Lo Fu-chu and local politics

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.

7 Responses to “Lo Fu-chu and local politics”

  1. JJ Says:

    I don’t think his chances are slim. And I don’t believe that to be the real reason he’s running. I’m in touch with a lot of people on his campaign.

    He spoke eloquently on one television interview that I thought illuminated the situation for me. The obvious question that anchors this debate is, “Why is someone who is pretty much set for life, coming out to work in politics again?”

    As Lo explained, he is where he is today because of the love of his family and friends. The people of Taipei’s 12th district are genuinely tired and fed up with Lee Ching Hua. He’s done nothing for his constituents in his time in office. The people of Xi Zhi reached out to Lo, and said, you would be doing us a huge favor if you could come and help us develop our district. Lo is the wisest choice bc development requires money. Lots of money. Lo is probably one of the only people that can honestly incite change and social development. Look what he and his son have done for Xin Dian. So Lo said, if you guarantee me 35 Li Zhang’s who will support me, about of the 50 in Xi Zhi, i’ll come out. 35 Li Zhang’s signed on board immediately. Now he has 42 out of 50 backing him.

    Forgot what you hear in the media or backwoods. Actions speak louder than anything. This man has never had a piece of legislation not pass in the Legislative Yuan. Him and his two sons have never lost an election no matter what seat they were campaigning for.

    Just two weeks ago, Lo Fu Chu was not on Plurk’s political tracker for the 12th district. Now he’s first place in terms of favorability. I believe he will win. I spend my days in Xi Zhi. I can feel that the people, the locals, want him in office. The feeling is widespread. Lee Ching Hua is a joke. Prancing around in bulletproof vests instead of discussing policies. If Lee Ching Hua had done a good job, i don’t think 42 Li Zhang’s would back and support Lo Fu Chu. Lo is a good man. Legacy over currency. He’s the people’s champ of Taiwan. I think everyone knows this, especially the older generation. Look at Lee Ching Hua’s sister, she’s taken the people’s money, and was a politician holding two passports. That’s fraud. And the lawsuit against Lee Ching Hua regarding his slander and libel, that’s serious stuff. You can’t going around running your mouth without evidence. ESPECIALLY if you are a legislator. I don’t even understand why the people advising him would let him do that. That’s like Obama coming out and calling people gangsters without evidence. I think he’d have to step down if he did that.

    8 days away. Time will tell.

  2. JJ Says:

    this is pretty dope:

  3. JJ Says:

    just saw that on his fb fan page facebook.com/lofuchutw

  4. frozengarlic Says:

    I went into one of Lo’s neighborhood offices the other day to get a little flag. The atmosphere was much more enthusiastic than in most of the offices around Taiwan. The people certainly did not feel like they were just collecting a wage; they really seemed to want Lo to win. Moreover, they seemed confident he would win. This is only one small anecdote, but I am impressed with the campaign Lo has put together at the last minute.

  5. Scott Says:

    @frozengarlic, have to agree with JJ. I was just in the very large election center in the Acer Building. They were very enthusiastic. And as unfortunate as it may be, much more receptive to me than DPP candidates and election offices I have been in.

  6. JJ Says:

    you guys run a good blog. one of lo fu chu’s policies is improved bilingual education. outside of taipei, i think this is a key connector for the development of these youth. so it’s great to see taiwanese politics discussed in english!

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