Archive for December, 2014

How MMP could crash

December 18, 2014

Ideas are flying left and right for changing the constitutional system. I’ll get to them at some point, but right now those proposals are so vague that I can’t analyze them. Instead, let’s look at a much more mature proposal, the one to change the electoral system to a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.

First, let’s review some vocabulary. A mixed member system combines two types of electoral formulae. In one tier, voters can vote for individual candidates. This is called the “nominal tier,” since you usually vote for a particular name. In most mixed systems, the nominal tier employs single seat districts. In the other tier, voters select a party, and parties designate individuals to sit in any seat that the party wins. This tier almost always uses some sort of party list, so it is called the “list tier.”

There are two major types of mixed member systems. In Mixed Member Majoritarian (MMM) systems (in Chinese often labeled 兩票並立制) the tiers are unlinked, so what happens in one has no effect on how the seats are handed out in the other. Taiwan, Japan, and Korea all have MMM systems. To illustrate, imagine a country with 200 total seats, half in each tier. There are four parties who win 40%, 30%, 20%, and 10% of the votes respectively.

District votes 40% 30% 20% 10%
District seats (A) 76 22 2 0
List votes 40% 30% 20% 10%
List seats (B) 40 30 20 10
Total seats (A+B) 116 52 22 10
Seat share 58% 26% 11% 5%

Since Party A is the most popular party, let’s imagine that it will win most (76) of the district seats, Party B will win most of the rest (22), and Party C will win the remaining two seats. In the list tier, the seats are distributed to each party proportionally according to the list vote. The overall seat distribution is simply the sum of the two tiers. In this example, Party A wins a clear majority of the overall seats even though it won far less than 50% of the votes. This is what we call a manufactured majority, and it is quite possible in MMM systems. (The KMT holds a manufactured majority right now; it did not get 50% of the votes in either tier in 2012.) This is why the system is labeled with the third M, “majoritarian.”

The other flavor of mixed member systems is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP; in Chinese usually called 兩票聯立制). In MMP, the two tiers are linked. The list tier vote is much more important than the nominal tier vote, as the party vote determines the overall seat share. Using the same example from above, the seats are distributed as follows:

List votes 40% 30% 20% 10%
Total seats (A) 80 60 40 20
District votes 40% 30% 20% 10%
District seats (B) 76 22 2 0
List seats (A-B) 4 38 38 20
Seat share 40% 30% 20% 10%

Start by looking at the party list votes. Since Party A got 40% of the list tier votes, it will get 40% of the total seats, or 80 total seats. In the nominal tier, Party A has won 76 seats, so in order to get to a total of 80, it needs an additional 4 seats. Note that Party A gets the most party list votes, but it actually gets the fewest party list seats. Under the MMP logic, winning more districts doesn’t help a party win more total seats, it only changes which people get to sit in those seats. If Party A had won a 77th seat by beating one of the Party C district winners, it would have only won three list seats. Party C would have then gotten a 39th list seat. Either way, Party A gets 40% of the total seats and Party C gets 20%.

So the biggest difference between MMM (Taiwan’s current system) and MMP (which Tsai Ing-wen is promoting) is that MMM has majoritarian tendencies because the tiers are independent while MMP is proportional because the tiers are linked.

There are lots of arguments to be made for why MMP is better. My personal opinion is that just about anything other than a straight American-style single seat plurality system would be better than Taiwan’s current MMM system. However, I’m not going to go into these arguments right now. What I want to look at now are the arguments for why MMP won’t work. The concern is not that MMP will produce bad politics, but rather that, if we are not careful, MMP could simply self-destruct. Most of these concerns center around “overhang seats.”

Go back to the previous example. What if, instead of winning 76 district seats, Party A had won 82? Its 40% list share vote only entitles it to 80 seats, so perhaps it should get -2 list seats! What the Germans and most other countries using MMP do is to create overhang seats.

A B C D Total
List votes 40% 30% 20% 10% 100%
Total earned seats (A) 80 60 40 20 200
District votes 40% 30% 20% 10%
District seats (B) 82 16 2 0 100
List seats (A-B) 0 44 38 20 102
Total seats 82 60 40 20 202
Seat share 40.6% 29.7% 19.8% 9.9%

Party A is allowed to keep all 82 of its district seats, and it does not get any list seats. Party B is supposed to get 60 total seats, so it gets an additional 44 list seats. Likewise, Party C gets 38 list seats, and Party D gets 20 list seats. You will notice that this makes 102 list seats. The total chamber is thus enlarged. Instead of 200 members, there are now 202 members. Because of the overhang seats, Party A has a slightly larger seat share than vote share, while the other three parties are slightly underrepresented.

This may not seem so serious, but Germans think it is. In Germany, overhang seats have caused the parliament to expand by as many as 29 seats or about 5% of the total chamber (if my memory is correct). In Taiwan, we are used to the idea that a party’s seat share and vote share might be a little off, but Germans take the principle of proportionality much more seriously. In fact, the German constitutional court has ruled the current system is unconstitutional since it can produce such disproportional outcomes, and it has demanded that the overhang system be revamped. They haven’t finalized how they will reform the system, but one possibility is to expand the seats going to the other parties as well. In the above example, Party B might also get two more seats, and Parties C and D might each get one more seat. Thus, instead of having 202 seats, the two overhang seats might require a chamber with 206 total seats. With a lot of overhang seats, the chamber size might spiral out of control.

If this were the main problem, I wouldn’t be too worried. Taiwan has historically been willing to put up with modest amounts of disproportionality. Moreover, the modest disproportionality from a few overhang seats would be less than the average disproportionality incurred under either the current MMM system or the former SNTV system. Moreover, as long as the list tier is expanded from the current 30% of all seats to closer to 50% of all seats, we shouldn’t expect to see too many overhangs. The main reason Germany has overhang seats is that they have party lists in each state rather than one national list. If Taiwan had one list for Taipei City, the KMT might easily sweep all the district seats with less than 50% of the party vote (especially with revitalized PFP and New Parties), thus creating the potential for overhang seats. However, with a national list, the KMT’s overrepresentation in the north is balanced out by their underrepresentation in the south, so overhang seats are unlikely. (The 2008 sweep would have been just shy of requiring overhang seats.)

However, what if the KMT or DPP cynically set out to create overhang seats? Could they crash the system? Let’s go back to the first MMP example, where Party A won 76 district seats and only 4 list seats. What if Party A decided that 4 list seats wasn’t enough for their 40% list votes? What they could do is to form a fake party called Party A*. All of the district candidates would run under the Party A* label, and all of the list candidates would run under the Party A label. Now let’s look at the table:

A A* B C D Total
List votes 40% 0% 30% 20% 10%
Total earned seats (A) 80 0 60 40 20 200
District votes 0% 40% 30% 20% 10%
District seats (B) 0 76 22 2 0 100
List seats (A-B) 80 0 38 38 20 176
Total Seats 80 76 60 40 20 276
Seat share 29.0% 27.5% 21.7% 14.5% 7.2% 276

Since Parties A and A* are legally unrelated, Party A gets a full 80 list seats to reflect its 40% party list vote share, while Party A* gets to keep all of its 76 district seats as overhang seats. Of course, they are actually the same party, and instead of 40% of the total seats, they have managed to win 56.6% of the total seats. Well now, that’s quite a difference.

Of course, if Party A did this, Party B would respond with a fake Party B* and so on. The logical result is that the MMP system of 100 nominal tier and 100 list tier seats would be transformed into a de facto MMM system with 100 nominal tier and 200 list tier seats. If we change the constitution to replace MMM with MMP, we probably don’t want to end up back with MMM. Moreover, it would be dishonest MMM, all the parties would snipe at each other for refusing to honor the rules of the game, the general public would think even less of politicians’ sense of fair play, and satisfaction with the way democracy works would probably sink even lower.

Would the parties really do this? In Italy, they actually have. About a decade ago, both of the major alliances came up with fake party lists precisely to avoid having success in the nominal tier count against the list tier. Not coincidentally, Italy recently discarded its mixed member system altogether. Germans have also recently become aware of what they call “negative voting,” though they haven’t yet been cynical enough to present fake party lists. (Insert your own joke about rule abiding German culture and corrupt Italian cultures here.) I have a hard time believing that the largest party in Taiwan would see an opportunity to turn a mere plurality in the legislature into a majority and wouldn’t seize it. If Taiwan does opt for a MMP system, there needs to be some way to prevent the fake list problem. I’m not quite sure how to do this without causing all sorts of other problems.

This brings us to the second serious problem. If you do find some way to ensure that all of a party’s candidates actually use the party’s label, what do you do about independents? Consider Yen Ching-piao 顏清標. Because of Yen’s background with organized crime, he and the KMT have decided that it is better for him not to officially join the party. In the past two elections, the KMT simply didn’t nominate a candidate in his district, and Yen won as an independent. He isn’t the only one. Both the KMT and DPP have found it useful at various times to defer to independents. However, these arrangements essentially take us back to the previous problem. Any seat won by an independent will, by definition, result in overhang seats. As such, if you allow independents, the KMT and DPP have an incentive to encourage their members to run as independents (or at least not to force allies to join their party). One solution is to not allow independent candidates. In Bolivia, all candidates must represent a party, and every party must nominate a candidate for every office. I don’t think this is a plausible arrangement for Taiwan. There is a very strong tradition of independents going back to the authoritarian era. Many people consider the option to quit their party and take their candidacy directly to the people to be a basic democratic right. Again, I’m not quite sure how to square this circle.

MMP could work in Taiwan, but the details matter. If reformers ignore potential abuses, they might be burying a time bomb right in the heart of the democratic system. I’m actually starting to think that these problems are sufficiently serious that we should consider a different electoral system, such as the old SNTV system or some version of Open List PR.

Eric Chu takes center stage

December 15, 2014

We have certainly learned a lot about Eric Chu in the past three weeks, though since we started knowing almost nothing, we still have a lot of blanks to fill in.

In the last few days of the campaign we learned that he can be petty. In the immediate aftermath of the election, we learned that he is not shy about trumpeting modest achievements. He might also be aggressive in pursuing power, but he prefers not to be seen as doing this. In the old fawning bureaucratic-authoritarian political culture, it is inappropriate and sometimes dangerous to nakedly pursue power. You have to pretend not to want it while your supporters clamor for you to accept leadership. Only after declining power several times is it acceptable to begrudgingly accept the heavy burden of political power. Chu seems to feel comfortable in this old-style political culture rather than the more open and honest culture of most democracies.

That is relatively small potatoes. We learned an enormous amount over the weekend when Chu announced he would run for KMT party chair. Where he had been a blank sheet of paper, he suddenly took a whole set of important political positions. Among the highlights are:

He won’t run for president in 2016.

He wants a parliamentary system.

He will consider revising the electoral system.

The KMT should become an internally-organized party. He will not be a superstar or a party dictator.

He will return all the KMT’s “ill-gotten” property to the state.

The KMT has become too close to large corporations and too enthralled with free-market ideas. In cross-straits dealings, this has allowed “compradore-type 買辦型” figures and unscrupulous Taiwanese businessmen (with dealings in China) 惡性台商 to emerge.

He and President Ma have completely different personalities.

He hinted that he would drop the purge against Speaker Wang.

And I’m probably forgetting some of the other important things he said. But holy cow, that’s a lot! He is setting out a radically different vision of what the KMT should be, and he is basically repudiating 70% of President Ma’s economic strategy.

I have two main thoughts about this.

First, the proposal to adopt a parliamentary system seems extremely hurried and might not be well thought out at all. This is not a minor change. It would impact everything in the entire political system, and we haven’t even begun to think about the first-order impacts, much less the third-order impacts. Moreover, every parliamentary system is somewhat different; there isn’t a simple off-the-shelf model that you can buy at your local Carrefour. It’s one thing to ask for a parliamentary system; it’s quite another to hammer out all the little details. Who gets to have the first shot at forming a coalition government? How will confidence votes be handled? Will the president continue to be directly elected? What happens to the National Security system? If this were New Zealand, they would appoint a Royal Commission that would take a year or two to consider all aspects of the question and make various proposals. There has been discussion of adopting a German-style MMP electoral system, and the intellectual community is exploring this. At the Taiwanese Political Science Association conference last weekend, there were several papers examining how Germans see their electoral system and what kinds of problems have surfaced. We are far less prepared to give useful advice about how to design an appropriate parliamentary system. Chu is suggesting that Taiwan can figure this all out in the midst of an election year, get a bill through the legislature, and then have sufficient time to educate the public so that they can vote on it in a referendum in a mere thirteen months. It would be far better to slow things down. You can’t afford to make rash and uninformed changes to the constitution, much less to the heart of the constitution.

Frankly, I’m a little concerned that Chu doesn’t seem to have a clear vision of what he wants. Today he clarified that he would be fine with either a pure parliamentary system or a system in which the directly elected president maintained considerable political powers (such as in the French system). Wait a minute, those are two entirely different systems that operate according to entirely different political logics! Choosing between those two is not at all like raising taxes by either 2% or 3%. To give just one example, having a directly elected president with considerable powers tends to drive the parties into two big camps. In pure parliamentary systems, there are often centrist coalitions. (To my knowledge) Chu hasn’t commented on why he wants to change the system. Why does he think a parliamentary (or French-style semi-presidential) system will work better than the current semi-presidential system? Is he trying to revamp the party system? Is he concerned about lines of authority from the elected politicians to the bureaucrats? Does he think a parliamentary system will discourage corruption or promote political consensus-building? He hasn’t told us why he wants this fundamental change and he doesn’t seem to know what change he wants, so why is this his big idea? It’s almost as if he wants to look like a reformer so he has picked out the biggest damn hammer in the whole toolbox in order to make the biggest impact on his public image. I hope he’s thought this through better than it appears so far.

Second, Friday was the first day of Chu’s major league political career. Up until now, he was either in local politics or not on the front lines. Suddenly he is at the center of national politics in the brightest media spotlight. Everything he does and says will be picked apart in a way that he has never had to deal with until now. As mayor of New Taipei, he could say that he is a guy who gets things done, and the country basically let that go unchallenged. No longer. He said a lot of great sounding things on Friday, but now he will actually have to deal with the consequences of those statements. If he doesn’t do something with party property, people will ask questions. Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung aren’t just going to ignore his comment about “compradore-style figures.” Most importantly, Ma Ying-jeou is not just going to yield to Chu’s ideas about economic policies. Chu might complain that Ma’s policies unfairly benefit the richest people, but Ma is still in charge of the government and he doesn’t seem to want to reverse six years of economic “achievements.” The business world isn’t going to sit idly by if Chu tries to change the economic policies they want. They have lots of power within the KMT, and they will defend their interests. Chu is going to have to engage in a full-blown power struggle to force the cabinet to follow his new line. Otherwise, Chu is going to look pretty weak if he, as KMT party chair, is calling for one set of policies and President Ma continues to push ahead with his entirely different political priorities. The media will be watching intently and screaming loudly through this entire process. Chu will find that he cannot control media agenda the way he could in local politics. He will be forced to take a stand on hot topics that he would rather avoid, and he won’t be facing a group of cooperative local reporters who will give him the benefit of the doubt when he puts his foot in his mouth. Chu is a smart guy, and he apparently has guts. I’m sure he knew that he was picking a fight with the KMT power structure and that it will fight back. In addition to the brighter spotlight and the more intense power struggles, he has to face a much harder set of problems. Dealing with national security, the national economy, leading a party, and fostering a vision for the future of the country are much harder than building an MRT line or upgrading sewer lines. Chu has been building his career to play the lead role on the center stage, and we’ll see if he is ready. From now on, everything is different.

Translating mayoral votes into legislative seats

December 13, 2014

The DPP won a smashing victory over the KMT two weeks ago. If those results are duplicated in the legislative elections coming up in a mere 13 months, the DPP will take firm control of the legislature. Of course, you can’t assume that the mayoral vote will be replicated. For one thing, all those national issues (ie: 92 Consensus) that largely stayed off the agenda will be unavoidable in 2016. For another, the candidates will be different. The KMT will be fielding a roster of quality incumbents while the DPP will have a higher share of unproven challengers. Still, these results should scare the pants off of some incumbent KMT legislators. In this post, I’m going to look at who should be the most terrified.

In 2012, the DPP won 40 seats and the TSU took 3, so the green camp needs another 14 seats to win a majority. They probably shouldn’t count on keeping the Taitung seat, since the KMT vote might not be split next time. So let’s see how likely it is that the DPP can win 15 more seats.

Legislators will be ranked from one to four, with four exclamation marks being the most alarmed.

The south

Lin Kuo-cheng 林國正, Kaohsiung 9  (!!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 32.3%;      2012 Tsai: 56.1%;   2014 DPP: 71.6%

Weng Chong-chun 翁重鈞, Chiayi County 1  (!!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 49.7%;      2012 Tsai: 58.8%;   2014 DPP: 60.0%

Chang Chia-chun 張嘉郡, Yunlin 1  (!!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 49.6%;      2012 Tsai: 56.2%;   2014 DPP: 55.6%

Wang Chin-shih 王進士, Pingtung 2  (!!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 51.5%;      2012 Tsai: 51.1%;   2014 DPP: 59.7%

Huang Chao-shun 黃昭順, Kaohsiung 3  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 46.1%;      2012 Tsai: 46.6%;   2014 DPP: 63.7%

Lin Kuo-cheng holds the Kaohsiung 9 seat because Chen Shui-bian’s son split the DPP vote. This district is so solidly green that the DPP might take it back even if they split the vote again.

Weng Chong-chun and Chang Chia-chun won improbable victories in 2012. If this election is any indication, they won’t be able to repeat that feat in 2016. In 2014, Weng ran personally and Chang’s aunt ran in Yunlin. Both were resoundingly thumped in their own legislative district. Chang’s father has already announced the family won’t be running for re-election. I expect Weng will give it a try, but he is trying to run up an ever steeper hill. At least he should be facing a weaker opponent.

Wang Chin-shih has somehow managed to retain his seat for two terms. This is not an overwhelming DPP district like the previous three, but it was already green in 2012 and will probably tilt even greener by 2016. The KMT had a competent candidate in Pingtung, but he could barely manage 40% in this district. Wang should be terrified.

Huang Chao-shun is the only KMT legislator in the south with a reasonable shot at keeping her seat. This district went roughly as green as the entire country in 2012, which was not enough to win the presidency or this seat. However, Huang should probably be alarmed by the unfathomable 63.7% Chen Chu won in this district. Chen won such an enormous victory that it is hard to imagine how it will translate to the next election. Some of those people will certainly go back to the KMT, but some probably will not. Huang needs an awful lot of people to return to the KMT fold in 2016.

Central Taiwan

Ma Wen-chun 馬文君, Nantou 1  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 38.6%;      2012 Tsai: 40.4%;   2014 DPP: 52.0%

(open seat), Nantou 2  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 45.7%;      2012 Tsai: 44.1%;   2014 DPP: 46.3%

Wang Hui-mei 王惠美, Changhua 1  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 35.0%;      2012 Tsai: 47.5%;   2014 DPP: 53.8%

Lin Tsang-min 林滄敏, Changhua 2  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 44.5%;      2012 Tsai: 44.1%;   2014 DPP: 47.9%

Cheng Ju-fen 鄭汝芬, Changhua 3  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 44.1%;      2012 Tsai: 48.0%;   2014 DPP: 54.2%

Yen Kuan-heng 顏寬恆, Taichung 2  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 40.2%;      2012 Tsai: 45.3%;   2014 DPP: 58.6%

Yang Chiung-ying 楊瓊瓔, Taichung 3  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 37.4%;      2012 Tsai: 47.2%;   2014 DPP: 59.5%

Tsai Chin-lung 蔡錦隆, Taichung 4  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 46.3%;      2012 Tsai: 40.7%;   2014 DPP: 53.3%

Lu Hsiu-yen 盧秀燕, Taichung 5  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 40.9%;      2012 Tsai: 41.0%;   2014 DPP: 53.2%

Chiang Chi-chen 江啟臣, Taichung 8  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 39.5%;      2012 Tsai: 47.1%;   2014 DPP: 58.0%

The DPP won a higher vote share in Nantou 1 this year, but Nantou 2 has always been the better target for them. Nantou 1 has an entrenched incumbent, and Puli is famous for rallying around native candidates. Nantou 2, however, is now an open seat, and without Lin Ming-chen 林明溱 to hold down the fort, it should ripe for the picking. The DPP needs to win this sort of district, in which Tsai Ing-wen got 44% or more, if they are to win an overall majority. Fortunately for them, they will get a shot to win the seat in a by-election, where conditions tend to favor the DPP. Assuming the DPP wins Nantou 2 now, it will have an incumbent defending the seat in 2016 and might be hard to dislodge.

In Changhua, the KMT has three seats, and the Changhua 4 seat has now become open. In the presidential election, Changhua 4 was not the DPP’s best district. Rather, Tsai was slightly stronger in both Changhua 1 and Changhua 3. The KMT incumbents in both of those districts should be extremely concerned. Changhua 2 might be a little different. This has always been a more blue-leaning district, and Lin Tsang-min will be defending his seat. On the other hand, Lin lost his home district in 2014, so he can’t be too confident. My guess is that, if you strip away all the influences of individual candidates, districts 1, 3, and 4 are currently leaning toward the DPP with district 2 just about a tossup. However, candidates matter a lot in places like Changhua, and the KMT will be fielding three incumbents. The DPP might beat them, but they won’t go down without a vigorous fight.

There are eight districts in Taichung which can roughly be divided into two groups. Districts 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 were all fairly close in both 2012 and 2014. Tsai won about 46% and Lin Chia-lung got about 58% in all of them. The DPP currently holds three of these seats (1, 6, and 7), and it should vigorously contest the other three. The District 8 incumbent, Chiang Chi-chen, seems the most likely to fall, as there have been rumblings that the local factions have not been happy with him. In District 3, Yang Chiung-ying has been in the legislature since 1998, and she was in the provincial assembly for a couple of terms before that. She has very deep connections running throughout the district. However, precisely because she is so deeply entrenched in clientelistic politics, she might be vulnerable to the same sort of wave that drowned Sean Lien and John Wu this year. In District 2, the Yen family seems to be dug in. They managed to transfer the seat from the father to the son in a by-election last year even though by-elections in this political climate tend to overwhelmingly favor the DPP. In a general election, the DPP will have an even harder time overcoming the unique appeal of the Yen family. To unseat them, the 2016 presidential candidate might need to replicate Lin’s 58.6% performance in this district. In both 2008 and 2012, the DPP has utterly failed to challenge Yang or Yen. If they are serious about these seats, they have to find more capable candidates than the cannon fodder they have previously presented to the electorate. It might be that the top quality candidates were scared off because the races looked nearly impossible. That should not be as much of a barrier in 2016.

The other two Taichung districts are much bluer. Lin won Districts 4 and 5 with about 53%, while in 2012 Tsai could only manage about 41%. These are the richest parts of the city, and they also have a higher proportion of Mainlanders than any other district. Even assuming the current anti-KMT wave is most intense in the most urbanized areas, I don’t expect the DPP to be able to take District 5 from Lu Hsiu-yen. Tsai Chin-lung in District 4 looks much weaker. He only won re-election in 2012 by a 54-46 margin, and he will probably face the same strong opponent (Chang Liao Wan-chien 張廖萬堅) again in 2016.

New Taipei City

Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇, New Taipei 1  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 42.4%;      2012 Tsai: 42.5%;   2014 DPP: 46.6%

Lee Hung-chun 李鴻鈞, New Taipei 4  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 46.6%;      2012 Tsai: 48.8%;   2014 DPP: 54.2%

Huang Chih-hsiung 黃志雄, New Taipei 5  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 45.7%;      2012 Tsai: 47.4%;   2014 DPP: 52.5%

Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池, New Taipei 6  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 45.9%;      2012 Tsai: 47.1%;   2014 DPP: 52.4%

Chiang Hui-chen 江惠貞, New Taipei 7  (!!!)

2012 LY DPP: 42.8%;      2012 Tsai: 45.9%;   2014 DPP: 51.7%

Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠, New Taipei 8  (  )

2012 LY DPP: 39.8%;      2012 Tsai: 37.5%;   2014 DPP: 43.5%

Lin Teh-fu 林德福, New Taipei 9  (  )

2012 LY DPP: 27.6%;      2012 Tsai: 31.3%;   2014 DPP: 37.1%

Lu Chia-chen 盧嘉辰, New Taipei 10  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 43.4%;      2012 Tsai: 44.8%;   2014 DPP: 50.1%

Luo Ming-tsai 羅明才, New Taipei 11  (  )

2012 LY DPP: 33.4%;      2012 Tsai: 32.9%;   2014 DPP: 38.3%

Lee Ching-hua 李慶華, New Taipei 12  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 35.9%;      2012 Tsai: 42.2%;   2014 DPP: 47.0%

KMT legislators from New Taipei have to look at the 2014 results differently than their colleagues from other cities or counties. In New Taipei, the pre-election consensus was that the KMT had an extremely popular candidate running against a lackluster DPP candidate. Eric Chu, with all of his personal popularity, barely survived this election. In places like Kaohsiung or Taichung, it is unlikely that the DPP can replicate such impressive numbers in future elections. In New Taipei, after stripping away the 2014 candidates’ personal influences, the DPP vote shares might actually be too low. Every KMT legislator has to ask him or herself, “Am I as good as Chu and will my opponent be as lousy as You?” The answers aren’t encouraging for the KMT in 2016.

Districts 8, 9, and 11 are safe KMT districts. In 2014, these three districts won the election for Chu. The Xindian Luo family’s seat is far safer than the Yunlin Chang family’s or the Taichung Yen family’s seat. (Quick quiz: What is the common thread tying those three families together?) In Zhonghe, Chang Ching-chung will go down (as a footnote) in history for triggering the Sunflower movement. However, the Sunflowers and their supporters would be wise to direct their energies elsewhere, since the New Taipei 8 seat is unwinnable. KMT supporters might not want to be too happy about having these three safe seats. One of the classic gerrymandering strategies is to pack all of your opponent’s strongest neighborhoods into one district. Assuming the overall balance of power is roughly even, by sacrificing that single district, you can win by a small margin in all the other districts. New Taipei City is a natural DPP gerrymander. If the DPP can get to 50% overall, it will win more than half of the seats. In 2014, even though the KMT won New Taipei by 1.3%, the DPP won 7 of the 12 legislative districts.

Districts 1 and 12 are the other two that Chu won a majority in. In previous elections, these have usually been solidly blue. In 2014 Chu won by a surprisingly small margin, especially in District 12, which is mostly Xizhi. This should serve as a wake-up call to Wu Yu-sheng and Lee Ching-hua. They should probably still be able to win, but it is by no means an automatic victory. After 22 years in the legislature, if Lee doesn’t still have the energy to fend off a serious challenge, this might be a good time for him to triumphantly retire.

Districts 7 and 10 are similar and are right on the border between two and three exclamation marks. They are also adjacent to each other, since Tucheng (D10) abuts the southwestern part of Banqiao (D7). These are also just about the median districts nationally, in that one of them might be the 57th seat for one of the parties. Both of these incumbents are fairly anonymous nationally but have spent a lot of time working the district.

Districts 4, 5, and 6 are the most likely dominos to fall. District 6 (northeast Banqiao) will be particularly interesting. A year and a half ago, Lin Hung-chih might have been my choice as the most likely KMT nominee for New Taipei mayor in 2018. However, the last year and a half have not been good for him. He was the KMT whip during the September Struggle and the Sunflower movement. He did much of Ma’s dirty work in the legislature, and Ma tried to use him to bypass Speaker Wang. After resigning the whip position, Lin complained that he had not wanted to do these things but he was obliged to do what the party demanded. Nonetheless, the DPP will almost certainly try to paint him as Ma’s puppet and ask voters to reject Ma. In past elections, Lin’s personal popularity has masked the fact that his district is by no means solidly blue. In 2016, he should be terrified that his willingness to follow Ma’s orders might cost him what looked like a promising political career.


Chen Ken-te 陳根德, Taoyuan 1  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 44.7%;      2012 Tsai: 42.7%;   2014 DPP: 55.6%

Liao Cheng-ching 廖正井, Taoyuan 2  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 49.8%;      2012 Tsai: 44.6%;   2014 DPP: 51.3%

Chen Hsueh-sheng 陳學聖, Taoyuan 3  (!)

2012 LY DPP: 39.9%;      2012 Tsai: 36.4%;   2014 DPP: 46.9%

Yang Li-huan 楊麗環, Taoyuan 4  (!!)

2012 LY DPP: 40.6%;      2012 Tsai: 41.1%;   2014 DPP: 56.4%

Lu Yu-ling 呂玉玲, Taoyuan 5  (!)

2012 LY DPP: 35.1%;      2012 Tsai: 36.1%;   2014 DPP: 47.0%

Sun Ta-chien 孫大千, Taoyuan 6  (!)

2012 LY DPP (ally): 31.3%;     2012 Tsai: 37.8%;   2014 DPP: 49.0%

This glance at Taoyuan is a reminder of just how unlikely Cheng Wen-tsan’s mayoral victory was. He built his winning coalition on a very weak DPP foundation. One of the most important questions for Taiwan’s future is whether the 2014 election was a one-time freakish event based on the personal failings of John Wu or whether these results reflect real underlying changes in the electorate and can be replicated in the future. My hunch is that future elections will look more like 2012 than 2014, but, as the wag quipped, predictions are always shaky – especially the ones about the future.

In the past, District 2 (coast) has been the DPP’s best by far. In fact, this looked like the only one that the DPP had a realistic shot at. What was interesting about this election was that the DPP’s vote exploded in Districts 1 and 4, the mostly Min-nan areas closest to New Taipei City. In 2012, the KMT incumbent crushed his DPP opponent by over 10%. In 2014, Cheng won D1 by 12%. The strange thing is that the DPP’s candidate in 2012 was none other than Cheng Wen-tsan. If I were Chen Ken-te or Yang Li-huan, I would be shocked and very, very concerned. I would certainly do everything possible to distance myself from the Wu family and President Ma. I would also be talking to as many of my constituents as possible to try to figure out what happened. As much as anywhere in the country, these two seats are ground zero for the wave that just swept over Taiwan. If that wave hasn’t receded by early 2016, these two could be in trouble.

District 6 is a bit like New Taipei 1 and 12. This is a district that I have always considered to be an absolutely safe blue seat, yet the DPP came startlingly close to winning it in 2014. District 6 actually has three distinct parts. Daxi is an older area with far less industry, and its population hasn’t grown as fast as the rest of Taoyuan. In past years, this has been the DPP’s strongest part of the district. Most of the electorate resides in Bade. Bade is somewhat like the fast growing Min-nan areas in Districts 1 and 4, although Bade has always favored the KMT more strongly than either of those two areas. Finally, there are also about 25000 votes from Zhongli. While this is the smallest of the three pieces, it is also the most extreme. These areas of Zhongli are mostly military communities, and they have, in the past, gone for the KMT by as much as 80-20. When I studied the redistricting process from the perspective of the 2004 election, District 6 was the safest of all the Taoyuan districts. In fact, the DPP put the Zhongli military votes with Bade precisely because they thought they had a better chance of winning the remaining (mostly Hakka) areas of Zhongli than winning in Bade. In 2014, Cheng shockingly won Bade by 2%. Wu only won District 6 because of his margin in the Zhongli military areas and the mostly Aboriginal Fuxing district. (I ignored Fuxing since Aborigines vote in separate legislative districts.) Because of the safety net provided by the Zhongli military votes, Sun Ta-chien is unlikely to lose in 2016. Still, he should be jolted by the realization that his district has suddenly become competitive.

I am not going to bother with Taipei City. Ko and Lien had such a strong personal influence on the race that I’m not sure it can tell us much about how voters will decide in 2016.

The DPP has to win 15 more seats. I have marked 14 seats with three or four exclamation marks. If the DPP can move the needle enough to put some of the districts with two question marks into play, they can certainly win a majority. If they can replicate the 2014 result, they will easily win a majority. In fact, they don’t have to do quite that well. The DPP won 50 of the 73 districts (assuming the KMT keeps 7 of the 8 Taipei seats). If you give the KMT all six of the aboriginal seats and split the party list seats 17-17, that produces a 67- 46 DPP majority. Again, I don’t expect the 2016 elections to replicate the 2014 results, but 2014 should be a clear message that the legislative majority is up for grabs.

DPP votes in Aboriginal townships, part 2

December 5, 2014

In a recent post, I pointed out that the DPP received an unprecedentedly high vote share in the 30 predominantly Aboriginal townships. This seems to be evidence that preferences are changing among Aboriginal voters. Even if those votes reflect opposition to the KMT rather than support for the DPP, at least the DPP party label is no longer the ballot box poison that it seemed to be in the past.

In a comment on another post, Joseph Wang offered an alternative hypothesis. Maybe large numbers of Han people are moving into these traditionally Aboriginal townships. The DPP’s higher popularity among the increasingly populous Han residents might be what is driving the overall rise in DPP vote share. This seemed quite a reasonable suggestion to me, so I thought I’d look into it.

There is no way to tell Aboriginal and Han voters apart in the executive elections I looked at in the previous post. However, in legislative elections Aborigines have separate districts, so we can count how many Han and how many Aboriginal voters there are in each township. I looked at the 30 townships with a predominance of “mountain Aborigines” (roughly speaking, all tribes except Amis). This time, I also looked at 5 townships in which at least half of the population was “plains Aborigines” (ie: Amis).

30 mountain 5 plains
Eligible Aboriginal Voters (1992) 93851 27764
Eligible Han Voters (1992) 31921 27162
Eligible Aboriginal Voters (2012) 115473 26066
Eligible Han Voters (2012) 32490 21683
% Aborigine (1992) 74.6 50.5
% Aborigine (2012) 78.0 54.6

It doesn’t seem to be the case that Han migration is driving the trends. The Aboriginal townships have a higher overall percentage of Aboriginal voters in 2012 than they did in 1992. It’s also not the case that individual townships. The biggest drop was in Lanyu 蘭嶼 (8.0%), followed by Namaxia 那瑪夏 (4.1%), Wulai 烏來 (3.8%), Chenggong 成功 (0.5%), and Wutai 霧臺 (0.1%). The other 30 townships all saw the percentage of Aboriginal voters increase.

If the number of Han voters is not increasing, it is certainly possible that their political preferences have changed over the past 20 years (just as in the rest of Taiwan). I have heard one story about Han people in Aboriginal townships countless times over the years. Many (most?) of them are Mainlanders, retired soldiers who married an Aboriginal woman and moved into the Aboriginal community. I don’t know how much truth there is to this stereotype. At any rate, it is possible that the Han population in Aboriginal townships has evolved, either in its demographic composition or simply in its political preferences.

Has the DPP gotten more votes among Han voters in Aboriginal townships over the past 20 years? Again, this can be examined in legislative elections, where Han voters choose from a different set of candidates than Aboriginal voters. The 30 mountain townships are probably a better indicator since they encompass a wide range of electoral districts and are thus far less sensitive to variations in candidate quality. (I don’t think it is advisable to duplicate this methodology among Aboriginal voters since the quality of DPP candidates in those elections varied too widely.)

30 mountain 5 plains
DPP votes (1992) 3416 3281
DPP votes (2012) 7063 4130
DPP vote share (1992) 14.9 19.1
DPP vote share (2012) 25.7 24.8

The DPP has clearly made inroads among Han voters in Aboriginal townships. In the 30 mountain townships, the DPP’s vote share was about 10% higher in 2012 than twenty years earlier. However, remember that only about a quarter of the electorate in those areas was Han. That implies that, if there was no change among Aboriginal voters, the DPP vote share in executive elections should have gone up by only about 2-3% of the past 20 years. The DPP’s increases prior to this year were modest, but they seemed to be more on the order of 5% or so. Han voting might be one part of the changes, but there had to be some changes in Aboriginal voting behavior as well.

All this says very little about the DPP’s huge spike in 2014. That change is so large and so sudden that it simply cannot be explained by changes among Han voters. Aboriginal voters had to have changed as well.

Coordination failures in City Council races

December 4, 2014

Consider the city council election in New Taipei District 5. This is the Zhonghe 中和區 district, traditionally a KMT stronghold. It elected 6 seats this year. Here are the results.

votes party Win
江永昌 Chiang 38,503 DPP Y
邱烽堯 Chiu 28,764 KMT Y
陳錦錠 Chen 26,290 KMT Y
游輝宂 You 24,703 Ind Y
張瑞山 Chang 21,768 DPP Y
林秀惠 Lin HH 21,678 DPP Y
金瑞龍 Chin 21,159 KMT
戴德成 Tai 13,965 New
林朝鑫 Lin CH 8,788 Ind

The DPP won half the seats with only 39.9% of the vote. (They actually won more votes than the KMT, though that isn’t as impressive as it sounds. Both of the independent and the New Party candidate are from the blue camp, so the district is basically 60-40 in favor of the blue camp.)

The KMT nominated three candidates, but it only won two seats. Could it have won all three seats? It certainly looks like it could have. The third KMT candidate (Chin) lost the last seat by only about 500 votes. If the KMT had been able to shift a thousand votes from their top candidate (Chiu) to Chin, they would have won the last seat. This is what we call a coordination failure. If the KMT had coordinated their electoral strategy more successfully, they might have won another seat.

But wait, you say. The DPP could play that game too. The top DPP candidate had lots of extra votes. If we imagine the KMT could have rearranged its votes, why don’t we assume that the DPP could have as well? In fact, if you allow both parties to distribute their votes perfectly, the DPP comes out on top. The DPP had 81949 votes, so each of its three candidates could have won 27316. The KMT only had 76213, or 25404 for each candidate. But wait (again!). The independent candidate (You) won with only 24703 votes. If both parties had rationed their votes perfectly, the DPP would have won the first three seats, the KMT would have won seats four through six, and the independent candidate would have lost. So the KMT really could have won three seats with better coordination.

Of course, we are knee-deep in questionable assumptions. Most importantly, many of the KMT’s (and DPP’s) votes are personal, not partisan. A person might like Chen because Chen did some constituency service for her or because Chen was her elementary school classmate, and that voter’s second favorite candidate might not be another KMT nominee. Still, it is probably safe to assume that there is a pool of KMT supporters who would be willing to switch to any KMT candidate if that helped to produce more KMT winners. It is not entirely unrealistic to think about moving votes around.


Coordination failures are at the heart of the Single Non-transferable Vote (SNTV) electoral system. Like in every system, the most important thing is winning popular support. However, votes must be turned into seats, and this is particularly convoluted in SNTV. Some systems are proportional, such as the party list system used in Taiwan’s legislative elections. If a party gets 35% of the votes, they should get 35% of the party list seats. Some systems are majoritarian, such as the geographical seats in Taiwan’s legislative elections. If a party gets 35% of the votes, it might end up with a very low seat share (if it is opposed by one large party) or a very high seat share (if the other 65% of the votes are fragmented among many smaller parties. SNTV is generally considered to be a semi-proportional electoral system, since parties usually win roughly similar proportions of votes and seats. However, there are no guarantees of proportionality, and a party that suffers too many coordination failures can win a far lower seat share than one might expect.

There are three ways to mess up. A party can nominate too few candidates, it can nominate too many candidates, or it can fail to distribute its votes appropriately among its nominees. In the above example, the DPP had enough votes for three seats. It could have messed up by nominating only two candidates. That doesn’t happen very often. It generally only happens when a party does unexpectedly well at the polls. More commonly, a party will nominate too many candidates. Sometimes this happens because the party’s support is shrinking. Usually, there simply are too many people who want to run, and none of them are willing to step aside. In the last two election cycles, the KMT has suffered both of these. The 2010 Taichung city council race was a particularly stark example. In the old Taichung County, the KMT’s vote share fell from 45% in 2005 to 35%, while the reduction in total seats meant that there were lots of incumbents who were unwilling to step aside. The result was too many candidates chasing too few votes and a KMT bloodbath. The third failure is the one we saw in 2014 New Taipei 5, the failure to ration votes evenly to each nominee. This is the most common error.

One of the big questions in the academic literature is whether SNTV is good for small parties or for big parties. The initial answer was that it must be good for small parties. Small parties face much simpler coordination problems. It is much easier for small parties to figure out how many people to nominate. The answer is almost always one. With only one candidate, vote rationing is not a problem. Supporters simply vote for the only party nominee on the ballot. If there are enough votes for two seats, things get more difficult. The small party might nominate incorrectly, not believing it really has that much support. More importantly, with two candidates, vote rationing becomes a challenge. It is hard to ensure that both candidates will get the same number of votes. If two is hard, three is harder. Compared with four, three is a breeze. In general, the more seats a party can win in a given district, the harder it is to turn those votes into the full number of seats. If this is correct, it should be very hard to hold big parties together, since the electoral system rewards smallness.

That logic seems sound, but observers noticed that big parties always seemed to win a seat bonus. For example, in the 1992 Legislative Yuan elections, the KMT won 53% of the votes but 59% of the seats. How could this be? There are two answers. First, in the absence of any coordination failures, SNTV will produce results exactly equal to the D’Hondt system of proportional representation. Among all the PR systems, D’Hondt is the friendliest to big parties. (I’ll explain this later on.) Second, some big parties are governing parties. Governing parties can use their control of state resources to mitigate coordination problems. If too many people want to run, a governing party might convince one of them to withdraw by offering her a position in the cabinet, by promising a big bank loan to the candidate’s company through a state-run bank, by threatening to start inspecting the candidate’s food oil company every month, or by using the judicial system to investigate unethical financial practices. Governing parties might also be better at figuring out how many nominees are appropriate, since they can draw on information about economic development, the popularity of various government programs, and other national trends from their control of the government bureaucracy. Finally, they should be better at vote rationing. If one candidate is weaker than other nominees, they can shift state resources to that candidate. For example, the government could suddenly pave a lot of roads in the candidate’s home area. (Note: Before you start screaming at your computer about how this is blatant abuse of power and the goddamn KMT cheats like hell and the playing field isn’t level and that is Taiwan’s democratic birth defect, please be aware that this literature was all developed by scholars studying Japan, not Taiwan. Taiwan was merely a corroborating case.)

So who made more errors this year, the KMT or the DPP? On the one hand, the KMT was the governing party, so we should expect it to do better. (National governing power has generally been a better indicator than local governing power.) On the other hand, the KMT had a surprisingly awful election in terms of winning votes. It is always harder to shrink than to grow, so we might expect that the KMT overnominated in too many places.

Measuring coordination failures is a subjective matter. Some people insist that we should judge whether the KMT erred based on the actual performance of all the other candidates. In the Zhonghe example, the KMT should have known that its candidates each needed at least 21679 votes (since the last wining non-KMT candidate got 21678), so it failed. I think this demands too much, since it assumes the KMT could estimate how many votes each individual candidate would get (after the other parties rationed their votes) and then ration its own votes appropriately. I prefer to assume simply that the parties can estimate how many votes each party will get, but not how many votes each individual candidate will get. We can then assess how many seats each party “should have” won (with no errors) and how many it actually won.

If no one makes any errors, SNTV becomes equivalent to the D’Hondt system. D’Hondt is a system of divisors which essentially asks how many votes you can pay for each seat. Take all the parties’ vote totals, and give the first seat to the highest number. So the DPP wins the first seat. Then divide that party’s vote by two. The next seat goes to the new highest number, so the KMT wins the second seat. After that, the DPP wins the third seat, and now the DPP’s vote total is divided by 3. Eventually, the KMT and DPP both win three seats. Given the KMT’s 76213 votes, it can give three candidates 25404 each. The DPP can’t take away and of those seats. If it tried to nominate four candidates, it could only give each one 20487. This would put them behind not just the KMT’s three candidates, but also behind You. Thus, my expectation for this district is that the KMT and DPP should both win three seats.

votes 2 3 4
KMT 76213 (2) 38107 (4) 25404 (6) 19053
DPP 81949 (1) 40975 (3) 27316 (5) 20487
New 13965
You 24703
Lin CH 8788

In the actual election, the DPP won three seats, so they did not suffer a coordination failure. The KMT only won two seats, so they failed. (Note that this can seem a little unfair. The KMT’s three candidates were more closely bunched together than the DPP’s three, but because the DPP had more overall votes it had a larger margin for error. In the end, winning seats is what matters.)

You will notice that in this example, when a coordination failure occurs, it costs a big party a seat and a little party (in this case, an independent) benefits. This is not unusual. Little parties often depend on big parties making mistakes. Little parties might not have enough votes to be assured of winning a seat, but they might have just enough to be able to sneak in whenever a big party messes up.


I looked at the city council races for all 375 seats in 83 districts in the six metro city council elections this year. There were a total of 33 errors. The KMT made 18 mistakes, the DPP made 14, and the New Party made one. Most of those seats went to independents and small parties. Independents won 18, the TSU gained 3, the PFP got 2, and the New Party got 1. The two big parties did get a few, with the KMT taking 6 and the DPP winning 3. Here is how this affected seat shares:

votes seats seats
SNTV D’Hondt
actual no errors
KMT 36.5 40.3 43.2
DPP 41.6 44.5 47.7
New 1.6 0.5 0.5
PFP 2.0 1.3 0.8
TSU 2.3 1.3 0.5
Green/Tree 1.1 0.3 0.3
Independents 14.9 11.7 6.9

The KMT won 36.5% of the votes and had a potential seat bonus of 6.7%. However, it only managed to realize part of that and had to settle for 40.3% of the seats, a seat bonus of 3.8%. The DPP’s potential seat bonus was a bit smaller (5.9%) as was its actual seat bonus (2.9%). Overall, I think the two parties both did quite well. They both had numerous districts with four, five, or more nominees, and these are extremely difficult to get right. Both big parties are getting quite good at playing this game.

There are people who think that this need for appropriate nomination and vote rationing strategies is an argument for abolishing the SNTV system. Sometimes more seats can go to parties that have won fewer votes, and that is a basic failure for any electoral system. However, the more I think about it, the more I like it. SNTV rewards parties for developing the capacity to act collectively. If you want to be big enough to win governing power, you need to be able to resolve your internal differences. Parties that can overcome these coordination challenges are rewarded with more seats. There are always temptations to break ranks, but parties that can effectively cooperate will reap an electoral reward.


Just for fun, let’s try something else. Remember that I said the D’Hondt system was the friendliest PR system for big parties? Note that in the above table, small parties and independents (who are simply single person parties) are dramatically underrepresented. What would produce a more proportional result?

There is already a much more proportional system in use in Taiwan. The Central Election Commission uses a quota formula used to determine party list seats in the legislature and also to apportion legislative or city council seats to various districts. Again, start with the party totals in Zhonghe. Calculate the quota by dividing the total number of votes by the number of seats. Quota=205618/6 = 34269. Divide each party’s vote total by the quota to determine how many complete quotas each party gets. In this example, the KMT and DPP both have enough votes for two full quotas. However, that is only four seats, and this district has six. The last two seats are determined by comparing the remainders. In this case the largest two remainders belong to You and the New Party.

votes quotas Remainder Largest? total
KMT 76213 2 7675 2
DPP 81949 2 13411 2
New 13965 0 13965 1 1
You 24703 0 24703 1 1
Lin CH 8788 0 8788 0

This formula is clearly more favorable to small parties. The DPP has 5.8 times as many votes as the New Party, but it only wins twice as many seats. Whether you think that is reasonable probably depends on how you feel about small parties.

The difference between the two systems is roughly the difference between preset prices and haggling. In the quota system, the price of each seat is fixed. If you have a quota, you can buy a seat. In D’Hondt, you can bargain. Ok, I’ll give you x votes for 2 seats or y votes for three seats. The critical difference is that the price for a full seat is lower in D’Hondt. Big parties buying multiple seats at full price can thus buy more seats. If the price of a quota is higher, why do small parties do better in a quota system? They don’t pay full price! The last seat a party wins can come at a discount. For small parties, the last seat is the first seat. Thus the New Party was able to win a seat with only 40% of a quota.

These extremely cheap first seats can cause major problems. While they help ensure a voice for small parties, they also create a strong incentive for big parties to splinter. Remember, if the DPP breaks into three parties called Chiang, Lin, and Chang, it can win three seats instead of two. The DPP is actually penalized for presenting a common name and a common platform. It should split up into lots of small parties. If you think this sounds far-fetched, it is actually an accurate description of what happened in Colombia. After several election cycles, the politicians figured out how to work the system and eventually every party list elected only one person. In other words, they turned a quota system into SNTV. This eventually led to electoral reform to a German-style mixed electoral system.

These problems haven’t cropped up in Taiwan for two separate reasons. In seat apportionment, each district is guaranteed one seat regardless of size, so the various districts are only competing for full quotas. Anyway, cities and counties aren’t really strategic actors that can split up or merge for electoral gain. In the legislative elections, the 5% threshold ensures that parties cannot win one cheap seat. Any party that gets at least 5% will win at least two seats, so all additional seats require a full quota.

What happens if we use the quota rule on the 375 municipal council seats?

votes seats seats seats
SNTV D’Hondt Quota
actual no errors CEC rule
KMT 36.5 40.3 43.2 37.9
DPP 41.6 44.5 47.7 41.1
New 1.6 0.5 0.5 1.3
PFP 2.0 1.3 0.8 1.1
TSU 2.3 1.3 0.5 1.6
Green/Tree 1.1 0.3 0.3 0.5
Independents 14.9 11.7 6.9 16.5

This is a much more proportional result. The two big parties get roughly the same seat share as their vote share. The four small parties also do much better, though they still don’t get quite as many seats as votes.

Anyway, this little exercise was just for my fun. Some people like to think about how to get more votes. I like to think about how to turn the votes you already have into more seats. I’m just a nerd that way.


Was it turnout?

December 3, 2014

The CEC has released top-level turnout numbers for the recent elections. They have not yet put the full file online, so we cannot see the sub-district breakdowns. Still, a lot of people have been wondering if turnout drove the unexpected election results. There are some interesting numbers here.

Remember, some places always have lower turnout than others. It is harder for people who live in Taipei to return to Hualien to vote than it is to get to Hsinchu. Also, it matters whether people generally expected the race to be close or not. In this table, I’m listing the turnout for each city and county this year. I also put the 2012 presidential election turnout to indicate whether turnout is naturally lower in a particular place. Finally, I give my subjective opinion of how close the race was expected to be.

  2014 2012 Diff  
Taipei 70.5 76.8 -6.3 A little close
New Taipei 61.7 75.9 -14.2 Not close
Taoyuan 62.7 74.6 -11.9 Not close
Taichung 71.9 75.8 -3.9 Close
Tainan 65.9 74.2 -8.3 Not close
Kaohsiung 66.4 75.9 -9.5 Not close
Hsinchu County 68.8 76.1 -7.3 Not close
Miaoli 72.8 74.6 -1.8 Not close
Changhua 72.9 73.5 -0.6 Very close
Nantou 73.1 71.1 2.0 A little close
Yunlin 74.1 68.9 5.2 Close
Chiayi County 74.2 72.5 1.7 Not close
Pingtung 73.5 72.7 0.8 Not close
Yilan 70.5 72.5 -2.0 Not close
Hualien 61.8 64.6 -2.8 Not close
Taitung 67.8 61.8 6.0 A little close
Penghu 66.3 59.0 7.3 Very close
Keelung City 63.9 72.1 -8.2 A little close
Hsinchu City 62.9 75.7 -12.8 not close
Chiayi City 71.0 73.5 -2.5 A little close
Kinmen 45.2 46.7 -1.5 ?
Lienchiang 67.1 65.8 1.3 ?

This looks very interesting. If the surprises were a results of lots of blue voters staying at home, turnout should be markedly depressed in those surprising areas. The most surprising places were New Taipei, Taoyuan, and Hsinchu City, and those three all had double digit drops in turnout. The other places with high drops (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Keelung, Hsinchu County, and Taipei) were also places where the KMT did particularly poorly. This is very strong evidence in support of the hypothesis that blue voters stayed at home.

However, there is another group of districts where the DPP also did better than expected that did not follow this pattern. Changhua and Chiayi City saw very small drops from 2012, and Nantou, Yunlin, and Penghu actually went up.

The two groups of districts are quite different, and they might be experiencing different phenomena. The larger, more urbanized, mostly northern places might have seen blue voters stay at home, while the more rural, southern places might have seen intense mobilization of potential green voters or widespread conversion of former blue voters to the green side.

Remember, this is all speculation. Many of the big drops also occurred in places that were not expected to be competitive, and that might be the critical factor. If it was, then presumably equal numbers of blue and green supporters stayed at home and turnout did not decisively affect the results. The numbers look important, but without more evidence we shouldn’t jump to firm conclusions.

evolution of local party systems

December 2, 2014

I pay more attention to local assemblies than pretty much any other Taiwan scholar, with the exception of those who specialize in the politics of a specific area. I do this primarily because I’m interested in the SNTV electoral system, so I collect all the data that is available. By contrast, most people simply dismiss the city and county councils as not very important. Yet local councils have become more and more important over the past twenty years, almost without anyone paying attention. Three factors underlie this broad trend.

First, the number of elected offices has plummeted. This means that city and county councilors are higher in the pecking order than ever before. A generation ago, it would have been very strange to see a former legislator running for a city council seat. Now it is fairly commonplace. Consider the old Taichung County, for example. In 1995, if you were one of the 57 members of the Taichung County Council, you were looking up at a lot of people. The most powerful/popular person was the county magistrate. Numbers 2-8 took the seven legislative seats. The next six spots (9-14) went to the members of the provincial assembly. Numbers 15-28 were occupied by the 14 National Assembly members. Then there were the 21 township mayors (and some of these spots may have been more desirable than a National Assembly seat). So the members of the county assembly only held the 50-106th most desirable positions in the county. That’s fairly small potatoes. In 1998, the six provincial assembly seats disappeared, though this was partly offset by an increase in legislative seats from seven to eleven. In 2000, the 14 National Assembly seats vanished. In 2008, the number of legislative seats was cut to only five. In 2010 Taichung County was merged into Taipei City. This eliminated the 21 township mayors, and it also cut the number of city council seats elected by the old Taichung County from 57 to 38. Suddenly, a member of the city council had moved up the pecking order from 50-106 all the way to 7-44th. In the past, if a county assembly member wanted to run for legislator, (s)he had to muscle past a lot of other office-holders. Now, city councilors are first in line for the legislature. Granted, this process has not been as dramatic in other parts of Taiwan. In the cities, there have never been elected township mayors. Most counties didn’t get upgraded to special municipality. However, every area has experienced at least part of this process, and the areas that experienced all of it (the old Taipei County, Taoyuan County, Taichung County, Tainan County, and Kaoshiung County) contain roughly 40% of Taiwan’s population.

Second, the new municipal councils are much more powerful than the old city and county councils they replaced. The municipal governments have far more autonomy and financial clout, so a seat in the city council can influence a lot more money than before.

Third, partly but not entirely because of the first two trends, elections to city and county councils are becoming much more partisan. Whereas a generation ago, local politics was almost entirely divorced from national politics, now most councils run along recognizable party lines. This means that the national parties can see local elections as a test of strength, and voters can use national party sympathies to make decisions about who to support. For scholars, this makes local politics far more interesting. If each place has a unique story, it is very hard to study multiple places and draw overarching conclusions. If they all run on similar lines, we can not only test theories but we can even take advantage of minor variations in political structures to do more advanced theory testing. (I’m looking forward to the scholarly community figuring this out and doing more systematic studies of local politics.)

This post is about that third point. Let’s look at the growth in partisan politics during the democratic era. The broad outlines are as follows. Once upon a time, the KMT controlled everything and there were no opposition politicians. When the opposition started organizing, they concentrated on national politics, running for the highest offices available. Local politics were mostly about personal connections and moving local money around and were almost completely divorced from the big national questions of democratization and identity politics. Since the local factions were almost all aligned with the KMT, grassroots elections were dominated by KMT candidates with only a smattering of DPP politicians. Over the past two decades, the DPP has slowly and steadily built up strength at the local levels, though it is still not as strong there as in national elections. Similarly, the KMT dominance has faded. Until this election, the KMT was still the top party in local politics.

I’m going to present this story in pictures. In each picture, I will show the percentage of votes won by the KMT and DPP in local council elections. For reference, I also show two trend lines for the parties’ performance in national (governor and presidential) elections. I have omitted the KMT’s 2000 presidential election, since that distracts from the main point. The national lines are supposed to be crude indicators of how much a party could potentially expect to get in local elections, not any precise measurement. Something like the Lien-Soong split in 2000 didn’t really affect the vote pool for KMT county assembly candidates in 2002.

First, here is the overall aggregated picture. As you can see, the DPP had a miserably small presence in the early 1990s, far below its presence in national elections. By contrast, the KMT was very strong in local elections. Moreover, the non-KMT, non-DPP votes were mostly won by local faction candidates who were generally more friendly with the KMT than the DPP. The DPP grew slowly through the first three elections (1998, 2002, 2006) and then much more quickly in the most recent two elections (2009/10, 2014). Stunningly, the DPP has now equaled the KMT in vote share in local elections. This is a major landmark that is going completely unnoticed.

CC 1

Looking at the individual cities and counties, it is possible to identify several different patterns. There are two big groups. In some, things have changed dramatically. In others, not so much.

Let’s start in Taipei and Taoyuan Counties. The two big overflow suburbs and industrial centers have similar patterns, though the KMT is about 5% stronger and the DPP 5% weaker in Taoyuan than in Taipei County. In both, the DPP made slow gains in the first three elections and much more dramatic gains in the two recent elections.



Taichung County and Changhua look roughly similar. (Note1: In this post, I’m using the old city and county boundaries prior to administrative reform in 2010.) (Note2: Nantou looks entirely different from the rest of central Taiwan.) In these two, the DPP starts low but makes very steady gains in each election.



Taiwan’s third and fourth cities, Taichung and Tainan also follow similar paths, though the DPP lines are higher in Tainan. The main difference between these and the previous two is that the DPP now does as well in local elections as in national elections, while there is still a gap between the two lines in the Taichung and Changhua Counties.



As we move to the great agricultural heartland, the Yunchianan Plain, we see a new development. In these three counties, the KMT is collapsing in local elections. This is happening at different paces in all three, but the KMT has dropped to around a measly 20% in all of them. Local faction politicians who twenty years ago would have been card-carrying KMT members are now choosing to run as independents or even switch over to the other side. In Chiayi County, you can clearly see the impact of the entire Lin faction switching sides in 2001.




In Pingtung and Chiayi City, the local KMT hasn’t collapsed to the same extent and the local DPP hasn’t grown to the same extent as in Yunlin, Chiayi, and Tainan Counties.



Kaohsiung City and County look a bit different than the rest of the south in that the local party systems more closely mirror the national party systems. Like Taipei, the DPP started contesting local elections in Kaohsiung much earlier than in the rest of the country. Moreover, in Kaohsiung County, many of the local faction politicians were affiliated with the DPP very early on. Yilan County, another of the opposition movement’s early strongholds, looks similar.




This brings us to the second big group of cities and counties, which have changed far less than the first big group. First, there is Taipei City. The democratization movement was focused on the capital, and local politics were already highly partisan in the early 1990s. The most interesting thing about this picture is how flat the trend lines are. Local elections would still be recognizable to a person transported from 1994 to today. This is unlike anywhere else in Taiwan. (I have omitted the KMT 1994 mayoral election vote share for the same reason I left out the KMT’s 2000 vote share.)

CC 2

Next, the two smaller northern cities of Keelung and Hsinchu look similar. In both, the KMT has been consistently far stronger than the DPP at both the national and local levels. While the local KMT’s position has eroded a bit since the early 1990s, the DPP hasn’t grown that much and the KMT remains dominant.



In Penghu and Nantou, the two big parties are closely matched at the national level, but the DPP is nearly absent at the local level. I’m not sure why the DPP hasn’t been able to translate its support in national levels to local politics here, the way it has done so in the rest of the center and south.



Finally, there are four counties with thoroughly old-style politics. In the Hakka north and on the east coast, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taitung, and Hualien Counties all feature dominant a KMT and a pathetic DPP. In these places, it’s still 1988!





[Edit. Let me add a few more thoughts. There are three obvious differences that affect local party system change. First, if the national party system changes, it can change the local party system. Second, if the local party system developed earlier, it will not experience as much change later on. The opposition movement was born in urban Taiwan, so urban areas tended to have a local multi-party system earlier than rural areas. Third, population size matters. The places that didn’t change have far fewer people than those that did. One explanation is that when fewer votes are required to elect a seat, the politician can rely on voters with whom he or she has a personal connection. When more than a few thousand votes are required to win, it becomes necessary to use more impersonal appeals such as party affiliation.]

Frozen Garlic in the mainstream media

December 2, 2014

Check it out, my blog has been quoted in the Liberty Times. I’m making an impact on mainstream political discourse, baby!

Of course, it would have been nice if they had gotten my Chinese name right. I guess it never occurred to them to check my institute’s website. Hey, who could imagine that a foreigner living in [insert Foreign Country] would already have a standard Chinese name. For the record, my Chinese name is 鮑彤, not 包圖。Anyway, I’m happy to represent the community of “international scholars.” Presumably the reporter’s vision of international scholars includes everyone who, like my colleagues at Academia Sinica and I, lives in Taiwan, gets all their information from domestic news sources, deals with the hassles and joys of everyday life in Taiwan, and has quasi-civil servant status in Taiwan. Or maybe it’s just people with different looking faces.

I guess I should be happy they mentioned that I have a PhD from Harvard. Presumably that sounds more prestigious than my actual PhD, which is from University of California, San Diego. Ironically, I turned down admission (and a larger stipend) from Harvard because UCSD was better in my subfield.

As for the content, I suppose it is my fault if I didn’t write some parts clearly enough. I only wish I had stated more forcefully that all of my causal explanations for the unexpected election result are nothing more than guesses at this point. Everyone wants a clear answer, but unlike that idiot 包圖 I don’t have any clear answers at this point.


What happened in Taoyuan?

December 1, 2014

So what the hell happened in Taoyuan? I didn’t expect John Wu 吳志揚 to lose, and no one I have talked to saw it coming either. I went to Cheng Wen-tsan’s 鄭文燦 rally on two nights before the election, and I don’t think anyone there expected it either. It was a rather small event. They had extra seats and a big grassy area with an extra screen just in case more people showed up, but they didn’t even fill the main seating area. I guessed that about 4000-5000 people were there. The atmosphere wasn’t exactly electric. The true believers were there fighting the good fight, but knowing in their hearts that the real battle would have to wait until 2016. When Tsai Ing-wen told the crowd that Cheng would win and asked them (as they do at every rally for every hopeless candidate), “Do you have confidence?” The answer “Yes!” was decidedly halfhearted.

Here, the Light Bulb makes a point. He is really a master on the stump.


Maybe this is when Tsai asked the crowd who would win.


Lots of empty spaces where there were supposed to be more people.


Then on Saturday night, we all watched in disbelief as Cheng took an early lead in the counting. A half an hour later, it dawned on me that we were no longer merely looking at a few strange early reporting ballot boxes, and it was possible that Cheng might win. When the DPP finally lost its lead in New Taipei but Cheng expanded his lead in Taoyuan, my brain nearly went into shock. Rationally, I could see what was happening and tell you that Cheng was going to win, but that simply didn’t make any sense to me.

Let me start by saying that we probably won’t ever be able to decipher exactly what happened because we don’t have data. Taiwan doesn’t allow exit polls, so we will never precisely know the demographics of voters who turned out or stayed at home. The main academic post-election survey won’t cover Taoyuan. Due to budgetary constraints, we simply can’t do a survey in every jurisdiction for local elections. This year, the Taiwan Election and Democratization Survey (TEDS) will study Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. A week ago, those seemed like a fairly obvious choices. (They are also the ones studied in the last election round, and if you want to look at continuity you can’t change places every cycle.) There will, of course, be telephone surveys, but you can ask far more questions (and far more complicated questions) in face-to-face surveys. Moreover, post-election surveys have the same limitations that pre-election surveys had. If we weren’t reaching the people who made up this anti-KMT wave before the election, how can we be confident we are reaching them after the election? At any rate, the point is that this election result will probably always be something of a mystery.

(You can also believe that losing candidates will use it for the next decade to try to inspire their supporters. “Who cares about the polls? Remember how the polls said Cheng Wen-tsan had no chance? We’re gonna win!”

Still, maybe we can find something in the patterns of votes.

My first reaction was that this result had something to do with ethnic politics. Taoyuan is often divided into a Min-nan north and a Hakka south. A few decades ago, there was some discussion about whether the county should be split into two new counties. That never happened, but the KMT incorporated the ethnic divide into its unofficial rules. The county magistrate always rotated between Min-nan and Hakka. In Legislative Yuan and Provincial Assembly nominations, the KMT was always careful to nominate the appropriate number of Hakka and Min-nan candidates. Those candidates were then expected to campaign in their half of the county, so that Min-nan candidates got almost all of their votes in the north and Hakka candidates were concentrated in the south.

The traditional Min-Ke divide was further complicated by the Mainlander population. Taoyuan is also home to an enormous military presence. Unlike Taipei’s Mainlander population, which was much more diverse (in terms of social status, education, occupation, and income) and was spread out into the regular society, Taoyuan’s Mainlander population was much more concentrated in military villages. The townships with the largest military populations were Bade (north), Longtan (south), Zhongli (south), and Pingzheng (south). In the last two decades, the military has razed almost all of the old military villages. Some of the previous residents are housed in newer military-built buildings, but many have moved out into normal society. The residents of the newer buildings are also not exclusively military families. The units can be bought and sold, so regular people can also move in. As a result, the old segregation of military families from regular society is no longer so prevalent. Still, Taoyuan County – especially the four aforementioned townships – continues to have a disproportionate number of Mainlanders.

Further muddying the picture is that Taoyuan has experienced tremendous population growth over the past three decades. This has diluted the traditional ethnic residence patterns quite a bit. It also continually brings in new voters who are outside the traditional mobilization networks.

Still, this race featured a Min-nan candidate (Cheng) against a Hakka candidate (Wu), so you would expect to see Cheng doing particularly well in the north. In fact, Cheng beat Wu by a margin of 54.6 – 47.2 in the seven northern townships, while Wu beat Cheng 51.7 – 44.4 in the six southern townships. Aha! It’s an ethnic war! Not so fast. For one thing, the same pattern held five years ago, when Wu barely Cheng in the north (49.7-48.7) but swamped him in the south (54.9-42.6). Cheng went up everywhere, not just in the north. Moreover, the north-south gap is baked into the party system. The DPP always does better in the north than in the south. For, example in 2012, Tsai Ing-wen got 41.6 in the north, but only 37.4 in the south. The gap was a bit wider in this election, but there isn’t much evidence for the idea that Cheng won with an unprecedented mobilization of Min-nan voters.

A second idea is that turnout was decisive. Lots of people are comparing the raw numbers of votes with previous elections an claiming that they can see evidence that blue voters stayed home, new voters turned out in droves, or something else. I’ve stared at the data for a few hours today, and I just don’t see it.

The CEC hasn’t released the full file of official turnout data yet. I can approximate the turnout at township levels by looking at the number of eligible voters (which they published a few weeks ago) and adding up the number of valid votes for each candidate. This is only an approximation, since it does not include invalid votes. In this case, it also might be fruitful to look at neighborhood-level data, but that would take a lot of time and we don’t have that data yet anyway.

2009 2014 Increase 2009 2014 Increase
Cheng Cheng Cheng Turnout Turnout Turnout
桃園 Taoyuan (n) 48.4 56.3 7.8 50.1 57.9 7.8
八德 Bade (n) 45.2 50.6 5.4 52.0 62.4 10.4
蘆竹 Luzhu (n) 52.5 57.4 4.9 53.8 59.7 5.9
大溪 Daxi (n) 51.2 55.3 4.1 60.8 63.2 2.4
大園 Dayuan (n) 53.2 56.6 3.4 61.7 65.7 4.0
龜山 Guishan (n) 47.3 53.8 6.5 50.2 58.2 7.9
復興 Fuxing (n) 22.3 27.2 4.9 57.7 74.5 16.8
中壢 Zhongli (s) 39.5 45.6 6.1 54.5 62.2 7.7
平鎮 Pingzhen (s) 41.9 48.1 6.2 51.3 62.5 11.2
楊梅 Yangmei (s) 42.2 45.6 3.4 53.3 61.6 8.3
龍潭 Longtan (s) 38.6 44.9 6.4 54.3 61.1 6.8
新屋 Xinwu (s) 55.0 53.6 -1.4 66.1 72.2 6.2
觀音 Guanyin (s) 56.9 55.3 -1.6 61.3 69.4 8.1
total 45.7 51.0 5.3 53.7 61.5 7.8

One idea is that hard-core deep blue voters were disgusted with Ma’s performance and simply stayed at home. The overall (estimated) turnout in Taoyuan was rather low, at 61.5%, so many people did not vote. However, it was even lower in 2009 (53.7) when the KMT won. Looking at the township level, if the deep blue voters didn’t turn out, the effect should be biggest in the places the KMT is strongest. Alternatively, it could be the opposite. Perhaps only the deeply committed KMT voters turned out, and the less committed stayed at home. (Ignore Fuxing. It is an aboriginal township, and the patterns may be completely different. It also is tiny, so it can’t be driving the overall patterns.) Cheng is weakest in Zhongli, Pingzhen, Yangmei, and Longtan. However, the turnout increase is just about at the overall average in three of these, and it is a bit higher in Pingzhen. Cheng’s support increased a bit more than average in three of them, but in increase quite a bit below average in the other (more on that later). There doesn’t seem to be support for this hypothesis (or its opposite).

The Mainlander/military presence also doesn’t seem to be driving things either. Three of the four military townships overlap with the strong KMT townships. Trading Bade for Yangmei doesn’t produce any clear patterns.

Maybe someone with sharper eyes than mine can find something in the turnout numbers, but I just don’t see anything. This is not a surprise to me. In the days before every election, pundits scream that turnout will be decisive. They make amazingly precise predictions. If turnout drops below 65%, the DPP will win for sure. If it is over 68%, the KMT will definitely win. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Everyone has a guess about how turnout will affect the race, but they often have very different stories and come up with very different conclusions. The problem is that all these stories require heroic assumptions about what kind of people are ambivalent about voting, and there is no evidence for these assumptions. Many of them are based on nothing more than wishful thinking. After two decades of staring at data, I have never been able to find any consistent effect of turnout.

I do see one interesting pattern in the election results. Comparing Cheng’s vote share in 2009 and 2014, the two southern coastal townships stand out. Cheng actually got more votes in these two townships in 2009 than in 2014. Moreover, the next smallest increases are in neighboring Dayuan and Yangmei townships. Something about Xinwu and Guanyin townships is different, and that may be the key to understanding what happened in Taoyuan this year.

Two possibilities come to mind. First, the coastal areas are traditionally the DPP’s strongest areas. Second, the southern coast is the least industrialized part of Taoyuan. In my previous post, I pointed out that the national wave was larger in northern and central Taiwan and smaller in the rural parts of southern Taiwan. Here we are seeing the same thing. Just to corroborate this point, the next smallest increase is in Daxi, which is another corner of Taoyuan relatively less affected by industrialization and fast population growth and which traditionally is one of the DPP’s better areas. The biggest increases are in Taoyuan and Guishan townships, where much of the recent population boom has been centered.

It is going far beyond the data to speculate why we are seeing this pattern. It could be anger over food safety, which might be a non-partisan middle class issue. It might be something about urban class conflict. It might have something to do with the Sunflowers. However, I’m becoming more and more certain that the answer has to have something to do with city life.