Archive for November, 2010

DPP vote rationing in Taichung 10

November 23, 2010

The DPP has announced its vote rationing scheme in Taichung 10.   It is asking voters to pair up and have one person vote for each of its nominees.

This is interesting to me.  (Most things about elections are interesting to me.)

The DPP has two nominees running for three seats.  One nominee, Huang Guoshu 黃國書, is an incumbent and quite popular.  He won the party primary with an overwhelming majority and played a major role in publicizing the gangland shootings earlier this year.  The other candidate is Jiang Zhengji 江正吉, who looks far less popular.  Jiang served several terms in the city council in the 1980s and 1990s, but he lost the last two elections.  Jiang used to be in the KMT but then became an independent in the late 1990s, ran as the TSU candidate last time, and joined the DPP for this election.  So DPP voters might also have doubts about just how dedicated he is to the green cause.  In short, you have one very strong nominee and one very weak nominee.

From a strategic standpoint, Jiang would love to split all the DPP votes evenly.  Huang probably isn’t so sure about this.  If there are enough votes to go around, it’s fine.  However, every candidate’s first priority is his own victory.  The welfare of the overall party is always second.

Are there enough votes to go around for both DPP candidates?  Last time, the DPP plus TSU got 42.8% in this district.  In this wider election environment, that should either hold steady or go up this time.  The KMT has two candidates, plus there is at least one strong independent.  (Wang Yunlin’s 王允伶 mother is longtime incumbent Jiang Nai-hui 莊乃慧.)  So that means that three blue candidates will be splitting the rest of the pie.  Moreover, one of the KMT candidates, Zhang Hongnian 張宏年, is expected to be particularly strong.  Zhang is currently the speaker, and he wants to be speaker in the new city council.  One step in this is sometimes running up a high vote total to give yourself an image of high popularity.   So if the DPP splits its votes evenly, it looks like it might be hard for the blue camp to produce two candidates who get more votes unless either Wang or Hong Jiahong 洪嘉鴻, the other KMT nominee, get almost no votes.

However, it looks to me like Huang is still hedging his bets a little.  This particular vote rationing scheme is a little soft.  Rather than giving each voter a definitive set of instructions (eg: all men vote for Huang, all women vote for Jiang), this scheme gives voters a little leeway.  You can vote in pairs, but what if you don’t have a convenient person to pair with?  What if your family has three people?  This scheme makes it just a little easier for voters to rationalize voting for the candidate they prefer rather than splitting their votes evenly among the party nominees.

Most political agreements reflect carefully negotiated bargains.  Having a vote rationing scheme, any scheme, is better for Jiang than no scheme at all.  However, this might have been the worst scheme for him.  Still, it might be enough for him to win the third and last seat.

Campaign trail: Tsai in Wugu

November 23, 2010

Last night I went to a rally for Tsai Ing-wen in Wugu Township.  This was a much smaller event than the ones I went to over the weekend, which was not surprising.  It was Monday night, after all.  The rally was outside a parking garage, and the irregular space made it much harder than usual to estimate the crowd.  The area on the ground was not rectangular.  The parking garage had three overhang levels, all with some people in them.  And there were even people standing on the other side of the street.  It wasn’t a really big space, but it was extremely full.  I would estimate around 1500 people, give or take 500.  The crowd was not mobilized, and it was quite enthusiastic.

I haven’t written a lot about Tsai in this blog, given the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about her campaign.  Everyone else is much easier to grasp, but I never seem to be able to reach a clear thought about Tsai.  She is terrible at public speaking and bores crowds to death, yet people seem to genuinely like her.  She spends an inordinate amount of time shaking hands for that personal touch, yet when she gets around to making a speech, it is full of policy details and short on emotion.  Everything about her campaign is a mess, her opponent is quite good, the partisan terrain is disadvantageous to her, and yet I wouldn’t be shocked if she won the race.  She just isn’t like any other candidate I’ve seen.  (Maybe that’s exactly the appeal.)

Having said that, last night highlighted the lousy-on-the-campaign-trail aspect.  When Tsai got to the stage, she was incoherent, uninteresting, spoke in platitudes, and couldn’t manage much Taiwanese.  She even apologized for her worse than normal speaking.  As we say, her brain was completely fried.  Apparently she had been in a motorcade all day, which is extremely tiring.  You have to stand and wave on a moving car, which is tiring enough, but in addition there are fireworks constantly going off right near you.  Six hours of that would be exhausting.  When she entered our event, she worked her way from the back, through the middle of the crowd, all the way to the front.  Candidates like to do this because the crowd loves it.  However, as she passed by me, I stood a few feet back and got up on a stool to watch her.  She was being pushed and pulled by the mob, and she was not enjoying it.  She was not at all happy, or shaking hands.  Instead, she was covering her head with her hands to try to protect herself a bit.  When she finally got to the stage, she held up a few sheets of paper that were all crushed and dirty and sheepishly told the audience, this is my speech.  After that, it just isn’t surprising that she gave a terrible speech.

This all reflects poor planning and inexperience.  When they were planning out the schedule two weeks ago, no one asked if Tsai was going to be too brain dead after six hours in a motorcade to give a speech.  Since Tsai has never been a candidate before, she probably couldn’t have answered that question herself.  It takes a tremendous amount of physical stamina to campaign, and very few people appreciate this until they have been through the process.  Even if they decided that both the motorcade and the rally were necessary, they should have thought about ways to reduce the physical toll on Tsai.  Being unmarried, she is at a disadvantage.  Married candidates can take a break for a half an hour and put their spouse in their place in the motorcade.  But there are other things she could have done.  They could have given her a chair for at least part of the route.  They could have used fewer fireworks or quieter fireworks or shot them off further away from her.  They could have shortened the route.  And when they got to the rally, she didn’t have to go through the middle of the crowd.  If they really wanted to do that, they needed to have a group of big, strong young men clearing a path and holding back the crowds so that she could reach through the human wall and shake hands but wouldn’t feel physically threatened.  These are all things that experienced campaigns and candidates know how to do.

The miracle of it all was that, as bad as she was on stage, her crowd stayed with her.  The beginning of her speech was awful as she stumbled around, improvising and then going into really dry (and vague) policy ideas.  This would have alienated most crowds.  However, whenever she suddenly asked them a question, they immediately roared back the answer.  Usually when you have lost a crowd, there is no answer the first time.  You have to ask it a second time before they realize they are expected to respond.  This crowd wanted badly to support Tsai, even if she wasn’t helping them at all.

In the midst of all this lousy political communication, both last night and over the past few weeks Tsai has somehow communicated a few very important messages.  One of them has to do with her vision for the DPP’s future.  Currently, as everyone knows, partisan competition revolves around the question of Taiwan’s relationship with China.  Tsai is trying to reorient politics around a new axis of competition (or at least add another axis to the current single dimension).  Tsai is trying to add a left-right cleavage.  She is talking about creating a welfare state.  She is not just pushing one policy, such as old-age pensions, but a whole range of policies from public housing to childhood welfare.  She is also attacking the KMT’s economic policy as focused entirely on the aggregate numbers, such as GDP.  These numbers don’t distinguish between additional wealth that goes to already rich people and wealth that goes to poorer people.  In short, I think she is trying to reorient the DPP as something more like a European social democratic party.  (Lots of candidates make these sorts of promises, but Tsai is the party chair and might be defining the DPP’s path for the next few years.)

Dafydd Fell has studied the attempts by different parties to add new issues to the dominant unification-independence cleavage.  He concludes that these attempts to reorient politics have always failed.  You might talk about environmental politics or anti-corruption for a while, but when push comes to shove, you always line up with your allies on the UI cleavage.  Eventually something will replace the UI cleavage, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon.  The question of Taiwan’s future is just too basic to ignore.  However, there might be room for a left-right cleavage to supplement the dominant UI cleavage, especially as the gap between rich and poor grows.

Coming back to the immediate campaign, we see the paradox of Tsai Ing-wen.  The DPP will probably do very well in this year’s election.  Even if they only win two of the mayoral seats, they will almost certainly get more votes this year than they have in the past.  Tsai is person most responsible for this surge in DPP support.  Her ability to convince people to put the Chen era behind them and focus on the performance of the Ma government and her vision for the future have been instrumental in the DPP’s recovery from the disasters of 2008.  Yet, it is conceivable that she herself will be the candidate who benefits the least from this surge.

The partisan terrain

November 23, 2010

I often get too detailed and forget to look at the big picture.  So let’s step back and look at the basic partisan structure of the five metro areas.   I calculated the percentages of the blue and green camps for the past 6 executive elections (3 presidential, 3 local executive).   To simplify things, I’m just going to look at the green camp results.  Since I have already added all the splinter candidates back into their respective camps, the two camps are basically mirrors of each other, so we aren’t really losing any information by only looking at the green camp.  To make it even easier, in the second chart I have taken out all the local executive races.  This allows us to hold the candidates constant.  You can see the same basic trends in the first chart, but they are clearer in the second chart.

Unfortunately, it seems nearly impossible to paste a chart directly onto my blog post, so you’ll have to download the excel file and look at the pretty charts there.

5 metro party votes (a)

It is pretty obvious that Tainan is clearly the DPP’s best area of these five municipalities, and Kaohsiung is the second best.  Tainan has consistently been about 5% better than Kaohsiung.

What is a little more surprising to me is how closely the other three are bunched together.  Taipei has consistently been a bit worse than Taichung and Xinbei, but the difference is only about 2-3%.  Taichung and Xinbei are roughly equivalent.

Perhaps the reason I think the DPP faces a much tougher terrain in Taipei than in Xinbei or Taichung can be seen in the 2004 results.  In that year, all the DPP lines stretch upward, but less so in Taipei than in other places.  Taipei just seems more solid in its partisan patterns than in other places.


There are a couple of interesting deviations from the general trend lines in 2001/2.  In Xinbei, the DPP went way, way above its “normal” trend line.  This was the year that Su Tseng-chang ran for re-election.   In Taipei, the DPP went far below its normal trend line.  Ma Ying-jeou was running for re-election that year.  Apparently, both were pretty good candidates.

You can also see the north/south evolution.  (This is easier to see in the table than in the graphs.)  Comparing 2000 to 2008, the DPP’s vote increased by a bit more in the south than in the north.



campaign flags and strategic voting

November 23, 2010

One of the most interesting things about the SNTV (single non-transferable vote) electoral system is the way it creates strange incentives for strategic voting.  A voter engages in strategic voting when she votes for a candidate other than her most favored candidate in order to get a better outcome.  For example, in the Kaohsiung mayoral race, many KMT supporters will likely not vote for their favorite candidate (presumably Huang), but will instead vote for their second favorite candidate (Yang) in order to decrease the likelihood of a victory by their least preferred candidate (Chen).  In single seat races, strategic voting diverts votes away from weak candidates to the top two candidates.

However, in the SNTV system used in the city council elections, strategic voting can siphon away votes from the strongest candidates.   Suppose there are ten seats, and the first place winner wins 25000 votes while the tenth place winner only wins 15000 votes.  The first place winner has 10000 extra votes that she could have done without.  If another candidate from her party lost by 3000 votes, the supporters of the first place candidate might not be terribly happy, even though their favorite candidate won.  For them, a better result would have been for the first place winner to get only 21000 votes, and for the loser to get an extra 4000 votes and thus become a winner.  Voters try to anticipate this sort of result by guessing which candidates will get too many votes, and then they divert support to candidates from the same party they think will be weaker.

In Taiwan, this is often called “the curse of first place.”  No one wants the media to suggest that they are in first place, because their votes might evaporate.  The best place thing is to be perceived as being (though not necessarily actually be) on the edge of victory and defeat, because voters give candidates in that position extra votes (to the degree that voters agree on who occupies these positions.)  Candidates know this, and so everyone tries to convince voters that they are in danger of losing.

This weekend, I drove around Greater Taipei taking pictures of flags.  As the campaign draws to a close, candidates often put up flags screaming for help.  In this post, I’m going to show a bunch of these flags.

Here’s a fairly classic example from Zhang Jinting (DPP, Xinbei 3).  The dark green characters in the middle are the critical ones.  They read qiang jiu 強救.  Jiu means to save, and qiang is an intensifier, so this roughly translates as “HELP!!  SAVE ME!!!”

Here’ s another one from Zheng Jinlong (DPP, Xinbei 2).  He has put the qiang jiu characters in bright red.

Here’s a fence with banners from three different candidates in Banqiao (Xinbei 4), all of whom are screaming for help.  The three are Xiao Guanyu (TSU) in the red and yellow, Wang Shuhui (DPP) in black and red, and Huang Junzhe (DPP) in green.

Sometimes you have to do more than just scream for help.  Zhao Yanzhao (KMT, Xinbei 4) is emphasizing his ties with the Taipei County volunteer firemen.  Presumably they save lots of peoples’ lives, and now it is time for them and their supporters to save Zhao’s career.

Black and red seems to have become the official color scheme of the cry for help.  This is a bit disorienting for me.  Back in the 1980s, black was a color with a very serious political message.  The only people who used black in their campaign flags were people who were victims of political prosecution.   I suppose it is a good thing that Taiwan is far enough removed from those days that black can now be used to indicate a very different and much less serious type of disaster.  Here is a black and red call for help from Jiang Zhiming (DPP, Taipei 2).

For some reason, Taipei 3 (Songshan, Xinyi) seems to the epicenter of the black and red cries for help.  This is Wang Zhengde (KMT, Taipei 3).

Xu Jiabei (DPP, Taipei 3). Come to think of it, her father is a former city councilor who has a court case hanging over him.  However, she isn’t using black in the old sense; this black and red color scheme is clearly just another cry for strategic voting.

Yang Shiqiu (KMT, Taipei 3).  Instead of “qiang jiu” 強救, Yang has substituted “gao ji” 告急, or emergency!

Hong Jianyi (DPP, Taipei 3).

It’s not just that district.  Here is a black and red help sign in Tucheng.  (Ou Jinshi, DPP, Xinbei 7).

Ouch, too bright!

Jian Wenliu (KMT, Xinbei 5) asks people not to split up their votes.  That is, he is asking families to give him all of their votes rather than giving one to each of the KMT’s candidates.

Everyone screams for help, not just those who we might think are weak.  This banner is for Chen Jinxiang (KMT, Taipei 6) who is the vice-speaker of the Taipei City Council.  Really?  The vice-speaker is in trouble?  Really?

I can do better.  This sign is for Chen Xingjin (KMT, Xinbei 2).  Chen is currently the speaker of the Taipei County Assembly.  Just for the record, I didn’t make it to the districts of the Taipei City speaker or the Taipei County vice-speaker, so I don’t know if they were using this kind of tactic too.

Here’s another candidate who everyone expects to win.  This is former legislators Qin Huizhu (KMT, Taipei 3).

We already saw another former legislator using this tactic.  Wang Shuhui (DPP, Xinbei 4)  was one of the three people on the wall in Banqiao.

(And if you are counting, this would be the fifth black and red sign from that Taipei 3 district.)

Some candidates have figured that voters are probably inured to the save me appeal, and so they try to phrase the appeal in a more convincing way that reflects their special circumstances.  Here, Wu Yuanhao (KMT, Xinbei 3) tells voters that survey results are not equal to election results.  In other words, he is pleading with his voters not to strategically desert him for someone else.

Perhaps no one has played the save me angle as intensely as Zhong Xiaoping (KMT, Taipei 5).  Every time I go into his district, I hear a sound truck screaming that he is facing imminent death and needs to be rescued.  Zhong has another angle to his appeal.  He has lost before, so when he screams that he is in trouble, it might be more credible.  He even adds Jason Hu as his celebrity endorser.

Lin Shuishan (DPP, Xinbei 4) has a similar strategy.  Last time he came in 10th in a 9 seat district.  He has a picture of Su Tseng-chang sighing “I am worried that Lin Shuishan will be the top loser again.”

Here, Tsai Ing-wen tells that Lin Shuishan was the top loser last time and asks everyone to encourage him.

Wang Xinyi (KMT, Taipei 6) also lost last time.  Her banner exhorts voters not to let her lose by only a few votes and cry tears of regret again.

The crux of the problem is that all these candidates are trying to divide up votes from the same pool of voters, and each one wants (more than) his fair share.  One way to deal with this is to redefine the group of candidates who can legitimately draw from the pool of voters.   In Zhonghe (Xinbei 5), the two official DPP nominees (Zhang Ruishan and Lin Xiuhui) pose with Tsai and say “we are all DPP nominees.”  To understand why this is controversial, you have to know that a third candidate is trying to make claims on the DPP voters as well.  Jiang Yongchang only recently joined the DPP, and since he has been in the party less than a year, he wasn’t eligible to be nominated.  The two DPP candidates are suggesting that Jiang doesn’t deserve any DPP votes.

Predictably, Jiang Yongchang (IND, Xinbei 5) screams for voters to save him, as the “new” green soldier needs your critical vote.

Usually I think of strategic voting as something that goes on within parties, not between them.  However, Xue Yonghua (PFP, Xinbei 7) is the only PFP nominee in his district.  He asks voters to save him and adds, don’t let the PFP disappear.  In other words, he is trying to convince voters to think about the blue camp, not just the KMT.

Finally, we get to the last two candidates, and there is something strange going on.  Yang Zonghan (IND, Xinbei 5) boasts that he is a monster, 100 battles and 100 victories.  In other words, he is an election juggernaut.

In the same district, Lu Wanyu (IND, Xinbei 5) has taped a sign to his sound truck telling people that he is in third place in a recent survey.  What?  Third place?  The district has seven seats.  He should be claiming that he is seventh or eighth.  What is he doing?  And why is Yang telling voters that he always wins?  Don’t these guys know how the game works?

In fact, Yang and Lu are guarding against the traditional kind of strategic voting, in which voters desert weak candidates to support viable candidates.  Both are independents and neither is an incumbent, and the first battle they have to win is to convince voters that they are viable.  Party nominees, especially from the two big parties, have a much easier time of this.  If they weren’t strong enough to win, they couldn’t have ever gotten a nomination.  Independents don’t have this kind of credible signal, so they have to send other signals.   It seems you have to convince voters you can win before you start screaming that you are going to lose.

campaign trail: Su rally

November 22, 2010

On Sunday night, I went to Su Tseng-chang’s rally, held in the courtyard of a junior high school across the street from Da-an Park.  This rally was by far the best rally I have been to this year.

About 6000 packed the courtyard.  In absolute numeric terms, the crowd was only about half the size of the crowd at Hau’s rally, which I had just come from.  However, if I were a candidate, I would prefer this 6000 people to Hau’s 13000.  Su’s crowd was completely unmobilized, or perhaps I should say they were all self-mobilized.  (This is the first big event I have been to this year that had no large-scale mobilization.  I’ve written about events for Chu and Hau.  A couple of weeks ago, I also went to a very disorienting large scale indoor event for Tsai in which perhaps 80% of the audience was mobilized.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or the clarity in my thoughts to write about it at the time.)  Candidates don’t mind having mobilized people show up their events, but people who show up on their own are better.  Su might have had as many self-mobilized people at his event as Hau did at his.  Moreover, whereas Hau’s campaign had been building up for the parade for weeks, this was just another event for Su.  There was no special advertising saying that, if you only come out for one event this year, it should be this one.  Of course Sunday night before the election is a big deal, but for Su’s campaign, it probably ranks behind Saturday night and this coming Friday night (election eve), and there might be others as well.  So even though Hau “won” the numbers game on Sunday, Su has to be happier about the number of people who showed up for his event than Hau is about the turnout for his.

However, the most important difference between Su’s crowd and Hau’s crowd was energy.  There was more energy in this crowd than in the (much larger) Chu and Hau crowds combined.  Before the rally started, they showed a video about Su’s childhood and early adulthood.  When the video ended, the crowd applauded.  That was my first clue that this rally would be different.

The high point of the evening was when Su took the stage and led the audience in singing his campaign song.  They turned off the music, so that it was just Su (with a microphone) and the audience unplugged.  Most people were singing (I paid particular attention to that), and they were singing loudly enough that it reverberated off the school walls.  It was really cool.

It took a lot of guts for Su to do this.  Crowds are not nearly as enthusiastic as they were ten years ago, and it is hard to get audience to respond.  Most rallies don’t take this chance.  You almost always have two people with a microphone, and when the main speaker asks the crowd if the opponent has done well, should apologize, or whatever, the second person is always ready to jump in and give the “yes!,” “no!,” “they should!,” or whatever the appropriate response is.  They almost never leave it up to the audience to respond these days, because they aren’t sure that they won’t be met with a sickening dead silence of indifference.  So when Su asked the audience to sing with him, he was taking a big chance and it paid off handsomely.  I don’t know if the news programs chose to show this moment, but they certainly might have and it would have looked very good for the Su campaign.

I’m dwelling on this little moment because it didn’t happen by accident.  Right before Su took the stage, the musical group that wrote the campaign song performed.  They did a couple of rousing songs, and then they performed the campaign song.  They started by teaching the audience: this song only has four simple lines in the chorus, let’s try them.  So they went line by line, a capella but with the words on the video screen, and got the audience to practice or just hear the lyrics.  Then they performed the song, which had those simple four lines again and again.  Many people joined in and sang the chorus with them.  So before Su took the stage, the audience had already learned and practiced this chorus.  But, of course, this moment started long before Sunday night.  Six months ago, someone in the Su campaign had this vision and laid the groundwork by producing an appropriate song.  I can imagine them saying, we need a simple song with only a few lyrics, make it about change, and make it easy to sing.  In short, there was an immense amount of preparation that went into this one very cool moment.  Well-run campaigns like Su’s seem to have these moments all the time.


Su gave a very long speech, at least 30 minutes.  After the singing, he turned to more substantial content which inevitably sapped some of the energy from the crowd.  We never got back to the height of the singing.  However, I wouldn’t say that Su put the audience to sleep; they were still paying attention.  Su spoke on several themes.  He attacked Hau’s record as mayor, accusing him of poor planning and wasteful spending.  (When he talked about the very expensive and seldom used bus lane on Zhongxiao W. Rd., he flashed a bird’s eye picture of the other lanes jammed up and the bus lane completely empty up on the video board.  The video team, which is led by his son-in-law, is doing a fabulous job.)  He talked about some of the things he would do as mayor.  (One of these had to do with children’s welfare policies, and he spoke very movingly about how difficult it was for him and his family when his granddaughter was born three months premature.)  He spoke for quite a while about his philosophy of using talent, emphasizing that as Pingdong County executive, he had given the job of executive secretary (the #2 job) to a mainlander who was a lifelong KMT member.  They had already shown a video on this story, and the old man (now more than 80) spoke of how surprised he was that Su didn’t care about anything but ability.  (Frozen Garlic takes all of this with a grain of salt, but it was very well presented.)  Su also spoke about this as an election to improve the governance of Taipei City, asking voters to make their decisions based on their evaluation of the Hau administration’s performance rather than on some blue-green ideological divide.  Most of his speech was in Mandarin, not Taiwanese.  This was a very, very good message for Taipei City.


Let me try to put this rally into historical perspective.  It was far and away the best rally I have been to this year, but it was nowhere near some of the rallies from previous years, either in numbers or in enthusiasm.  Just off the top of my head, the Chen and Chao 趙少康 campaigns of 1994 easily outdid it, as did both the Chen and Ma campaigns in 1998.  I missed the 2002 and 2006 campaigns, so I can’t compare those.  However, I was at the election eve event for Su in 1997 (when Lu Hsiu-yi 盧修一 knelt down), and that was far, far more electric than last night.  We haven’t even started talking about the 2000 or 2004 presidential races.  In short, it was nice, but don’t let my praise make you think that Su’s campaign is white hot.  Su certainly has a chance to win this race, but the chill on Hau’s side is much more important than the warmth on Su’s side.


campaign trail: Hau parade and rally

November 22, 2010

On Sunday afternoon, I went to Hau Long-bin’s parade and rally.  I didn’t start with the marchers or join them on their trip from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial to the Presidential building.  Instead, I showed up to the former new KMT party headquarters by the East Gate at about 4:00.  Probably about a third of the marchers had already arrived.  I watched as the remaining marchers went passed and entered Kaidagelan Ave., where they had a stage erected.

The parade started out as an election mobilization parade, and then morphed into a protest against “corruption” (read: Chen Shui-bian) when Chen was found not guilty.  After Chen was found guilty in another case, the KMT was left without a theme, so they decided the parade would be a festive carnival.  And then a few days ago, in the wake of the Yang Shujun incident at the Asian Games, they decided that this should be a demonstration in support of Yang Shujun. (Or maybe it was against unfair treatment by international sporting authorities.  I’m confused).  As you might expect from this mishmash, all of these ideas showed up a little.  There was a signature petition against Chen and a truck supporting judicial reform.  Several legislators showed up in Tai Kwon Do uniforms.  And they had big balloon floats and people dressed up in lots of fun costumes.  It was all quite fun.

I must dedicate an entire paragraph to the single most spectacular participant, who I encountered about 10 minutes after the battery in my camera died.  There was a man on stilts.  The stilts were the least interesting thing.  He was wearing a clown wig, a halter top (like a bikini top), and bright green Sinbad the Sailor pantaloons.  Colorful, yes?  Did I mention that he was about 75 years old, with wrinkly, saggy old person’s skin?  Don’t forget, he was wearing a bikini top.  Actually, I’m not completely sure it was man.  And he was missing a few teeth, so he had a snaggly smile.  The best part was that whenever someone saw him and stared in disbelief (which was everyone), he would shake his booty like a sexy go-go dancer at them.  New Orleans would have been proud to have this character prowling Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras.  All I can say is, well done sir.  This was far above and beyond the call of duty.

However, somewhere about 15 minutes after I started watching, I became aware that I was missing an important aspect of the march.  There weren’t that many people.  There were big gaps in the line of marchers.  Sometimes you had 50 meters with only one or two people.  And after those first few groups, I started paying more attention to the expressions on people’s faces.  They weren’t happy or angry.  They were mostly just tired.  Now this could have been from walking for two hours.  But this isn’t my first parade.  Usually, people rely on each other to keep their energy up.  They yell slogans, cheer for each other, and have a good time.  There wasn’t much of that at all.  There were very, very few spontaneous chants.  Every once in a while, someone (usually working for a city council candidate) would try a frozen garlic cheer, but they faded out pretty quickly.  Mostly, the marchers just quietly (grimly?) finished their task of marching to the rally site.

The crowd at the rally stretched back to the front of the East Gate (though not behind it).  That sounds like a lot of people, right?  Well, Kaidagelan runs from the presidential building to the East Gate.  Halfway between them, it is crossed by Guanqian Rd.  Normally, the stage is right in front of the presidential building, but today it was placed after Guanqian Rd. (on the side closer to the East Gate).  In other words, they only choose to use about 40% of the available space, and they just barely filled even that.

13000 people is a lot, but the KMT has been building to this event for weeks.  A very large percentage of those 13000 people were working (holding signs for a city council candidate, in charge of carrying balloons, and so on) or otherwise mobilized.  My guess is that about half of the crowd was completely unmobilized.  That is not very good for something with this much buildup.  And remember, the people who did show up were not very energetic.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this event was a disaster.  So what?  Well, no one quite knows what this means for the hundreds of thousands of usually blue voters who didn’t show up.  My guess is that there is something like a ladder, and everyone is one step below their normal position.  These people who showed up today with no energy would normally be enthused.  The people who would normally show up but not necessarily cheer wildly stayed home.  The people who would normally stay at home but pay close attention on TV might not be so concerned this year.  At the end of this ladder, the people who might normally vote without much enthusiasm just might not bother to turn out this year.

The part of my brain that pays attention to past election results says it is almost impossible for Hau to lose this election.  The part of my brain watching the campaign keeps insisting that he is in real trouble.

I’m not a great photographer, so I apologize for the quality of these pictures.

Floats!  Isn’t this fun!

A whole battalion of superheroes.

City Council candidate Wang Xinyi 王欣儀 dressed as a fairy.

City Council candidate Zhong Xiaoping 鍾小平 ready to kick ass!

They were filling this hot air balloon when I arrived at 4:00.  It looks fantastic.  One of Hau’s slogans is “Taipei taking off” 台北起飛 and they had a lot of airplanes ready to take flight.  This fit the theme perfectly.  When I left the rally nearly two hours later, the balloon was still in the same place.  The rally wasn’t quite over, so they might have been saving it for a grand finale, but it was already dark and it wouldn’t have had much effect.  If Hau loses the election, this balloon that didn’t take off while there was still daylight (if at all) might be a good metaphor for his campaign.

This sign announces a petition drive to protest the corruption of Chen Shui-bian and the judge who protected him.  It is sponsored by city council candidate Li Qingyuan 李慶元。

This guy is warning us about pink wolves (Chen and Su) who will betray the country.  Pink is a reference to all the pink Su has been wearing in this campaign in an effort to de-emphasize his green affiliation.

Not many marchers.  There were lots of gaps like this one.

These marchers just look tired.  I saw this again and again.

campaign trail: Chu rally in Zhonghe

November 22, 2010

On Saturday night, a friend and I went to a rally for Eric Chu in Zhonghe City.  We were a bit late because the traffic on the freeway was horribly backed up.  He joked that it was probably all the people going to the rally.  Of course, that would be ludicrous; no rally has that many people.  However, after our normal 30 minute trip took 90 minutes and all the other roads leading away from the rally were completely clear, it became apparent that it really was the rally.  I think they were unloading all their busses in the slow lane, so that the slow lane backed up to the freeway exit, which eventually backed up to Xindian.  Wow.

There were quite a few people at the rally.  The site was big enough for 12000-15000, but it wasn’t quite full.  There were large gaps of seats that were completely empty, while other blocks were completely full.  Well, that’s what happens when most of your crowd is mobilized.  Of course, mobilized people are still people, and there were a lot of them.  I estimated about 9000, give or take a thousand.  (My estimates tend to be a lot lower than most people’s.  This is because I count people rather than simply pick a big number out of the air.)  It wasn’t a bad crowd.  There was a reasonable amount of energy.  If the speaker was boring, the crowd wouldn’t pay much attention.  However, if the speaker got them involved, the crowd did respond.

Some of the speakers included legislators Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇 and Hung Hsiu-chu 洪秀柱, county executive Chou Hsi-wei 周錫瑋, and party elder Wu Po-hsiung 吳伯雄.  After my description of Hung’s speech in the Da-an Park rally (which I did NOT, in fact, call the “garden of hatred”) made such a stir on the internet, I feel obliged to comment on her speech this time.  Huang repeated some of her speech about Chen Shui-bian, who she still refused to call by name.  She still said that they had felt dissatisfied 悶 while waiting for a court ruling on Chen’s cases.  However, this time she did not use the word “hate.”  I repeat, she did not use the word “hate.”  Actually, her whole speech had a lot less passion in it this time.  Maybe she decided to tone it down, but I think the most important thing is probably simply that another week has gone by.  Time moderates most passions.  The crowd in Da-an Park didn’t react too strongly, and this crowd had even less reaction.  I wouldn’t call it boredom, but perhaps it was mild interest.

The best speaker of the night was County Executive Chou Hsi-wei.  When they introduced him, he got a very warm reception.  You are reading correctly: the guy who was not popular enough to be re-nominated was the star of the night.  Chou launched into a passionate speech that really grabbed the crowd.  I think he got a little carried away by the moment and went a little overboard.  Near the end of his speech, he screamed “Down with the DPP” 打倒民進黨, a line that sounds like it comes from the Cultural Revolution.  But the crowd was with him, and he was probably letting off a year of pent up frustration.

Neither Chu nor Ma was at their best.  Ma inherited a riled-up crowd (from Chou) and proceeded to put them to sleep.  It was the KMT’s 116th birthday, and he talked for 5 minutes about the origins of the KMT.  He tried to sell us on the idea that the loss of Taiwan to the Japanese was instrumental in Sun Yat-sen’s dissatisfaction with the Qing court.  In other words, the KMT’s establishment was closely linked to Taiwan.  A) I don’t remember Taiwan being a critical factor in any of the accounts I’ve read, and B) this very dry topic sucked all the energy out of the crowd.  The rest of the rally wasn’t very memorable.

Overall, it was a reasonably good rally.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster.  (This seems to be my judgment about everything associated with the Chu campaign.)



November 20, 2010

Please don’t read this post.  It is not nutritious.


I’m pretty disgusted with the furor over Yang Shujun 楊淑君, the athlete who was disqualified at the Asian Games.  However, unlike everyone else on our island, I’m not disgusted with the Koreans or the Chinese, I’m disgusted with the reactions here in Taiwan.  All of the politicians are falling over themselves, trying to outdo each other in support of Yang.  Lots are demanding the government do something about it, and even President Ma has publicly stated that he can’t accept this decision.  The media is even reporting/cheerleading a boycott of Korean goods.

No one is against Yang.  I just don’t think this is very important.  This isn’t a case of government corruption, it doesn’t say anything about the government’s ability to get things done, and it doesn’t have anything to do with public policy.  Winning or not winning a medal in the Asian Games doesn’t mean that Taiwan is a better or worse place to live, or that Taiwanese are any better people.  It’s just a medal in a competition.  Personally, I think that countries that value sporting competitions for nationalistic purposes shame themselves and should be ridiculed.  My own country, the USA, is one of the worst offenders in this regard.  I’m not impressed by the communist sports machines that waste so many resources pursuing ultimately meaningless medals, and I’m even less impressed with Americans screaming “USA, USA, USA” as the American national team crushes Malawi in some obscure event that no one would even play if it weren’t for the Olympics.  Nationalism and sports are a lousy combination.

So she was disqualified.  That’s too bad.  Can we move on now?

The only reasonable people seem to be the teenagers who went to the airport to mob their Korean pop star idols.  When the TV reporters asked them if they were going to boycott all Korean things to show support for Yang, they looked at her like she was crazy.  Thank goodness for silly teenage girls.


party growth in city councils

November 19, 2010

The upper levels of Taiwan’s politics are dominated by political parties.  The lower levels?  Not so much.  The grassroots level elections, including elections for county assembly, township mayor, township council, and lizhang, the partisan results often don’t look too much like the higher level elections.  For example, here’s a quick comparison of the most recent legislative and county assembly elections in Tainan County:

  County assembly Legislature (list vote)
KMT 32.2 40.3
DPP 27.1 50.7
New   1.2
PFP 0.5  
TSU 0.4 3.7
others 39.8 4.1

There are a couple of things going on here.  First, the DPP rarely holds its voters in grassroots elections.  The simply haven’t developed enough politicians at the grassroots levels who can build the kinds of networks necessary to win these sorts of elections.  Moreover, since local politics rarely seem to interact with national politics, many voters don’t think it is important to vote your ideals in local elections.  Voters who reliably vote for the DPP in higher level elections vote for a lot of KMT and independent politicians in grassroots elections.  Second, the KMT hemorrhages votes to independents.  Independents are generally what we normally think of as organizational, clientelist, or factional politicians.  They know lots of people, do lots of favors, usually aren’t too worried about ethics, and aren’t averse to personal profit.  In the past, these politicians (and their votes) were usually affiliated with the KMT.  However, during the democratic era, many of them, for whatever reason, decided that it was more advantageous to be independents.  Perhaps this gave them all the access to money politics without the threat of party discipline.  Every now and then, both parties have to make a show of clean politics.  Another possibility is that they found that, because they didn’t have to be associated with either side of the unification – independence debate, they didn’t start out as unacceptable to half their potential market.  At any rate, independents have done well in county assembly elections.  In a few places, such as Tainan County, they have become the plurality “party,” winning more votes and seats than even the KMT.


I suspect that we will see a drastic drop in the number and vote share of independents in the five municipalities over the next two elections.  There are three reasons for this.  First, there is a long-term trend toward the deepening of party politics at the grassroots level.  This is most obvious in the slow, steady climb in the DPP’s vote and seat shares.  Even in the absence of other changes, I would expect to see the DPP increase its vote and seat share significantly this year, just as it has in the past few county assembly elections.  This process is most advanced in the urban areas where the gap between vote share in legislative elections and city council elections is already fairly small.  However, there is still a lot of room for DPP growth in the more rural areas, such as Tainan County where the DPP might only get half of its normal vote in grassroots elections.

I believe that there is a similar process occurring within the KMT, though it is far harder to observe.  I think people who vote for the KMT in grassroots elections are increasingly casting a vote for the party and less and less for an individual.  The campaigns certainly feel different now than they did a decade or two ago.  KMT candidates never used to emphasize their party label.  Many of the old factional politicians (and their votes) are now independents, but the people left in the party are more dedicated to the idea of a party.  I think we may have already seen the low point for the KMT, and it will start rebuilding its vote share in the same way the DPP has.  (Of course, I have no evidence for this.)

The second reason has to do with the changed nature of the challenge this year.  This year, incumbents in Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung will be facing a very different challenge than in previous years.  For example, last time in Kaohsiung County District 3 (Daliao, Linyuan), a candidate needed about 6000 votes to win.  This time, the number of valid votes should be about the same, but there will only be 4 seats instead of 7.  To win, a candidate might 11000 votes or more.  This is a real problem for independents.  From an evolutionary sense, we might think of the current system as advantaging people who can put together social networks just strong enough to command 6000 or 7000 votes.  However, if you have to rely on personal connections and social relationships to produce votes, it will be very hard for these people to ramp up their operations to produce 11000 votes.  Some of them will be able to do it, and some of them probably could have done it in the past but didn’t need to.  However, for a large percentage, 6000 votes was already their maximum effort.  They don’t have any more friends or favors to call in.  They might be in real trouble.  In other words, this election could be like climate change for them: they evolved for a cooler climate and might not be able to adapt fast enough to survive in a hotter climate.

This is where party politicians have an enormous advantage.  Their voters don’t always vote based on personal connections.  If they don’t have personal ties, they can still vote for a party nominee for abstract reasons.  This makes it much easier for party politicians to move from a 6000 vote threshold to an 11000 vote threshold.  The party simply nominates fewer candidates, and the voters shift from one candidate to another.  Party nominees are not entirely interchangeable, but this process works much more easily for parties than for independents.  In short, I expect to see a lot of independents killed off this year a lot of party politicians moving in to fill the vacuum.

The third factor has to do with the bleak future for local factions in the new direct municipalities.  This will affect Taichung County factions the most.  Local factions in Tainan County, Kaohsiung County, and Taipei County have already been under pressure for a generation or more and are already merely a shadow of their former selves.  Since the two Taichung County factions are still flourishing, they have the most to lose.

In the new direct municipalities, the offices that were the lifeblood of factions are disappearing.  There will be no local township mayors, not township councils, and the county executive will morph into a mayor responsible for a much larger territory.  In Taichung County, the new mayor will not be from one of the local factions.  He might build an expedient alliance with them, but he will not consider diverting the resources of the city government to benefit the faction to be his first priority.  Anything he gives them will be given begrudgingly.  There are other sources of finances, such as farmers associations and credit unions, but nothing can substitute for control over the budget of a town or county government.  For factions, this is a crisis.

Much of the impact of this blow will not be felt until the next election.  Right now, many Taichung County faction politicians still have access to resources that they can use to sustain their political coalitions.  Many should be able to win re-election this time.  However, next time, after four years deprived of their normal cash flows, they might not be as powerful.


So the long-term forces favor increasing partisanship at the grassroots level, especially in the direct municipalities.  However, these changes will not occur overnight.  I expect to see increases in the KMT and DPP’s vote and seat shares this year, perhaps even big increases.  However, I also expect that there will be quite a few independents who will manage to hang on this year.  I expect the city council results to look more like the legislative results, but I still expect them to look significantly different.


DPP’s evolution in Taichung County

November 19, 2010

Today I want to look at the political evolution of the DPP in Taichung County.  The DPP’s slow building of support there has been one of the more overlooked changes in Taiwan’s political map.  Many people have noticed the dramatic changes in the partisan balance of Yunlin and Chiayi over the past decade.  Before that, Taian County underwent a similarly sharp tilt toward the DPP in the mid-1990s.  Taichung County has not experienced that kind of change.  Rather, this has been a much slower and less dramatic evolution.  However, the overall effect is that, where Taichung County used to be a weak area for the DPP, it is now average.

A useful contrast is to compare Taichung County with its neighbor, Taichung City.  Compared to Taichung City, Taichung County is, of course, less urban.  However, I’ve never really thought of Taichung County as rural, in the way that Yunlin or Miaoli Counties are rural.  Rather, much of Taichung County is made up of fairly large towns.  A lot of Taiwan’s light manufacturing industry is in places like Wuri 烏日, Shalu 沙鹿, and Tanzi 潭子 townships.  They are a little gritty, a little congested, and a little out of the way.  Taichung County also has two quite urban areas, Fengyuan 豐原 (to the north of Taichung City) and Dali 大里 / Taiping 太平 (to the south).  The latter has grown quite rapidly over the last two decades and now is indistinguishable from neighboring areas in Taichung City.  There are a few rural places, such as Waipu 外埔 and Daan 大安 near the coast and Shigang 石岡 and Xinshe 新社 near the mountains.  These latter places, centered around Dongshi 東勢 Township, are the center of most of Taichung County’s Hakka population.  Most of the rest of Taichung County is Minnan; there are some mainlanders, though the percentage is lower than in Taichung City.

Here is a table of single seat executive races over the past 20 years.  Perhaps the best way to look at the partisan trends is to concentrate on the gubernatorial and presidential races, where the candidates were held constant.  In the 1990s, Taichung County was generally about 3% lower than Taichung City.  In recent years, this has reversed; now Taichung County is generally about 3% higher.







1993 County Executive 41.1 41.9 41.0
1994 Governor 34.7 37.4 38.7
1996 President 16.2 19.6 21.1
1997 County Executive 37.6 49.6 43.3
2000 President 36.5 36.9 39.3
2001 County Executive 41.0 40.7 45.3
2004 President 51.8 47.3 50.1
2005 County Executive 39.1 39.0 42.0
2008 President 41.2 38.3 41.6

If you prefer graphs, here’s the same data. [Sorry, I can’t figure out how to put in a graph from Excel.  Crap.]

It used to be that Taichung City was an average area for the DPP, and Taichung County was below average.  Now, it is the opposite.

We can see the same sorts of trends in elections for legislators and other members of national-level assemblies.  (Numbers in parentheses are DPP allies.  In 1998, they are the New National Alliance 新國家連線.  In 2001-8, they are the TSU).  In the 1990s, Taichung County was something of a wasteland for the DPP.  These numbers don’t tell the full story.  As devastating as these vote shares are, the lost races were probably more demoralizing.  For a while, no DPP politician could get re-elected, and they never seemed to be able to win multiple seats in any race.  Tian Zai-ting 田再庭 won in 1989 but lost in 1992.  Liao Yong-lai 廖永來 won in 1992 but lost in 1995.  They came into the 1994 provincial assembly race with no incumbents and left it with only one, the other nominee having barely lost.  Lin Fengxi 林豐喜 finally managed to win re-election in 1998, though Guo Junming 郭俊銘, the incumbent provincial assembly member, lost.  (They did win one other seat that year).  In short, Taichung County was just a disaster for the DPP.  In Taichung City, in contrast, the DPP enjoyed so much success that it became overconfident.  It went two for two in both 1992 and 1994, and then it started overnominating in the late 1990s.







1991 National Assembly 18.8 26.6 23.3
1992 Legislative Yuan 24.8 39.4 31.0
1994 Provincial Assembly 23.4 34.6 32.5
1995 Legislative Yuan 27.6 32.2 33.2
1996 National Assembly 26.9 31.4 29.9
1998 Legislative Yuan 21.0 (0.3) 26.7 (0.0) 29.6 (1.6)
2001 Legislative Yuan 34.8 (4.6) 32.6 (9.7) 33.4 (7.8)
2004 Legislative Yuan 35.7 (6.1) 32.0 (8.7) 35.7 (7.8)
2008 Legislature – Party List 36.2 (3.9) 34.2 (3.9) 36.9 (3.5)
2008 Legislature – districts 33.5 (6.2) 39.1 (0.0) 38.7 (1.0)

At the city and county assembly level, Taichung City is still far ahead of both Taichung County and the rest of Taiwan.  In a sense, the local DPP is about 20-30 years behind the national DPP, with low support and more support in the cities than in the rural areas.  I expect to see a fairly big change in this table in Taichung County this year as the higher level partisanship infiltrates the lower level races.







1994 County Assembly 10.1 16.2
1998 County Assembly 15.5 17.8 15.8
2002 County Assembly 19.7 24.8 18.2
2005 County Assembly 20.5 28.3 22.3

This year, Su Chia-chuan’s strategy is to try to attain the Golden Intersection, in which one party wins Taichung County and the other leads in Taichung City.  Had this race been run 20 years ago, he probably would have had a similar hope.  The difference is that, back then, he would have hoped to win Taichung City.

Sam Huntington writes, “In a modernizing society, the successful party is born in the city but matures in the countryside” (1968, 433).  Taiwan is probably more “modern” than the societies he was thinking of, but we do see exactly the process he had in mind.  The DPP was born in the cities, with a group of urbane, intellectual radicals at its core.  It has slowly penetrated into the rest of society, building alliances with local powerholders and attracting new supporters with continually moderated (relative to the current spectrum of public opinion) appeals.