Chen Ju wins Kaohsiung nomination

The DPP announced the results of its first telephone surveys today.  Chen Ju beat Yang Qiuxing by a margin of 59-41 to win the DPP’s nomination.  More precisely, the results are as follows:

Chen Ju Yang Qiuxing
DPP survey center 0.5988 0.4012
Guanchajia 0.5739 0.4261
Jingzhan 0.5950 0.4050
Average 0.5892 0.4108

Reporting survey results to the hundred of one percent is a bit ridiculous since the sampling error is roughly three percent each way, but we’ll ignore that this time.  The good news for the DPP is that all three organizations came up with the same result, so there is little doubt about Chen Ju’s clear victory.

Yang Qiuxing responded by saying he would accept the results, so the contest is effectively over.  In this sense, the system has worked very well.

To Americans (like me), primaries seem natural.  How else could you pick a candidate?  In fact, in most of the world’s democracies, candidate selection is a purely internal party matter.  Twenty years ago in Taiwan, the general electorate had no influence over candidate selection.  In a sense, the “democratization” of nominations is a failure of party politics.  (By “democratization,” I simply mean the enlarging of the electorate.)  Parties could not make their nominations stick for two reasons.  First, the voters didn’t have strong enough party identifications to vote for whoever the parties put forward.  To use a term from the old one-party American South, there weren’t enough “yellow dog Democrats,” people who would even vote for a yellow dog as long as it was the Democrat nominee.  Second, the losing candidates (seeing that voters might still vote for them in the general election) often refused to withdraw.  Instead, they often ran as independents.  Even if they didn’t win (and a significant number did), they might cause the party nominee to lose by splitting the party vote.

The DPP was the leader in institutionalizing the nomination process.  In the 1980s and early 1990s, the DPP central executive committee decided nominations.  In 1992 (I think), they tried a two tier nomination process, with party cadres deciding part (30 or 50%, I’m not exactly sure) and the general party membership deciding the rest.  This was a disaster.  The cadres formed voting alliances along factional lines instead of choosing candidates on their individual merits.  The general party membership was even worse: faction leaders registered huge numbers of new party members.  They often paid their membership fees and listed their contact info at the same address.  In other words, the party had no access to these members.  The party image suffered from all the dirty stories caused by this nomination procedure, and losers had no reason to withdraw since the primaries weren’t really a test of general popularity.

My favorite episode was the 1996 presidential nomination.  The DPP ran a two stage primary.  In the first stage party members and cadres voted, narrowing the field from four to two.  (Lin Yixiong and You Qing were eliminated; Peng Mingmin and Xu Xinliang went on to the next round.)  Then Peng and Xu went on the road for a month.  Each night, they held a debate in a different county or city.  After the debate, the audience voted.  The voting was really fun.  Each person was given a specially minted coin, which they could deposit in either the Peng slot or the Xu slot in a specially designed vending machine.  At the end of the voting, the coins for each candidate were counted up.   The DPP was trying to expand its primary electorate so that (a) mobilization wouldn’t be the determining factor and (b) the nominee would get a mandate from a primary electorate that was like the general electorate.   They succeeded on the first goal.  Xu mobilized every night, and almost every night his supporters were outnumbered by  Peng’s self-mobilizing supporters.  However, Peng’s supporters were mostly the die-hard Taiwan independence fundamentalists, so the nomination was essentially decided by a small, radical slice of the total electorate.

In the late 1990s, the DPP started experimenting with telephone surveys, and it quickly became apparent that this system accomplished nearly everything they wanted.  They don’t corrupt the party membership, it’s hard to manipulate a survey (when done by a neutral organization), and the sample can mirror the general electorate.  Best of all, they give a “clear” result that losers find very hard to defy.  (I will probably discuss at a later date how ludicrous it is to use surveys in multimember districts, and even in single seat races the winner does not always win by a statistically significant margin, but these are points that seem lost on candidates and voters.)  Since then, telephone surveys have been used more and more by all parties.  Nowadays, they are generally (but not always) the determining factor, not simply one element of a complex nomination process.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the Kaohsiung primary has been a rousing success for the DPP.  There were two very strong candidates, either of seems capable of winning the general election.  With only a bit of rancor, they have conducted an intense contest that resulted in a clear victory for one and a concession of defeat by the other.  Given that the KMT’s best chance to win the election seems to be a split in the DPP, this is no small achievement.

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One Response to “Chen Ju wins Kaohsiung nomination”

  1. Taiwan – Party-nomination, Local Elections, and the Presidency | Presidential Power Says:

    […] the late 1990s, the DPP has implemented a two-stage primary process that pitches DPP-aspirants who win in telephone polls in the first-stage against independent […]

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