City council incumbents

When they announced the numbers of seats in each of the direct municipalities, it was clear that the elections would be very different in terms of degree of difficulty.  Xinbei City is essentially our control case.  The number of seats in Xinbei, 66,  is the same as the number of seats elected in the old Taipei County in 2005.  So winning a seat this year is roughly as easy as it was before.  (Ok, if you want to be a stickler, Taipei County only had 65 seats in 2005.  They added one more aboriginal seat this year.)

The formulae converting population to seats were not quite the same for counties and direct municipalities.  So in order to hold Xinbei City constant, they had to adjust the law for direct municipalities.  As a result, even though there has been no administrative change in Taipei City, it increases from 52 seats to 63 seats.  This makes a seat in the Taipei City Council easier than ever to win.

The other three direct municipalities are much more difficult.  Because they smashed together two independent administrative units, each of which had its own council, the resulting councils are relatively small.  Taichung goes from 103 seats to only 63; Tainan is reduced from 91 to 57 seats, and Kaohsiung goes from 98 to 66 seats.  In short, it is much harder to win a seat this year than it was last time around.

You can see this reflected in whether incumbents decided to run for re-election.  I put together a data set of 410 winners last time around.[1] 342 (83%) have registered to run for re-election.  What of the other 68?  Conventionally, we would say they “retired.”  However, that term holds a lot of possibilities, and I’m really interested in what happened to them.

Quick Google searches turned up quite a bit of interesting tidbits.  7 of the 68 were ineligible.  2 died in office, and 5 were stripped of their seats by the courts for various offences.  8 others had court cases or other scandals reported in the news.  (My favorite was Tainan City Council member Li Qingxin, who went out to a KTV, met a prostitute, and brought her back to the lounge in the city council where he and his new friend were spotted by his son and daughter who he employed on his staff.  They quickly called their mother, and she and the daughter confronted him while the son took pictures on his cell phone.)  3 others won seats in the legislature.

There are also people who retire in order to pass the seat to the next generation.  I found news stories of 7 such cases, including one Taichung City Councilor took a post in the city government and is trying to elect his wife to his old seat.  There is also a case of a councilor who died and whose son is running for the seat, but I don’t want to double count that case.

This accounts for 25 of the 68 “retirees.”  14 more lost primaries and did not register for the general election.  That makes only 29 of 410 incumbents who “willingly” yielding their seats.  That is a very low number, and even that still hides some people who really wanted to run for re-election but were convinced or pressured to step aside.  And, of course, I might have missed some scandals or children.

Geographically, there is a clear difference between Taipei and everywhere else.  In Taipei, one person is now in the legislature, two are running their children, and the other 49 are ALL running for re-election.   Of Xinbei’s 65 incumbents, one is running his son, 57 are running for re-election, and there are 7 unexplained retirements.  In the other three cities, retirement rates are much higher (56 of 292).  On the other hand, once you correct for all the stripped seats, scandals, and so on, the proportion (22 of 292) who willingly stepped aside is, if anything, lower than Xinbei.

So, let’s talk about incumbents in party primaries.   179 incumbents competed for KMT nominations.  149 won.  (148 registered for the general election.  The other dropped out.)  We really care most about the losers.   Of the 30 losers, 7 accepted the results and retired.  23 registered for the general election as independents.

On the DPP side, 114 incumbents contested the primaries, and 12 lost.  Of those 12, 7 accepted the loss.  5 did not.  1 is running as a TSU nominee, and the other 4 are running as independents.

Incumbents losing primaries are interesting because this is one measure of party strength and cohesion.  Parties want primaries to be binding, for losers to accept losing, so that there aren’t too many candidates drawing from the same pool of votes in the general election.  From this perspective, the KMT’s primaries look like a colossal failure, with 23 of 30 losers not accepting the result.  However, we are only halfway through the game.  Losers don’t accept losing because they have strong commitments to party ideals, they accept losing because they don’t think they can with the general election without the party nomination.  In other words, voters can enforce party discipline by not voting for primary losers.  We can’t tell how strong the party is or how successful the primary process was until after the general election.


[1] There were only 409 seats.  I added Lin Guocheng in Taipei City.  Cai Kunlong was stripped of his seat, and the seat was awarded to Lin.  There were four other people I know of who were stripped of their seats, but I don’t know who, if anyone, replaced them.

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