DPP Central Standing Committee election

I’ve been silent for nearly a month.  So sue me.  Nothing much has happened anyway, except for the ECFA signing, KMT city council nominations, a major judicial scandal involving a former elected official, and a few other things of equally minor importance.  Who wants to write about stuff like that?

Instead of stuff like that (that might have a real impact on the country’s future), I’m going to address something much more mundane today, the DPP’s recent Central Standing Committee (CSC) elections.

The DPP power structure is elected indirectly.  First, the party congress elects the 30 members of the Central Executive Committee (CEC), and then the CEC elects the 10 members of the CSC.  (Yes, this is exactly how the KMT does it too.  The DPP copied the KMT’s Leninist architecture.)  The voting is done according to the SNTV method.  There are also some ex-officio members of the CSC, including the party chair, the three leaders of the legislative caucus, any mayors of direct municipalities, and one county executive (chosen by the various DPP county executives).

The DPP formally abolished its factions a few years ago, and they persist in thinking that we are stupid enough to believe this fiction.  I will not cooperate by calling the factions “the former New Tide faction” and so on.  There are currently six factions to consider: the former New Tide faction, the Hsieh faction (centered around Frank Hsieh 謝長廷), the Su faction (centered around Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌), the You faction (centered around You Xikun 游錫堃), the Grandparents faction (公媽派) (of older DPP leaders, such as Annette Lu 呂秀蓮 and Cai Tongrong 蔡同榮), and the Chen faction (centered around the former president).  Party chair Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 does not have her own faction; instead she is supported by other factions.  However, she is starting to develop her ties and you can see how a proto-Cai faction could emerge.

It is fashionable to say that these factions have no policy content, but I don’t think that is quite true.  Nowadays, you find the Taiwan fundamentalists mostly in the Grandparents and Chen factions.

So here is the result of the CSC election.  I recreated the voting from news stories, so I’m not 100% sure it is correct, but it seems to make sense.

Win? name name votes faction
謝長廷 Frank Hsieh 4 Hsieh
蔡同榮 Cai Tongrong 3 Grandparents
段宜康 Duan Yikang 3 New Tide
徐佳青 Xu Jiaqing 1 New Tide
顏曉菁 Yan Xiaojing 1 New Tide
林佳龍 Lin Jialong 3 You
余政憲 Yu Zhengxian 3 Chen/Chen Ju
蔡憲浩 Cai Xianhao 3 Su
何志偉 He Zhiwei 3 (Su)
陳明文 Chen Mingwen 3 ?
No 張宏陸 Zhang Honglu 3 Su
Total 30

There are a couple of widely reported stories.  First, most people were surprised that Annette Lu was not elected.  Apparently she made a serious miscalculation.  The DPP rules guarantee that the ten CSC spots will have at least two women.  Lu first communicated with the other factions to determine if other women were running.  According to the China Times, she persuaded the other factions to withdraw all but one of their female candidates so that she would be guaranteed victory.  However, she then tried to exploit this concession.  Since only one other woman was angling for a position, Lu decided to throw her support to Cai Tongrong.  With one unfilled seat for women, the party would hold a second round of voting and Lu calculated that her overall prestige in the party would enable her to win that seat.  That way, the Grandparents would win two seats.  (If she had a vote or two to give away, Cai Tongrong certainly needed it.  If he had only gotten one or two votes, he would have lost.)  However, the New Tide faction caught wind of her stratagem, and quickly decided to add a female candidate and give each of its two women one vote.  Thus, Lu had zero votes, and two New Tide female candidates each had one, and no second round was needed.  (Oh, the joys of good organization!)  Of course, Lu has since denied that she was interested at all in running for the CSC.  Well, that’s what I would expect her to say instead of admitting to such an embarrassing blunder, but we have to at least store away (however skeptically) the possibility that she is telling the truth.

The other interesting story concerned the one loser.  Hsieh (with four votes) and the two women were clear winners.  The other eight candidates for seven seats all tied with three votes.  According to DPP rules,[i] ties are broken by drawing lots.  Chen Mingwen drew the short straw and should have been the loser.  Chen, as you will recall, is the former Chiayi County executive and is now a member of the legislature.  He isn’t really associated with a faction, though the various newspapers said that he is close to Cai Yingwen, and he was elected to the CEC with the support of the New Tide faction and Chen Ju.  Most sources copped out and simply listed him as belonging to the Chiayi faction, which doesn’t really exist as far as I know.  At this point, Su Zhenchang stepped in and instructed his footsoldier, Zhang Honglu, not to draw a lot, thereby yielding the last seat to Chen.

From one point of view, Su has gone mad.  The CSC has a two year term, so this is the body that will be making the important decisions about how the 2012 presidential candidate is nominated.  We all expect that to be a contest between Su and Cai.  Su just traded out a sure vote on the CSC for one who might side with Cai.  On the other hand, Su might be trying to expand his coalition.  Zhang Honglu is a minor Taipei County politician.  He doesn’t bring any independent support.  Chen Mingwen, with all of his support in Chiayi, brings something to the table that is worth wooing.  Now Chen owes him a favor, though we don’t know just how far Chen will feel obligated to go in repaying that favor or whether this will shift Chen into Su’s orbit.

As far as the balance of power goes, the most important trend is the decline of the Chen and Grandparents factions.  In particular, many news sources reported that the Chen faction has been shut out completely.  You’ll notice that I have classified Yu Zhengxian as being part of the Chen faction, but his victory was supposedly due more to the efforts of Chen Ju than to the former president.  (Chen Ju needs Yu for his family’s network in Kaohsiung County; she is clearly not part of the former president’s faction.)  Since these two factions are considered to be the redoubt of the Taiwan fundamentalists and the former president, their decline is significant.  It seems clear that the DPP is continuing its transition out of the Chen Era.

On the other hand, it would be optimistic to say, as the Taipei Times did, that this election marked the consolidation of Cai’s leadership.  Both Taipei Times and TVBS asserted that she could claim the support of six elected members of the CSC: the three New Tide members, Lin Jialong, Chen Mingwen, and Yu Zhengxian.  The China Times suggested that Cai lobbied to get Lin Jialong, Yu Zhengxian (via Chen Ju), and Chen Mingwen elected (supposedly, she asked Su to intervene on Chen’s behalf).  Going through the roll call this way makes it painfully obvious how tenuous Cai’s support is.  Cai’s current strength lies in a balance of power.  None of the factions are strong enough to control the party, and all of them are worried about other factions gaining too much strength.  Since she does not have her own army, Cai is not as much of a threat.  She is a comfortable umbrella for everyone.  And recall that everyone is supposed to be on the same side here – the New Tide faction might want more influence, but it doesn’t want the Su faction to be totally shut out of power to the extent that it might leave, and thus diminish, the party.

So who runs the party?  Well, we’re not sure.  It might be Cai, as Taipei Times and TVBS suggest.  On the other hand, a story from the Central News Agency suggests that the “New-Su-Alliance” (New Tide, Su Faction, plus He Zhiwei, who is associated with Su but is claiming an independent faction named the Green Friendship Alliance) was the big winner.  Did they mean that such an agglomeration exists or simply that the New Tide and the Su factions were the big winners?  Other media outlets, such as zhongguang radio, picked up this story and gave it the former interpretation.  Personally, I doubt there is a clear ruling faction.  Cai Tongrong is probably going to be in the opposition most of the time, but the other members will move in and out based on the question at hand and the shifting sands of power.  If she is a reasonably talented politician, Cai Yingwen should generally be able to form coalitions to suit her purposes.

I almost forgot to list the ex-officio members:

name name position
蔡英文 Cai Yingwen Party chair
柯建銘 Ke Jianming Legislative caucus leader
官碧玲 Guan Biling Legislative caucus leader
潘孟安 Pan Meng’an Legislative caucus leader
陳菊 Chen Ju Kaohsiung mayor
蘇志芬 Su Zhifen Yunlin County executive

No news article bothered to speculate on these people’s factional status.  I’m not sure at all, but if you forced me to guess, I think Ke gets along with and is trusted by everyone, Guan and Su are part of the Hsieh faction, and Pan belongs to the New Tide faction.  Chen Ju and Cai Yingwen head their own small power centers, though they are loosely allied with one another.

I was curious how things have changed since 2008, so I looked up a story in the China Times on the 2008 election.  Here’s how they described the CSC then.

name name faction My comments
蔡同榮 Cai Tongrong Taiwan independence fundamentalist
陳勝宏 Chen Shenghong Father of He Zhiwei, so probably close to Su faction
陳明文 Chen Mingwen Supported by New Tide
許添財 Xu Tiancai Chen
羅文嘉 Luo Wenjia Chen
段宜康 Duan Yikang New Tide
徐佳青 Xu Jiaqing New Tide
蘇志芬 Su Zhifen Hsieh Elected, not ex-officio
蔡憲浩 Cai Xianhao Su
方昇茂 Fang Shengmao You
蔡英文* Cai Yingwen Ex-officio, party chair
柯建銘* Ke Jianming Ex-officio, caucus leader
賴清德* Lai Qingde New Tide Ex-officio, caucus leader
張花冠* Zhang Huaguan Ex-officio, caucus leader
楊秋興* Yang Qiuxing New Tide Ex-officio, Kaohsiung County executive
陳菊* Chen Ju Ex-officio, Kaohsiung City Mayor; close to New Tide

The biggest change from two years ago is the decline of the ex-president’s faction.  Then, the Chen faction was still strong enough to put two of its members into the CSC.  The other thing that hits me is just how well the New Tide did two years ago.  They were described as one of the winners this year, but they arguably did better two years ago with claims on three of the ex-officio members.

Finally, I’m amused by statements that this election shows that the DPP’s intra-party democracy is a sham.  These statements are coming from both the KMT and from losers in this election, such as Annette Lu and Luo Wenjia.  They point to the organization involved, with people voting based on the instructions of their factions instead of listening to the appeals of various candidates as evidence that there is no democracy involved.  To that, I say pshaw!  Or maybe phooey!

The voters involved in this election are highly politicized and have strong opinions.  You simply aren’t going to change their minds about where they stand with a few speeches.  In the context of American politics, I consider myself to be what used to be called a “yellow-dog Democrat,” because I’ll vote for any candidate, even a yellow dog, as long as he’s a Democrat.  Does that mean that I am a mindless, brainless voter?  Of course not!  I understand the role that political parties play in the American system means that, based on my values, I always want the Democrat to win.  Even if there were an individual Republican who I preferred to the Democrat in a particular race, that Republican is sufficiently constrained by the other Republicans and by Republican voters that he or she will probably end up acting in ways that I don’t like as often as not.  So I have an easy vote decision: I vote straight ticket Democrat without needing to think very much.  Now, DPP internal factions are not the same as political parties, but the point is that these voters can make very good decisions about what is best for them and their values even when they are blindly voting according to instructions from their faction leaders.  In fact, one might go so far as to argue that by cooperating in this kind of organization, they are maximizing their influence.  Elections are, after all, a test of power.  Claiming an election is undemocratic is often the last refuge of losers.

As for the KMT, well, their last Central Standing Committee election featured so much vote-buying that the party chair cancelled the election.  If they are looking for an example of an election with questionable democratic credentials, they might start there.


[i] I’m always shocked that they can’t come up with a better tiebreaking system.  With so few votes, there is always a tie to break.  There has got to be a better way.

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4 Responses to “DPP Central Standing Committee election”

  1. M Says:

    Re: Chen Mingwen

    Chen is head of the Lin faction in Jiayi and a defector from the KMT. He took most of the Lin faction over to the DPP in 2001. He is reckoned to have a gangster background.
    This probably explains why he is listed as the “Jiayi faction”.

    We have tried to do some research on factions in Jiayi, but no one is talking.

    Excellent blog by the way!

  2. frozengarlic Says:

    So that’s who the mysterious “M” is!
    It’s hard to get people to talk, especially about factions. Have you read 劉華宗’s masters thesis on the local factions in Minxiong Township 民雄鄉? I think he was able to get some inside info. However, that was more than a decade ago.
    Thanks for the complement.

  3. M Says:

    Taiwan is a small world – I never realized it was your blog for a long time!

    Will have a look at 劉華宗’s thesis. Did he have some kind of guanxi there?
    Jiayi seems to be particularly problematic because their factions are so tight. In other places people are willing to talk more.

  4. A Review of Li Ang’s ‘Everyone Chews on Sugarcane by the Side of the Road’ 李昂的《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》書評 | Translating Taiwanese Literature Says:

    […] you a good grasp of prevailing opinion, for the DPP structure and election rules specifically, this and this post are particularly good reference […]

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