mayoral races

A few thoughts on the mayoral races:

Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌 announced last week that he will run for Taipei City mayor.  However the most significant part of the announcement is that he promised that, if elected, he would serve the entire four-year term and not run for president.  He’s going to have to repeat this time and time again over the next nine months, because right now everyone is a bit skeptical.  He’s going to have to work hard to convince people he’s sincere about that.  However, it does make Su a much better mayoral candidate if people think he really wants to win and govern Taipei City rather than simply use the race/job as a stepping stone to the presidency.

I think this also affects candidates in the other races.  If Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 and/or Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 ends up as the DPP nominees in either Xinbei City and/or Taichung City, they will face enormous pressure to make a similar promise.  In fact, since the 2012 DPP presidential is almost certain to be Su, Cai, or Hsieh, this points us to a slightly ludicrous situation.  Suppose all three run this year, all three make the “I will serve out my term” promise, the DPP has a smashing victory, and all three somehow win.  That would leave the DPP with no one to face a horribly weakened Ma Yingjeou 馬英九.  Somehow, I think one of them would break the promise.

At any rate, this is highly unlikely because Cai Yingwen doesn’t seem to want to run.  She seems to want to remain party chair, and she claims her big task is laying out the DPP’s big blueprint for the next five years.  This is precisely the kind of hard mental work that you have to do before becoming the president.  Su is running for mayor instead.

(This is one of the reasons I thought he should skip 2010 – you have to do homework before becoming president.  Chen tried to cram, but he only had a few spare months after the 1998 election before he started the 2000 campaign.  He really wasn’t ready.  Su doesn’t seem worried about this.  Cai does.  My opinion of Cai is rising.)

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Zhu Lilun 朱立倫 seems reluctant to jump into the Xinbei City race.  A report a couple of days ago suggested that he would do it next month.  I’m starting to wonder if we have overestimated him.  He hasn’t really ever had to fight a hard election.  He won one term as legislator with heavy party backing, and he won two terms as Taoyuan County executive, hardly a difficult task in such a blue-leaning county.  One could argue that his career path has been handed to him; he hasn’t earned much himself.  On the other hand, I’m sure that he has impressed someone to get the unified support of his party in a county with lots of other ambitious KMT politicians.  Yet, let’s not forget that he has powerful patrons, particularly his father-in-law Gao Yuren 高育仁.  Gao was Tainan County executive, speaker of the Provincial Assembly, a four-term member of the legislature, and has been a member of the KMT central standing committee for 25 years.  He also has lots of money connections.  Zhu’s father, Zhu Zhangxing 朱樟興, was also a minor politician in Taoyuan County, having served as a member of both the county assembly and the National Assembly.

Another thing that makes me wonder about Zhu is that I don’t know of anything he has done.  That’s not surprising, since the Taoyuan County government doesn’t make the news very much, and I was out of the country for most of Zhu’s tenure as county executive.  However, we keep hearing what an outstanding job he did, and it bothers me that no one is saying anything concrete about that job or his current performance as Vice-Premier.  When his opponent tries to rip apart his record, I wonder whether it will be easy or hard.

Finally, there is Zhu’s reluctance to join the fray this year.  He seems to want to spend as much time as possible as Vice-Premier before he has to start the campaign.  Perhaps this is because he is actually using the resources of his current office to set up a more effective campaign.  But I wonder if he doesn’t simply like being in a high post in the central government and doesn’t want to leave just yet.  You can run an effective campaign for mayor of a huge district like Xinbei City in eight months, but you would be better off spending nine months.  There are so many people that you need to meet and forge relationships with, so many groups to curry favor with, and so many little impressions to be made.  I would just feel better about his chances if he seemed to relish the idea of jumping into the fray.

Is Zhu Lilun a paper tiger?  Probably not, but I’m less sure about that today than I was a month ago.

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Some of the stories the media has to invent to fill airtime and column space are so unrealistic as to be comical.  One day the question was whether Jason Hu 胡志強 should move from Taichung City to Kaohsiung City.  The idea was that Taichung City is pretty firmly in the KMT’s grasp, so they should take their best candidate and move him to a harder district.  Yeah, then instead of having an easy win in Taichung, they could have a contested race with a real possibility of losing there, and Hu probably wouldn’t win in Kaohsiung anyway.  That’s genius!

Another day, the media was asking if KMT voters should strategically vote for Su so that he would win the Taipei City mayorship and wouldn’t be able to challenge Ma in the presidential election.  In Taiwanese parlance, that would be “dump Hao, save Ma” 棄郝保馬.  Again, a masterstroke!  I’m sure that if the DPP wins Taipei City, they would be so depressed by their victory in one of Ma’s strongest areas that they wouldn’t even bother to nominate a presidential candidate.

Can I suggest one?  I think the best way for Ma to stop Su would be for him to do it personally.  Ma should resign the presidency and run for Taipei City mayor.  (It’s not that much stupider than the other two ideas, is it?)

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