a few thoughts

A few thoughts:


I guess we know what we’ll be talking about for the next week: Ma’s proposal to revise the regulations governing footpath construction in national parks.  Wait, that’s not right.  I meant we’ll be talking about Chen Shui-bian.

My instant reaction is that the KMT has bungled this opportunity about as badly as possible.  Having Chen on the loose immediately before an election could have been a godsend to them.  Instead, they won’t let him talk to the media, they’re going to force him to wear handcuffs and ankle bracelets, and he’ll only get a half an hour at his mother-in-law’s funeral.  If you wanted to turn him into a sympathetic figure, you couldn’t do a much better job.  Maybe some KMT thugs could disrupt the funeral and punch him in the stomach a couple of times.  But other than that, this is about the least compassionate and politically stupidest treatment the government can get away with.

This still might work to the KMT’s advantage.  Simply having Chen in the news is not good for the DPP.  Tsai does not want this election to be about Chen in any way.  On the other hand, the KMT is treating Chen so shabbily that there is the possibility that they will end up intensifying the mobilization of the DPP fundamentalist base.  Either way, the KMT has turned what should have been a big benefit for them into a small, zero, or maybe even negative benefit.

Oh, and don’t argue that the KMT is just following the law.  When the former head of state is involved, it is always a political decision.  President Ma could easily slip a hint to the Minister of Justice that maybe ankle bracelets aren’t necessary since Chen is highly unlikely to murder his guards or attempt to flee.  The legal justification would be a very simple matter.  Politically, he would have to explain this “coddling” to his deep blue base, which is why he hasn’t done it.

[Caveat: My instant reactions are generally not very good.  Fortunately, I’m an academic, not a reporter.]


My wife and I have been playing the game of “guess this year’s plot twist.”  We guessed that someone might die and change the election atmosphere, but we got the wrong person.  My guess was Lee Teng-hui.  I still think he’ll do something dramatic before this is over.


Taipei and New Taipei Mayors Hau and Chu announced that the Xinzhuang MRT line will open before the election.  They vehemently denied that the date had anything to do with the election.  Of course, that is a sure sign that the election was the most important factor.

It strikes me as odd to think that people think there is political benefit in opening the MRT line two weeks earlier.  For one, this line has taken more than a decade to build, and both green and blue politicians share the credit.  For another, most people seem perfectly willing to wait another month.  We’ve waited a decade; one more month won’t kill us.  Just make sure everything is right first.  And that is the most important thing.  If something goes wrong, the potential costs of opening the line two weeks earlier are enormous.  Imagine a crash killing dozens of people and revelations that the safety preparations were rushed.  A catastrophe could ruin Chu’s re-election bid, not to mention his presidential prospects.  Political benefits from MRT lines come at the beginning, not the end.  You get rewarded by campaigning for new lines and handing out construction contracts to your cronies.  After that, you get almost no credit for actually building the line safely, on time, and on budget.  However, if you fail on any of those counts, there will be hell to pay.

If I were mayor, I would announce that the line would open a week AFTER the election.  That would make me look like I was being extra careful and responsible.


Tsai Ing-wen visited the TSU a week or so ago and expressed hope that they would cross the 5% threshold.  From a theoretical standpoint, this is a bit unexpected.  We generally assume that big parties prefer to kill small parties and dominate the market themselves.  That seems to be the KMT’s attitude toward the PFP (and the New Party).  However, the DPP-TSU relationship seems to be working rather well for the DPP.  The PFP tried cooperating with the KMT and simply had all its established politicians stolen away.  One could argue that the KMT forced the PFP to run district candidates and, more importantly, a presidential candidate this year.  The KMT didn’t give the PFP any room to survive, so the PFP was forced to create some space.  The TSU is not running any district or presidential candidates this year, but they are running a list.  Maybe the DPP is giving them a little space so that they won’t be forced to use the PFP strategy next time.  As a side benefit, the TSU can feel more enthusiastic about supporting Tsai this time.  (Having all the independence radicals in another party also allows the DPP to be more moderate, which might be the most important benefit.  This doesn’t seem to appeal to the Ma Ying-jeou KMT though.)

6 Responses to “a few thoughts”

  1. David on Formosa Says:

    I think you misunderstand the KMT’s thinking with regard to Chen Shui-bian. For the KMT there is nothing they fear more in elections than Chen Shui-bian. I am sure many in the KMT would be truly afraid that letting Chen attend the funeral under more relaxed conditions would allow him to make a speech or take some other actions that would ensure certain electoral defeat for the KMT.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      We seem to have diametrically opposite understandings of how the KMT views Chen. I have a hard time imagining that any speech by Chen would do anything other than remind moderate voters how much they dislike him.

  2. Mike Says:

    A very cheeky side note – the National Chenchi Univesity’s prediction market centre released a report yesterday, that outlining that the KMT is predicted to secure 55 seats in the 8th Legislative Yuan, the DPP 52 seats, while other parties will get 6 seats. This is the first time in a long while that the total seats have reached market equilibrium (i.e. add up to 113 seats), in other words, broader market consensus/ more meaningful results?

    Question time: Does that somewhat restore your completely damaged image of the prediction markets?

    The incredibly long hyperlink as follows:


  3. njyoung Says:

    think a party is eligible to contest the legislative party list seats if they won at least 3% party votes from last election or they contest at least 10 district seats this election.

    TSU might have to use the PFP strategy next time.

    • frozengarlic Says:

      According to the Election and Recall Law, a party is eligible to contest the party list seats if it meets one of the following four conditions:
      1. It wins 2% in the most recent presidential election.
      2. It wins 2% of the party list votes in each of the most recent three legislative elections.
      3. It has five incumbent legislators.
      4. It nominates ten district candidates.

      The TSU will probably continue to get 2% of the party list votes, so they should be able to continue nominating a party list.

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