Archive for December, 2011

Politics in Taitung County

December 29, 2011

[Warning: This is a long and rambling post.  It may not have a satisfactory conclusion.]

About a week ago, I started wondering about the legislative race in Taitung County 台東縣.  To be quite honest, Taitung has always been one of those places that I more or less ignored.  It doesn’t have that population, wealth, or power; it only elects one legislative seat; it has always been reliably blue; and it’s way off in the remotest corner of the island.  Even the large Aboriginal population works against it for me.  We election analysts tend to ignore Aborigines since the cost of understanding all those very complex societies is very high and the payoff (in terms of understanding overall Taiwanese politics) is quite low.  However, Taitung looks like it might be on the brink of a major political shift.  The DPP barely lost the 2009 county executive race, and then they won the 2010 by-election for the legislative seat.  On the other hand, this might just reflect the personal popularity of those two candidates, Liu Chao-hao 劉櫂豪 and Lie Kuen-cheng[1] 賴坤成, respectively.  Even if that is the case, those are the two main characters in this year’s election, and I realized I knew very little about them.

The story I found was far richer than I could have hoped for.  I like to think of this as a story about coalition-building.  The characters are constantly trying to find a better set of allies, and the formal party lines that are so rigid in most places on the island are much more fungible here.  In fact, this story would be completely unthinkable in Taipei City.

This story touches nearly every major politician in Taitung over the past 20 years, so it might be a bit confusing.  There is a cast of characters at the end, in case you lose track of who is who.

Let’s start in 1991 with the first full National Assembly election.  In that election the DPP had a major breakthrough, as a young lawyer named Lie Kuen-cheng 賴坤成 won one of the three seats and established himself as the DPP’s most successful politician in the county.  In fact, he established himself as the DPP’s only substantial politician in the county.  It was no surprise that the DPP drafted Lie to run for legislator the next year.  Of course he lost to Yao Eng-chi 饒穎奇, already a four-term incumbent who would eventually become Vice-Speaker, but Lie again did fairly well.  In 1995, the DPP tapped Lie to run against Yao again, and again Lie turned in a respectable showing.

In 1994, we meet two new characters, both KMT members who had been in the county assembly since 1986.[2]  Both Liu Chao-chang 劉櫂漳 and Hsu Ching-yuan 徐慶元 wanted to move up to the Provincial Assembly.  Rather than choosing between the two, the KMT allowed both Hsu and Liu to run as KMT candidates.  Without Lie in the race, there was no danger of losing the seat to the DPP, so the KMT just let its two members fight it out.  Hsu won handily.  One might expect that the this contest would sow the seeds of long-term antipathy between Hsu and Liu, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Liu Chao-chang managed to keep his career alive by winning a seat in the National Assembly in 1996.

Hsu had a more aggressive career plan.  He decided to run for the county executive in 1997.  Unfortunately, that post was already occupied.  Like Liu and Chang, Chen Chien-nien 陳建年 had also started his career in the county assembly in 1986.  In 1989, the KMT had elevated him to the Provincial Assembly, and in 1993 the KMT had nominated him as county executive.  Chen was the first[3] Aborigine to be elected as county executive anywhere in Taiwan.  In political terms, Chen was classified as a Plains Aborigine, but unlike almost all other Plains Aborigines, Chen was not a member of the Amis 阿美 tribe.  Rather, he was a member of the much smaller Puyuma 卑南 tribe.  As a minority within a minority, his career path would have been impossible without KMT support.  The KMT nominated Chen for re-election in 1997, and Hsu decided to withdraw from the KMT and run as an independent.  Chen eventually won by a mere 1000 votes.

Chen’s victory appears to have been more an indication of his strength than Hsu’s weakness.  In 1998, Hsu ran for the legislature as an independent and won quite handily.  Yao Eng-chi probably saw the writing on the wall.  His vote had been slipping over the previous few elections, and rather than face Hsu, Yao managed to get a spot on the party list.

A few months earlier, the DPP had another breakthrough, as Lie Kuen-cheng managed to win a five-way race for Taitung City mayor with only 36% of the vote.  The Taitung City mayoral post is more important than you might expect because over half of the county’s population lives in Taitung City.

So far nothing really out of the ordinary has happened.  To recap, the DPP was an impotent party unless Lie Kuen-cheng was the candidate.  The greater KMT (what we would now call the blue camp) dominated all elections, and the primary battles were between different KMT figures.  One of these, Hsu Ching-yuan, had established that he could win elections even without the KMT’s nomination.

In fact, the only reason to discuss all this history is to set the stage for what came next.  The 2000 presidential election shocked Taitung politics, though that wouldn’t become apparent until early 2002.  The various Taitung politicians lined up in rather predictable ways for the presidential election.  As the only local champion, Lie ran the local DPP campaign.  County executive Chen Chien-nien ran the KMT campaign.  Hsu Ching-yuan had developed close ties with James Soong during his four years in the Provincial Assembly.  Moreover, as an independent, Hsu was free to openly support Soong.  After the election, Hsu joined the newly formed PFP.  Of course, the DPP won the presidential election and took control of the executive branch.  Perhaps because as a poor county Taitung was more reliant on the central government than other localities, the national DPP would make several attempts to build up the local party.

In December 2001, elections were held for both the legislature and the county executive.  Elections for the county assembly and township mayors were held two months later in January 2002.

Liu Chao-chang 劉櫂漳 decided to run for the legislature.  However, he lost the KMT primary to Huang Chien-ting 黃健庭, who like Liao had been elected to the National Assembly in 1996.  Liao was quite unhappy with the way the party machinery treated him during the primary, and he threatened to run in the general election as an independent.

Meanwhile, the DPP was having a hard time settling on a candidate.  At first, they tried to draft Liu Chao-chang’s younger brother, Liu Chao-hao 劉櫂豪.[4]  Liu Chao-hao was serving as a judge, and, unlike his older brother, the younger Liu was a DPP member.  In fact, the local DPP organization came to an agreement to draft Liu Chao-hao.  However, since the elder Liu was still making plans to run as an independent, Liu Chao-hao was not too enthusiastic about this plan.  Eventually, DPP chair Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 came to Taitung, held a meeting with all the principals, and hammered out a compromise.  Taitung City Mayor Lie Kuen-cheng would run for county executive, and Tian Yong-yan 田永彥,[5] who was Head of the Environmental Protection Department in the county government, would represent the DPP in the legislative election.  Liu Chao-hao would have the option to represent the party in the Taitung City mayoral election if he wanted to run.  This bargain was unstable from the start.  Lie’s chances of winning the election were not great, and he understandably wanted to run for re-election as mayor if he lost.  This bargaining over nominations in 2001 is the first time we see Lie and Liu clashing.  It would not be the last.

Back over on the other side, the KMT finally managed to smooth things out.  Liu Chao-chang agreed not to run for the legislature.  In return, the KMT agreed to nominate him for … Taitung City mayor!!  Instead of being on a collision course against his brother in the legislative race, now Liu seemed to be careening toward an election against his brother in the mayoral race!  (One gets the feeling that these two brothers were maybe not best friends.)

Meanwhile, there was also an election for county executive to think about.  Hsu Ching-yuan had narrowly lost in 1997, and he ran again in 2001, this time under the PFP’s banner.  He was opposed by Lie (DPP) and the KMT’s Wu Chun-li 吳俊立, who was building a power base as speaker of the county assembly.  Interestingly, there seemed to be little cooperation between Hsu Ching-yuan and the PFP legislative candidate, Hsu Rui-gui 許瑞貴.  Both were close to Soong, but the newspaper reports I saw never mentioned them campaigning together and they seemed to have entirely different teams around them.

In the election, the KMT’s Huang Chien-ting was easily elected to the legislature, and Hsu Ching-yuan won control of the county government.  In addition, outgoing county executive Chen Chien-nien won a seat in the legislature on the KMT’s party list.  Then the musical chairs began.

PPF county executive Hsu Ching-yuan announced that his new deputy executive would be DPP member Liu Chao-hao.  In addition, Hsu appointed DPP legislative candidate Tian Yong-yan head of the Agricultural Affairs department.  (Hsu did not have a job for the PFP legislative candidate.)

Then came another shock.  President Chen announced that just elected KMT list legislator Chen Chien-nien would be appointed head of the Aboriginal Affairs Commission.  Chen Chien-nien, whose career had been carefully cultivated by the KMT all those years, suddenly changed sides.  I’m not sure exactly when he quit the KMT and joined the DPP, but he was clearly not a KMT member serving in a DPP government (unlike New Party member and head of the Environmental Protection Commission Hau Lung-pin 郝龍斌).  Chen Chien-nien changed sides entirely.

So at the local level, the PFP seemed to be trying to forge a coalition with the DPP, while at the national level, the DPP was trying to entice KMT figures over to their side.  There would be more of this.  During President Chen’s first term, the DPP made overtures to county assembly speaker Wu Chun-li.  Wu eventually decided not to switch sides, but one of his lieutenants did.  Hsu Rui-gui,[6] who had been the PFP legislative candidate in 2001, got a position at the county assembly under Wu.  In 2004, the DPP suddenly announced that Hsu (who was decidedly not a DPP member at the time) would be drafted as their candidate for the legislature.  County executive Hsu Ching-yuan also encouraged the local PFP to support Hsu Rui-gui.  However, Hsu’s candidacy was unsuccessful; the KMT’s Huang Chien-ting was re-elected rather easily.  Finally, at some point in his term (I’m not sure exactly when), Hsu Ching-yuan announced that he was withdrawing from the PFP and would continue as an independent.

In all of this, you can really see the weight of the (DPP) central government pulling Taitung politicians toward them.  Party boundaries, so rigid in Taipei City, just don’t seem to exert the same constraints in this context.  Instead, the local politicians were trying to forge new coalitions, and the resources of the central government were used to align those new coalitions around the DPP.

I skipped a chapter.  Remember the January 2002 Taitung City mayoral race?  The KMT had agreed to nominate Liu Chao-chang.  Some other local KMT politicians were not thrilled with this, but none of them decided to launch an independent bid.  According to the DPP’s bargain, Liu Chao-hao had the first right of refusal for the DPP’s nomination, but he had been appointed deputy county executive so he could not run.  Instead, the incumbent mayor Lie Kuen-cheng ran for re-election.  We are starting to see a rivalry build between Lie and Liu Chao-hao for supremacy in the Taitung branch of the DPP.  Here was a straight one-on-one contest between Lie and Liu’s older brother.  Lie crushed Liu 57-43%.[7]  Remember, Liu had the advantage of representing the KMT, which was still the far bigger and more popular party in Taitung.  Yet Lie won more votes in the mayoral race than he had two months previously in the county executive race.

In 2005, Hsu Ching-yuan’s local PFP-DPP coalition had been in place for four years, and he faced re-election.  However, at the last minute, he decided not to run for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.  For whatever reason, he decided instead to support his deputy, Liu Chao-hao.  Liu had been a DPP member, but he ran in 2005 as an independent.  In fact, the coalition had largely sloughed off party labels altogether.  It was probably a lot easier to keep people together if PFP supporters didn’t have to support a DPP figure and DPP adherents didn’t have to back a PFP person.  Let’s not forget that at the national level, the blue and green camps were at each others’ throats, and the PFP and DPP were decidedly at odds.  The local DPP supported Liu Chao-hao, but there was some grumbling that the party should have its own candidate carrying the party label.  The local PFP was less supportive.  Hsu Ching-yuan threw himself into the campaign, but several local PFP leaders simply couldn’t stomach supporting another DPP candidate.  They had reluctantly supported Hsu Rui-gui under the DPP banner in the 2004 legislative election and the early 2005 Taitung City mayoral election, and they could not stomach voting for the DPP a third time.

The KMT nominee was speaker Wu Chun-li, who was already dogged by legal problems.[8]  In fact, before the election, people were already speculating that if Wu won, he would be removed from office immediately after taking the oath because of a conviction in a court case.  In fact, that is exactly what happened.  Wu won the election rather easily (59-38%), and then he was immediately removed from office.

This necessitated a by-election.  Wu wanted to run in the by-election, but he eventually saw the better of it and ran his wife, Kuang Li-chen 鄺麗貞, instead.  Liu Chao-hao was enthusiastic for the rematch, and once again, he insisted on running as an independent.  However, this time the DPP insisted that they should have their own candidate.  Since Liu wouldn’t represent them, they drafted Lie Kuen-cheng.  Once again, this put Liu and Lie into direct conflict.  There was doubt within the DPP over this strategy.  Late in the campaign, national party leaders tried to convince Lie to withdraw or at least for the DPP to concentrate its support on Liu.  Lie publicly rejected the appeal, but he may have relaxed his campaign.  Kuang won the by-election convincingly by a 62-28-7% margin over Liu and Lie, respectively.  The local PFP-DPP coalition had failed to perpetuate itself.

At the national level, Chen Chien-nien had to resign his cabinet post.  In 2004, he had managed to get his daughter Chen Ying 陳瑩 elected to the legislature.  She ran in the Plains Aborigines district, and this was the first time the DPP had ever won an Aboriginal seat.  However, Chen Chien-nien was accused of buying votes during the campaign, and he resigned from office in early 2005.  He was eventually sentenced to prison for vote-buying.[9]

As far as I can tell, the DPP offensive to realign Taitung politics came to a halt with the April 2006 by-election.  Unlike in the previous few years, there didn’t seem to be any more KMT figures flirting with the idea of defecting to the other side.  Instead, some of the originally blue politicians went back to the blue side.  The temptation is to conclude that the realignment efforts were a complete failure.  After all, the DPP-PFP coalition failed to win any races in 2004-6.  The only tangible result was Chen Ying’s breakthrough in the Aboriginal legislative election, but that was probably more a product of national realignment efforts than of local maneuverings.  However, this conclusion might be too hasty.  I can generally only see the politicians above the table.  What I don’t see is how voters and local elites re-evaluated their loyalties.  If some of these moved to the green side and stayed there, the early 2000 realignment efforts may have laid a foundation for changes in the post Chen Shui-bian era.

Of course, the story continues.  Two years ago, the DPP had a couple of very strong electoral performances.  After a stormy and controversial term, the KMT decided not to nominate Kuang Li-chen for another term as county executive.  Instead, they persuaded Kuang to switch jobs with legislator Huang Chien-ting.  So in the 2009 county executive race, Huang ran against Liu Chao-hao, who was back for another shot at the office.  Much to many people’s surprise, the election was very close.  Huang only won by 5%.  A couple of months later, a by-election was held to fill Huang’s vacant seat in the legislature.  This time Lie Kun-cheng faced Kuang Li-cheng.  For the first time, the DPP won the Taitung seat, with Lie edging Kuang by 4%.

Both Liu and Lie wanted the DPP’s nomination for this year’s legislative election.  Many people assumed that the incumbent, Lie, would be the nominee, but Liu narrowly beat him out in the telephone surveys and the DPP nominated Liu.  Lie agreed to go north to Hualien and represent the DPP in a strange district.

So this year’s legislative election features three familiar names.  Liu is the DPP candidate, former county executive (for a day) and speaker Wu Chun-li is running an independent candidacy, and the KMT has nominated current speaker Rao Ching-ling 饒慶玲,[10] who is the daughter of old KMT warhorse Yao Eng-chi.

After going through this entire saga, I’m less inclined to see the DPP on the verge of taking over Taitung the way they have taken over Yunlin or Chiayi.  As far as I can tell, the DPP is still a two person party.  They perform well with either Lie Kun-cheng or Liu Chao-hao running, but no one else seems able to match that performance.  Of course, this year Liu is running, so they might well win.  However, unless Tsai Ing-wen’s vote and the party list vote also see significant rises, I’d be inclined to see this more as an indication of Liu’s personal popularity than as an overall party achievement.

Lie Kun-cheng’s electoral performances (single seat races only)

Year office name Name Vote % Win?
1992 legislature 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 32 N
1995 Legislature 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 29 N
1998 Taitung City mayor 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 36 Y
2001 County executive 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 17 N
2002 Taitung City mayor 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 57 Y
2006 County executive 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 7 N
2010 legislature 賴坤成 Lie Kuen-cheng 49 Y

Liu Chao-hao’s electoral performances (single seat races only)

Year Office name Name Vote % Win?
2005 County executive 劉櫂豪 Liu Chao-hao 38 N
2006 County executive 劉櫂豪 Liu Chao-hao 28 N
2009 County executive 劉櫂豪 Liu Chao-hao 47 N

Other DPP electoral performances (single seat races only)

Year office name Name Vote % Win?
1994 Governor 陳定南 Chen Ting-nan 27 N
1994 Provincial Ass. 陳清泉 Chen Ching-chuan 18 N
1996 President 彭明敏 Peng Ming-min 13 N
1997 County executive 黃昭輝 Huang Chao-hui 6 N
1998 legislature 吳秉叡 Wu Ping-rui 22 N
2000 President 陳水扁 Chen Shui-bian 23 Y
2001 legislature 田永彥 Tian Yong-yan 31 N
2004 President 陳水扁 Chen Shui-bian 34 Y
2004 legislature 許瑞貴 Hsu Rui-gui 38 N
2005 Taitung City mayor 許瑞貴 Hsu Rui-gui 35 N
2008 legislature Party list vote 23
2008 president 謝長廷 Frank Hsieh 27 N

Cast of characters:

Name name party Notes
Chen Chien-nien 陳建年 KMT




1986-9: CA

1989-93: PA

1993-2001: County executive

2002-5: Aboriginal Affairs Commission (cabinet)

2004: daughter Chen Ying elected LY

Hsu Ching-yuan 徐慶元 KMT







1994-8: PA

1997: lost county executive

1998-2001: LY

2001-5: county executive

2005: retired

Hsu Rui-gui 許瑞貴 KMT





1990-8: Guanshan town mayor

2001: ran for LY

2004: ran for LY

2005: ran for Taitung City mayor

2005-present: works in county government

Huang Chien-ting 黃健庭 KMT 1996: NA

2001-9: LY

2009: county executive

Kuang Li-chen 鄺麗貞 KMT Husband is Wu Chun-li

2006-9: county executive

2010: loses LY

Lie Kuen-cheng 賴坤成 DPP 1991-6: NA

1992: ran for LY

1995: ran for LY

1998-2005: Taitung City mayor

2001: ran for county executive

2006: ran for county executive

2010-2: LY

2011: lost DPP primary for legislature

Liu Chao-chang 劉櫂漳 KMT







Older brother of Liu Chao-hao

1986-94: CA

1994: ran for PA

1996-2000: NA

2001: lost KMT primary for LY

2002: ran for Taitung City mayor

2005: expelled from KMT for supporting brother

Liu Chao-hao 劉櫂豪 DPP





2001-2: almost ran for LY, mayor

2002-5: deputy county executive

2005: ran for county executive

2006: ran for county executive

2009: ran for county executive

2012: DPP nominee for LY

Rao Ching-ling 饒慶玲 KMT Father is Yao Eng-chi

2005-12: CA (speaker 2009-12)

2012: KMT nominee for LY

Wu Chun-li 吳俊立 KMT






Wife is Kuang Li-chen

1998-2005: CA speaker

2005: county executive

2006-9: wife elected county executive

2010: wife loses LY race

2012: runs for LY as IND

Yao Eng-chi 饒穎奇 KMT 1983-2004: LY (vice speaker 1998-2004)

Daughter is Rao Ching-ling

[1] By normal conventions, his name would be Romanized as Lai Kun-cheng.  I’m following the Legislative Yuan website’s spelling.

[2] Maybe longer.  My records only go back to 1986.

[3] I think he is still the only Aborigine to have held a county or city executive post.

[4] Liu Chao-hao is nearly 20 years younger than his older brother.  They have the same father but different mothers.

[5] Tian Yong-yan started out as You Ching’s 尤清 Executive Secretary in the Taipei County government.  You tried to push his protégé into the legislature in 1995, but Tian could only garner around 6000 votes (running as an independent).  After You’s term expired in 1997, Tian moved to Taitung to work for Chen Chien-nien.  I’m not sure why the KMT stalwart Chen decided to hire the DPP member Tian.

[6] If you had to pick one person to represent the fluid nature of partisan politics in Taitung, Hsu Rui-gui would be your man.  Hsu was elected to two terms as Kuanshan Town mayor (1990-8).  He represented the KMT both times.  In 2001 he was the PFP’s nominee for the legislature.  Then he worked for the (KMT) county assembly speaker.  In 2004 he represented the DPP in the legislative race.  In early 2005, he was the DPP’s candidate for Taitung City mayor.  After that, he joined the (KMT) county government as head of Urban Planning and Development.  He retained this post in 2009 under the new (KMT) county executive.

[7] All in all, Liu Chao-chang has had a fairly miserable political career.  Since leaving the county assembly, the only election he has won was to the National Assembly, which is a pretty useless office.  He has been just strong and ambitious enough to think he can compete, but not strong enough to actually win.  His brother hasn’t won anything either, but Liu Chao-hao did have the good fortune to be appointed deputy county executive and serve for four years in a good office.

[8] During the campaign, Wu committed a fairly egregious vote-buying blunder.  His people bought the votes of some of Liu’s campaign workers, who promptly turned Wu’s people into the police.  The first rule of vote buying is that you have to know whose votes you are buying, and you have to make sure that they are on your side.  This is one of the reasons that the usefulness of vote-buying is limited.

[9] I’m not sure why Chen Ying, as the candidate, was not sentenced.  She retained her seat and was then re-elected in 2008, this time on the DPP party list.

[10] Who knows how she spells her name.  Maybe she will perpetuate her father’s crazy spelling.  Until she gets elected, I’ll spell her name as I like

Lo Fu-chu and local politics

December 25, 2011

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of Lo Fu-chu 羅福助 running in New Taipei 12.  Lo did indeed decide to run, and he has been running an energetic campaign.  He has a few really nice ads on TV, devised a few (quite creative and appealing) policies for local development, and he is getting a fair amount of media coverage.  He has gotten some attention for claiming that the police are trying to smear his good name by handing out bulletproof vests to the other candidates, implying that he might resort to some sort of intimidation or violence.  Lo has even has filed a lawsuit against the incumbent KMT candidate Lee Ching-hua 李慶華.  Lee, Lo claims, is slandering his good name by calling him an “organized crime” figure.  Indeed, Lo claims that he has filed this sort of lawsuit before, and the courts have forced people to apologize to him.

When Lo announced he was running, they obvious question was why.  Most speculation centered on a previous conflict with Lee Ching-hua’s sister, Dianne Lee 李慶安.  Recent news stories have provided what I think is a much more convincing picture.

The key figure is Bai Tian-chih 白添枝.  Bai is a local politician based in Xizhi who came up through the farmers association.  By the early 2000s, he was director 理事長 of the Taipei County Farmers Association and a key power player in Xizhi politics.  In 2004, the KMT gave him a seat in the legislature on the party list.  In 2008, Bai wanted the KMT’s nomination for the Xizhi 汐止 seat, Taipei County 12.  However, for some reason, Bai did not register for the party nomination.  Perhaps he thought he would not be able to pass the 30% support threshold in a telephone survey.  It seems he wanted the KMT to draft him without going through the primary process.  The only person who did register was an outsider, former Taipei City Council member Wang Hsin-yi 王欣儀.  Wang did pass the survey threshold, but with an underwhelming 39% of support.  In the meantime, Lee Ching-hua was trying to win the nomination in Taipei County 8 (Zhonghe 中和).  However, Lee lost out in a very nasty primary.  Perhaps to keep him from running against the KMT nominee in Zhonghe, the KMT decided to draft him as their candidate for Xizhi.  Both Wang and Bai seemed quite upset at the KMT’s decision, but Lee eventually got the nomination and won the election quite easily.

You can imagine that all local Xizhi politicians, and especially Bai Tian-chih, might not be thrilled at having an outsider in their seat.  However, this is a solidly blue seat, and Lee seemed unlikely to lose it to the DPP in a straight one on one contest.  There is also a story that, sometime in the last four years, Bai went to Lee to ask for help with a legal case.  Lee refused.  More bad blood.

Here is where we have to use imagination to fill in the picture.  Bai Tian-chih and Lo Fu-chu have probably formed an alliance to defeat Lee Ching-hua.  Once Lee is defeated, Bai or his daughter Bai Pei-ru 白珮茹 (currently a New Taipei City Council member) will be able to contest the seat in 2016.  If this really is a rebellion of local politicians against the outsider Lee, it is much easier to understand why the 30+ neighborhood heads 里長 and other various local politicians have publicly lined up behind Lo’s candidacy.

It is also very easy to imagine them succeeding.  Four years ago, Lee won this district 52-38%, with fading local legend Liao Hsueh-kuang 廖學廣 taking another 9%.  In last year’s mayoral election, Eric Chu (KMT) won this district by a 54-46% margin, which is probably a reasonably accurate reflection of the current distribution of power between the two camps.  In other words, if Lo can take 10% of the vote away from Lee, the DPP has a good chance of stealing this district.  Four years ago, the very weak Liao took nearly 10%.  Lee has been working the district quite hard during his term, so he might have solidified his support somewhat, but Lo is probably a much stronger challenger than Liao was.  All those local politicians must have some amount of support that they can divert to Lo.  Moreover, Lo himself has quite deep ties in this district.  60% of the district’s population is in Xizhi City; the other 40% is in smaller towns out in the mountainous and coastal areas.  Lo and his son have built up extensive ties in these rural areas over the past 15 years.  Note that the local ties that Lo brings to the table don’t overlap much with the local ties that all the Xizhi politicians bring.  Even if Lo is only at 3% in the polls as Lee Ching-hua claims, this is not the type of support that generally shows up in telephone surveys.  It is quite easy for me to imagine Lo getting 10% of the vote, and maybe as much as 25% if everything goes exactly right.


There is one nagging question remaining: what is in this for Lo?  After all, his chances of winning the seat are very slim, and he must be spending a nice sum of his own money on this election.  What’s more, there is the risk that Lee or his allies might strike back in 2016 by challenging Lo Ming-tsai 羅明才 for the Xindian seat.  The costs are very real, but the benefits, as far as I can see, mostly accrue to other people.  The only thing I can come up with is that Lo is acting as a proper godfather by doing favors in return for past or future service.  I don’t know what sort of ties Lo and Bai have, but I’m guessing that they have cooperated in the past and will cooperate again in the future.

This could happen. When pigs fly.

December 22, 2011

The xfuture market is, as we all know, reputed to be more accurate than surveys.  The xfuture market knows all.  Bow down before the amazing predictive powers of xfuture.

I’m on record as not being a big fan of the futures market here in Taiwan, but rather than explain why I think it is flawed from a theoretical perspective, I’m just going to bury them with their own numbers.   Welcome to fantasyland.

Most people are looking at the presidential election market.  Now Tsai 51.2%, Ma 42.1%, Soong 8.9% looks fairly crazy to me.  Tsai might win, but by 9%??  However, it seems there are some people who think this could happen.  So instead, I have turned my gaze to the other election.  (Yes, there is another election.)  I looked at the vote markets (not who will win) for all 73 district races.  The following table shows the leader in each race and their margin over the closest competitor as of tonight.  I have ordered the table from the blue camp’s best to the green camp’s best districts.  For example, New Taipei 11 (Xindian City) was the KMT’s best district, with Luo Ming-tsai 羅明才 leading Kao Chien-chih 高建智 by a margin of 64.4-35.3%.

New Taipei 11 KMT 29.1
Taipei 8 KMT 28.0
Lianjiang KMT 24.9
Miaoli 2 KMT 24.6
Taichung 2 KMT 24.2
New Taipei 9 KMT 19.3
Taipei 7 KMT 18.0
Jinmen New 10.3
Hsinchu City KMT 10.0
Taipei 1 KMT 9.2
Taichung 5 KMT 8.4
Taipei 6 KMT 7.8
New Taipei 8 KMT 7.3
Changhua 3 KMT 6.6
Taichung 3 KMT 5.7
Changhua 4 KMT 5.5
Nantou 2 KMT 4.4
Nantou 1 KMT 4.1
Hualien KMT 3.2
Changhua 2 KMT 1.8
Taoyuan 6 KMT 1.0
New Taipei 6 DPP 0.5
New Taipei 4 DPP 0.8
Taipei 4 DPP 0.9
Taipei 3 DPP 1.0
Penghu DPP 1.1
Kaohsiung 3 DPP 1.3
Yunlin 1 DPP 1.6
Chiayi 1 DPP 1.7
New Taipei 10 DPP 2.2
Miaoli 1 DPP 2.4
Ilan DPP 3.2
Taichung 4 DPP 4.1
Taipei 5 DPP 4.3
New Taipei 12 DPP 4.3
Taoyuan 1 DPP 4.6
New Taipei 5 DPP 5.8
Chiayi City DPP 5.8
Pingtung 2 DPP 6.3
Jilong City DPP 6.7
Taoyuan 4 DPP 7.1
New Taipei 3 DPP 7.4
New Taipei 7 DPP 7.6
Kaohsiung 9 DPP 7.8
Taoyuan 5 DPP 8.0
New Taipei 1 DPP 8.1
Hsinchu County DPP 8.1
Kaohsiung 1 DPP 8.1
Taoyuan 3 DPP 8.9
Kaohsiung 6 DPP 9.1
Changhua 1 DPP 9.1
Taitung DPP 9.4
Taipei 2 DPP 9.8
Kaohsiung 2 DPP 11.0
Kaohsiung 8 DPP 11.3
Taichung 6 DPP 11.6
Taoyuan 2 DPP 13.1
Kaohsiung 5 DPP 15.0
Taichung 1 DPP 17.1
Tainan 4 DPP 18.7
Chiayi 2 DPP 19.5
Taichung 7 DPP 20.0
New Taipei 2 DPP 20.5
Yunlin 2 DPP 21.5
Pingtung 3 DPP 22.4
Tainan 3 DPP 24.9
Taichung 8 DPP 25.5
Kaohsiung 4 DPP 27.4
Tainan 5 DPP 31.5
Tainan 1 DPP 34.0
Kaohsiung 7 DPP 35.1
Pingtung 1 DPP 35.2
Tainan 2 DPP 38.5

You may have noticed that there are a lot of DPP districts.  According to the xfuture market, the DPP will win 52 of the 73 districts.  The KMT wins only 20, and the New Party wins the other one.  The DPP is predicted to win 5 of 6 in Taoyuan, 9 of 12 in New Taipiei City, and 4 of 8 in Taipei City.  Just for reference, they did not win 18 of those 26 seats four years ago; they won a mere two.  You know that phrase the DPP loves to repeat about how the KMT can’t cross the Zhuoshui River?  The prediction market takes it literally.  The DPP wins everything south of the river, and that even includes Penghu and Taitung.  There are crazy predictions up and down this list.  The DPP is supposed to win Jilong City by a comfortable 6.7%.  If that happens, I’ll eat my pink Tsai Ing-wen flag.  Maybe the most incredible result is one that gets the winner right.  In Taoyuan 6, the KMT is predicted to win by a mere 1%.  That could happen, but only if you change the “1%” to “30%.”

Oh but wait, we’re not done yet.  There are also 34 party list seats to distribute.  According to xfuture, five parties will get more than 5% and be eligible to win seats.  The five are the KMT, DPP, PFP, TSU, and … the Green Party!!!  I was already skeptical at the TSU, but then you tell me the Green Party is going to get 5.3%.  What can I say to that?  I’ve already committed to eating my pink flag; I guess if the Green Party goes over 5% I’ll have to promise buy a bicycle and ride it to work for a month.  Translating the xfuture numbers to seats, you get KMT 12, DPP 15, PFP 3, TSU 2, and Green Party 2.

The six aboriginal seats restore some measure of sanity, as the DPP’s lone candidate somehow is not favored to win a seat.

Adding up all the seats, we come up with:

KMT 35
New 1
Ind 1
DPP 67
Green 2

If you assume that the first four groups are blue and the last three are green, the two camps have 42 and 71 seats, respectively.

So xfuture is predicting not just a DPP victory, but a DPP landslide of nearly unimaginable proportions.  President Tsai wouldn’t just have a majority to work with, she would have a large enough majority that she would be able to ignore most dissent from within her own party.  The two parties would effectively be switching positions, with the DPP becoming the party in total command of the government and the KMT completely unable to exercise any check on the DPP’s power.  (At least not through legitimate elected institutions.)

By the way, don’t forget that the xfuture market is even more accurate than surveys!

Vote buying and the race in Taoyuan 2

December 21, 2011

I’m watching Taoyuan 2 fairly closely for one primary reason: vote buying.

Four years ago, KMT candidate Liao Cheng-ching 廖正井 won this district over the DPP incumbent, Kuo Jung-chung 郭榮宗, quite handily, by a margin of 55-45%.  However, Liao was subsequently convicted of vote buying and stripped of the seat.  Kuo won the seat back easily in a by-election. (58-40%).  This year Liao and Kuo are running against each other again, but more on that in a second.

Taoyuan 2 includes three coastal towns (Hsinwu 新屋, Kuanyin 觀音, and Dayuan 大園) plus Yangmei 楊梅.  Yangmei is the biggest of the four towns with a little more than 40% of the district’s total population.  This is a majority Hakka district, though it is by no means homogenous.  Hsinwu and Kuanyin both contain substantial Min-nan minorities, and Dayuan (where the airport is) is majority Min-nan (with a substantial Hakka minority).  The Taoyuan coast is also a traditional DPP stronghold.  I have heard that this dates back to Hsu Hsin-liang’s 許信良 term as county executive (1977-1980), and that explanation seems reasonable, though Huang Yu-chiao 黃玉嬌 was winning Provincial Assembly elections for years and years, and she must have gotten votes here as well.  Yangmei has usually had a small KMT majority, though it isn’t as overwhelmingly blue as the towns further inland (eg: Zhongli 中壢, Pingzhen 平鎮, and Longtan 龍潭).  As a whole the district has a fairly solid green majority, and the DPP wins this area in nearly every election.  When the KMT won this district by such a large margin in 2008, it was quite a shock to me.  It really drove home how unpopular the DPP government was in the north and with Hakka voters.  Now that people are not voting on Chen Shui-bian any longer, this district should revert to its old patterns, and I expect Kuo to win this race with some room to spare.

So what is interesting about this race?  Liao is the interesting one.  Liao is Hakka and the former mayor of Yangmei.  He won in part by appealing for Hakkas to support him and by winning an overwhelming majority in Yangmei.  (Kuo is Min-nan.  He was born in Hsin-wu and served as mayor of Kuan-yin before moving up to the legislature.)  Of course, there is more.  Liao also won by buying votes.  In the original conviction, evidence showed that he had given NT100000 to the head of a village in Kuanyin, who was in turn supposed to buy 20 votes at NT 5000 each (roughly USD 170 each).  That’s about as clear as it gets.

On May 26, 2011, the court overturned the conviction.  The ruling was based on the fact that police evidence was incomplete.  In the notebooks, there was often only a page or two for several hours of testimony.  The police explained that they had not written down everything because so much of it was not relevant to the case.  Many of the witnesses were older and tended to go on long tangents about things like their wonderful grandchildren, the price of oranges, and their medical conditions.  The court was not sympathetic to this argument and threw out the evidence.  The important point is this.  Kuo’s conviction was not thrown out because the evidence suggested he did not engage in vote buying.  In fact, the available data clearly demonstrated that he had bought votes.  This data might not be admissible in a court of law, but democratic elections do not use the same standards of proof as a court of law.  He was guilty but got off on a technicality.  I don’t have to care about the technicality.  I’m making a political judgment, not a legal judgment.  It’s pretty clear to me that Liao bought votes.

The KMT was originally having a hard time finding a viable candidate in Taoyuan 2.  Before the verdict was announced, the KMT had planned to send its spokesman, Su Chun-pin 蘇俊賓 to run against Kuo.  However, there was some local grumbling about this decision, and Su’s chances did not look good at all.  As soon as the verdict was announced, Liao proclaimed loudly that the courts had proven his innocence, and he wanted to run in order to give the voters a chance to provide him justice by returning him to his rightful seat in the legislature.  The KMT stopped the nomination process and eventually decided that they had a much better chance to win with Liao than with Su.  Su was summarily dispatched to another hopeless district (Tainan 4), and the KMT nominated Liao.

What I’m really curious is whether Liao will run ahead of or behind his party.  That is, will the voters punish him for buying votes, or will they reward him with an outpouring of sympathy for being “proven” innocent?  It’s hard to know for sure because, for obvious reasons, we don’t have good data on vote-buying.  However, anecdotal evidence suggests to me that vote-buying is becoming less and less common.  If I had to guess, I’d say that they heyday of vote-buying was roughly 1995, and there has been a steady decline since 1998 or so.  In 1995, I would have expected Liao to come back stronger than ever.  Today, my guess is that voters will punish him, and he won’t even get as many votes as the KMT party list gets.

Tsai likes pink

December 20, 2011

The other night I was at a cold and rainy rally for Tsai Ing-wen, and I looked down at the flag in my hand.  Tsai’s flag is pink, and I thought to myself, isn’t it strange that she would use pink for her flag.  Yesterday at a Ma rally, actress Bai Bing-bing 白冰冰 made an egregious comment tying together the facts that Yingluck Shinawatra is a woman and Thailand has experienced flooding, so I think maybe today I should write about the surprising role of gender in this campaign.  I’ll get to Bai later though.

Why would I think that it is strange that Tsai would use pink as her main color?  After all, she is advertising her femininity.  Well, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Bachman, and Elizabeth Dole have run for American president in recent years (wow, that’s a short list!), and none of them would have been caught dead in pink.  Hillary Clinton needed to emphasize toughness, not softness.  She worried that some voters might not support her because they thought a woman would not be able to command the military, dominate a cabinet meeting, or have the guts to send soldiers into battle to die.  For American female presidential candidates, gender has generally been an obstacle to overcome, not an asset to be advertised.  I can’t think of many female presidential candidates in other countries that I know anything about (Arroyo in the Philippines?), and Prime Ministers (ex: Yingluck, Thatcher, Merkel) are not quite the same since you don’t vote directly for a Prime Minister.  However, I’ll bet that gender was not a great asset for them either.

Questions about gender have been strangely absent from Taiwan’s presidential campaign.  No one has asked whether Tsai is tough enough to command the military or dominate a cabinet meeting.  I have heard a few people (almost always Tsai supporters) grouse that other people are too conservative and won’t vote for a woman, but I haven’t heard anyone say that they wouldn’t vote for a woman.  I certainly haven’t heard anything from the blue camp suggesting that gender is a reason that voters should vote for Ma.

If anything, gender has been an advantage for Tsai.  Many people are genuinely excited about the symbolism of having a female president.  If gender carries any political message, it is that Tsai is more compassionate and understands the problems that ordinary people, especially women, face.  (Think about this.  Ma is a family man, Tsai is unmarried.  Ma has children, Tsai has none.  Ma built his image on giving blood and doing charity work.  Yet Tsai is the nurturing, compassionate one.)

What about Bai Bing-bing?  The most notable thing about her comment is how quickly it was rejected by everyone.  The DPP blasted it, the KMT disavowed it, and even Ma stepped forward to clarify that he did not agree with that statement.  On stage, head of the Council on Agriculture Chen Wu-hsiung 陳武雄 (not exactly the symbol of gender equity) was visibly shocked.  Bai was not merely completely out of touch with mainstream values, she also crossed over the line of what is socially acceptable in today’s Taiwan.

Thirty years ago when political scientists started surveying Taiwanese, one of the questions asked was, “Some people say that women should not participate in politics like men do. Do you agree or disagree with this statement.”  In the early and mid-1980s, there were still many people who agreed.  If memory serves, it was about 30% agreeing in the earliest surveys.  By the mid-1990s, no one was disagreeing any more, and they eventually dropped the question altogether.  However, saying the socially acceptable thing and accepting and internalizing that value are different.  Today in 2011, it looks like gender equity is a consensus core value here in Taiwan.


old survey results

December 19, 2011

Since many people seem interested in guessing what will happen this year based on how different the survey and election results were in past elections, I have added two pages of survey results for the 2004 and 2000 presidential elections.  Have fun.

to attack or not to attack

December 17, 2011

I’m quite confused by Ma’s choices in the 2nd presidential debate this afternoon.  For the past two days, I’ve been reading stories in the media about how Ma’s team is going to change its focus from attacking Tsai’s image to public policy.  All the signs point to the Yu-Chang case as a colossal failure for the KMT, and they seemed to be backing away from it.

Then in today’s debate, Ma used nearly every opportunity he had to set the agenda to talk about Tsai’s image, not about public policy.  Ma started out his introduction by accusing Tsai of smearing him with her response to Yu-chang.   Both his two questions to Tsai and Soong were about Tsai’s image.  Only his concluding remarks focused mostly on other ideas.  I don’t think this worked to his advantage at all.  Tsai’s response to his first question was extremely forceful, and Soong gave a devastating response to Ma’s second question.  In my judgment, Ma completely wasted his two questions.  Indeed, he might have been better off just saying, “Pass.”

As an observer, I am just as interested in Ma’s choice to pursue this line of questioning as in whether it was successful.  If Ma’s team was going to change topics, why was he asking these questions?  If they weren’t going to change topics, why have I been reading media stories saying that they would?  I wonder if there is a struggle within Ma’s team over the best strategy.

If they continue to attack, does this mean that they have decided that they simply need to consolidate their base?  I can imagine someone arguing that (a) the blue camp has a slight majority in the electorate, (b) they just need to mobilize all blue voters, and (c) the way to do this is to go negative.  In this 51% strategy, the KMT seems to be playing to its base rather than worrying about undecided voters (or their legislative candidates in the south).

That’s my best guess right now, at least.  Mostly I’m simply confused.

Action and Reaction

December 17, 2011

It strikes me that story of the presidential campaign so far has largely been one of KMT action and DPP reaction.  By this, I don’t mean that the KMT has initiated everything.  You always have to react to some things.  However, it is striking that so far the DPP’s campaign has been dominated by reactions.  This is not necessarily a bad thing for them; almost all of the best moments of the campaign for Tsai have been reactive.  Moreover, they haven’t always been reacting to intentional moves by the KMT.

What is strange about this is that Tsai Ing-wen thoroughly dominated the agenda in the “pre-campaign.”  Back in February and March, the public discussion seemed like it was completely planned out by Tsai.  If she wanted to talk about nuclear power, she would give a speech on nuclear power, the media would spend the next few days focusing on nuclear power, and Ma Ying-jeou would find himself talking about nuclear power.  Then Tsai decided she wanted to talk about public housing or children’s welfare, and the cycle repeated itself.  As I recall (and memory is a funny thing), this went on until the controversy over the DPP’s party list derailed her focus on public policy, and she has never quite regained control of the public agenda since that point.

In the early part of the general campaign, the DPP’s two strongest themes were both reactions to KMT mistakes.  Both the three piggies and the Robin Hood themes were developed in reaction to openings presented by blue camp gaffes.  The blue camp leadership may not have intended to introduce these ideas, but my point is simply that the Tsai’s team did not conceive of the three piggies in advance and systematically plan the campaign.  It was improvised on the fly.  (It almost certainly would not have been so successful if it had been planned in advance.)

(By the way, I was fairly critical of the three piggies campaign in earlier posts.  It is pretty clear to me that I was wrong.  I grossly underestimated not only the sense of ownership in Tsai’s fortune that participation in this sort of activity would give to so many people, but also the degree to which it focused attention on the two campaign’s very different attitudes toward wealth in society.)

The single most successful premeditated action of the campaign so far has been the KMT’s introduction of its party list.  This was all very carefully scripted out and executed brilliantly.  With a mere two people (who will be relatively powerless), the KMT has reaped fantastic benefits to its party image.  I would bet that survey data would show that KMT legislative candidates as a group are perceived as far less corrupt than DPP candidates.  Ma also managed to cast doubt on Tsai’s abilities as a leader.  The DPP was forced to react, and like in the persimmons controversy, that reaction was not very successful.

The Yu-chang case is another case of a KMT premeditated action, but this time the DPP reaction has been spectacularly successful.  (Again, my earlier post suggesting Tsai’s team wasn’t ready was probably wrong. Very wrong.)  In the Yu-chang case, the KMT chose the time and method of introducing the topic into the public discussion, and the DPP was forced to react.  Unfortunately for the KMT, their attack was extremely flimsy and transparent, and the DPP counterpunch has been ferocious and devastating.

The KMT’s raising the possibility of a peace agreement with China is another example of a KMT action and DPP reaction that eventually worked to the DPP’s advantage.

So I’m not necessarily criticizing one side or the other, I’m just interested in the fact that the initiatives have so often come from the KMT, and the DPP’s strategy has mostly been to counterpunch.

New section

December 16, 2011

On the right hand side of this post, you will notice a new section titled Intro to Taiwan Politics.  This is intended as a quick (ok, maybe not so quick) primer for people new to Taiwan politics.  Feel free to comment, but please don’t try to convince me to rewrite things so that your favored party is cast in a better light.  Remember, I’m trying to give the big picture, not to document every last detail.

Liberty Times surveys

December 15, 2011

Did I miss something?  Did the Liberty Times stop doing surveys?  The last one I can find is from Nov 23, over three weeks ago.