I’m starting to get very concerned about PFP Vice Presidential candidate Lin Ruey-shiung’s 林瑞雄 citizenship. Some people are concerned that he has both ROC and American citizenship and that the CEC will therefore rule that the PFP presidential ticket is ineligible. Lin has renounced his American citizenship, but there are still people who think the matter is not resolved.
I would not be too concerned with this, except this story seems to not be going away. In fact, it almost looks as if the blue media seem to be preparing the ground for a very controversial CEC ruling. I keep hearing stories about how someone said that someone they know went through this process and it took six months before the friend of the friend got the official document from the US Department of State proving that the friend of the friend was no longer a citizen, and so Lin’s case can’t possibly be resolved by the time the CEC has to rule on whether Lin is still a citizen and therefore the CEC will have no choice but to rule the PFP ticket invalid… These stories are in the newspapers, and they have been a staple of the blue talk shows for the past week. Someone just will not let this idea die.
I’m terrified of the idea that someone in the KMT is actually trying to push this agenda before the CEC, and that the CEC will vote along party lines. In the disaster scenario, the PFP ticket would be disqualified.
As the conspiracy theory goes, the KMT and the PFP both have reasons to want this to happen. The KMT wants Soong out of the race so that his supporters will have to vote for Ma. That part is simple. Less obvious is the argument that Soong would actually like this to happen. The theory here is that Soong doesn’t really want to cause Ma to lose the presidential race, and he certainly doesn’t want to be humiliated by ending up with 2% when all his supporters eventually decide not to waste their votes on him in a very tight race. However, Soong is in too deeply to withdraw now. Moreover, he has to stay in for the sake of his legislative candidates. Without Soong, the PFP will have no presence in the campaign and become an afterthought (see: TSU and NP). If, however, the PFP ticket were disqualified, Soong could play the martyr. He would have all the media attention for a week or two, and he could complain about how unfairly the PFP had been treated. Of course, the only way PFP supporters (and all good citizens concerned that democracy had been subverted) could express their outrage would be to vote for the PFP’s legislative candidates and party list.
If the PFP ticket were actually disqualified, I think a few things would happen.
The most important thing would be another kick in the groin to Taiwan’s democracy. A large number of citizens would be horrified and take this as proof that the parties will do anything for power, including manipulating the basic ground rules of the game. Most of the anger will be directed against the KMT, but there will also be those who see it as an indictment of all politicians. This would be the worst development for Taiwan’s democracy since the contested 2004 election.
While the most important effect would be to damage Taiwan’s democratic system, there would also be more immediate partisan effects. The PFP legislative campaign would get a tremendous boost, as laid out above. However, I don’t think the KMT would benefit. Sure, some people who are now planning on voting for Soong would vote for Ma. However, other PFP supporters would feel so disgusted or violated that they wouldn’t be able to cast that vote for Ma. Some might vote for Tsai, but I wonder if more might just cast invalid votes or stay home.
However, I don’t think that the PFP voters would constitute the main effect. The group that might be most affected is the group of people trying to decide between Ma and Tsai. There are many people who might end up voting for Ma if the election is framed as a vote on economics, ECFA, stability, or relations with China. However, if the election is between a KMT that blatantly subverts democratic norms and [who cares who the other choice is!], they will choose the other choice.
In sum, if the KMT tries to disqualify Soong, they will most likely not reap any benefits. They would deservedly be punished both by PFP voters and by swing voters (between KMT and DPP). And the KMT would only be the second biggest loser. Democracy would be the biggest loser.
I really hope that I am imagining a monster in the closet that simply doesn’t exist. Maybe there is no guiding hand encouraging all this media discourse. Maybe this will just blow over. Maybe rational heads inside the KMT are trying to make this issue go away. Hopefully the CEC will issues a three sentence press release saying that Lin’s citizenship question has been satisfactorily resolved and that the PFP ticket is eligible. The best outcome would be for someone reading this post five years from now thinks I am a nutcase conspiracy theorist with a runaway imagination.
[update: Dec. 8, 2011] The CEC has announced that their investigation of Lin’s citizenship shows that he has already renounced his American citizenship and his candidacy faces no legal obstacles. I’m relieved to be a nutcase.