Archive for December, 2010


December 23, 2010

Sorry for the lack of ideas on this blog recently.  It will probably be at least another two weeks before there is any new content here.  Fortunately, this is the off-season for Taiwanese elections.  Happy new year!

Speculation on Hau’s big victory

December 9, 2010

Like many people, I was a bit surprised at the Taipei City mayoral election results.  I wasn’t terribly surprised that Hau won, but I was surprised by the margin of victory.  A couple of days before the election, Mrs. Garlic and I kicked around the question of what results we would have found surprising.  In the Taipei race, I thought I would be surprised if Hau won by more than 10% or lost by more than 2%.  The national swing toward the DPP that I expected did, in fact, materialize.  And remember, 44% is a very good result for the DPP in Taipei City.  However, I expected more.  The KMT had an incumbent with a shaky to lousy record, depending on your viewpoint, and the DPP was running a proven administrator.  With a national swing toward the DPP, it looked like the perfect storm.  I fully expected Su to set a new benchmark for the DPP in Taipei City.

So what happened?  While the popular explanation is the shooting incident, I have my doubts about how much influence that had.  (I have backed off my original stance that it most likely had zero influence.  Enough people have told me that it changed their own behavior now that I have to believe that it mattered a little.  However, I doubt that it was sufficient to sway either Taichung or Xinbei, and it almost certainly couldn’t have been enough to produce Hau’s big victory.)  I think it is more likely that partisanship simply asserted itself.  I have a couple of ideas in mind.

First, I think that after months of polling showing Su close or even leading and the disastrous march/carnival/parade the weekend before the election, no pan-blue supporter could delude themselves into thinking that Hau would win easily.  In short, they all sensed danger and eventually came out to vote.  Anyway angry or disillusioned blue voters would have had to think twice before “sending a message” or trying to give Hau a black eye.  Sending a message is one thing; causing him to lose is another.

Second, while Su spent the whole campaign in his pink shirt talking about good government and non-ideological local issues, he is after all a former premier, prospective presidential candidate, and one of the most senior leaders of the DPP.  You simply can’t ignore the political ramifications of a Su victory.  With months to mull over this (instead of only a few days as in Taichung), pan-blue voters might have decided to stick with their party.


Many green supporters were disappointed that the Taipei City electorate would choose a lackluster blue candidate over an effective green one.  As one complained to me, how can you talk about democracy when voters mindlessly vote their party and don’t pay any attention to the incumbent’s performance in office?   Doesn’t democracy demand that voters punish bad politicians by voting them out of office?

Well, yes.  But also, not necessarily.

Most of us support one party or another for good reason: that party fights for things we want.  Put it this way, would you rather have a candidate who tries to do things that you like but does them badly, or a candidate who tries to do things that you don’t like and does them well?

Now it happens that, given the overriding dominance of the unification-independence (UI) cleavage, there isn’t a whole lot of disagreement about specific city policies.  We all want smoother traffic, better schools, less corruption and so on.  So you could argue that the previous question is irrelevant in the context of Taipei City.  However, the person sitting it the mayor’s chair eventually does matter for the  UI cleavage as well.  A DPP mayor would help DPP candidates for the presidency and the legislature.  A DPP mayor would divert city contracts to firms friendly to the DPP, and some of that money might find its way back into other campaigns.  And think about all the young political talent that has come through the Kaohsiung City government over the past 12 years.  A DPP mayor with a mini-cabinet would be an important cultivator of political talent.  (Perhaps I should say “could” be.  Ma and Hau haven’t taken much advantage of this opportunity.)  President Ma might also take the election as a signal that his policy of faster integration with China should be curtailed.  In short, putting a DPP politician in the mayor’s chair would probably help the DPP nationally.  If I am a pan-blue voter, I have to think carefully about whether that price is too high to pay for voting out an incumbent with a lackluster performance.

E.E. Schattschneider, a former president of the American Political Science Association and an important theorist of democracy, once wrote that democracy is unfathomable save in terms of political parties.  I think this represents the mainstream opinion of political science, especially those of us who study democratization and new democracies.  So if this election was a triumph of partisanship above everything else, that is probably a good thing.

what would happen if…

December 8, 2010

So here’s a fun little exercise.  I took the election results from the 2009 and 2010 local executive races and plugged them into the 73 legislative districts.  The blue camp wins 39 seats, and the green camp wins 34.  For reference, in 2008 the blue camp won 60 of these districts.  In this exercise, the green camp picks up 21 new districts (relative to 2008) without losing any.

Of course, we have had several by-elections since the 2008 general election, and the green camp has won several unlikely seats, such as Taoyuan 3 and Hsinchu County.  In this exercise, the green camp loses three of these seats (those two plus Taidong).  The blue camp also wins back Miaoli 1, which is currently held by an independent who has some ties with the green camp.

This does not represent an upper limit for the green camp.  In this exercise, it loses several seats by narrow margins.  Some of these include Taipei County 7, Taipei County 10, Taoyuan 4, Taichung City 3, Taichung County 2, and Penghu.  Chiayi City is also a strong candidate to go green in the next election.  The four Changhua seats look a bit precarious to me; the same phenomenon that has affected Yunlin, Chiayi, and seems to be slowly transforming Taichung could also be operating in Changhua.  However, the DPP doesn’t appear to have any candidates strong enough to match the KMT incumbents there.

Of course, there are a few seats that this exercise gives to the DPP that I am skeptical of.  I don’t think the DPP will sweep all eight Kaohsiung seats.  (Note: Chen Chu got an outright majority in six of the eight.  She was close enough to a majority in the other two that I awarded them to the green camp.  In the closest race (Kaohsiung City 1), you would have to assume that over 90% of Yang’s votes came from the blue camp to throw that seat to the blue camp.)  The green camp also wins several seats by razor thin margins, including Taipei County 6, Taoyuan 1, Taichung County 1, and Taichung County 3, as well as a few others by merely close margins.

Now, I know that you can’t just plug mayoral numbers into legislative races.  There are different issues, a different national swing, and different candidates.  This last point deserves highlighting: the KMT has an overwhelming advantage in incumbency.  However, I’m not convinced that incumbency is quite as overwhelming an advantage as many people believe.  In American politics, many people see very high re-election rates and conclude that incumbency confers an overwhelming advantage.  How else could incumbents win so many districts in which their national party is so unpopular?  It must be all that constituency service and pork.  I’m not so sure.  I think that American legislators are also very successful because they can position themselves as “a different kind of Democrat.”  American politics has enough dimensions that you can be against gay rights, for gun rights, and against abortion and still be a good Democrat if you are against the war in Iraq, against tax cuts, and for health care.  In other words, legislators can adjust their ideological packaging to fit their district.  In Taiwan, this is not so easy because there is only one big political cleavage.  Attending funerals will only get you so far if voters think you consistently disagree with them on the big picture.

Moreover, plugging executive races into representative districts is not as unreasonable as it used to be.  For years, there was a big spread between executive races and representative races.  The DPP might do 10-15% better in the former.  This was mostly because of the multimember district electoral system, which allowed local factions to avoid conflicts in representative elections.  The system also played into the KMT’s advantage in personal networks.  However, the new legislative electoral system has single seat districts, so these races, like executive races, are largely one-on-one contests.

I’m not suggesting that we should expect exactly this result if the legislative elections were held tomorrow.  However, I imagine that those election results would look more like the table below than like the 2008 results.

The point of all this is that control of the legislature will be at stake in the next election.  There is a real possibility that the DPP could win a majority.  There is a very large group of seats that flip to the DPP right around the point that the DPP gets 50% nationally.  Many people assume that because the KMT has several “cheap” seats (six aboriginal seats, Jinmen, Lianjiang), that the DPP would have to win the national vote by something like 55-60% to win the legislature.  In fact, 51% would probably be enough.  Unlike in 2000 or 2004, if the DPP wins the presidency in 2012, it might also win the legislature.


district district 2008 “2010” flip
Taipei City 1 Beitou B B  
Taipei City 2 Datong-Shilin B G G
Taipei City 3 Zhongshan-Songshan B B  
Taipei City 4 Nangang-Neihu B B  
Taipei City 5 Wanhua-Zhongzheng B B  
Taipei City 6 Da-an B B  
Taipei City 7 Xinyi-Songshan B B  
Taipei City 8 Wenshan-Zhongzheng B B  
Taipei County 1 Danshui B B  
Taipei County 2 Luzhou G G  
Taipei County 3 Sanchong G G  
Taipei County 4 Xinzhuang B G G
Taipei County 5 Shulin B G G
Taipei County 6 Banqiao north B G G
Taipei County 7 Banqiao south B B  
Taipei County 8 Zhonghe B B  
Taipei County 9 Yonghe B B  
Taipei County 10 Tucheng B B  
Taipei County 11 Xindian B B  
Taipei County 12 Xizhi B B  
Jilong City   B B  
Ilan County   B G G
Taoyuan 1 Guishan-Luzhu B G G
Taoyuan 2 SW coast B* G G
Taoyuan 3 Zhongli B* B  
Taoyuan 4 Taoyuan B B  
Taoyuan 5 Pingzhen-Longtan B B  
Taoyuan 6 Bade-Daxi B B  
Hsinchu City   B B  
Hsinchu County   B* B  
Miaoli 1 Coast (Minnan) B* B  
Miaoli 2 Inland (Hakka) B B  
Taichung City 1 W: Xitun-Nantun B B  
Taichung City 2 N: North-Beitun B B  
Taichung City 3 Central-South-East-West B B  
Taichung County 1 NW: Dajia-Qingshui B G G
Taichung County 2 SW: Da-Wu-Long B B  
Taichung County 3 SE: Taiping-Dali B* G G
Taichung County 4 NE: Fengyuan-Dongshi B G G
Taichung County 5 N: Tanzi-Daya B G G
Changhua 1 NW: Lugang B B  
Changhua 2 NE: Changhua City B B  
Changhua 3 SW: Erlin B B  
Changhua 4 SE: Yuanlin B B  
Nantou 1 N: Caotun-Puli B B  
Nantou 2 S: Nantou-Zhushan B B  
Yunlin 1 Coast B G G
Yunlin 2 Inland B* G G
Chiayi City   B B  
Chiayi County 1 Coast B G G
Chiayi County 2 Inland G G  
Tainan County 1 NW: Xinying G G  
Tainan County 2 NE: Shanhua G G  
Tainan County 3 SE: Yongkang G G  
Tainan City 1 North G G  
Tainan City 2 South G G  
Kaohsiung County 1 NE: Meinong B G G
Kaohsiung County 2 NW: Gangshan B G G
Kaohsiung County 3 SE: Daliao G G  
Kaohsiung County 4 Fengshan B G G
Kaohsiung City 1 Nanzi-Zuoying B G G
Kaohsiung City 2 Gushan G G  
Kaohsiung City 3 Sanmin B G G
Kaohsiung City 4 Lingya B G G
Kaohsiung City 5 Xiaogang G G  
Pingdong 1 North G G  
Pingdong 2 Pingdong City B G G
Pingdong 3 South G G  
Taidong   B* B  
Hualian   B B  
Penghu   B B  
Jinmen   B B  
Lianjiang   B B  


Blue 39

Green 34


first cut at city council results

December 1, 2010

I’m going to take a first stab at some of the election results today.  There are lots of things I want to look at in the data, and I almost certainly won’t be done probing this stuff two or three years from now.  At this stage, I’m just looking at some of the most obvious questions and easiest to produce descriptive statistics.

The following will all deal with city council election results.

In a previous post, I noted that Chen Shui-bian’s One Side One Country Alliance ran 37 candidates and won 30 seats.  Here are the party winners and losers:


Party lose win candidates
KMT 77 130 207
DPP 31 130 161
New 6 3 9
PFP 13 4 17
TSU 13 2 15
Green 5 0 5
Independents 187 45 232
total 332 314 646


Remember, the KMT got more total votes in these elections than the DPP, by a margin of 38.6 to 35.3.  However, there were a lot more KMT candidates, and a lot more KMT losers.

Let’s look at the two big parties in the five cities.


city party lose win candidates
Taipei KMT 2 31 33
  DPP 7 23 30
Xinbei KMT 14 30 44
  DPP 5 28 33
Taichung KMT 20 27 47
  DPP 7 24 31
Tainan KMT 23 13 36
  DPP 7 27 34
Kaohsiung KMT 18 29 47
  DPP 5 28 33


Taipei was markedly different from everywhere else.  In Taipei City, the KMT had a fantastic day, losing only two races.  Everywhere else, the KMT was bloodied.  The worst was in Tainan, where nearly 2/3 of their nominees lost.  Ouch.  The DPP’s performance was much more even across cities.  They did a bit worse in Taipei City, but the differences in DPP winning percentages were much smaller.

Remember that, compared to past years, there were more seats available in Taipei, the same number in Xinbei, and far fewer in Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung.  This meant that all those KMT incumbents in the latter three cities were chasing only a few seats.  This was less of a problem for the DPP since it had fewer incumbents and a growing share of the overall vote.  With so many incumbents and so few total seats, the KMT almost had to overnominate.  As a result, they had fewer votes for each candidate.


city Party Candidates (excluding aborigines) Votes per candidate
Taipei KMT 31 20462
  DPP 30 17204
Xinbei KMT 41 20148
  DPP 32 22587
Taichung KMT 41 12700
  DPP 31 14849
Tainan KMT 32 8995
  DPP 32 11809
Kaohsiung KMT 40 14828
  DPP 31 18132


Since the cities have different population to seat ratios, you have to look at them separately.  However, we can see that the KMT in Taipei had 3000 more votes per candidate to work with than the DPP.  Even if you don’t split your votes very evenly among your candidates, 3000 extra votes is a big cushion.  You can make some mistakes.  Everywhere else, the DPP had a sizeable cushion.  The 3000 vote cushion in Tainan is especially huge, given the lower numbers.  (DPP candidates in Tainan had 31% more votes per candidate to work with.)

Given these margins, it doesn’t look like the DPP’s superior performance was due to better vote rationing (though I’ll certainly look into that eventually).  Rather, it comes from better nominating.  Better nominating could mean two things.  It could mean that the KMT judged correctly the number of votes it would get but couldn’t persuade its members to nominate an appropriately low number of candidates.  It could also mean that the KMT thought it would get more vote, and it nominated appropriately for a higher vote share.  I’ll have to look into that.


It is interesting to look at the numbers of candidates and votes in each city.  Remember that Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung are roughly the same size.  They should have roughly the same number of candidates and the same average number of votes per candidate.  The numbers should be a bit lower in Tainan and a bit higher in Xinbei.  Instead, the averages in Taichung are extremely low.  Taichung had lots and lots of incumbents running as independents.  The numbers are extremely high in Taipei, which has very few significant independents and more seats than incumbents.


One other thing I can look at today is party mavericks.  These are people who contested the party nomination, lost in the primary, and ran as independents.  We are interested in whether the party primary works well.  If it works well, primary losers should see that they have little chance in the general election and accept defeat.  If they choose to run anyway, they should get little support.  (I’ll talk about Yang Chiu-hsing some other time.)  Here is a summary of how people who lost in the KMT and DPP primaries did:


  KMT mavericks DPP mavericks
Total 42 10
Winners 4 0
Losers 38 10
Average # votes 7246 6825


As you can see, very few of the people who lost in the primary but ran anyway were able to win their races.  They did get significant numbers of votes, which suggests that they had some appeal beyond the party label.  In fact, 7000 votes was usually sufficient to win prior to this year.  However, this has to be considered a victory for party discipline.


The biggest reason for the DPP’s good performance this year is perhaps the one-time effect of switching systems.  The KMT was hit especially hard, as it had too many incumbents.  Independents had a miserable day.  There were lots of independents who could mobilize 6000 votes.  However, it is hard to expand your personal network from 6000 to 12000.  Party votes are much more fungible.  Next time all those independents will be gone, and the elections will be even more of a competition between political parties.