bureaucrats as candidates

The KMT is still trying to decide its nominations for mayoral positions, including positions for three of the biggest prizes, Taipei City, New Taipei City, and Taichung City.  In all three of these, there are hints that the KMT is considering nominating a bureaucrat rather than a local politician.

In Taichung City, Jason Hu 胡志強 might run for re-election.  However, he might be wise to step aside.  The polls show that he is the KMT’s strongest candidate, but they also show him losing to the DPP nominee, Lin Chia-lung 林佳龍.  At this point four years ago Hu had an enormous lead in the polls, and he still only managed a razor-thin victory.  Losing winnable races is often fatal to a politician’s career; Hu might want to declare that 13 years as mayor is enough and let someone else carry the KMT flag.  There are a lot of KMT politicians lining up for the nomination.  Hu seems to be trying to position his former deputy mayor and current deputy Interior Minister Hsiao Chia-chi 蕭家淇 to get the nomination.

In New Taipei City, Eric Chu 朱立倫 can also run for re-election.  However, he might decide to forgo re-election and run for the presidency instead.  If he does, the leading candidates (in the media speculation) are a couple of bureaucrats, deputy mayor and former head of the National Police Commission Hou You-yi 侯友宜 and Interior Minister Lee Hung-yuan 李鴻源.

In Taipei City, all the speculation has swirled around Lien Chan’s 連戰 son, Sean Lien 連勝文.  However, in the wake of the September struggle in which the Liens took a stance clearly opposed to President Ma, it is possible that Ma will try to throw the nomination to someone else.  A year ago, it looked like Premier Jiang Yi-huah 江宜樺 was being groomed for the job, but his current unpopularity makes that unlikely.  As in Taichung, there is no shortage of KMT politicians lining up for this position.  Unfortunately for Ma, the strongest of them, legislator Ting Shou-chung 丁守中, has also been openly critical of Ma and has some ties to Lien Chan.  A media report about a week ago suggested that Ma was trying to position his former deputy mayor Ou Chin-der 歐晉德 for the nomination.

(A quick aside.  It does look to me like Ma is trying very hard to deny Lien the nomination.  The last couple of weeks have seen a spate of stories about Lien’s finances and dealings in China, his possible vulnerability in the polls, and his potentially controversial residency in Taipei’s most expensive housing complex.  These stories might be unrelated, but I am suspicious.)

 

Would the KMT be wise to turn to bureaucrats as candidates?  How have bureaucrats done in the past?  My quick impression was that they were generally lousy candidates.  Running for political office is difficult.  It takes a special set of skills that need to be honed.  It also helps to have an extensive network of people, and this usually takes years to put together.  However, I decided that I should probably take a closer look at the historical record.  I looked for instances in which the KMT nominated a bureaucrat with no previous electoral experience in that district.  I only looked at single seat districts.  This list probably doesn’t cover everyone, but it should get most of them.

 

year Name Positions held Vote win
1995 蕭萬長 Vincent Siew Minister: Economics, CEPD, MOFA 51.7 Y
1997 謝深山 Hsieh Shen-shan Minister: Labor Affairs 38.7 N
1997 許惠祐 Hsu Huei-you Dep. Sec. Gen.: SEF 30.1 N
1997 林志成 Lin Chih-cheng 新竹市政府計畫室主任, Hsinchu City Government 42.8 Y
1998 馬英九 Ma Ying-jeou Minster: Justice, WO Portfolio 51.1 Y
2001 葉金鳳 Yeh Chin-feng Minister: Interior, Justice, WO Portfolio 42.0 N
2001 吳清基 Wu Ching-chi Dep. Minister: Education 44.5 N
2001 胡志強 Jason Hu Minister: GIO, MOFA 49.1 Y
2001 江清馦 Chiang Ching-hsien Dep. Gov. of Taiwan Prov.; Dep. Minister: Interior 34.7 N
2002 黃俊英 Huang Chun-ying Dep. Mayor, Kaohsiung City 46.9 N
2008 廖正井 Liao Cheng-ching Dep. Magistrate, Taoyuan 54.6 Y
2009 杜麗華 Du Li-hua Director, Agriculture, Hualien County Govt 25.4 N
2010 朱立倫 Eric Chu Dep. Premier 52.6 Y
2012 江啟臣 Chiang Chi-chen Minister: GIO 44.8 Y

 

This is a quite diverse list.  I think we can put them into three groups.

First, there are the superstars.  These are the media darlings, people who had a national profile before plunging into electoral politics.  Ma Ying-jeou, Vincent Siew 蕭萬長, and Jason Hu were all national figures being groomed for greater things when they ran.  Eric Chu had a similarly high profile, though he is arguably different, having already won three elections in Taoyuan before becoming Vice Premier.  All four of these won their elections, though none of them managed to do so in landslide fashion.  One might argue that they faced unusually tough competition, but, except for Siew, they were fighting on turf that the KMT generally wins.  I’d judge this group of candidates as competent but well short of excellent.

(I’m ignoring the DPP because it hasn’t nominated many bureaucrats for elected office.  The most notable case is Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 in 2010.  She fits very nicely in group 1 as a media superstar who produced an ok campaign.)

Second, there are the high-ranking but far less famous bureaucrats.  This group includes Hsieh Shen-shan 謝深山, Hsu Huei-you 許惠祐, Yeh Chin-feng 葉金鳳, Wu Ching-chi 吳清基, and Chiang Chi-chen 江啟臣.  Chiang was the only winner, and he managed a mere 44% of the vote.  Chiang also had the benefit of a family with extensive electoral connections.  Wu also didn’t do badly, considering the KMT’s weakness in Tainan County.  However, the other three were pretty lousy.  Yeh and Hsieh both lost races that the KMT probably should have won in Changhua and Taipei Counties.  In both races, the KMT probably should have been at least 10% higher.  Hsu delivered one of the worst KMT runs in the democratic era.  The DPP split, and two DPP candidates entered the race (neither was an incumbent).  Somehow, this did not throw the Nantou County government to the KMT.  In fact, Hsu managed to finish third behind both of them.  Overall, I’d rate this group of candidates as well below average.

The third group is made of local and unknown national bureaucrats, including Lin Chih-cheng 林志成, Chiang Ching-hsien 江清馦, Huang Chun-ying 黃俊英, Liao Cheng-ching 廖正井, and Du Li-hua杜麗華.  This group fared somewhat similarly to the first group.  Liao won his race (though he soon lost the seat due to a vote-buying conviction).  Huang lost his race, but performed respectably enough that he got another shot four years later.  (He lost that one, too.)  The other three were terrible.  Lin Chih-cheng managed to get walloped in a head-to-head race on solidly blue turf.  Du Li-hua got wiped out by the PFP candidate.  Chiang Ching-hsien never really had a chance to win in Chiayi County, but an average candidate would have easily broken 35%.  As with group 2, this group rates well below average.

The lesson seems to be that superstars can be acceptable candidates, but lower ranked bureaucrats will probably not do well.  It is notable that none of these bureaucrats posted a spectacular or even clearly above average result.  Moreover, these are only the ones that were nominated.  Lots of other bureaucrats were eliminated earlier in the process.  For example, Mayor Ma wanted his deputy Yeh Chin-chuan 葉金川 to succeed him, but Hau Lung-bin 郝龍斌 easily defeated Yeh for the KMT nomination.  Presumably, the bureaucrats listed in the table are the strongest politicians from the pool of potential aspirants.  Overall, the strongest bureaucrat-turned-politicians have been acceptable candidates, while the weakest have been outright miserable.

 

What does this say of the current set of potential candidates?  In Taipei City, Ou Chin-der probably has no chance.  Even if Ma did put all his prestige behind Ou, Sean Lien would probably be able to swat him aside.  If Ou somehow did get the nomination, he would almost certainly be a weak candidate.  This is one of the very few scenarios in which the DPP would have a chance at winning Taipei City.  Realistically, the Ou rumor was probably not even a serious trial balloon.

Hsiao Chia-chi is a much more realistic possibility in Taichung.  However, the above table should give the KMT pause.  Hsiao is nowhere near a media superstar.  He looks much more like the politicians in groups 2 and 3.  The KMT would probably do better to nominate an aspirant with more electoral experience.

New Taipei City is the most intriguing.  Lee Hung-yuan and Hou You-yi are both well-known, but they are clearly short of the group 1 fame level.  Right now, the polls show Hou doing better than Lee.  Last week’s UDN poll showed Hou beating DPP nominee Yu Shyi-kun 游錫堃 while Lee was losing to Yu.  I wonder, however, if Lee might end up being the more formidable of the two.  Neither has run for elected office, but Lee comes from a local political family.  His father was a township mayor, and his brother has won several legislative elections.  Hou would start with a bit more popularity, but Lee would start with more electoral skills.  I wouldn’t expect either of them to be a spectacular candidate, but either might turn out to be good enough.

2 Responses to “bureaucrats as candidates”

  1. R Says:

    Thanks for posting. Interesting to consider how Lee might end up being more formidable than Hou.

    For the other side, instead of having problems with bureaucrat candidates do you think factionalism might be a major cause of concern? For example I heard during the 2000 presidential election, factionalism was so bad for the DPP in Taichung that there were two election headquarters there on the same street not far off from each other! One for the New Tide Faction one for non-New Tide Faction.

  2. frozengarlic Says:

    Factionalism always matters, though in different ways for the DPP’s national factions and the KMT’s local factions. In these local elections, the DPP factions can simply concentrate on “their” races and ignore the ones with a DPP nominee from another faction. There is little need to fight openly. The KMT has a harder job, since the local factions can’t divert their energies elsewhere. Moreover, the Taichung factions are fighting for their very survival. Administrative reform eliminated most of their seats four years ago, and they are a bit starved. The KMT nominee might be whoever can assure the factions that they will be taken care of. If the KMT nominates someone from the old Taichung City, the county factions might go nuclear.

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