts in which they had to challenge an entrenched incumbent and they had to make up a small deficit in party votes. Second, most every expects Tsai to do better in 2016 than in 2012. That will put many of those 2012 battleground districts firmly into the DPP majority column in 2016. Third, it might sound demanding to expect the DPP to win 40 out of 73 districts, but they actually won their 40th best district in 2012. That district was Taichung 6, which was won by Lin Chia-lung 林佳龍 (and retained easily by Huang Kuo-shu 黃國書 in the by-election last month). Taichung 6 might not still be the DPP’s 40th best district, but neither is it expected to be much of a challenge for the DPP to retain. The point is, the DPP had a reasonable chance at a majority in 2012, and they will have an even better chance in 2016. Let’s imagine that Tsai’s vote share goes up by 5%. It wouldn’t go up by exactly 5% in each district, but the increase probably wouldn’t vary too much. For our purposes, it’s probably not too crude to imagine a uniform 5% increase everywhere. That would give the DPP’s presidential candidate a majority in the top 40 districts and would put districts 41-53 into that 45-49% range where the DPP would have a chance to steal a few more seats. Of course, the DPP almost certainly wouldn’t sweep the top 40 seats. There are some KMT incumbents who will be able to hold out against the tide. However, this math is starting to look more daunting to the blue side than to the green side.

That’s all well and good, but the candidates matter, too. Let’s look at a few of the more interesting districts.

New Taipei 6 (the northeast half of Banqiao) will be one of the most interesting districts in the general election. It is currently held by Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池, who was the KMT’s party whip during the September struggles and the Sunflower Movement. When Ma couldn’t remove Speaker Wang from the legislature, he tried to route everything through the party caucus. Lin was thus a key cog in Ma’s struggle to hollow out Wang’s position. I’m not sure how Lin felt about being caught up in this power struggle, but he always played the loyal soldier. Now he has to face the electoral consequences. In 2012, the DPP nominated a relatively weak candidate, and Lin’s deep local connections produced a fairly easy re-election. However, his district is by no means deep blue territory. Tsai got 47.1% here, making it the DPP’s 32nd best district. Lin won’t go down easily, but this district could be a major trophy for the DPP.

Ambitious DPP politicians can apparently sense this district’s vulnerability. Four solid aspirants have thrown their hats into the ring. Chuang Shuo-han 莊碩漢 is a former legislator who acquitted himself well during his tenure in office. Yu Mei-mei 余莓莓 is a well-known talk show host. You Ping-tao 游秉陶 hasn’t done anything (that I know of), but he has an influential father. His dad is Yu Hsi-kun 游錫堃, the former Premier who just came within a few thousand votes of defeating Eric Chu 朱立倫. The strongest candidate might actually be the least nationally-known one. Chang Hung-lu 張宏陸 is a city councilor, and he is also one of Su Tseng-chang’s 蘇貞昌 most trusted lieutenants. Unlike Yu and You, Chang has been working the district for a decade. Chuang has local ties dating back at least to the early Chen Shui-bian era, but I’m not sure how intensively he has been maintaining those ties. The national media focus is on the former premier’s son, but I have doubts he will be able to survive this heavyweight primary.

Right next door in New Taipei 5 (Shulin), another high-profile second generation aspirant looks to enter the legislature. Former premier Su Tseng-chang’s daughter, Su Chiao-hui 蘇巧慧, is running against former city council member Ou Chin-shih 歐金獅 and Liao Yi-kun 廖宜琨, the son of former legislator Liao Pen-yen 廖本煙. The younger Su is a lawyer who is most famous for overseeing the DPP’s legal team in the 2004 presidential election recount. She has also been running her father’s foundation for a few years. Su has chosen an excellent district to contest. One of her opponents lost his re-election bid last year, while the other is the son of the candidate who lost the legislative races in 2008 and 2012. The Liao family will have a hard time arguing they deserve a third chance. This district is also perhaps the DPP’s best target for a pickup in New Taipei City. Tsai got 47.4%, making it the DPP’s 29th best district. The KMT incumbent is Huang Chih-hsiung 黃志雄, who was a famous athlete in karate. He hasn’t done very much in office, though. This district is extremely vulnerable.

Su Tseng-chang has strong representatives in New Taipei 5 and 6. He also has a close ally in New Taipei 4 (Xinzhuang). Wu Ping-jui 吳秉叡 and Chang Hung-lu might be his two closest lieutenants, and Su Chiao-hui is his daughter. These are also all winnable districts. Su could be very busy campaigning in New Taipei in the fall, and he could have a strong delegation in the next legislature.

The third prominent second-generation candidate is in Kaohsiung. Former President Chen’s son ran as an independent in Kaohsiung 9 four years ago and split the green vote, throwing this deep green district to the KMT. This year, he is trying to win the district by first winning the DPP nomination. This nomination contest will probably be a referendum on how people feel about the president and his son, with the other two candidates merely being not-Chen. Until today’s breaking news, I assumed that Chen Chih-chung 陳致中 would easily win the nomination and the seat. The DPP cannot afford to mess up this district again.

All five nominations in Tainan are being contested. It’s not surprising to see intense competition over the two seats with retiring incumbents. In 2012, Wang Ting-yu王定宇defeated a five-term incumbent in the District 5 primary and set off an intense struggle for the nomination that was only resolved by giving the seat to a geriatric Mark Chen 陳唐山 for a term. Chen is now retiring, so Wang is trying to get take the seat he thinks he should have won four years ago. I don’t know anything about the city councilor opposing him, but I wonder if they are continuing the same feud. In District 4, a former DPP spokesman, Lin Chun-hsien林俊憲, is facing off against a former chair of the city DPP party branch, Tsai Wang-chuan蔡旺詮, and a couple other people. Wang, Lin, and Tsai could all be future party stars. What’s more surprising is that all three incumbents are being challenged. I think two things might be going on. First, the local DPP is in a bit of a crisis because of the city council speaker scandal. Several DPP councilors were implicated, and there is now a pretty vicious fight between the various factions. It’s probably oversimplifying, but the New Tide faction led by Mayor Lai 賴清德 is struggling for supremacy with the faction loyal to former President Chen. This leads to the second factor. The various sides are starting the fight to see who will take over Tainan in 2018 (or maybe 2016 if Lai becomes VP). The three incumbent legislators are the most likely to be the next mayor, so some of these challenges might be attempts to remove them before that fight. As long as the DPP can manage to settle the fights before next January, these should all be easy victories.

Staying in the south, Kaohsiung 3 (Nanzi, Zuoying) is held by KMT stalwart Huang Chao-shun 黃昭順. Huang had always been considered to hold a safe seat. Zuoying has a large military population, and most people thought that and Huang’s two decades of local connections were too much of an advantage for the DPP to overcome. Four years ago, many people were quite surprised that DPP city councilor Lin Ying-jung林瑩蓉came within 6,000 votes of upsetting Huang. Tsai won 46.6%, making it the DPP’s 34th best district. This year, when ambitious DPP politicians looked around for a good district to try to attack, several focused on this district. Former Premier Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 declared he would run in a difficult district (which would springboard him to the Speaker’s chair), and he seemed quite surprised to find that the rest of the world had also figured out that Kaohsiung 3 was not so impossible. He was promptly shamed into targeting a more difficult district (perhaps Taipei 1). Meanwhile, back in Kaohsiung 3, Lin Ying-jung is trying to win a second opportunity. She probably deserves it, but she is not getting a free pass. She is being challenged by Liu Shih-fang劉世芳, a former Kaohsiung City Deputy Mayor and a New Tide faction leader. It will be interesting to see if the local politician or the one with a national profile comes out ahead.

You have probably noticed the term “city councilor” popping up repeatedly. This is not an accident. In most of these open seats, the DPP nomination is being contested by one or several city or county councilors. A generation ago, the DPP didn’t have these sorts of grassroots politicians ready to move up the ladder. After two decades of inroads into local politics, the DPP is no longer at a clear disadvantage. They can field candidates with strong local connections almost as easily as the KMT. I can’t tell you much about any of the people who registered for DPP nominations in central Taiwan, but they are almost all local office holders.

Finally, let me mention three districts that are officially “difficult.” The DPP failed to get 42.5% in the legislative races in 2012 in Taichung 3 (Tanzi), Taichung 8 (Fengyuan), and Changhua 1 (Lugang), but that reflected weak legislative candidates rather than general party unpopularity. Tsai got 47% in all three, making them the 28th, 30th, and 31st ranked districts. These are districts that the DPP should consider as winnable rather than as difficult and unlikely.


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