Archive for May, 2010

bill to stop reapportionment

May 29, 2010

A bill has been introduced into the legislature to freeze the reapportionment process in legislative elections.  If the bill passes, reapportionment will only occur once every ten years, with the next round in 2020.  Changes in population and/or the redrawing of administrative boundaries will not affect the distribution of seats in the interim.

In the first reading, the bill was sent through directly to the second reading.  Normally, the first reading assigns a bill to a committee, and the bill does not reach the second reading until after it is reviewed in committee.  About 10% of bills (I should know the exact percentage off the top of my head, but I don’t) bypass the committee stage, and these bills are much more likely to eventually become laws.  In other words, we must take this bill seriously.

The bill was introduced by the caucus of independent legislators, rather than by the KMT or DPP.  Specifically, the bill originated from Li Fuxing 李復興, an independent legislator from Kaohsiung City who was elected as a KMT candidate.  The DPP immediately accused the KMT of being behind the maneuver.  The partisan motivations are obvious.  The KMT currently holds six of nine seats in Kaohsiung, which would lose a seat, and zero of five seats in Tainan, which would gain the seat.

The bill is currently not scheduled for floor time in the legislature.  Speaker Wang Jinping 王金平 has instead said that the bill will go to interparty negotiations to seek a consensus.  I doubt they will find one there.  In addition to the obvious conflict in partisan interests, Wang’s ability to broker a deal is compromised by the fact that he is from Kaohsiung County and is still deeply involved in local faction politics there.

Personally, I think this is a naked power grab and an obvious violation of the accepted democratic rules.  People in favor of the change are pointing to the American practice and the desirability of having stable districts.  Taiwan, unlike the United States, has never based its reapportionment process on the decennial census.  Taiwan’s population statistics, which are so good that the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center used to use them as its ideal case, give an accurate count of the population at the end of every month, whereas the USA really never knows exactly what its population is except for once every ten years (and even that number is shaky).  Taiwan has always reapportioned seats at every election, and a decision to stop doing this right now needs a very good reason and a political consensus.  Otherwise it is a deinstitutionalization of accepted practices.  If you can rearrange these rules for partisan gain, what else is up for renegotiation?  In one sense, democracy is nothing more than a set of accepted rules for resolving conflict.  Sometimes the difference between a technical exercise and partisan warfare is simply a notion that the process is fair because it is the one that is always used and the losers this time could easily be the beneficiaries next time.

The USA logic is also based on the notion that the USA is a federal country, and the various states are “sovereign” governments with certain inviolable rights.    So the proposed change doesn’t make sense in two ways.  For one, Taiwan is a unitary state and has no need to pretend that its subordinate administrative units have inviolable rights.  For another, if you redraw the lines (as has been done with Tainan and Kaohsiung), the administrative units that are supposed to be respected no longer exist.

Redistricting is an inherently political process, and so it doesn’t bother me too much when parties try to extract the maximum possible partisan advantage.  Reapportionment in Taiwan in 2010 should be a purely technical exercise.  Efforts to politicize it really get me riled up.

More on redistricting

May 26, 2010

I found two very interesting documents on the CEC website today that add quite a bit of flesh to the redistricting stories from the three previous posts.

The first document is a transcript of the public hearing held on April 26, 2010.  There are several interesting things from this document.

I had speculated that there were KMT factional reasons for putting the two villages from Dali City back in with the rest of Dali City in the new Taichung District 7.  In fact, the original CEC plan was to leave the districts unchanged.  At the public hearing, DPP legislator Jian Zhaodong 簡肇棟 (who represents Dali City) suggested that the change be made.  He also said that all factions and parties supported this move.  So the faction speculation seems to be ungrounded in this case.

(Note: The document with the CEC’s redistricting plan that I have been discussing is dated May 4, 2010.  So it is the plan including adjustments made after this public hearing.  There was apparently a different draft before the public hearing.)

Xu Yangming 許陽明, a former DPP legislator and former Vice-mayor (of Kaohsiung?), complained that the legislative districts keep changing.  The 6th LY had the old system, the (current) 7th LY changed to the new system, the CEC is currently rearranging districts in the new direct municipalities for the 8th term, and, after the new mayors redraw administrative district lines in the new direct municipalities, they will have to redraw legislative districts for the 9th term.  OK, I don’t really care that the districts keep changing.  The interesting part of this is the idea that one of the first tasks at hand for the new mayors will be to redraw the administrative district lines.  It is a reasonable task.  There are vast population differences between the various townships, and, without mayoral and town council elections, they won’t really have independent legal identities anyway.  Beyond that, though, this is also a response to the KMT’s plan to appease its grassroots supporters.  If you remember, a few months ago, the legislature passed a law to appoint current township mayors (who have not already served two terms) as new district heads and current town councils as new advisory council members.  The KMT dominates these grassroots offices, and it wanted to take care of its people (who should return the favor by working hard in the 2012 election).  The DPP response is to simply redraw the lines!  Ok, maybe the law made you head of the old district, but that district no longer exists.  As for the new district, since the office is vacant, I’ll appoint my own person.  Nice!

There was a lot of discussion of Tainan Districts 5 and 6, as I suspected.  Apparently the original draft split the East district, putting part of it into each of the two districts while putting the South into District 6.  You might recognize this as the alternate plan I suggested if crossing administrative lines were allowable.  A few people spoke in favor of changing the scheme.  NCKU professor Zhou Zhijie 周志杰 was the principal proponent, giving four broad reasons for the change.  First, the original plan split an administrative district, presenting difficulties for representation, constituency service, and administration of elections.  Second, the South district is closer to the four townships in terms of level of urbanization, economic development, and transportation links (citing Expressway 88).  Third, the East district is characterized by the education and service sectors, while the South district is more of a manufacturing and industrial area.  This makes the South a better match for the largely agricultural four townships.  Fourth, population growth in Tainan is concentrated in Yongkang and the East district.  As such, these areas should be supplemented with other townships/districts to meet the necessary population requirements.  In the future, they might be large enough to be a legislative district without any supplements.

Notice that these arguments make no reference to politics.  Partisan advantage might be the underlying reason for wanting the change, but it is not a legitimate consideration in this forum.  You have to make your argument in terms of “technical” criteria.  I don’t know if the technical arguments will be the real deciding factors or not.  It could be that the real decision is made behind the scenes and they simply use this technical language to justify the political decisions.  However, we should not dismiss the possibility that the CEC really is a neutral decision-making body, and the technical arguments are the decisive arguments, at least at this stage.  After all, there is little reason for the CEC to be too overtly political; the political horse-trading will have plenty of opportunities to change the plan when it goes to the legislature.

That said, I’m interested by Zhou’s arguments.  To me, the fourth argument is silly.  If anything, you should give less, not more, priority to fast-growing areas.  After all, you have little idea what they will look like in the future.  They could require a number of different adjustments.  Moreover, I am not aware of any ideal for an administrative district to be an electoral district by itself.  Besides, if the administrative lines are redrawn, today’s East district probably won’t exist in the same form tomorrow.  I think the second and third arguments, about cohesiveness are potentially much better.  However, I would dispute the argument about transportation links.  The road that Zhou cites, Expressway 88, is a brand new road.  There is not much development along it.  Except for this road, Rende Township is basically cut off from the South district by the airport.  The older, more established roads going from Rende Township into Tainan City all go into the East district.  Since the transportation links clearly connect Rende and East, I’m guessing that all the other economic relationships are also closer.  In other words, I think that politics was probably driving the effort to revise the proposal.

The final interesting point from the public hearing involved Kaohsiung’s loss of a seat.  Lots of people complained about this.  The CEC official answered that the formula in use has not change since legislative elections began in 1969.  I found the document discussing reapportionment on the CEC’s website, dated Jan. 15, 2010.  That document has one nice table, but the formatting limitations of this blog keep me from just copying it.  So I’ll cut it into several pieces.

First, we start with the population of each county/city in November 2009 (one year before the election).  If you divide the total population by 73 (the number of single seat districts, SSDs), you get 309662.  All counties that have fewer than 309662 people get one seat.

county population Under 309662?
Xinbei 3,822,431
Taipei 2,594,795
Taichung 2,607,331
Tainan 1,869,627
Kaohsiung 2,741,677
Ilan 446,436
Taoyuan 1,919,370
Hsinchu County 490,791
Miaoli 551,119
Nantou 502,855
Changhua 1,307,586
Yunlin 721,093
Chiayi County 542,037
Pingdong 826,023
Taidong 152,454 Y
Hualian 250,396 Y
Penghu 95,671 Y
Jilong City 379,865
Hsinchu City 408,115
Chiayi City 273,105 Y
Jinmen 92,712 Y
Lianjiang 9,785 Y
Total 22,605,274 6

Eliminate those six districts.  This leaves us with 67 seats and 21731151 people, or 324345 per seat.  Each 324345 people make one quota.  Calculate how many full quotas each county gets and the remaining population left over.  There are 60 full quotas.  Since there are 67 seats that need to be filled, the seven largest remainders get the last seven seats.  So Nantou and Pingdong got the last two seats, while Hsinchu County and Pingdong are the first losers.

county population quotas remainder Plus one? Total
Xinbei 3,822,431 11 254,636 1 12
Taipei 2,594,795 8 35 0 8
Taichung 2,607,331 8 12,571 0 8
Tainan 1,869,627 5 247,902 1 6
Kaohsiung 2,741,677 8 146,917 0 8
Ilan 446,436 1 122,091 0 1
Taoyuan 1,919,370 5 297,645 1 6
Hsinchu County 490,791 1 166,446 0 1
Miaoli 551,119 1 226,774 1 2
Nantou 502,855 1 178,510 1 2
Changhua 1,307,586 4 10,206 0 4
Yunlin 721,093 2 72,403 0 2
Chiayi County 542,037 1 217,692 1 2
Pingdong 826,023 2 177,333 1 3
Taidong 0 0 0 1
Hualian 0 0 0 1
Penghu 0 0 0 1
Jilong City 379,865 1 55,520 0 1
Hsinchu City 408,115 1 83,770 0 1
Chiayi City 0 0 0 1
Jinmen 0 0 0 1
Lianjiang 0 0 0 1
Total 21,731,151 60 7 73

In jargon, this is a Largest Remainders System.  There are different versions of this system which would yield slightly different results, but this system is perfectly defensible.  Anyway, the most important thing in judging the fairness of the apportionment system is perhaps not the system itself, but whether it is seen as a politically calculated method that systematically advantages one side or whether it is simply a technical exercise.  This method has been in use for forty years, and the first loser always complains.  However, since there hasn’t been any real pattern to who loses over the years, I don’t see much legitimacy to these complaints.

Redistricting in Tainan

May 25, 2010

After looking at the Taichung and Kaohsiung redistricting plans, today I want to look at the plan for Tainan.  Tainan is gaining a seat.  Previously it had three in the county and two in the city.  All five of these were very “heavy” seats (average population: 372725).  When the city and county are combined the two remainders naturally combine to give Greater Tainan one more seat.  Now each of Tainan’s six seats will have an average of only 311605 people.  As in Kaohsiung, the changing number of seats basically requires that at least one of the new seats must cross the county/city boundaries.  So here are the old system and the CEC’s proposal:

Old System

# areas areas pop
1 新營、鹽水、白河、柳營、後壁、東山、下營、六甲、官田、學甲、將軍、北門 Xinying, Yanshui, Baihe, Liuying, Houbi, Dongshan, Xiaying, Liujia, Guantian, Xuejia, Jiangjun 349547
2 麻豆、大內、佳里、西港、七股、新化、善化、新市、安定、山上、玉井、楠西、南化、左鎮 Madou, Danei, Jiali, Xigang, Qigu, Xinhua, Shanhua, Xinshi, Anding, Shanshang, Yujing, Nanxi, Nanhua, Zuozhen 369284
3 永康、仁德、歸仁、關廟、龍崎 Yongkang, Rende, Guiren, Guanmiao, Longqi 383037
4 中西、北區、安南 Central-West, North, Annan 382425
5 東區、南區、安平 East, South, Anping 379333

CEC proposal

# areas areas pop
1 後壁、白河、北門、學甲、鹽水、新營、柳營、東山、將軍、六甲 Houbi, Baihe, Beimen, Xuejia, Yanshui, Xinying, Liuying, Dongshan, Jiangjun, Liujia 295946
2 下營、官田、七股、佳里、麻豆、大內、玉井、楠西、西港、山上、新化、左鎮、南化 Xiaying, Guantian, Qigu, Jiali, Madou, Danei, Yujing, Nanxi, Xigang, Shanshang, Xinshi, Zuozhen, Nanhua 308677
3 善化、安定、新市、永康 Shanhua, Anding, Xinshi, Yongkang 321121
4 安南、北區 Annan, North 307382
5 中西、安平、東區 Central-West, Anping, East 335159
6 南區、仁德、歸仁、關廟、龍崎 South, Rende, Guiren, Guanmiao, Longqi 301342

But, hey, none of us really cares too much about those tables; we care about the political effects of them.  So let’s look at the partisan balance of the old and new districts, using the 2008 party list vote for each camp as our indicator.

# blue green incumbent incumbent party
1 39.8 55.9 葉宜津 Ye Yijin DPP
2 39.4 56.3 黃偉哲 Huang Weizhe DPP
3 45.1 51.2 李俊毅 Li Junyi DPP
4 44.6 52.0 陳婷妃 Chen Tingfei DPP
5 48.7 47.9 賴清德 Lai Qingde DPP

CEC proposal

# blue green notes
1 40.3 55.4 old #1 minus Xiaying, Guantian
2 39.4 56.3 old #2 plus Xiaying, Guantian; minus Shanhua, Anding, Xinshi
3 44.7 51.7 new district
4 44.6 51.9 old #4 minus Central-West
5 50.2 46.4 old #5 minus South plus Central-West
6 42.3 54.1 old #3 minus Yongkang plus South

The most striking thing is that the new plan makes it possible for the KMT to win a seat.  Currently, the DPP holds all five seats, but the new plan creates a seat (District 5) in which the blue camp got nearly 4% more than the green camp in 2008.  (Remember the caveat: 2008 was a terrible year for the green camp, so you must adjust everything down for the KMT and up for the DPP.)  We’ll come back to District 5 later.

District 1 has only minor changes.  It remains a DPP stronghold.

District 2 has more changes with several townships leaving the district and others coming in, but the net partisan impact is minimal.  Incumbent Huang Weizhe’s hometown, Madou, is still in the district, so Huang will continue to enjoy the DPP’s best district in the entire country.

Most of the new District 3 is from the old #3 (Yongkang) plus a few townships from the old #2 to fill out the population.  I am calling this a new district because the incumbent, Li Junyi, in the old #3 is almost sure to compete in the new District 6.  Without Li, a six-term incumbent, this district could be competitive.  However, it should still favor the DPP.  The two parties are basically even in Yongkang, but the smaller surrounding townships tilt the balance.

The new District 4 is roughly the old #4, minus the Central-West district.  The partisan balance is basically unchanged.  In the last election, Chen Tingfei barely won, even though the district clearly leans to the DPP.  She has been a fairly high-profile legislator these two years, and I expect her to have an easier go of it in her re-election bid.

The new District 5 is going to be the controversial one.  According to the 2008 party list votes, the KMT should have had a slight edge in the old district.  However, it was won by Lai Qingde, who barely edged Gao Sibo (Zhu Lilun’s brother-in-law).  In the old district, there were three areas.  The East has the biggest population and is the only administrative district in Tainan City that clearly leans to the KMT.  This was balanced by the South, which is smaller, but leans Green heavily enough to cancel out the KMT’s margin from the East.  Anping is roughly even.  In the redistricting plan, the CEC removed the South and replaced it with the Central-West.  The Central-West is only about 2/3 the size of the South and it is not quite as heavily Green.  The result is a district dominated by the Blue-leaning East.  Somehow, a seat has appeared in Tainan that the KMT could very easily win.  Moreover, the DPP will almost certainly not have an incumbent to defend this seat, since Lai will likely be mayor by the end of the year.

The new district 6 is carved out of the more rural areas of the old #3.  Li Junyi will stay with his bailiwick, which is centered on his hometown of Guiren.  He will probably be happy to bid adieu to Yongkang, since he has never gotten many votes there anyway.  This district will remain a safe DPP district.

I have two other questions that I want to address.  First, county executive Su Huanzhi sparked my interest in this whole redistricting question last week when he attacked the CEC plan and offered his own alternative.  I assumed it must have something to do with gerrymandering.  My suspicions were heightened when I saw the partisan balance of the new District 5.  Certainly Su and the rest of the DPP would not stand for that.  Imagine my surprise to find that Su’s plan had nothing to do with District 5.  In fact, it merely rearranges Districts 2 and 3.  Roughly, it replaces the small townships (Shanhua, Xinshi, Anding) to the north of Yongkang with a different set of small townships (Xinhua, Danei, Shanshang, Yujing, Nanxi, Nanhua, Zuozhen) to the west. Both of these groups have just over 100000 people.  Su’s argument is that the townships to the west have historical, commercial, and other ties to Yongkang, not to the rest of District 2.  The townships to the north have ties with both and could go either way.

Great, but what would the political effect of such a move be?  In the CEC’s plan, the DPP has a 17 point advantage in District 2 and a 7 point advantage in District 3.  In Su’s plan, the DPP advantage in District 2 swells to a whopping 25 points.  In District 3 however, the KMT has a 1 point advantage.  In other words, the DPP county executive’s plan is a masterful gerrymander, packing the DPP supporters into District 2 so that the KMT has a chance in District 3.  In related news, Su Huanzhi is an idiot.  (I think I’ll stop here, while I’m still being polite.)

The second question is whether District 5 is contrived or necessary.  That is, did the CEC move mountains to create a good district for the KMT, or is this just the most obvious way to divide up Tainan?  I tried to create an alternate plan that followed three conditions: (1) the districts had relatively even population, (2) no administrative lines were crossed, and (3) historically tied clumps of townships in Tainan County (ie: the two clumps discussed in Su’s plan plus the clump of four townships in the new District 6) were not divided.  After about an hour of arranging and rearranging, I gave up.  The CEC plan was the only reasonable plan I could come up with.

Does that mean it is the best? Of course not!  A glance at the map suggest that the East district is a better combination than the South with the Guiren-Rende-Guanmiao-Longqi clump, but the East is simply too big.  However, if you are willing to cross administrative lines – and these don’t matter nearly as much in an urban setting as in a rural setting – then you could shift the South back to District 5 and even out the population by putting part of the East in District 5 and part in District 6.  There is a good argument that this arrangement is more natural, judging by transportation arteries.  Politically, it would almost certainly create two safe districts for the DPP.

I expect we have not heard the last of how to deal with the East and South districts.

Surprise: DPP re-elects chair!

May 25, 2010

Ok, it’s not a surprise at all.  Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 was re-elected, beating You Qing 尤清 by a margin of 78192 to 8406.  That’s 90.3% to 9.7% for  those of you who have always wondered what a 90% butt-whooping would look like.  You blamed the defeat on factional maneuvering, as in “none of those factions, or anyone else, supported me.”

Somewhat more unexpectedly, after the vote was finalized, Cai also announced she will run for Xinbei City mayor.  I’m sure I’ll have something more to say about this over the next few months.

The race that I was watching most closely was the party chair race in Taipei City.  The incumbent chair was a Chen Shuibian crony, Huang Qinglin 黃慶林.  Huang was also one of Cai’s most vocal critics within the party.  Huang was defeated soundly by Taipei City Council member Zhuang Ruixiong 莊瑞雄.  I believe Zhuang belongs to the Frank Hsieh faction of the party.

Kaohsiung Legislative Redistricting

May 24, 2010

I want to continue looking at the CEC’s redistricting plans for legislative yuan elections in the three direct municipalities that are changing borders.  Today we will look at Greater Kaohsiung.

The first big thing is that Kaohsiung is apparently losing a seat.  In 2008, Kaohsiung City had five seats and Kaohsiung County had four; this plan only lists eight seats.  As one might expect, these go from being relatively “light” districts (average population in 2008: 303972) to relatively “heavy” districts (average population in new districts: 342710).  I had expected that Nantou County, not Kaohsiung City, would lose the seat that Tainan County is gaining.  Maybe there are also other changes afoot.  The new plan has more equally sized districts than the old system; the standard deviation drops from 29237 to 21486.

Here are the old districts.  The first five are from Kaohsiung City, and the last four are in Kaohsiung County.

Townships/districts Pop.
1 左營 , 楠梓 Zuoying, Nanzi 350398
2 鹽埕 , 鼓山 , 旗津 , 三民 (部分) Yancheng, Gushan, Qijin, Sanmin (part) 270140
3 三民 (部分) Sanmin (part) 265710
4 新興 , 前金 , 苓雅 , 前鎮 (部分) Xinxing, Qianjin, Lingya, Qianzhen (part) 308251
5 小港 , 前鎮 (部分) Xiaogang, Qianzhen (part) 313616
6 大樹 , 大社 , 燕巢 , 田寮 , 阿蓮 , 旗山 , 美濃 , 六龜 , 甲仙 , 杉林 , 內門 , 茂林 , 桃源 , 那瑪夏 Dashu, Dashe, Yanchao, Tianliao, Alian, Qishan, Meinong, Liugui, Jiaxian, Shanlin, Neimen, Maolin, Taoyuan, Namaxia 284882
7 岡山 , 橋頭 , 路竹 , 湖內 , 茄萣 , 永安 , 彌陀 , 梓官 Gangshan, Qiaotou, Luzhu, Hunei, Jiading, Yong’an, Mituo, Ziguan 318899
8 林園 , 大寮 , 仁武 , 鳥松 Linyuan, Daliao, Renwu, Niaosong 286931
9 鳳山 Fengshan 336920

Oh, that’s boring.  Let’s throw in some political characteristics.  I’m listing the 2008 party list votes for the blue (KMT+New) and green (DPP+TSU) camps as well as the current incumbent.

blue green incumbent incumbent party
1 55.6 41.1 黃昭順 Huang Zhaoshun KMT
2 46.4 50.6 官碧玲 Guan Biling DPP
3 48.1 48.5 侯彩鳳 Hou Caifeng KMT
4 49.1 47.6 李復興 Li Fuxing KMT
5 46.0 50.6 郭玟成 Guo Wencheng DPP
6 45.0 47.9 鍾紹和 Zhong Shaohe KMT
7 46.8 48.2 林益世 Lin Yishi KMT
8 42.9 52.3 陳啟昱 Chen Qiyu DPP
9 51.4 45.3 江玲君 Jiang Lingjun KMT

You can see what a lousy election the DPP had. They lost three districts in which the green camp got more party list votes than the blue camp.  Part of that is due to good KMT candidates (Districts 6 and 7).  In District 3, the DPP lost due to a splinter candidate who took 7% of the vote.

Now let’s look at the CEC’s new plan:

Townships/districts Pop.
1 桃源、那瑪夏、甲仙、六龜、杉林、內門、旗山、美濃、茂林、茄萣、湖內、路竹、永安、阿蓮、田寮、燕巢 Taoyuan, Namaxia, Jiaxian, Liugui, Shanlin, Neimen, Qishan, Meinong, Maolin, Jiading, Hunei, Luzhu, Yong’an, Alian, Tianliao, Yanchao 332,076
2 岡山、彌陀、梓官、橋頭、楠梓 Gangshan, Mituo, Ziguan, Qiaotou, Nanzi 359,714
3 大社、仁武、鳥松、大樹、大寮、林園 Dashe, Renwu, Niaosong, Dushu, Daliao, Linyuan 366,029
4 左營、鼓山、旗津 Zuoying, Gushan, Qishan 346,380
5 三民 Sanmin 354,061
6 鳳山 Fengshan 337,871
7 鹽埕、前金、新興、苓雅 Yancheng, Qianjin, Xinxing, Lingya 297,034
8 前鎮、小港 Qianzhen, Xiaogang 348,512

Here’s the party list vote in each of the new districts, plus a brief summary of how it was constructed from the old districts:

blue green Notes
1 46.8 46.2 old #6 plus Hunei, Yong’an, Jiading, Luzhu
2 49.2 46.6 half from old #1, half from old #7
3 42.2 53.1 old #8 plus Dashe, Dashu
4 54.7 42.1 half from old #1, half from old #2
5 46.4 50.4 half from old #2, half from old #3
6 51.4 45.3 old #9
7 48.6 48.2 old #4 plus Yancheng, minus part of Qianzhen
8 46.3 50.3 old #5 plus rest of Qianzhen

Maybe we’re getting into table overload here (impossible!).  In the following, I’ll look at each district with a special emphasis on how these changes look to the incumbent.

District 1 is basically the old district 6 plus four townships.  Geographically, this is by far the largest and most rural district.  It runs from the deep mountains along the northern border all the way to the ocean.  It is ethnically diverse, with lots of Hakkas and Aborigines interspersed with the majority Minnan.  There are relatively fewer mainlanders here, though.  The addition of the four coastal towns tilts the party balance somewhat toward the KMT.  (Keep in mind that 2008 was a very good year for the KMT; present party strength is probably somewhat more favorable to the DPP.)  However, just by looking at raw party strength, this should be a very competitive district.  In fact, I don’t expect the KMT to lose it.  Reportedly, Zhong Shaohe 鍾紹和 has complained that it is too big.  Literature from American politics suggests that he should be happy about the size and complexity of his district.  If it is difficult for him to “digest,” imagine how hard it will be for a challenger who only has a few months.

District 2 is the weird one.  It is the only district to cross the county/city line.  About half the district comes from the old #1 and the other half comes from the old #7.  From a partisan viewpoint, this is a very competitive district.  The KMT had a slight edge in 2008, but it is probably closer to even today.  I would expect Lin Yishi 林益世 to try to run for re-election in this district.  It’s not a very good district for him, since he has spent his whole life working Kaoshiung County and half of this district is in the City, but the other obvious choices already have KMT incumbents.  If the KMT were trying to rig these districts, screwing over one of their better legislators is not exactly the best way to go about it.  In fact, this district makes me doubt that the CEC’s plan will make it through the legislative process without major surgery.

District 3 is the Greenest of any of these districts.  The DPP had a 52-43 advantage in the old #8, and that has been extended to a 53-42 lead in this new district.  Unlike District 2, this looks like classic gerrymandering.  Gerrymandering has two classic strategies, cracking and packing.  District 2 is a good example of cracking, in which an incumbent’s district is dismembered.  Rather, it would be a good example if Lin Yishi were a DPP legislator.  District 3 is a mild example of packing.  In the packing strategy, you sacrifice one district by putting the opponent’s strongest areas in it.  This gives you a better shot at winning the other districts.  I’m not insinuating anything immoral in this particular case.  If the old #8 had to be expanded, Dashu and Dashe are the obvious additions.  It just happens that they are also DPP strongholds, thereby making an already Green district even Greener.

District 4 comes partly from the old #1 and partly from the old #2.  This is the KMT’s best district in Kaohsiung, mostly due to the heavy military and mainlander presence in the Zuoying area.  I expect Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順 to run for re-election in this district.  (I am assuming that she will (a) lose the mayoral election and (b) run for re-election instead of retiring or taking a sinecure in a state-owned enterprise or the like.)  Huang could, of course, choose to stay with the other half of her current district and run in District 2, but I expect she will prefer to stay in Zuoying with all the KMT votes.

The new District 5 is Sanmin District.  Sanmin was previously split between #2 and #3.  Politically, this area leans to the DPP, but the KMT won #3 last time.  I think this may be the district that sees two incumbents battle each other.  The KMT’s Hou Caifeng 侯彩鳳 has no other choice since her old seat was entirely based in Sanmin District last time.  DPP old District #2 incumbent Guan Biling 官碧玲 has to choose between following most of her old district into the new District 4 or competing in the new District 5.  Since District 4 is such a lousy district for a DPP candidate, I expect her to choose District 5.  That would make this one of the more explosive races in the next election.

The new District 6 is the only one that is completely unchanged.  This district is Fengshan City.  Fengshan leans slightly blue and has a fair number of mainlander votes.  Last time, in a battle between two 30ish women, the KMT barely won.  A rematch seems likely, since the winner has done almost nothing to distinguish herself and the loser had a very good personal reputation.

District 7 is very similar to the old #4.  This is another bit of evidence against the idea that the CEC is proactively gerrymandering districts in favor of the KMT.  The KMT incumbent, Li Fuxing 李復興, will get a slightly worse district.  In his old district, the KMT had a 1.5% advantage; the new district’s margin is only 0.4%.  He had better be working the district intensively because he faces a tough, tough election.

District 8 is similar to the old #5.  This is a DPP-leaning district with a DPP incumbent.  The redistricting plan doesn’t really change the partisan balance, and I would expect this to be one of the easier DPP victories in the next election.

As I said before, I’m not very confident that this plan will sail through the legislature unchanged.  Lin Yishi 林益世 gets the worst treatment of any politician, and he is a powerful KMT floor leader in the legislature.  If I were him, I would kill this plan unless the KMT agreed to put me high on the party list in the next election.  Even that might not work.  While many faction politicians are happy to get a “free” election (in every sense), they also like knowing that they can go back to the district in the future if the party leadership decides to move them down the list.  In addition, Lin Yishi has to consider his network.  He is a second-generation stalwart of the Kaohsiung County Red Faction, and his network might not be willing to see their champion abandon electoral politics or shift into new territory.

Taichung legislative redistricting

May 21, 2010

So there’s a new poll out today showing that … blah, blah, blah.  Let’s talk about something fun instead.

About two weeks ago, the Central Election Commission announced a draft plan for redrawing the legislative districts in the new Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung Cities.  The CEC will introduce the bill to the legislature sometime soon.  Tainan County Executive Su Huanzhi 蘇煥智 has lobbed the first (public) volley, claiming the plan for Tainan is unreasonable.  So let’s take a closer look at these plans.

First, the Greater Taichung plan appears to fall under the category “nothing to see here.”  Six of the eight districts are exactly the same.  The only change is very minor.  In the old plan, two li in Dali City (accounting for a little less than 5000 votes in 2008) that had been given to another district to even out populations have been placed back in the district with the rest of Dali City (soon to be Dali District).  That’s entirely reasonable since there is a general consensus against crossing administrative lines if it can be avoided, and 5000 votes isn’t really that many.  After all, when part of a community is in one district and part is in another, the whole community gets less than ideal representation.  Neither legislator thinks of that community as a core part of his constituency.  Half of any effort he expends accrues to the benefit of some other legislator.  In fact, this is part of a larger trend.  In the current plans for the three direct municipalities, zero township lines are crossed.  In the Taichung plan, the districts don’t even cross the former county/city boundaries.

The districting for the 7th (current) legislature was not so strict.  A couple of township/district lines were crossed in Kaohsiung City as well as the aforementioned line in Dali City.  It could be that those districts have been deemed failures and the CEC is learning.  It could also be that there is something else.  The obvious something else is factional organization.

Local factions are generally organized along administrative lines, so when you cross either county or township borders, you are splitting the strength of local factions.  They get stuck in a position of having half of their members in one legislative district and half in another.  This is less than ideal.  More accurately, it is a disaster for them.

Factional politics have several effects.  They are based on localism; they tend to be associated with money politics, corruption, and organized crime; they live off of pork-barrel projects.  (There are also less-emphasized positive effects.  In a multi-member district, they form a basis for equitably dividing strength among multiple candidates so that voters don’t waste their influence.  They also integrate people into the system who otherwise would not be politically active.)  In Taiwan, factional politicians are also (still) overwhelmingly associated with the KMT.  Since the CEC has tended to make decisions favorable to the incumbent president, it is tempting to wonder if the CEC in 2007 was more willing to split up local factions than the CEC in 2010 because of the partisan effects.  (Problem: the CEC didn’t make the final decision; the legislature did.  I don’t know what the CEC’s plan was last time.)

There are costs to keeping the lines intact.  The most obvious is unequal populations across districts.  This is the CEC’s proposed plan for Taichung:

# Towns towns population
1 大甲區、大安區、外埔區、清水區、梧棲區 Dajia, Da’an, Waipu, Qingshui, Wuqi 271755
2 沙鹿區、龍井區、大肚區、烏日區、霧峰區 Shalu, Longjing, Dadu, Wuri, Wufeng 342900
3 后里區、神岡區、大雅區、潭子區 Houli, Shen’gang, Daya, Tanzi 307397
4 西屯區、南屯區 Xitun, Nantun 356816
5 北屯區、北區 Beitun, North 393079
6 西區、中區、東區、
West, Central, East, South 327287
7 太平區、大里區 Taiping, Dali 369291
8 豐原區、石岡區、新社區、東勢區、和平區 Fengyuan, Shigang, Xinshe, Dongshi, Heping 271437

(Note: my population figures are slightly higher than the one’s cited on the CEC document.  Most of the differences are within 5000.  I am using April 2010 population stats.  They might have been able to remove people with aboriginal status.)

The difference in population from district to district is striking.  The largest is 45% larger than the smallest.  The standard deviation is 44318.

Could we reduce these discrepancies?  Sure.  Here’s a plan a produced off the cuff.  All of these districts are geographically contiguous, by the way.

# Towns population
1 Dajia, Da’an, Waipu, Qingshui, Wuqi, Houli 326060
2 Shalu, Longjing, Dadu, Wuri, Wufeng 342900
3 Daya, Tanzi, Beitun (145287) 334527
4 Xitun, Nantun 356816
5 East, North, Beitun (100000) 321580
6 West, Central, South, Dali (60000) 313499
7 Taiping, Dali (136736) 309291
8 Fengyuan, Shigang, Xinshe, Dongshi, Heping, Shen’gang 335289

By ignoring a couple of township lines and liberally crossing county/city lines, I was able to reduce the standard deviation to 15682, with the biggest district being only 15% larger than the smallest.  I’m sure I could easily top that if I were willing to work a little harder.

Is it illegitimate for the CEC to put forward a plan that is so blatantly unequal?  From one point of view it is.  The United States Supreme Court has staked out the position that representatives represent people, not trees.  Appeals to community cohesion or geographic integrity must yield to the overriding principle of equal population sizes.  I don’t remember exactly, but US districts are only allowed to vary by 1-2% at the most.  However, the US Supreme Court’s opinion is somewhat extreme in the global spectrum.  In most countries, population size is not the only, or even the primary, consideration.  Considerable variation is allowed in the name of community solidarity and the like.

Still, 45% is a bit extreme.  Population size was never meant to be the only criterion here, but it seems as if it has been demoted to a decidedly secondary consideration.

One other interesting tidbit about these districts.  Look at the first two districts.  District 1, which runs along the northern part of the coast, is small, with only 271775 residents.  District 2, which is immediately south of District 1 and runs along the southern part of the coast and then south of Taichung City, is much larger, with 342900 residents.  The two districts meet at Wuqi and Shalu Townships.  Wuqi is in District 1, while Shalu is in District 2.  Geographically, Wuqi is to the west of Shalu.  To the north, they are both bordered by Qingshui.  To the south, they are both bordered by Longjing.  Here is the question: Why is Shalu, with a population of 80974 in District 2, while Wuqi, with only 55002 residents, in District 1?  By putting Shalu with District 2 and Wuqi with District 1, the population inequality was exacerbated, not mitigated.

Geographic ties won’t explain this decision.  Both Shalu and Wuqi have borders with the north and south, and there are plenty of transportation links.  A justification to divide them the other way would have been easy.

A more likely explanation is historical political development.  Some townships have closer historical ties than others.  This usually dates to Japanese era decisions about police jurisdictions.  In the ROC era, the police districts have been maintained and often extended to county assembly elections.  So, for example, Dajia, Waipu, and Da’an townships are a county assembly district (and probably a police district), and they are conveniently put together in District 1.  Likewise, Longjing, Dadu, and Wuri in District 2 have similar ties.  However, this doesn’t explain our puzzle.  Qingshui, Shalu, and Wuqi are a historical grouping.  This group has to be broken up somehow, but I can’t think of any reason why it is appropriate to break off Shalu and not Wuqi.

I can, however, think of a good political reason.  The KMT has an incumbent from Dajia, Liu Quanzhong 劉銓忠.  Liu has been active for about 40 years.  In the old days, he was in the Provincial Assembly, rising to Vice-Speaker, while his older brother Liu Songfan 劉松藩 held the seat in the Legislative Yuan and rose all the way to Speaker.  There was another incumbent based in Shalu, Yan Qingbiao 顏清標.  Yan is not formally a member of the KMT.  Due to his extensive organized crime network, Yan and the KMT find it useful to maintain the fiction that Yan is actually an independent.  On the other hand, the KMT has always undernominated to leave a space for Yan.  In 2008, the KMT declined to nominate a candidate to run against Yan.  So we are justified in thinking of Yan as a de-facto KMT member.  There was a third relevant KMT incumbent as well, Ji Guodong 紀國棟, who is based in Dadu Township.  Dadu is in the middle of District 2.  So the KMT had three incumbents vying for two seats.  Depending on which district Shalu, Yan’s hometown, was put into, there would potentially be a disaster for the KMT.

Further complicating these calculations, we must never forget Taichung County factional loyalties.  The Liu family is the first family of the Red Faction.  Both Yan and Ji are Black Faction members.  If Yan and Liu were put into the same district, they might not be able to negotiate for one of them to stand down.  Even if the two principals could come to some agreement, their factional networks might not stand for it.  In other words, putting Yan and Liu together was potentially courting disaster for the KMT.  On the other hand, putting Yan and Ji together was potentially less problematic.  Since both belong to the Black Faction, there is probably a significant overlap in their political networks.  These lower-level activists might push Yan and Ji to make peace in order to avoid the distasteful possibility of having to choose between them.  In the event, the KMT put Ji on the party list and left District 2 open for Yan.  In fact, three of Taichung County’s five districts went to Red Faction members (Liu Quanzhong, Yang Qiongying 楊瓊瑩) or Red-leaning politicians (Xu Zhongxiong 徐中雄), while the other two districts went to Black Faction members (Yan Qingbiao, Jiang Lianfu 江連福).  When you add in Ji Guodong from the party list, there is a nice three to three factional balance.

All of this factional harmony (remember, the strategy worked brilliantly with the KMT sweeping all five districts) came at the low, low cost of having District 2 being 26% larger than District 1 instead of only 6% larger.  Apparently, that was a price worth paying.

UDN county executive poll

May 18, 2010

Yesterday the United Daily News published a massive poll (466<n<749 for each county) in which it assessed satisfaction with the performance of Taiwan’s local county executives.   Most of us have no hard data to determine which local executives have done a good job, so we go on much less obvious and much less reliable cues, such as what the taxi drivers tell us, the tone of media reports, your friend’s uncle’s story, and so on.  The UDN is a hard piece of data.  It is an aggregation of a lot of people’s feelings, rather than a single person’s feelings.  As such, this is the type of poll that gets cited in election campaigns, either to crow about one’s fantastic performance or to attack the incumbent for a dismal job.

The media (and lots of media outlets are commenting on this poll, not just the UDN) focus has been on two things.  First, the headline was the individual winners (Chen Ju) and losers (Huang Zhongsheng).  Second, the DPP executives did better as a group than the KMT executives.

Methodologically, I have a small question.  Today, the UDN published another question from this same poll on whether residents in the various cities and counties think their locality is a suitable place to live or not.  The Greater Taipei area graded out much lower than anywhere else.  I wonder which of these questions they asked first.  That is, which question polluted the other one?  It is probably no coincidence that Hao Longbin, Zhou Xiwei, and Zhang Tongrong all got fairly low marks and also that Taipei City, Taipei County, and Jilong City were all deemed relatively unlivable.

Here are the results of the poll:

county name name status party satisfied dis-satisfied
…………………………… ………………..…… …………. …………….…. ……… ……….. ……………
Kaohsiung City Chen Ju 陳菊 direct DPP 75 10
Miaoli County Liu Zhenghong 劉政鴻 re-elected KMT 73 7
Kaohsiung County Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 direct DPP 72 7
Chiayi City Huang Minhui 黃敏惠 Re-elected KMT 67 13
Changhua County Zhuo Boyuan 卓伯元 Re-elected KMT 64 8
Taichung City Jason Hu 胡志強 direct KMT 63 20
Tainan City Xu Tiancai 許添財 direct DPP 62 16
Pingdong County Cai Qihong 曹啟鴻 Re-elected DPP 61 10
Hualian County Fu Kunqi 傅崑萁 new IND 61 8
Yunlin County Su Zhifen 蘇治芬 Re-elected DPP 61 10
Penghu County Wang Qianfa 王乾發 Re-elected KMT 53 21
Jinmen County Li Wotu 李沃土 new KMT 53 7
Taidong County Huang Jianting 黃健庭 new KMT 52 11
Jilong City Zhang Tongrong 張通榮 Re-elected KMT 51 21
Tainan County Su Huanzhi 蘇煥智 direct DPP 51 21
Taipei City Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 direct KMT 50 28
Nantou County Li Chaoqing 李朝卿 Re-elected KMT 50 18
Lianjiang County Yang Suisheng 楊綏生 new KMT 50 23
Chiayi County Zhang Huaguan 張花冠 new DPP 49 6
Ilan County Lin Congxian 林聰賢 new DPP 46 6
Taipei County Zhou Xiwei 周錫瑋 direct KMT 44 27
Taoyuan County Wu Zhiyang 吳志揚 new KMT 44 8
Hsinchu City Xu Mingcai 許明財 new KMT 42 10
Hsinchu County Qiu Jingchun 邱鏡淳 new KMT 38 20
Taichung County Huang Zhongsheng 黃仲生 direct KMT 37 25

UDN classified executives into three different statuses.  Newly elected executives were elected last November, so they have only been in office for about six months.  They typically have low satisfaction but also low dissatisfaction ratings, as voters are still forming opinions about their performance in office.  There are two exceptions.  Both Yang Suisheng in Lianjiang County and Qiu Jingchun in Hsinchu County have high dissatisfaction ratings.  The KMT blew a by-election in Hsinchu a couple of months ago, and KMT supporters might still be mad at Qiu for that there.  In Lianjiang, I have no clue what is going on, but Lianjiang only has a few thousand residents, so they probably all know through the gossip networks if Yang has done anything bad.

The second group of executives includes those who were re-elected last November, while the third group includes executives from counties and cities that already are or will become direct municipalities later this year.  Most of these executives have been in office for 4.5 years (four have been in for 8.5 years), so opinions have already had time to form on them.

Note the discrepancies in satisfaction ratings by party.  Among the direct municipalities, DPP members Chen Ju and Yang Qiuxing were the best.  Jason Hu and Xu Tiancai had roughly equivalent ratings, but the KMT eagerly nominated Hu for another term while the DPP dumped Xu in favor of a better candidate.  Likewise, Hao Longbin is roughly in the same ballpark as Su Huanzhi, but the former will be running as a KMT candidate while the latter could not make it as a DPP candidate.  Bringing up the rear are the two miserable KMT executives, Zhou Xiwei and Huang Zhongsheng.  Of course, there is more to performance than satisfaction ratings, but this certainly doesn’t make the KMT look good.

Wang Jinping keynote speech

May 17, 2010

Last Thursday (May 13, 2010), I went to a conference at which Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jinping 王金平 was the keynote speaker.  The talk was fascinating, both for what he said and for what he didn’t say.  His theme was communication and negotiation.  He was very candid about the give and take of negotiations, about how politics is often a fight for partisan advantage, and minority delaying tactics.  He never once mentioned party discipline, a personal policy agenda, or the possibility of changing the rules.

The following are some highlights of his talk.  Disclaimer: These are from my notes.  I am not a professional reporter, I was not recording him, and he was not speaking in my native language, so there is a good chance that I am misinterpreting him at least some of the time.  These are certainly not direct quotes.

There are three facets of policy communication.  First, you must have respect for expertise.  Second, you need to forge a consensus between the executive and the legislature.  Third, in order to do this, you must have a good working relationship between the executive and the legislature.

It would be ideal if the executive could provide a legislative plan for its bills.  First, you have to have intra-party negotiations.  This includes all kinds of formal and informal negotiations at various levels.  It also includes negotiations with party forces outside the official government bureaucracy.  After that, you have to have party-to-party negotiations.  These are usually informal.

For example, when we passed the national health insurance law, we had a full day of roll-call voting.  However, this couldn’t have happened without a lot of prior communication.  (Note: I think he meant that without the prior communication, they would have never even gotten to the voting and/or the voting would have been much more contentious.)

However, the executive branch doesn’t always understand what “legislative plan” means.  I’m always educating them, especially with the new ones.  New premiers always have a learning period to understand the importance of communication, especially Liu Zhaoxuan 劉兆玄. (Note: I’m not 100% sure he was referring to Liu Zhaoxuan.) Communication is also important for lower-level bureaucrats, not just premiers.

There was a good example of political communication in the recent American health care legislation.  Even though there was a Democratic president and both houses had Democratic majorities, the bill barely passed.  Obama had to do intense lobbying at the last moment.  You could see that the president personally did a lot of communication and lobbying.

In the past, the Executive Yuan has sent a package of bills to the legislature at the beginning of each session, but there was no theme or direction to them.  We have asked the executive to give us some kind of plan so that we can set priorities.  In this session, there are two priorities: first, reviewing the budget, and second, sixteen legislative packages.  He listed several of the sixteen packages, such as adjustments to several laws made necessary by recent changes in the Local Governance Law 地治法 and the Operating Tax Law 營所稅法.

Outsiders often ask why the KMT has such a hard time passing bills when it has such a large majority.  A majority is only useful when you vote; any other time, the minority can stall.  On [a controversial bill currently before the legislature], the DPP registered 18 speakers to discuss each clause.  Each speaker gets three minutes.  Before that, it takes them three minutes to walk to the podium.  After their three minutes are up, the microphones are turned off, but they keep speaking, and we aren’t going to forcibly remove them.  So 18 speakers take well over an hour.  Then we have to vote.  Then we have to revote.  Then we have a motion to reconsider.  So if you have 74 clauses plus general discussion…  Each day, we only have six hours to do business.  Actually, a lot of that time is taken up hearing reports and on other things, so we really have less than five hours for legislation.  It’s not hard to stall for 100 hours.  If the opposition wants to stop something, they can.  Without communication or negotiation, you can’t even get to the vote.  For the recent 產創條例, we changed a lot of the content to what the DPP wanted.

How do you deal with the minority?  First, respect.  Second, tolerance.  Third, incorporate their ideas.

Back when Lian Chan 連戰 was premier, Vice-Premier Xu Lide 徐立德 and Zhao Shoubo 趙守博 were always at the Legislative Yuan, ready to communicate and negotiate.  (Note: The implication was that this was a very successful model, and that no one since then has been quite as good.)

Communication is very complex.  I can’t explain all of it thoroughly in such a short talk.  For example, once the executive wanted to pass an unpopular bill by combining it with a popular one (the consumer stimulus certificate plan).  I convinced them that this would only kill both bills.

One of my most important jobs is persuading the DPP not to always ask for a motion to reconsider.  This takes a lot of party-to-party negotiations.  You have to respect different opinions, and you have to incorporate their ideas.

Everyone says that legislators like to fight.  We don’t like to fight.  Fighting is a result of party caucuses insisting on their principals.  There have been four recent cases of fighting, and all four have been about party principals.  First, there was a battle about how to appoint members of the National Communications Commission (NCC).  The KMT insisted that appointments the NCC board should be proportional to the party strength in the legislature.  There were several instances of fighting over this, and lots of party negotiations.  Finally, the DPP agreed to allow the vote, and we agreed that the result would be sent to the Council of Grand Justices to determine whether it was constitutional.  Eventually, it was found unconstitutional.  We passed a new law in which the members are simply nominated by the president and confirmed by the legislature.  Second, there was fighting over the Three Links.  Third, there was fighting about taxes for public servants.  Fourth, there was fighting over the makeup of the Central Election Commission (CEC).  In the past, the executive dominated the CEC.  For example, in 2004 there were several controversies about how to deal with referenda, and the CEC ruled in favor of the DPP.  In 2008, the KMT proposed that the CEC seats should be proportional to the parties’ strength in the legislature and the DPP protested that this was unconstitutional, just as with the NCC.  There was fighting, which of course was entirely for partisan goals.  After the KMT won the 2008 elections, we revisited the CEC laws.  Now the president nominates and the legislature confirms.  So you can see the both the KMT and DPP were struggling for their own self-interests.  We don’t really like to fight.

The budget process is very complex.  It’s not just the national budget.  There are also special budgets and state-owned enterprises.  Each party caucus has amendments on each bill, so there are over 3000 items that we have to manage.  We usually sit down in an all-day bargaining session; it’s like a vegetable market!  We have simplified this somewhat in recent years.  At the very least, there aren’t as many party caucuses, so there aren’t as many alternatives that need to be considered.  We not only have to communicate with each party caucus, we also have to communicate with each individual legislator.

Pressure mounts on Cai to run

May 17, 2010

The DPP mayoral nomination process for the other three cities has entered its final stages.  It was supposed to be done last week, but the DPP gave itself a one week extension.

There’s not much doubt that the DPP will nominate Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌 for Taipei City, but the other two nominations are still very much in the air.  There is a strong push being made to shove aside the two obvious candidates, You Xikun 游錫堃 and Lin Jialong 林佳龍, in favor of the two top party leaders, Chair Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 and Secretary-General Su Jiaquan 蘇嘉全.  Neither Cai nor Su really wants to run, but they are under immense pressure to accept the nominations.  Cai threw Su under the bus first, calling on him to run in Taichung City a couple of weeks ago.  Yesterday, Su returned the favor, saying his campaign would only have direction if Cai were also to run.  (Funny, I thought they were supposed to be allies!)  For the first time in a couple of months, I am getting the feeling that Cai and Su will have to yield to the pressure and accept the nominations.

Why don’t they want to run?  There are a few common reasons.  Both seem quite happy in their present offices.  Both would be outsiders running a campaign without deep local connections and only six months to develop local credibility.  Neither has prepared at all for this campaign.  In Cai’s case, she wants to remain in national politics, with her eye on national issues such as relations with China, national security, the economy, and so forth.  Becoming mayor of Xinbei City would give her electoral experience and some experience in local government, but it would also force her to spend time on local government problems, like picking up garbage, enforcing parking regulations, and maintaining parks.  Cai has a chance to be the party presidential candidate in 2012, and I think her eye is firmly fixed on that opportunity.  Local governance is a distraction to preparation for that race.  Besides, she might lose this election.  Polls show her even with Zhu Lilun 朱立倫, not with a big lead.  For Su, the probability of losing is very high.  His job would be to lose as well as possible, hardly an attractive mission for someone who is already established in national politics.  Moreover, since no one wants to back a losing horse, Su probably wouldn’t be able to raise money easily.

Since they don’t want to run, why does everyone else want them to?  In a word, the alternatives are lousy.  In Taichung City, Lin Jialong has been running for more than five years, and is still nowhere in the polls.  He already lost by a convincing margin to Jason Hu 胡志強 once, and there is very little reason to believe it would be any better this time.  The other local candidates, such as Guo Junming 郭俊銘 and Qiu Taisan 邱太三, have even worse prospects.  In Xinbei City, the situation is perhaps even more desperate.  The DPP is mostly resigned to losing Taichung, but they think they should win Xinbei.  At the beginning of the year, the KMT was saddled with a lousy incumbent, Zhou Xiwei 周錫瑋, and both Su Zhenchang and Cai Yingwen were leading him in the polls.  Since then, Zhou has withdrawn from the race in favor of Zhu Lilun, Su opted to run in Taipei City, and Cai doesn’t want to run.  What looked like a likely victory for the DPP has turned into a likely defeat.  As in Taichung, the other potential nominees aren’t appealing.  Former Premier You Xikun has emerged as the strongest of the bunch, but he still trails Zhu in the polls but a wide margin, as much as 20%.  At this point, the most likely outcome of a You candidacy would be something like a 55-45 defeat: respectable, but a clear defeat nonetheless.  If the DPP wants to win, they probably need Cai Yingwen.

One thing this illustrates to me is just what a tough game electoral politics is.  If you look like a loser, you will be cast aside.  Lin Jialong has been working hard for five years, but since he has little in the way of public support, the DPP won’t hesitate to push him aside if there is any better option.  You Xikun has had six months to prove that he could win the Xinbei race.  There hasn’t been much movement in the polls.  Well, he had his shot, and now it’s time to look for someone else.  The KMT was desperately trying to do the same thing in the Kaohsiung and Tainan races.  The difference is that they never found any better options.  Even Wang Jinping 王金平 didn’t look like he would win Kaohsiung, and Wang is such an effective Speaker that they party can hardly afford to sacrifice him for a few extra percentage points.  The DPP has better options in Cai and Su.  Cai is clearly more popular than You and is even with Zhu.  Su is only even with Lin, but that makes him a far better vehicle for the DPP.  Su hasn’t even started to develop a campaign yet; he can only go up.  No voter is going to re-evaluate things with a Hu-Lin matchup.  With a brand new face in the race, there is a chance that voters will take a fresh look, not only at the DPP side, but also at Jason Hu and his record.

I’m not sure that nominating Cai and Su helps the DPP in the long run, especially for the 2012 presidential race.  However, it would clearly make them stronger in this year’s elections.

Tainan Mayoral Race Set

May 13, 2010

In the past week, both parties have finalized their nominations for the Tainan mayoral race.  The DPP has nominated Lai Qingde 賴清德, while the KMT will nominate Guo Tiancai 郭添財.  The early polls (and all other indicators) make Lai a prohibitive favorite to win the general election in November.

The DPP released the results of its nomination surveys last Friday.  Here are the results:

Lai Qingde Xu Tiancai Su Huanzhi Li Junyi Ye Yijin
賴清德 許添財 蘇煥智 李俊毅 葉宜津
Shanshui 46.27 29.84 19.60 2.62 1.66
Guanchajia 43.52 33.17 18.63 2.78 1.90
Jingzhan 43.05 34.80 18.70 1.65 1.80
Average 44.28 32.60 18.98 2.35 1.79

As you can see, Lai won by a comfortable 12% margin, well above the margin of error for a single poll.  Moreover, the three polls yielded nearly the same results.  While the Shanshui poll was a bit more favorable to Lai, the difference was only about 3%, not an unreasonable result for a random sample.  Like the Kaohsiung surveys, the DPP got a clear and clean result here: Lai was clearly the winner.

It’s probably a good thing that Lai did win by so much, because comments from Xu’s camp lead me to believe that he was looking for an excuse not to accept the results.  On the one hand, he doubted the fairness of the polls because he didn’t think he should have lost by that much.  (Had he lost by less, you can bet that he would have thought he should have won; politicians are like that.)  On the other hand, he doubted the fairness of the polls because he wondered if there was some sort of sampling problem.  His argument was roughly as follows.  He was particularly strong in two townships in Tainan County, Dongshan 東山鄉 and Madou 麻豆鎮, and his support organizations (後援會) there reported that none of them had received a telephone call.  He concluded that there must have been something wrong with the sampling.

Ok, lets do a little math to see how likely that is.  In the 2008 presidential election, there were 1432399 eligible voters in Tainan County and City.  Of those, 55353 lived in Dongshan and Madou.  How many of those could be in Xu’s support organization?  Let’s assume (optimistically) that 80% of the eligible voters are politically active enough to potentially participate.  Then assume (again, optimistically) that 65% of those lean green, and 50% of the green leaning voters supported Xu.  Finally (and most unreasonably), let’s assume every single one of those people is in Xu’s support organization.  That’s 14392 people, or roughly 1% of the total electorate.  (In fact, I’d be shocked if his support organization in those two towns were even one tenth that size.)  Assuming the sample sizes were 1000 for each of the surveys, or 3000 total, about 30 of those people should have been sampled.  If (and here we assume perfect reporting from every member of the organization back to the top) none of them were in fact sampled, we might be a bit suspicious.  On the other hand, if it turns out that Xu’s support organization is only one twentieth that size, roughly 700 people, then only 1.5 of them should have been sampled.  There are lots of sets of random samples that would not include any of these people.  In short, Xu’s complaint is only reasonable under the most heroic of assumptions.  Frankly, if Xu Tiancai, a supposed expert in financial matters, doesn’t understand basic notions of probability, (I probably shouldn’t finish this sentence).

In the day or two after the results were announce, Xu succumbed to better judgment and indicated he would not split the party by running as an independent.

Why did Xu and Su lose?  I have heard two good explanations.  The first is that both Xu and Su were two-term incumbents, and voters wanted a change.  Lai certainly hammered this point throughout his campaign.  If he didn’t think it was working, he probably would have stopped saying it.  However, I’m not completely convinced that this was the real key.  Voters in Taichung City seem to have few qualms about giving Jason Hu (another two-term incumbent) four more years.  One might argue that Hu is a KMT member, and DPP voters take notions of rotation of power more seriously.  Ok, but Taipei County voters didn’t seem too worried about sending Su Chenchang back into power which would have made it three of the past four years for him in that office.  I think this probably helped Lai, but I doubt it was decisive.

The other explanation is that this primary (as well as the Kaohsiung primary) was a rejection of Chen Shuibian.  Of all the candidates in the Tainan race, only Lai did not personally go and visit Chen in prison.  In fact, Chen publicly complained that Lai had not visited him.  Chen’s favored candidate was Xu, who was a member of Chen’s Justice Faction going back to the 1992 election.  In fact, Chen’s support was a central theme of Xu’s campaign (though perhaps not as important as Xu’s record as mayor).  It may be true that Lai’s victory really represents a desire to move away from the Chen era (and Lai is much closer to party chair Cai Yingwen).  However, remember that this was a multi-candidate election.  If we are going to interpret Lai’s support as a rejection of Chen, we must also remember that 55% of the Tainan electorate supported candidates who actively curried favor with Chen.  So let’s not get carried away speculating on the national implications of this primary.

I don’t know much about Lai Qingde, and voters usually know more about their executives than their legislators.  I have a feeling this was really more of a rejection of Xu and Su than a victory for Lai.    My guess is that both of the above factors mattered, but that dissatisfaction with the performance of the two incumbents was probably the decisive factor.  Of course, I have no evidence for this line of speculation.

Today’s newspaper brings reports of the KMT side of the race.  After weeks of trying desperately to find someone else, the KMT finally admitted that it was stuck with the declared candidates (just as in Kaohsiung).  Four waves of surveys all showed that Guo Tiancai 郭添財was slightly more popular than Li Quanjiao 李全教, by margins of between 1% and 3%.  Now, 1-3% is not significantly different in a single poll, but if you find those differences again and again over several polls, eventually you can determine that one is, in fact, higher.

Li has accepted the decision and expressed support for Guo, though let’s not imagine he was swayed by my argument about repeated polls.  He would probably be fighting a bit harder if this were a winnable race.  However, the “prize” is to waste a lot of money and energy in what is almost certain to be a humiliating defeat.

The UDN has an interesting article on the decision between Guo and Li.  (Well, interesting to me: it has the smallest headline and the least space on the entire page.)  Guo, it seems, was the safe choice.  Li had much more grassroots support and much better organization.  However, Li also has a court case pending and is considered much more controversial and attackable.  Guo, in contrast, is a former education bureaucrat who is now serving as vice-president of a technical college.  He hasn’t cozied up to grassroots power brokers; in fact, they complain that he is a cold fish.  However, this race is really about setting the table for 2012, and it wouldn’t do Ma Yingjiu any good to win a few more votes this year while sullying the party image.

So, how is the horse race looking?  A UDN poll from last Friday says Lai 57, Guo 15, undecided 27.  (The same poll had Lai 59, Li 15, undecided 26.)  I don’t think Lai will win by a 4-1 margin, but a 2-1 victory is not out of the question.