Archive for March, 2010

Important news

March 31, 2010

This just in.  Christmas Election Day will be on November 27.  I’m so giddy I probably won’t be able to sleep.  Only 241 more days!

odds and ends

March 30, 2010

A few unrelated thoughts.

Premier Wu Dunyi 吳敦義 seems to have settled into his job.  During his first couple of months with American beef and the like, it seemed to me that he wouldn’t last a full year.  The last two or three months, though, he seems much more in command.  I’m moving him from zombie status (effectively dead but still stumbling around) up to vampire status (he has arisen from his coffin, dressed up nicely, and has an outside shot at seducing the beautiful electorate).  (Maybe I should lay off the analogies.)

I watched an hourlong one on one interview with Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 on TV last night.  I came away with the impression of Yang as a sincere, hardworking, and simple guy who knows everything about agriculture and not much about anything else.  All he could talk about was farmers, farming, growing up on a farm, marketing farm produce, and how ECFA would be bad for farmers.  Fine, but aren’t there a few people in Greater Kaohsiung who are not farmers?  (It reminded me of Bob Kerry running for the Democratic nomination for president in 1992: his answer to every question, from nuclear arsenals to education policy to tax reform was health care, health care, health care.)  The other thing that struck me about the interview was the three minutes in which he talked about how intense the primary campaign has been.  He downplayed it completely, saying he didn’t think it was that bad at all, that he was just providing information to the party central office about all those abuses, and that he and Chen Ju 陳菊 would certainly cooperate to support the winner.  There must have been a serious backlash against his earlier tactics.  Also, Cai Yingwen’s 蔡英文 gambit — telling him to cool it — has paid off.  I think he is changing courses because the strident strategy didn’t work, but she will get some credit for refereeing and keeping the competition under control.

Liu Quanzhong 劉銓忠 has announced he is running for Taichung mayor.  Liu is a legislator with decades of political experience, the younger brother of former legislative speaker Liu Songfan 劉松藩, and, most importantly, one of the most senior leaders in the Taichung County Red Faction.  This means that both the Red and Black factions have someone contesting the nomination.  It is still nearly unthinkable that anyone other than Jason Hu 胡志強 is going to win the nomination, so why are they fighting an unwinnable fight?  I think I have overlooked how becoming a direct municipality is going to affect local factions.  Control of budgets is the lifeblood of local factions.  Currently, they prosper when they control the county executive, and they build grassroots strength by winning township mayors, agricultural and irrigation cooperatives, and county assembly seats.  The two biggest pillars, county executives and township mayors, will be disappearing after this year.  Of course, if they could win the Greater Taichung mayorship with its enormous budget, all would be peachy.  So even though the odds are slim, there is probably tremendous grassroots pressure to try.  From that angle, Ma would be foolish to give in.  He has a chance to end the Faustian bargain with Taichung local factions.  There might be a cost in votes in 2012, but he will never have a better chance to deal the local factions a fatal blow.

disciplining Luo

March 28, 2010

One of the big stories in today’s news is that the KMT is making noise about disciplining one of its party list legislators.

The legislator in question is Luo Shulei 羅淑蕾, a former PFP member.  Luo is a nightly presence on the evening talk shows, and is famous for her eagerness to criticize the KMT leadership.  She is often more critical than DPP politicians, and she is quite good at saying things in a quotable way.  For example, when KMT secretary general Jin Pucong 金溥聰hired a new person who resigned within days due to ethical problems, Luo said that Jin thought he had dug up a treasure, but instead he dug up a pile of shit.  For the last two years, Luo has been spewing out a nearly constant stream of these types of statements.

As you might imagine, there has been quite a bit of grumbling from other KMT members.  Luo is, after all, a party list legislator.  Perhaps the dominant vision of what a party legislator should do is to exclusively pursue party goals.  That is, party list legislators should push forward the party bills in the legislature and they should defend the party line in public.  Since their seat is given to them by the party, they do not have a mandate of their own.  This is quite different from list legislators, who after all are elected by the voters in their districts.  If they disagree with the party, they can reasonably claim to be listening to their voters.  Moreover, parties have the ultimate disciplinary tool for list legislators.  If a list legislator loses her party membership, she also loses her seat in the legislature.  (Parties cannot strip district legislators cannot be stripped of their seats.)  So there have been calls for nearly all of the last two years for the KMT to force Luo to shut up or take her seat away, but they have not been seriously pursued.  That might be changing now.

Jin Pucong is suggesting that there is enormous grassroots pressure on him to do something about Luo.  He hasn’t said anything about disciplining her yet, but he said that he might invite her to go with him to meet some grassroots supporters, since party list legislators don’t know anything about how actual elections work (nice condescending touch!).  The message is unmistakable: shut up or else.

What I like about this story is that it conforms almost exactly to how political scientists think about party discipline.  In the British and American systems, the person in charge of enforcing party discipline is called the “whip.”  This conjures up an image of a tyrant forcing the rank-and-file to do his bidding, regardless of what they want.  That is not how party discipline works.  Parties are only disciplined to the extent that the large numbers of members (the rank-and-file) want to impose collective discipline on themselves.  They simply empower a leader to enforce that collective discipline (that they want).

In this case, most KMT members have been very unhappy about Luo’s actions.  However, the leadership has failed them.  President Ma ran a very loose ship for the first two years, allowing individual members to do or say pretty much anything with no fear of consequences.  When Ma brought Jin back into power three months ago, it was significant because Ma gave Jin the power to sanction bad behavior (as defined by the great majority of KMT members).  After a lousy two years, Ma is finally starting to understand the logic of democratic politics.

There was a counter-example in one of the stories that illustrates this perfectly.   During last year’s furor over American beef, KMT legislator Huang Yijiao 黃義交 took the lead in criticizing the government’s policy, writing a bill that would undercut the deal negotiated with the USA, and pushing that bill through the legislature.  No one wanted to discipline Huang Yijiao for this.  His actions had quite a lot of support both from KMT voters and other KMT legislators.  He was opposing the cabinet, but he was not clearly acting against the entire party and its interests, as defined by the overwhelming majority of the rank-and-file.  In this case, there was no clear KMT position; different KMT members had different ideas.  Enforcing discipline would have been very difficult and very controversial.

slicing the cake

March 27, 2010

Three days ago, in response to an interpolation question in the legislature, the Ministry of Finance announced estimates for next year’s allocation of centrally-funded tax revenues 中央統籌分配稅款 to local governments.  This is a huge pool of money; it accounts for somewhere between 20% and 25% of all local government revenues.  The formula for dividing the money is quite opaque, contentious, and clearly politically influenced.  This year’s allocation is more interesting than normal since several local governments are being upgraded to the status of direct municipality, and direct municipalities are accorded preferential treatment in the formula.  So my question is this: how much is it worth to become a direct municipality?

The figures in the media reports were splotchy and incomplete, and I wanted to know about how much everyone, not just the direct municipalities will get, so I started trying to track down figures from various government sources.  Here’s where everything bogged down.  None of the figures quite match up with the figures announced in the last few days.  The media’s numbers (which came from the Minister of Finance) are quite a bit bigger than the numbers from the Ministry of Finance website.  In fact, they don’t even list this pool as a separated category in the various tables of local government revenues, so I’m not sure if it counts as a subsidy or as tax revenues.  I have no doubt that all these numbers are right, in some way or another; I just can’t quite put them together.

I also can’t quite figure out the formula for allocating funds.  I found the law, in both Chinese and English versions, but it would take me somewhat longer than a few hours to figure out what exactly all those terms mean.  The main ingredients to the pool are portions of the income tax, the (business) operating tax, the commodities tax, and the land value increment tax.  In 2008, the predicted structure was as follows (I give the estimates rather than the actual figures because the world economy collapsed in 2008, and I think the predicted structure is probably a better window on the “normal” structure of the pool):

Billion NT
Income tax 82.3
Commodities tax 14.3
Operating tax 106.9
Land value increment tax 5.3
Total 208.8
Source: MOF website

(The exchange rate is roughly 32:1, so NT 208.8 billion is roughly USD 6.5 billion.)  The formula for allocating funds to individual local governments is very hard to decipher.  The main ingredients are the level of the government, population, the amount of tax collected in that area, land area, outlays for national health insurance, eye of newt, tail of lizard, and paprika.  So my version is going to be a bit wrong.  In other words, I’m not going to be able to answer the big question definitively.  But this is still informative.

Let’s look at numbers downloaded from the Ministry of Finance first.  They have data for 2005-2009, but for simplicity, I’m just presenting 2007 and 2008, since the only big change during that five year period occurred then.  In 2008, Taipei County was upgraded to the status of quasi direct municipality.  I don’t know exactly what this means.  I guess that Taipei County was classified as a direct municipality for at least some of the calculations, but, since they will have another huge leap in 2010, perhaps they weren’t accorded all the privileges of direct municipalities in 2008.

total total Tax pool Tax pool
population revenues revenues Allocation Allocation
2008 2007 2008 2007 2008
Billion NT Billion NT Billion NT Billion NT
Total 23037031 841.4 897.1 193.2 196.2
Taipei City 2622923 161.8 151.5 60.8 41.9
Kaohsiung City 1525642 64.2 59.4 22.9 12.4
Taipei County 3833730 73.2 91.1 10.4 32.7
Ilan County 460902 14.4 16.7 2.6 2.9
Taoyuan County 1958686 36.9 44.9 5.5 6.2
Hsinchu County 503273 16.1 17.9 2.7 3.1
Miaoli County 560397 16.5 21.0 3.3 3.5
Taichung County 1557944 33.8 40.9 6.4 7.2
Changhua County 1312935 29.0 29.5 6.3 6.9
Nantou County 531753 21.6 22.0 3.8 4.3
Yunlin County 723674 21.7 23.4 4.6 5.1
Chiayi County 548731 20.7 23.1 3.9 4.2
Tainan County 1104552 29.1 30.4 5.2 5.9
Kaohsiung County 1243412 30.7 31.0 5.5 6.4
Pingdong County 884838 25.7 31.1 5.4 5.9
Taidong County 231849 10.7 11.9 2.7 3.0
Hualian County 341433 14.8 15.3 3.0 3.3
Penghu County 93308 6.8 7.3 1.5 1.6
Jilong City 388979 14.1 14.2 2.7 3.0
Hsinchu City 405371 13.9 14.5 2.0 2.5
Taichung City 1066128 32.2 34.2 3.0 3.3
Chiayi City 273793 8.8 10.2 1.5 1.7
Tainan City 768453 20.3 23.3 3.0 3.3
Jinmen County 84570 9.2 10.2 1.1 1.2
Lianjiang County 9755 2.6 2.4 .3 .3
All townships 15985742 112.7 119.7 23.3 24.3

Townships are the level below county and city.  Only counties have townships.  (Cities have districts.  Districts do not have independent local governments and do not get any money from this pool.)  So if you live in a county, both your county and township government get a slice of the cake.  However, the township slice is noticeably smaller.  (There are 319 townships varying in size from less than 1,000 to more than 500,000 people.)

I purposely separated out Taipei City, Kaohsiung City, and Taipei County on this table.  The former two are direct municipalities, and Taipei County was made a quasi-direct municipality for the purpose of tax pool allocation in 2008.  Note how much bigger Taipei City’s budget is than everyone else’s.  The Taipei City government is much, much richer than any other local government.  In 2007, its total revenues (161.8) were more than double those of Taipei County (73.2), even though Taipei County’s population is significantly larger.  (This is not exactly a fair comparison, since the Taipei City government has more responsibilities than the Taipei County government.  Even so, the disparity is stunning.)   Kaohsiung City also did quite well in 2007.  Its total revenues (64.2) were quite a bit higher than either Taoyuan County’s (36.9) or Taichung County’s (33.8), even though both have larger populations.

When you look at the allocation of the tax pool, the advantages of direct municipalities are even more stunning.  In 2007, Taipei City (60.8) got six times as much money as Taipei County (10.4).  Kaohsiung City (22.9) got about four times as much as Taoyuan County (5.5) or Taichung County (6.4).

In 2008, the new system eroded some, but not all, of the advantages for the two direct municipalities.  Taipei County more than tripled the amount it got from the tax pool (10.2 in 2007, 32.7 in 2008).  This was still less than Taipei City’s 41.9, but the gap was much smaller.  Note the commensurate changes in the governments’ total revenues.

Another way to look at this system is to look at per capita distributions.  This is the same table, but with per capita figures.

total total Tax pool Tax pool
population revenues revenues Allocation Allocation
Per capita Per capita Per capita Per capita
2008 2007 2008 2007 2008
Total 23037031 36523 38943 8387 8516
Taipei City 2622923 61685 57756 23181 15986
Kaohsiung City 1525642 42056 38952 14981 8117
Taipei County 3833730 19094 23752 2707 8539
Ilan County 460902 31165 36238 5652 6278
Taoyuan County 1958686 18844 22945 2784 3189
Hsinchu County 503273 31944 35509 5408 6191
Miaoli County 560397 29496 37417 5869 6314
Taichung County 1557944 21667 26234 4081 4596
Changhua County 1312935 22086 22485 4826 5240
Nantou County 531753 40617 41292 7060 8024
Yunlin County 723674 30026 32355 6288 7096
Chiayi County 548731 37669 42175 7081 7669
Tainan County 1104552 26307 27536 4735 5326
Kaohsiung County 1243412 24676 24923 4432 5132
Pingdong County 884838 29063 35108 6080 6717
Taidong County 231849 46201 51524 11451 12877
Hualian County 341433 43268 44845 8899 9772
Penghu County 93308 72682 78049 15799 17337
Jilong City 388979 36253 36430 7061 7689
Hsinchu City 405371 34372 35857 4912 6068
Taichung City 1066128 30163 32037 2846 3127
Chiayi City 273793 32152 37318 5596 6205
Tainan City 768453 26438 30351 3854 4236
Jinmen County 84570 109285 120920 12590 14387
Lianjiang County 9755 267657 248484 26573 30310
All townships 15985742 7050 7488 1460 1520

If you ignore the direct municipalities, the system is basically progressive.  The more populous, more urban governments get a lot less money per person than the more rural, less prosperous, and more sparsely populated governments.  So Taichung City only got 2846 NT per person in 2007, while Taidong County got 11451 per person.  The three highest numbers belong to the offshore islands: Penghu, Jinmen, and Lianjiang.  This is reinforced by the fact that Taichung City, as a city, does not get any of the money for townships, while people in Taidong County, for example, got 11451 per person for the county government plus their cut (which was presumably higher than the average of 1460 per person) of the funds for township governments.

Of course, you can’t ignore the direct municipalities.  When you look at a per capita basis, the unfairness of the old system glares at you.  Taipei City, the richest area in Taiwan, got nearly as much per person as Lianjiang County in 2007, the poorest, smallest, and most remote place in Taiwan (or not in Taiwan, as the case may be).   Even after the reform in 2008, Taipei City (15986) still got five times as much per capita as Taichung City (3127).

Ok, what about the jump between 2009 and 2010?

Population (2008) 2009 allocation 2009

per capita

2010 allocation 2010

per capita

Billion NT NT Billion NT NT
total 23037031 360.2 15636 458.4 19898
Taipei 2622923 56.3 21465 58.4 22265
Xinbei 3833730 34.2 8921 60.3 15729
Taichung 2624072 25.8 9832 35.6 13567
Tainan 1873005 24.6 13134 33.0 17619
Kaoshiung 2769054 40.1 14481 54.4 19646
all others 9314247 179.2 19239 216.7 23265

Keep in mind that the figures reported in the media do not match with the ones listed above (360.2 billion is much larger than the 196.2 billion listed above for total spending, and 2008 and 2009 were almost identical), so I’m missing something in their accounting.  However, the relative sizes still match.

Note that the whole pool is growing by roughly 20%.  I’m not sure if the MOF is putting more of the same sources into the pot, or if it is putting revenues from new sources into the pot.  At any rate, the pot is bigger, and the MOF promised that no one would see their allocation decrease next year.  Overall, this table looks a lot less unfair than the previous ones.  In 2009, Taipei City’s per capita allocation was only about 40%, not double) more than the national average.  Taipei County’s per capita allocation is about half the national average, whereas above it was roughly equal to the national average.  So maybe I’ve been overstating things.

The big headline over the past few days is that Xinbei City’s allocation will nearly double in 2010, and it will surpass Taipei City’s.  The other theme has been politicians from Taichung and Tainan complaining that they are not getting their fair share.  In fact, Tainan and Kaohsiung seem to do ok in this system.  Taichung is the city that should complain.  Taipei City is still a winner, though not by nearly as much.  Even though it has roughly the same population as Taichung and Kaohsiung and a lot less land area than either, it will still get more money than either of those two cities.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this table is the last line.  All those other counties that didn’t get upgraded to direct municipality look like they will take a fairly big cut of the money.  Perhaps the new formula has taken away the advantage that direct municipalities used to have.  I really want to see what Taoyuan County gets in the new system, since it is the most similar county to the new direct municipalities.  I would bet that Taoyuan will get somewhat less per capita than either Xinbei or Taichung, though the gap can’t be too great.

Even though I can’t reconcile the two data sources, it is clear to me that the system has become much more equitable over the past five years.  It is no longer clear that direct municipalities get a grossly unfair cut of the cake.

KMT nomination procedure for Kaohsiung

March 19, 2010

KMT secretary general Jin Pucong 金溥聰 went to Kaohsiung yesterday, met with various influential people and potential candidates, and announced how the KMT would conduct its nomination process.  The KMT will use a two round telephone survey procedure.  In the first round, they will do one survey in Kaohsiung City to find the strongest candidate among politicians hailing from the city.  They will do another survey for Kaohsiung County politicians.  In the second round, they will pit the two winners against each other.  However, they expressly reserved the right to throw the whole thing out and draft someone else if the eventual winner trails the DPP candidates by too much in the polls.  They expect to have a nominee by April 19.

The candidates in Kaohsiung County will be legislators Lin Yishi 林益世, Zhong Shaohe 鍾紹和, Jiang Lingjun 江玲君, and vice-speaker Lu Shumei 陸淑美.  The candidates in Kaohsiung City will include legislators Hou Caifeng 侯彩鳳, Qiu Yi 邱毅, Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順, former head of the Taipei City Bureau of Labor Affairs Su Yinggui 蘇盈貴, deputy secretary general of the presidential office Lai Fengwei 賴峰偉, and possibly speaker Zhuang Qiwang 莊啟旺.

Well, I guess this is a creative way to sift through the candidates.  I don’t know that it is reasonable in any sort of rational expectations logic to have separate contests for the county and city, but if it is acceptable to the participants, I suppose that is what matters.

Now, it just so happens that TVBS conducted a poll on this race just last week.  They pit both Chen Ju 陳菊 and Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 against a litany of possible KMT opponents.  I reproduce the results below.

陳菊  Chen Ju vs. 楊秋興Yang Qiuxing vs.
. .
Chen KMT Yang KMT
胡志強 Jason Hu 46 37 胡志強 Jason Hu 43 38
吳敦義 Wu Dunyi 55 34 吳敦義 Wu Dunyi 52 35
王金平 Wang Jinping 55 26 王金平 Wang Jinping 52 25
黃昭順 Huang Zhaoshun 58 28 黃昭順 Huang Zhaoshun 54 30
吳伯雄 Wu Boxiong 56 25 吳伯雄 Wu Boxiong 54 25
黃俊英 Huang Junying 60 26 黃俊英 Huang Junying 56 27
邱毅     Qiu Yi 62 26 邱毅     Qiu Yi 62 24
賴峰偉 Lai Fengwei 67 18 賴峰偉 Lai Fengwei 63 18
盛治仁 Sheng Zhiren 68 17 盛治仁 Sheng Zhiren 64 17
莊啟旺 Zhuang Qiwang 68 16 莊啟旺 Zhuang Qiwang 65 16

You will probably notice a few things.  First, no matter who the KMT and DPP nominees are, the DPP always wins.  Second, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Chen Ju and Yang Qiuxing (which is probably one reason the DPP side of this race is so intense – it might be closer than I realize).  Third, the top three KMT candidates in this poll aren’t going to be running in the race.  The best candidate (Huang Zhaoshun) on this list and also in Jin Pucong’s list of people to be included in the KMT’s primary loses by 25-30 points.  No wonder the KMT is so pessimistic about this race.

Methodologically, I am fascinated by the lack of difference between Chen and Yang, and also the consistency in the KMT rankings.  On the one hand, I can imagine the bored interviewee being asked about pairing after pairing (“Chen Ju vs a banana peel?  Chen Ju.  Chen Ju vs Buddha? Chen Ju.  Chen Ju vs. Hitler? Chen Ju.  Wait, did you just say banana peel??”)[1] So part of me is not surprised that “the DPP person” had similar results whether it was Chen or Yang.  Yet, somehow the aggregate numbers produce a ranking among the KMT candidates that strikes me as entirely reasonable.

Anyway, one thing that this poll does tell me is that we can probably rule out the dark horse candidates, like Lai Fengwei and Su Yinggui.  If you haven’t ever proven an ability to get votes before, this isn’t the place for you.  The likely finalists are the legislators (as usual): Huang Zhaoshun, and perhaps Qiu Yi in Kaohsiung City, and Lin Yishi and Zhong Shaohe in Kaohsiung County.

[1] I once got a free sandwich from Subway.  The only catch was that I had to complete their interview afterwards.  First, how about the bread? On a scale of one to five, how was your overall satisfaction with the bread?  On a scale of one to five, how was your satisfaction with the taste of the bread? On a scale of one to five, how was your satisfaction with the texture of the bread? On a scale of one to five, how was your satisfaction with the freshness of the bread? On a scale of one to five, how was your satisfaction with the quantity of the bread?  Second, how about the meat?  How was your overall satisfaction with the meat?  How was your satisfaction with the taste of the meat? How was your satisfaction with the texture of the meat? How was your satisfaction with the freshness of the meat? How was your satisfaction with the quantity of the meat? Third, how about the vegetables? …  Fourth, how about the condiments? … Fifth, how about the cheese? …  Sixth, how about the overall sandwich? …  I think I started answering “3” to everything about four or five questions in.

UDN Poll: Ma is doomed!

March 19, 2010

This headline was inspired by a headline in the pro-Royalist Bangkok Post: “Anti-Government Protests Turn Bloody.”  (For comparison, the New York Times headline was something like, “protesters dump blood”.)  Since this is a blog about Taiwanese politics, and not Thai politics (and my mother sometimes mixes them up), I’ll stop the (morbidly fascinating) Thai tangent now.

So President Ma is not necessarily doomed, but he did get a bit of bad news.  The United Daily News published a poll on its front page showing that, if the election were held tomorrow, he would lose to Su 38-29, and he would tie with Cai, 33-33.  Let’s not pretend this is any kind of prediction about what will actually happen exactly two years from now.  (If this were an election year, election day would be tomorrow.  By the way, today is the sixth anniversary of 3-19, the assassination attempt against Chen Shuibian, or, if you prefer, the faked assassination staged by Chen.)  A TVBS poll published today found nearly the same amount of dissatisfaction with Ma, but instead of asking how voters intend to vote in the next election, they asked how they would vote in the 2008 election if they could do it over today.  Ma beat Hsieh by 41-31 in that item.

The significance of this poll is that provides more dramatic evidence of how far President Ma has fallen in his two years.  Just over 50% of people who said they voted for Ma in 2008 say they will vote for him again; over 20% expressed support for Su.  Ma satisfaction ratings have fallen to a new low of 27%, while 53% are dissatisfied.  (The TVBS poll released today had these numbers at 27% and 51%, respectively.)  Among blue identifiers, 36% are dissatisfied.  Moreover, they are dissatisfied for a whole host of reasons, such as China policy, economic performance, failure to implement reform, failure to carry out campaign promises, rising health care premiums, and so on.  There is no easy fix when there are so many different problems.

Yesterday at the KMT central standing committee meeting, Chairman Ma expressed his determination to carry out real reform, even if it cost him votes and popularity.  (He was referring primarily to health care, and secondarily to black-gold politics, bureaucratic reform, ECFA, and so forth.)  One wonders if Ma will follow Chen’s path.  After accomplishing very little with a moderate approach to China in the first two years of office, Chen’s administration took a sharp turn toward national identity issues in the second two years.  Ma might likewise opt for a radically different policy agenda in the next two years.

The other significant thing about the UDN poll is its impact on the DPP side.  Su is still the most popular candidate, but he is not the only viable presidential candidate.  Cai is in the same league.

Nastiness in Kaohsiung

March 16, 2010

The DPP primary for Kaohsiung City Mayor has turned nasty.  Kaohsiung County executive Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興, who everyone thinks is trailing by a significant margin, has launched a barrage of attacks on Chen Ju 陳菊.  The main thrust of these attacks is that Chen has been using her control of the Kaohsiung City government to keep tabs on Yang’s campaign and supporters and to subject his supporters to various sorts of pressure.  For example, Yang accused Chen of sending a policeman to a year-end banquet held by one of his supporters and reporting who showed up, how long they stayed, and whether they spoke.  In another case, Yang claimed that after he visited a temple and obtained their support, the Kaohsiung City government sent an inspector who found that the temple was in violation of various laws.  These are precisely the kinds of tactics the KMT used to use against the opposition during the authoritarian era, so DPP supporters are quite sensitive to these charges.

Chen, of course, denies all these charges.  She has answered them with a classic appeal to trust, “You know me, you know my history, and you know that I wouldn’t do those types of things.”  Chen, of course, has a long history in the democracy movement dating to the 1970s, and she spent several years in prison for this.  One would not expect to see her engaging in these types of dirty tricks.  On the other hand, her campaign has also said that she is governing according to the law, which is exactly what she would say if the charges were true.  (No one doubts that temples violate zoning laws and so forth.  If city officials were to suddenly enforce all the laws on the books, they would have quite a bit of business.  However, many laws are simply ignored.  The charge is that Chen is selectively enforcing laws based on who supports Yang.)

I don’t know what is actually happening, and I am trying hard to resist my initial instincts to assume that Chen is innocent.  After all, I have a professional obligation to consider the possibility that Yang might be telling the truth.

As I see it, there are three possibilities.  First, Chen might be doing exactly all the nasty things that Yang is accusing her of.  This seems unlikely.  The only way it would make sense is if Chen’s campaign is far more paranoid than us outsiders realize.  They would also have to have far different beliefs about how close this race is than everyone else, since everyone else thinks that Chen is winning comfortably and has no need to resort to dirty tricks.  (Of course, having an easy race didn’t stop Richard Nixon.)  I think this scenario is highly unlikely (but not impossible).  Second, Yang could be deliberately making everything up.  Yang is losing and needs to do something to dramatically change the race.  Going negative might be his only chance.  What would discredit Chen more in the eyes of DPP supporters than a story about how she uses secret police state tactics?  Moreover, Yang has a clean and honest reputation, so coming from him, the message has some believability.  My judgment: still unlikely, but a bit more possible than scenario one.  Third, Chen is not callously engaging in dirty tricks and Yang is not telling bald-faced lies.  In many hard-fought intra-party races, people who have been friends for years suddenly find themselves at each other’s throats.  Remember, their careers are on the line, so it’s easy (especially when you are losing) to see injustice, cheating, and backstabbing in small things that you normally would just ignore.  Both sides tend to overlook when they step a little over the line while the other side tends to exaggerate those infractions.  My money is on this one.

I think the best way to judge which of these three possibilities is the correct one is to look at the DPP’s response.  After all, the DPP central office should have very good information about what is going on among its members and supporters.  This weekend, party chair Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 went to Kaohsiung, met with Chen and Yang, and basically told them to cool it.  Secretary General Su Jiaquan 蘇嘉全 suggested that if the campaign looked like it might do serious damage to the party’s image, the party might simply hold the telephone surveys now instead of waiting until mid-May.  Neither Cai nor Su publicly sided with either Chen or Yang, but the threat of moving the primary date is clearly aimed at Yang.  Remember, Yang is losing right now and needs more time.  In essence, Cai and Su told the two to start playing nicely or we’ll do something that is bad for Yang.  They clearly do not have much sympathy for Yang’s claims of dirty tricks.

Yang is playing a dangerous game, and has probably already done considerable damage to his future prospects.  He is largely considered to have done a good job in his two terms as county executive, and he would likely have found a place somewhere.  If the DPP wins the presidency, he would have been on the short list for a cabinet post or some other plum job.  Even if they don’t, the DPP will win some direct municipalities this year, and he might have been able to get a top post in one of those.  Now, a president or mayor will have to think twice about appointing him.  After all, he’s either very paranoid or an outright liar.  Yang has put all his poker chips on winning this year, and it doesn’t look like a very good bet to me.

The most interesting thing about this case may have to do with national politics, not local Kaohsiung politics.  I am fascinated by Cai Yingwen’s response.  Under the guise of conciliation and negotiation, she went in and cracked some skulls.  The ability to find compromises and build coalitions is the most important attribute a political leader can have, but sometimes it helps to be tough as well.  I will be interested to see if the two candidates do actually back off, and, if they don’t, how Cai reacts.  She has made a threat, but I’m not sure she has the guts and/or power to enforce it.  I’m also not sure if it would be wise to break the rules of the game.  If candidates learn that there are ways to force an earlier primary date, this could cause headaches down the road for the party chair.  At any rate, this might be a crucial step in the evolution of Cai Yingwen as the DPP’s leader.  Only two years ago, she was seen as a transitional figure with no real power of her own.  Now I’m wondering if she is so powerful within the party that she can tell candidates (and powerful party leaders in their own rights) deep in a hotly contested campaign to back off.  As of today, she seems pretty powerful and pretty tough.

Zhonghe City politics

March 14, 2010

Since I’m temporarily living in Zhonghe City 中和市, and Zhonghe is a district in the upcoming Xinbei City Council elections, I thought I’d write a little about this city’s history, its politics, and maybe even about the upcoming city council elections.  (I’m stealing heavily from Wikipedia, the Zhonghe City website, and a few other things I found on the internet.)


Zhonghe City is in Taipei County, just southwest of Taipei City.  It has a population of over 400,000 today, but almost all of this population has arrived relatively recently.  When Yonghe Town 永和鎮 (which was not yet Yonghe City 永和市) was carved off of Zhonghe Village 中和鄉 in 1960, the population of Zhonghe was a mere 23,000.  Taipei City grew fastest during the 1960s, and by the 1970s population growth in the Taipei metro area was mostly across the river in Banqiao 板橋市, Yonghe 永和市, Xindian 新店市, Xinzhuang 新莊市, Sanchong 三重市, and Zhonghe 中和市.  These six cities exploded through the 1970s and 1980s.  By the mid-1990s or so, they were largely saturated, and areas a bit further out in Taipei County, such as Tucheng 土城市, Shulin 樹林市, Xizhi 汐止市, Danshui 淡水鎮, and Sanxia 三峽鎮 started experiencing much faster growth.  Zhonghe was promoted to a city in 1977.  Currently, it is the sixth largest city in Taiwan (after Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan, and Banqiao), but this will no longer be the case when Taipei County is upgraded to a direct municipality and Zhonghe simply becomes a district of Xinbei City at the end of this year.  Then it will be simply the second largest administrative district in Taiwan (after Banqiao).

Here is what I found on Zhonghe’s population growth:

Year Population Land





1960 23,000 19.71 1,167
1970 77,382 19.71 3,926
1975 130,835 19.71 6,638
1980 261,684 19.71 13,277
1985 324,930 19.71 16,486
2000 398,123 20.14 19,768
2008 412,060 20.14 20,460

For reference, a population density of 20,000 is roughly equivalent to what you find in the most densely populated districts of Taipei City.  However, where downtown Taipei City has more parks and businesses competing with residential space, Zhonghe has larger areas of mountainous land.  (Neighboring Yonghe City, which is almost entirely residential space, has a staggering 41,408 people per square kilometer.)

A large portion of Zhonghe’s population is immigrants from other parts of Taiwan who moved to the Taipei area but could not afford Taipei City’s high real estate prices.  However, unlike Sanchong and Xinzhuang to the northwest which are almost entirely populated by native Taiwanese (meaning Minnan or Hakka), Zhonghe’s population is more complex.  I don’t have data on the percentage of mainlanders in Zhonghe, but it is fairly high.  Taipei County as a whole has about 18% mainlanders; I’m guessing it is somewhere around 25-30% in Zhonghe.  What makes this politically more significant is that Zhonghe has a lot of “communities” 眷村.  There are several military installations here, and many of them have housing communities.  As you might guess, these were the KMT’s “iron” votes until the emergence of the New Party and People First Party.  Now that the KMT has absorbed those parties back into the fold, these communities tend to be very solid in their voting behavior.  This is not only because they individually share the KMT’s ideology, but also because the tight social network reinforces that stance, mobilizes voters, and punishes deviants.  There are also communities for other groups, such as workers in state owned companies.  One of the more famous groups of mainlanders here in Zhonghe hails from the Golden Triangle area of Burma, Thailand, and southwestern China.  On Huaxin Street 華新街, lots of signs are in Burmese and/or Thai, and you can get delicious ethnic food.  I think they probably have been revitalized in recent years by new immigrants in the same way the American Chinatowns have been.  A less prominent group of Zhonghe residents hails from Jinmen 金門縣, the island right next to Xiamen.  I have even heard claims that more Jinmen people live in Zhonghe than in Jinmen, though I doubt that.  The Jinmen County government owns five communities in Zhonghe City.  Originally, these were owned by the military, which basically ran Jinmen as its own fief for several decades.  The five communities are Fuxing New Village, Taihu New Village, Taiwu Village, Wujiang New Village, and Jiuru New Village (復興新村、太湖新莊、太武山莊、浯江新村、九如新村).  To give an idea of how big a community can be, the Fuxing community has around 300 households.

Politically, Zhonghe is a very blue city.  Even when the DPP wins Taipei County, it never wins Zhonghe.  Generally the DPP is 10-15% lower here than in the whole county.  Moreover, because there is a large part of the electorate that is highly unlikely to consider voting for the DPP, Zhonghe is far less likely to swing to the DPP than other areas in Taiwan that seem to have similar partisan balances.  For example, think of Hsinchu County, which is also heavily blue.  In Hsinchu County, the mostly Hakka population favors the KMT, but it is not a betrayal of basic identities to swing to the DPP in certain conditions.   So if 70% of the electorate is skeptical (but not deathly opposed), a successful DPP candidate has to win 2 of every 7 of these skeptics (plus the 30% base of DPP supporters).  In Zhonghe, first you have to subtract the 25% of the electorate that is mainlander and which is highly unlikely to ever swing to the DPP.  So if the DPP has a base of 30% and 45% are skeptics, the DPP has to win roughly half of these skeptics to win the election.  That is much harder, since “skeptic” is already a very generous term for people who habitually vote blue, many of whom are very firm in their beliefs.  The first 5% of defectors are much easier to attract than the second 5% and so on.  Getting half of the native Taiwanese KMT vote is a monumental task for any DPP candidate.  Here is the party vote in Zhonghe City in several recent elections:

KMT DPP New/PFP other
1993 County executive 40 36 23 1
1994 Provincial governor 59 31 10 0
1996 President 41 19 28 12
1997 County executive 45 34 4 18
2000 President 20 30 49 1
2001 County executive 58 42
2004 President 61 39 0
2005 County executive 63 37 1
2008 LY party list vote 57 29 (TSU: 3) 8 3
2008 President 68 32

These are all straight party to party races.  The partisan balance is somewhere between 60-40 and 70-30.  In multimember races, such as the old legislative and national assembly elections, the blue camp tended to be a bit stronger.  (I’d show those, but I don’t have them at my immediate disposal.  Maybe I’ll edit that table in later.)

Enough of the boring national politics; what about the much more exciting local politics?  Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of juicy stories here, but I’ll try to sketch some of the basic outlines of Zhonghe factions.  Remember, almost all local factions in Taiwan support the KMT.

Most observers have identified three broad local factions, the Lin-Jiang faction 林江派, the Lu faction 呂派, and the You faction 游派.  Sometimes these two latter factions are combined as the Lu-You faction.  Here are the principal members that I have identified in various sources as faction members.  I also list a few other politicians whose names indicate they might be part of that faction, but who I have not seen listed in any roster.  This latter group is marked with an asterisk.

Lu Faction

Name name Offices
呂芳契 Lu Fangqi County assembly (58-82) vice-speaker (68-73) speaker (73-82)
呂芳海 Lu Fanghai City council, mayor
呂芳煙 Lu Fangyan County assembly (82-98), mayor (98-06)
呂芳雲 Lu Fangyun
呂學圖 Lu Xuetu National Assembly

You Faction

Name name offices
游火金 You Huojin Mayor
游任和 You Renhe Provincial assembly
游詩源 You Shiyuan County assembly (90-02)
游輝廷 You Huiting County assembly (90- )
游明財 You Mingcai Legislator
游文貴* You Wengui* County assembly (82-90)
游國華* You Guohua* County Assembly (90-94)
游文煌* You Wenhuang* City council, county assembly (98-02)

Lin-Jiang Faction

Name name offices
林德喜 Lin Dexi Mayor
江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan County assembly (46-58), mayor
趙長江 Zhao Changjiang County assembly (68-82), national assembly
江上清 Jiang Shangqing City council speaker, mayor, provincial assembly
趙永清 Zhao Yongqing Legislator (92-08)
張慶忠 Zhang Qingzhong National Assembly, legislator
陳錦錠 Chen Jinding County assembly (94- )
江永昌 Jiang Yongchang County assembly (06- )
江敏行* Jiang Minxing* County assembly (82-94)

Another way to think about factional presence in Zhonghe politics is to consider this table with the main three offices of the city government (mayor, city council speaker, city council vice speaker).  Note how many people are named Lu and You.  Since You and Lu are not particularly common surnames, the odds are pretty good that they are members of those factions.  Probably many of the people with different surnames are also related to one faction or another by marriage or other ties.  (Source: Zhonghe City website.)

year mayor mayor speaker Speaker Vice speaker Vice speaker
1946 游火金 You Huojin 林江榮塗 Lin Jiang Rongtu
1948 游建池 You Jianchi 呂傳濤 Lu Chuantao
1950 呂傳濤 Lu Chuantao
1951 蕭昌銅 Xiao Changtong
1953 蕭昌銅 Xiao Changtong
1955 呂傳濤 Lu Chuantao
1956 蕭昌銅 Xiao Changtong
1958 游火金 You Huojin
1960 江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan
1961 呂傳亮 Lu Chuanliang 簡阿甫 Jian Apu
1962 江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai
1964 江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan 林坤地 Lin Kundi 林士斌 Lin Shibin
1968 林德喜 Lin Dexi 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai 游祥雲 You Xiangyun
1973 林德喜 Lin Dexi 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai 游象傳 You Xiangchuan
1977 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai
1978 徐宗居 Xu Zongju 游象傳 You Xiangchuan
1982 江上清 Jiang Shangqing 游明財 You Mingcai
1985 江上清 Jiang Shangqing 游明財 You Mingcai 林再發 Lin Zaifa
1986 江上清 Jiang Shangqing 游明財 You Mingcai 林添福 Lin Tianfu
1990 童永雄 Tong Yongxiong 林建宏 Lin Jianhong 邱獻樹 Qiu Xianshu
1994 童永雄 Tong Yongxiong 林建宏 Lin Jianhong 許進勝 Xu Shengjin
1998 呂芳煙 Lu Fangyan 許進勝 Xu Shengjin 邱献樹 Qiu Xianshu
2002 呂芳煙 Lu Fangyan 許進勝 Xu Shengjin 游象賢 You Xiangxian
2003 呂禮旺 Lu Liwang
2005 邱垂益 Qiu Chuiyi 游象賢 You Xiangxian 馬兆玲 Ma Zhaoling

There is a fourth grouping that is emerging, which we might call the Qiu faction 邱派.  It is centered around the incumbent mayor Qiu Chuiyi邱垂益, city council vice speaker Ma Zhaoling馬兆玲, former city council member Qiu Xianshu邱獻樹, and Qiu Chuiyi’s son and candidate for Xinbei City Council Qiu Fengyao 邱烽堯.

I don’t know very much about the You, Lu, or Qiu stories, but the Lin-Jiang faction has some interesting ties.  It looks to me like the key figure is Zhao Changjiang趙長江.  The two mayors from 1960 to 1973, Lin Dexi林德喜and Jiang Guiyuan江貴元, were allies, but Lin seems to fade into the background.  Zhao Changjiang married someone in Jiang Guiyuan’s family (his daughter?), and most of the prominent subsequent politicians are descended from Zhao Changjiang.  Zhao’s oldest son is Jiang Shangqing江上清, who took his mother’s surname.  Jiang was speaker of the city council (82-85), mayor (85-89), and then a member of the provincial assembly (89-98).  Zhao Changjiang’s other son who is prominent in politics is Zhao Yongqing趙永清, who was in the legislature from 1992 to 2008.  He is by far the person with the highest national profile in this story, so we’ll come back to him in a moment.  Zhao Changjiang also adopted a daughter (or perhaps she is a foster daughter or the relationship is purely informal, the terminology is confusing to me).  This daughter, Chen Jinding陳錦錠, has served in the county assembly since 1994.  She is married to Zhang Qingzhong張慶忠, who sat in the national assembly (91-96) and has been in the legislature since 2004.

Let’s go back to Zhao Yongqing.  Zhao graduated from NCCU 政治大學 with a degree in political science and then got an MA in political science from New York University.  He came back to Taiwan and plunged into politics in the 1992 legislative election, when he was 35 years old.  I seem to remember an MA thesis that someone with connections to the Zhao-Jiang family wrote, in which the author claimed that Zhao really had two campaigns in 1992.  He ran his campaign based on issues and high political appeals, while his family, who looked at his campaign with a mixture of amusement, condescension, and indulgence, ran the far more important “traditional” campaign (read: they bought votes).  My memory is fuzzy on this point, and this is such a common story that I may have mistakenly applied it to Zhao.  At any rate, Zhao quickly developed into a fully mature politician, and by the mid- and late-1990s, he was fully in control of his own political destiny.  He developed an image as a fairly incorrupt (certainly by the standards of local faction legislators) politician who was concerned about firemen, education, environmental protection, and good governance.  He developed his “little sun” logo somewhere in this era, and it fit him well.

His stance on nuclear power turned out to be critical for him.  During the 1990s, the KMT was trying to build a 4th nuclear power plant in the Taipei County township of Gongliao 貢寮鄉.  Gongliao is pretty far from Zhonghe, but it was still in Zhao’s legislative district (all of Taipei County), and he was resolutely opposed.  Many other Taipei County KMT legislators were also opposed, but Zhao proved to be the most intransigent.  In 2000, Chen Shuibian was elected president, and his first big showdown with the KMT-dominated legislature was over nuclear power.  The Premier ordered construction halted, and the legislature demanded that the budget be spent.  During this struggle, KMT member Zhao found himself on the wrong side and was subjected to party discipline.  He eventually quit the KMT, and after a short period as an independent (including his re-election in 2004), joined the DPP.

This makes him unique.  All of the other faction members listed in this post are either KMT or independents; only Zhao has aligned himself with the DPP.

The KMT reacted quite shrewdly to Zhao’s defection.  They nominated Zhang Qingzhong, Zhao’s brother-in-law (or at least informal brother-in-law) to run in 2004.  Both Zhao and Zhang were able to win, even though they were drawing heavily on the same factional network.  In 2008, Zhao and Zhang ran against each other once again, but this time, with the new electoral system, only one could win.  By all accounts, the campaign was quite vicious and personal.  Zhang eventually won 60-40%, which is not surprising given Zhonghe’s partisan structure.  You’ll note, however, that 40% is the high end for DPP candidates in Zhonghe, and it came on the same day that the DPP and TSU combined for 32% in the party list tier.

Factions are continually evolving, and my guess is that the Lin-Jiang faction does not really exist any longer.  The Zhao-Zhang fight, which is not just a factional fight but also a partisan fight, has probably forced everyone connected with their network to choose sides.  I’m guessing that there are probably now two distinct networks.

I’m astounded at the degree to which politics is a family business in Zhonghe City.  In my mental model of factional politics, factions rely heavily on dense social networks.  They should not work so well in a place like Zhonghe, which has lots of people moving in and out and people enjoy the anonymity of life in the city.  Somehow, the same few families have managed to absorb waves of immigrants into their political networks.  I have no idea how this works.

Ok, what does the upcoming Xinbei City Council race look like in Zhonghe?  Zhonghe is its own district, and last time it had seven seats.  Here are the results from the 2005 Taipei County Assembly election:

name name party votes % win? incumbent?
205053 100.0 7 5
陳錦錠 Chen Jinding KMT 27343 13.3 Y Y
簡文劉 Jian Wenliu KMT 22829 11.1 Y Y
林秀惠 Lin Xiuhui DPP 21398 10.4 Y Y
張瑞山 Zhang Ruishan DPP 20612 10.1 Y Y
游輝廷 You Huiting KMT 19014 9.3 Y Y
江永昌 Jiang Yongchang IND 18775 9.2 Y
李肇南 Li Zhaonan PFP 16298 7.9 Y
楊桂屏 Yang Guiping KMT 15334 7.5
馬兆玲 Ma Zhaoling IND 15255 7.4
呂萬煜 Lu Wanhuang PFP 14295 7.0
劉梅花 Liu Meihua New 13900 6.8
By party KMT 84520 41.2
DPP 42010 20.5
PFP 30593 14.9
New 13900 6.8
IND 34030 16.6
By camp Blue 144268 70.4
Green 60785 29.6

There were no turkeys in this race, and it was dominated by incumbents.  There are also several faction members in this table, including Chen Jinding, You Huiting, Jiang Yongchang (Zhao Yongqing’s cousin and ally), and Ma Zhaoling (Qiu Chuiyi’s ally).  I don’t know if Lu Wanhuang is from the Lu faction.

The PFP and New Party did quite well in the race, taking a combined 22% of the vote, more than the DPP won.  However, if one counts Jiang Yongchang’s[1] vote, the Green camp got 30%, a quite good showing.  (Remember, the DPP always does worse in multi-member districts and much, much worse in local elections.)

I expect Zhonghe will continue to elect seven members to the new Xinbei City Council.  So far this year, the public campaign has been almost entirely dominated by KMT hopefuls.  I assume this means that the KMT is moving earlier with its nomination process.  Over Chinese New Years, all the KMT candidates put up copious numbers of Happy New Year signs, both of the billboard variety and the more traditional doorway couplet 春連 variety.  Here are the eight candidates vying for KMT nominations (ok, the eight that have advertised enough to make me aware that they are running):

name Name notes
陳錦錠 Chen Jinding Incumbent, wife of Zhang Qingzhong
簡文劉 Jian Wenliu Incumbent
游輝廷 You Huiting Incumbent, You faction
許進勝 Xu Shengjin Member (and former speaker) of Zhonghe city council
邱烽堯 Qiu Fengyao Son of mayor
戴德成 Dai Decheng Member of Zhonghe city council
金瑞龍 Jin Ruilong Member of Zhonghe city council
楊宗翰 Yang Zonghan

Last time, the blue camp had eight candidates running for seven seats; they only won four seats with 70% of the vote.  This wasn’t really the KMT’s fault, since it only nominated four.  The blue camp would do well to nominate six candidates this year.  I don’t know whether the PFP and NP will nominate their own candidates, or if they have been completely absorbed into the KMT.  Since the PFP incumbent is not in the above table, I have doubts as to whether the KMT will be able to control the total number of blue candidates.  Also, I’m not sure if the Lu faction has a candidate in the race.

Let’s assume the three incumbents will be renominated.  That leaves two or three other spots.  I’m going to guess that Yang Zonghan and Jin Ruilong are the two weakest candidates.  This is based entirely on how many billboards each has put up.  I’ve seen one Yang billboard and only a handful of Jin billboards.  Billboards are not a good indication of popularity, but a lack of them, especially for a challenger, is an indication of financial weakness.  With nothing else to go on, I’m going to consider them to be fighting uphill battles.

That leaves the other three challengers, Xu, Qiu, and Dai, as the interesting candidates.  Xu and Qiu have a little history.  Qiu’s father is the current mayor, and he won the seat in 2005 by defeating Xu.  One newspaper article said that Xu had the backing of Zhonghe’s traditional factions (so maybe Xu is the missing Lu faction candidate), and that Qiu’s victory was an indication that the traditional factions were weakening.  At any rate, Xu and Qiu will fight another battle this year, and the first round will be for a KMT nomination.  It is, of course, possible that they could both win.

The last candidate is Dai Decheng.  Dai is a bit unique in that he is the only one of the eight candidates whose billboards say anything at all of substance.  Almost all billboards feature hackneyed and meaningless slogans (developing a new Xinbei City, moving forward) or just feature the candidate’s picture, name, and ask for support.  Dai is positioning himself as the image candidate.  He promises to be a professional/expert interested in social welfare issues and he claims he will run a clean campaign.  He seems to have good financing, at least judging by his picture plastered all over the city.  He is also working pretty hard in my neighborhood.  He has sponsored a couple of (apolitical) events in my housing complex, and he seems to employ quite a few workers.  I’m moderately impressed.

So if the KMT decides to nominate only five candidates, the last two spots will come down to the faction candidate (Xu), the son (Qiu), and the image candidate (Dai).

[1] The Taipei County Assembly website still lists Jiang as an independent, but I found a couple of news articles that seem to indicate he has now joined the DPP.

Turkey season

March 13, 2010

In the political science literature on elections, we have a term for candidates who have no chance of winning.  We call them “turkeys.”  This year’s brood of turkeys is starting to gobble.  (Is that the appropriate verb for turkeys making noise?)

Taipei City has a whole family of turkeys.  It is 99% certain that the KMT nominee will be incumbent Hao Longbin 郝龍斌, and the DPP nominee will be Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌.  However, city council member Yang Shiqiu 楊實秋 is still running hard for the KMT nomination.  Legislator Ding Shouzhong 丁守中 was a little more realistic.  He announced a couple of days ago that he would agree not to run this time and to support Hao, but he would certainly run four years from now.  On the DPP side, city council member Zhou Boya 周柏雅 has announced his intention to run.  Even more fun, Chen Shui-bian’s 陳水扁 former deputy mayor Chen Shimeng 陳師孟 has announced that he will be contesting the nomination.  At the press conference, Chen explained himself thusly: Su Zhenchang has lots of connections and resources in Xinbei City, so Su should run there.  Also, Chen thought that, unlike Su, his chances of winning the election were pretty good, since he actually has experience in governing Taipei City.  Of course, Chen doesn’t have any survey data to support his contention that he has a good chance of winning because, as he happily admitted, he doesn’t have enough money to commission polls.  Hmm.  Low levels of funding are usually a pretty good hint that one is a turkey.

In Taichung City, the KMT is going to nominate Jason Hu 胡志強.  However, there are a lot of turkeys challenging him for the nomination.  The common thread here is that Hu is the incumbent mayor of Taichung City, and all of the challengers are from Taichung County.  Former Taichung County executive and Red Faction honcho Liao Liaoyi 廖了以 is still trying to win.  Legislator Ji Guodong 紀國棟 (of the Black Faction) showed up at a KMT meeting to discuss how the party would unify behind one candidate and announced that he wasn’t interested in discussing or negotiating.  Instead, he announced that he is running.  Then there is Taichung County deputy executive Zhang Zhuangxi 張壯熙.  To my knowledge, Zhang has never won any election at any level.  The current county executive is from the Black Faction, so I assume Zhang is also from the Black Faction.  However, now that a real politician (Ji) from the Black Faction is in the race, I don’t know if Zhang even has that to lean on.  On the other hand, today he got an endorsement from three-term former Taichung City mayor Lin Borong 林柏榕.  Either way, he’s not going to get the nomination.

There are a couple of others.  In Xinbei City, former DPP county executive You Qing 尤清 has declared that he wants to return to his former position.  I’m pretty sure no one cares very much what he wants.  Former legislator Zhuang Shuohan 莊碩漢 has also expressed interest.  In Tainan City, legislator Ye Yijin 葉宜津 has announced her candidacy.  I thought she quit a few months ago.  The only polls I’ve seen show her with almost no support.

Why do turkeys run?  There are a few reasons.  First, they can be trying to make the leader into a loser.  If the turkey hates the leader strongly enough and they have some overlapping support, even though the turkey might not win, he might take enough votes away to cause the leader to lose.  Second, they can be trying to blackmail the leader.  In the first scenario, they actually run the race all the way to the bitter end.  In the second scenario, they threaten the leader with the first scenario but are willing to withdraw in return for some side-payment.  (Note: Side-payments can include anything of value, such as a job, a contract, support for my nephew’s political career, instructing the fire department not to enforce the building code in my KMT, and so on.  Cash is also an option, but not the only one.)  Third, they can be trying to build support for a future campaign, as Ding Shouzhong seems to have been trying to do in Taipei City.  In return for withdrawing this year, he will expect support four years from now from Hao and from the KMT.  (I doubt he’ll get it, but it’s worth a try.)  Fourth, they can be trying to win.  Politicians are often great at self-deception, convincing themselves that they have a chance when no one else thinks they do.  They also have the Bill Clinton model as inspiration.  In 1991, George Bush had a 90% approval rating, and most people assumed he would be re-elected easily.  Several leading Democrats, the A-team if you will, declined to run.  So instead of Al Gore and Richard Gephart, the Democrats only had Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerry, and a few other uninspiring choices.  In 1991, they were clearly the B team.  The unimpressed media nicknamed them “the seven dwarves.”  However, Bush’s popularity nosedived in late 1991 and the first half of 1992, and the Democratic nominee was left as the only realistic alternative.  Bill Clinton started out as a turkey, but this was actually the key to his victory.  If Bush hadn’t been such an overwhelming favorite, some other Democrat would have gotten the nomination.  That said, I think most of this year’s turkeys are either blackmailing or delusional.

Chiayi City Speaker Arrested

March 12, 2010

The speaker of the Chiayi City council has been arrested.

Apparently, the going price for a vote in the speaker election is NTD 3 million (USD100,000).

The vice speaker tried to convene the city council so that it would be in session and the speaker would not be arrested, but he was unable to get enough people together on short notice.  (Note: I’m not sure what kind of immunity city council members have.  I don’t think they have full immunity the way that legislators do.  I guess they just can’t be arrested while in session.)  The other members of the city council all wore yellow ribbons today in support of their colleague.