Archive for April, 2015

Eric Chu’s vision for One China

April 30, 2015

This story from yesterday’s Liberty Times hasn’t gotten much coverage, but I think it is tremendously revealing.

In July 2000, Eric Chu was a first-term legislator. In an interpolation session with Premier Tang Fei, Chu asked about cross-strait relations. Tang replied that the mainland insisted that anything could be discussed except for the One China principle, so everything was tangled up around the One China question.

I will translate the portion of the article detailing Chu’s response:

“The most ridiculous thing at present is that everyone is stuck on the non-existent One Chine question,” Chu said. He continued with a simple English statement, “There will be one China.” He elaborated in Chinese, “This is the goal we are pursuing. This China could be a new China or a future China.”

Chu stressed that, if both sides had this sort of understanding, if our side asked the other side to give up its position that One China is the PRC and then we also gave up are position that One China is the ROC, if cross-straits relations developed along these lines, understanding that the present is ROC vs. PRC, we could creatively resolve the problem of a future One China.

Concerning a future One China, Chu explained maybe they could start with a virtual One China, and maybe one day they could move toward an actual One China.

Interpolations are as much about the legislator having a chance to express his own opinion as asking what a government minister thinks. Chu did not have to address this topic. He could have asked about taxes or roads or stayed home sick. He chose to bring up cross-strait relations, and he used the opportunity to give a clear statement of his preferences. This certainly does not sound like anyone who is hiding sympathies for Taiwan independence. It sounds much more like someone from the orthodox Chinese KMT wing of the party. Never mind Taiwan independence, Chu wasn’t even particularly interested in the sovereignty of the ROC. As he saw it, the ROC was merely a shell that could be discarded as necessary in the interests of the greater – and inevitable – goal of Chinese unity.

Strategically, I’m a bit surprised by how this story is being used. My guess is that some DPP legislative aid dug it up, and his or her boss decided to slip it to a reporter now. I would have thought they would sit on something like this to use to greater effect at a more sensitive time. I guess this means they are convinced that Chu really is not running for president.

KMT nomination in Taichung 2

April 30, 2015

In Taichung 2, the KMT has decided not to allow Chi Kuo-tung 紀國棟 to contest the primary. There are several interesting aspects to this.

Chi is a four-term incumbent legislator who has been elected on the party list the last two terms. Since the KMT limits people to two consecutive terms on the party list, Chi was trying to go back to his home district. The incumbent in Taichung 2 is also a KMT member, Yen Kuan-heng 顏寬恒. Yen won the seat in a by-election a couple years ago when his father, noted gang godfather Yen Ching-piao 顏清標, was stripped of the seat for reporting improper expenses. The first angle to look at is that the KMT had an opportunity to distance itself from the Yen family and chose not to take that opportunity. Chi was not even afforded the chance to contest a survey against Yen.

A second angle involves money. The KMT requires its legislators to pay dues to the party coffers. Chi hadn’t paid these dues, and he owed the party NT4 million from the past four years. (Aside: Either Chi is that rare honest politician who doesn’t take kickbacks, or he is a pretty incompetent crook. Legislators are supposed to have a few million lying around in their fish ponds just in case they need petty cash and the ATM is broken.) Chi managed to scrape together the four million so that he could be eligible for the primary, but a few days after he delivered the cash, the KMT informed him that he hadn’t passed the initial evaluation and was disqualified. Now he’s complaining that the party shook him down. Of course, the party disagrees. They think he owed the money in the first place; paying it only allowed him to register and start the process. The fact that he did not pass the first stage evaluation is immaterial.

The remaining angles all involve the fact that Chi is a party list legislator. The third involves party discipline. The unofficial reason that Chi did not pass the evaluation stage is that he often went on TV talk shows where he not only didn’t vigorously defend the KMT, he sometimes even criticized it. (My own impression from watching some of these appearances is that he is nowhere near Lo Shu-lei’s 羅淑蕾 level of criticizing his own party. He would sometimes make mild criticisms, but he generally defended KMT actions. I guess they saw it differently.) I’ve been waiting several years for a clear case in which a party explicitly refused to renominate a party list legislator for not working hard enough for party interests. Theoretically, this was supposed to happen. Here it is!

The fourth angle involves the difference in stature between district and list legislators. All of the district legislators passed the party evaluation stage. Apparently they have the freedom to speak out as they please. The committee wasn’t even sure that he qualified as an incumbent legislator, since the rules could be interpreted as being written for incumbent district legislators. They even suggested that Chi did not have the right to go home to challenge a KMT incumbent. List legislators “have the obligation to follow the party’s directives in deciding where to run.”

In Taiwan, list legislators are pretty clearly second class citizens. However, this case surprised me. Chi is not a “pure” list legislator. He is a former township mayor, and he won two terms as a district legislator. He has proven that he can win votes. I expected he would be treated with a bit more respect. This two-caste system of legislators is a bit bothersome to me, especially since it seems likely that Taiwan will expand the legislature by adding more party list legislators.

The final point about Chi’s case is that it was suggested that Chi should run against the DPP incumbent in Taichung 3. Let me get this straight. Chi didn’t pass the internal evaluation, so he isn’t qualified to run in Taichung 2. However, he would be perfectly acceptable to the party running in Taichung 3. Sure, that makes sense.

Polling irregularities in Taipei 3?

April 30, 2015

Lo Shu-lei 羅淑蕾 is making some very interesting accusations about the KMT’s polling process in her primary race. Recall that to win in the first round, she had to beat her opponents by at least 5%. In fact, she only won by 4.2%

In this story from New Talk, Lo points out that ever since she opposed the Want Want China Times Group’s (WWCT) attempt to buy cable TV services from China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), WWCT has been out for her head.

WWCT has a polling center, Apollo Survey and Research Company(艾普羅), and this was apparently one of the two polling organizations that the KMT chose to do the Taipei 3 primary surveys. Lo wondered why, since the KMT leaders knew of her disputes with CCTS, they wouldn’t chose a more neutral organization?

Lo further pointed out that she won the two surveys by margins of 6.55% and 1.77%, for an average of 4.2%. She did not explicitly say that the Apollo survey was the one she only won by 1.77%.

If all of this is correct (and if the Apollo survey was the 1.77% victory), Lo has a legitimate gripe. It’s not statistically that improbable that the gaps in the two surveys would differ by 4.8%. However, when you add in a clear motivation and a results that takes Lo from just above the 5% threshold to just below the 5% threshold, things do start to seem a bit fishy.

This gets even juicier in the fuller context of this story, which claims that the KMT nominating committee is using its power to systematically favor legislators loyal to Chu. Those who are seen as belonging to other factions are supposedly the ones who haven’t passed the first round. There are no other clear accusations made, but the author notes that one of the others who didn’t pass the first round was Lu Chia-chen 盧嘉辰, who is a Wang supporter.

Now, take this all with a grain of salt. The KMT never officially released the survey numbers or announced who was doing the polling. The accusations that the KMT nominating committee has its thumb on the scale are from anonymous sources or people who lost their races. Still, it’s interesting to hear these arguments being made in public.

Changhua 1 DPP nomination

April 28, 2015 has a fantastic summary of the race for the DPP nomination in Changhua 1. This is such a rich factional struggle. Most of us don’t really care about factional affiliations; what we care about is which policies a given candidate will try to pursue. However, for insiders, the exact content of the spoils are less important than which group of people is in control of distributing those spoils. Anyway, I get a kick out of Chen Chin-ting 陳進丁 warning that Lin Yi-pang 林益邦 is not sufficiently “pure” enough of a DPP member since Lin just joined the party. Beware of turncoats! By the way, does anyone remember what Chen was doing during the Chen presidency? Oh yeah, he was an independent legislator who usually voted with the blue camp. It reminds me of immigrants in the USA who demand tighter controls on immigration. “I’m already in. We should close the doors now.”
The other factions are also very concerned that New Tide is too dominant. One of them seemed to insinuate that the nominees in the other three Changhua districts are all New Tide. (I don’t know if this is correct.) Going back to the 1980s, the traditional split in the Changhua DPP is the New Tide faction (led by Weng Chin-chu 翁金珠 and, to a lesser extent, Hung Chi-chang 洪奇昌) and the Yao Chia-wen 姚嘉文 faction, which was nationally allied with the Welfare State Alliance. During the Chen era, Chiang Chao-yi 江昭儀 was a prominent member of the Justice Alliance. These days, county magistrate Wei Ming-ku 魏明谷 is from New Tide. If they also win several legislative seats, you might understand how the other factions might start to feel marginalized.
What a wonderful mess! As points out, this district is increasingly green. If the DPP can manage to unite around one candidate and win this district, it has the potential to hold this seat for the next generation.


April 28, 2015

So the country’s electricity reserves are dangerously low because an accident at the 3rd nuclear power plant in Pingtung required Taipower to shut down one of the reactors. So now Taipower is blackmailing the population with the threat of electricity rationing in a last-ditch attempt to open the 4th nuclear power plant.

Let’s see. Taipower’s strategy for the last two decades has been entirely concentrated on one thing: building the 4th nuclear power plant. The construction project has been plagued by delays, cost overruns, and quality control problems. Taipower has steadfastly refused to develop a Plan B. Meanwhile, the three existing nuclear power plants have all had numerous safety problems. Clearly, there is only one way out of this mess: we must let Taipower have more nuclear power to mismanage!

No, the answer is that Taipower needs a thorough overhaul from top to bottom. The senior management should all be replaced, operating procedures should be carefully reviewed, and, most importantly, the country’s energy policy must be completely rewritten. Taipower is a rotten organization pursuing a flawed energy strategy. The current government shows no sign of being able to – or even wishing to – take on the entrenched interests standing in the way of fundamental reform. There is no guarantee that a President Tsai would be able to institute fundamental reform, but you can be pretty sure that no real changes will occur if the KMT stays in power.

possible party realignment?

April 22, 2015

Caution: This is one of those crazy ideas that probably won’t happen. Still, I can’t shake the idea that lots of various forces are aligning. I’m probably wrong.

I’m starting to think that party realignment might be coming. This is not about the DPP; they’re doing just fine these days. If any of this happens, it will be the blue side of the spectrum that is thrown into utter chaos. Nevertheless, if the blue side goes into wild convulsions, the green side will inevitably be affected, though I have no idea how.

There are a couple of linchpins to my scenario. One is Eric Chu 朱立倫. If he accepts full leadership of the KMT – including running for president – the KMT probably holds together, at least for the immediate future. Chu is the one person who everyone in the KMT can agree on. For the record, I still think they will prevail on him to run, but for the purposes of this post let’s assume that he is serious about not running. If Chu isn’t the candidate, the KMT has to come up with someone else. That is a problem.
Wang Jyn-ping 王金平 is the obvious replacement, as he is clearly the second most popular KMT figure in the polls. I think Wang has two fundamental challenges facing his presidential bid. On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to have any vision for Taiwan’s future. Wang has never set out a set of policies that he wants, talked about what sort of relationship Taiwan and China should have, or staked out a position about wealth inequality. His entire career has been devoted to seeking consensus. In other words, he has resolved the conflicts between other people’s visions. The closest he has come to staking out a courageous or controversial political position was his refusal to allow the police into the legislature to clear out the sunflower students. That, however, was a reflection of his vision for what the legislature should be – an institution that resolves conflict by seeking compromise and consensus rather than by allowing a bare majority to run roughshod over the minority. It was not a reflection of his vision for the country. As a presidential candidate, that won’t work. He can’t lead if he doesn’t stand for anything.
Much of Wang’s popularity stems from voters’ willingness to project their hopes and dreams onto him, rather than to anything he has told them he stands for. There are many people who think that Wang will become a second Lee Teng-hui 李登輝 and transform the KMT into a Taiwan-first party. Thus, every so often someone will propose the idea of a Wang-Tsai ticket, with Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 taking the second place. In the general electorate, being positioned as a Taiwan-First candidate is an advantage. Within the KMT, that is a big problem. Wang will have to make overtures to the deep blue part of the party to prevent a party rebellion. And because suspicions of him are so deep, he will have to be explicit and forceful in making these statements. Of course, as soon as he starts making statements about how Taiwan is part of China or how the relationship between Taiwan and China is not an international one, he will disillusion many of the light green people who are dreaming of a second LTH. I don’t think the effort to reinvent himself as a Chinese nationalist would be credible or successful. After all, LTH and Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 said all kinds of things in order to win power; once they got into power it was a different story. Everyone, including the deep blue people, remembers this history.
If Wang somehow gets the KMT nomination, I think it is very possible that we will see an open rebellion from the Chinese KMT wing of the party. Remember, from their point of view, the biggest catastrophe in recent years was NOT Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁 winning two terms as president. Rather, it was LTH usurping their party. During the Chen era, they could openly complain, oppose policies in the legislature, and march in the street. When they discredited him, they roared back into power. When LTH took control of the party and turned it into a vehicle promoting Taiwanese sovereignty, they were stuck. Their own party was doing the wrong things; they could hardly go on talk shows or write angry editorials demanding that the KMT step down. Moreover, when the LTH-led KMT finally lost power, it issued in eight years of DPP government. If Wang Jyn-ping could become the second LTH, it would be far better for the deep blue wing of the party if Tsai and the DPP won outright. They could go into open and vocal opposition and try to win back power in four or eight years. If Wang wins and steals their party again, they might never be able to wrestle control back again. As such, if Chu doesn’t run, I suspect we will start hearing louder and more intense warnings from the deep blue wing that Wang is not acceptable under any circumstances.
If not Chu or Wang, then who? Everyone else is deeply unpopular, and most are closely associated with Ma Ying-jeou and his vision of pursuing unification by tying the Taiwanese economy closely to the Chinese economy, especially by encouraging large companies to develop in China. This economic unification strategy draws on worldwide ideas of free-market economics. China is seen as an economic opportunity (not a irredentist threat), and Taiwan and China can pursue mutual gain by developing more and more economic ties. Thus, the Ma government continually trumpets the gains from this trade, pointing to numbers such as GDP growth and the potential of the vast Chinese market. This argument was very powerful in 2008 and still had fairly widespread acceptance in 2012. However, it is coming under intense scrutiny.
On the one hand, there is a growing concern with inequality in the global economic discourse. The most important voice has been Picketty, whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century argued that since governments are no longer pursuing redistributive policies, returns to capital have outstripped economic growth. This has led to an increasing concentration of global wealth. Picketty’s argument implies that more economic activity will not necessarily lead to a fairer, more just society, since it is highly possible that all the gains will be monopolized by a small group of plutocrats. In fact, as this elite becomes richer and more powerful, it can use its influence to try to block any redistribution or regulation. That might make the world a worse place for the vast majority of people. For example, the world’s tech companies are sitting on trillions of dollars of cash right now. Much of this money is parked in Ireland, where they pay a negligible tax rate. The companies could repatriate this cash and invest it in new technologies or increased production, but then they would have to pay taxes to the governments of their home countries. Instead, they are demanding a tax holiday, effectively blackmailing the home governments. Are the 99% better off if the economy grows but the companies that make most of the profit don’t pay any taxes?
On the other hand, the domestic version of this argument has become more and more powerful over the past few years. In the 2012 election, Tsai Ing-wen was already raising concerns about the M-shaped society (with lots rich and poor people but not many in the middle). The Sunflower Movement really focused the argument and transformed it into mainstream opinion. They argued that the gains from cross-strait integration have been monopolized by a small elite. The costs, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and low wages, have been borne by the rest of the population. Leading KMT politicians were seen as “compradores,” middlemen selling out the interests of the larger society for their own personal gain.
The effect of these arguments has been to transform the way the general public sees Ma and the KMT. Ma has increasingly come to be viewed as allied with wealth and capital, and he is increasing seen as indifferent to the plight of the average person. In an election, being framed as a champion of the rich and powerful is usually not a good thing. I believe that this transformation of the KMT party image was intimately tied to the KMT’s poor performance in the 2014 elections, especially in the urban north. If Wu Den-yi 吳敦義 wins the KMT nomination, he will not repudiate Ma’s policies. Hau Lung-bin 郝龍斌 probably wouldn’t fundamentally try to attack the KMT’s entrenched big business interests either. They are closely connected to Ma’s big business policies and have almost certainly completely bought into the idea that an alliance with capital is necessary in order to integrate economically with China in pursuit of the dream of unification. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Hau or Wu would win the presidency. However, their candidacy would signify that the deep blue wing still controls the party and will pursue business as usual. Unfortunately, the KMT’s current position looks increasingly precarious. It has painted itself into a corner with a minority of voters on both national identity and economic justice. Business as usual probably means facing life as a long-term opposition party.
A continuation of Ma’s policies leaves a big hole in the political spectrum. To be sure, I don’t think that Chu or Wang is ready to transform the KMT into a party for the working or middle classes either. However, Chu is popular enough that he might be able to hold the whole edifice together. With an unpopular candidate heading the ticket and a vacuum in the middle of the political spectrum, the existing party system might be ready for an earthquake. Nature abhors a vacuum.
There are many people on the blue side of the divide who are uneasy about the growing wealth gap and would like to work more for the average person than for the economic elite. During the CCK era, the KMT used to talk a lot about “the people’s livelihood,” an idea that goes back to Sun Yat-sen. For the past few years, James Soong 宋楚瑜 has been the most vocal proponent of this strain of thought within the blue camp. Unfortunately, Soong is old, and his time is past. He has been unable to organize the anti-capitalist forces. Now, however, there is another possibility.

The second linchpin is Ko Wen-je 柯文哲. Remember that crazy hypothetical poll from a few weeks ago that showed a Ko-Soong ticket leading the presidential race? While Ko and Soong won’t be appearing on a joint ticket any time soon, it’s actually not that crazy to think that they should be political allies.
In his campaign, Ko had the good fortune to run against Sean Lien. Positioning himself as an ordinary person who did not drive a Porsche or drink expensive red wine was a fairly easy and obvious tactic. In fact, I suspect his victory came precisely because he won over the votes of what the New Party used to call the “little people in the city” 小市民 who had no love for the economic elite. However, since taking office, Ko has shown that he actually meant his rhetoric by staking out a clear position as someone willing to fight against big business and elite privilege.
Ko is ambitious. He isn’t running for president in 2016, but I think it’s safe to say he wants to be re-elected in 2018 and 2020 may be crossed his mind once or twice. He can’t count on a repeat of 2014 in 2018. Even if – and this is a big if – the DPP yields to him, the KMT will probably find someone more competent than Sean Lien. He will be better off if he can reshuffle the party structure.
Ko won his office as a green candidate who developed ties with the blue side. Since taking office, he has continued to work with the blue side. In fact, he has arguably appointed more blue people to more powerful offices. Even more interesting, Ko’s position toward China has been ambiguous. As it becomes more and more likely that Tsai Ing-wen will win the presidency, China has been trying to come up with a new China policy. They want to stay engaged with Taiwan, but they don’t want to concede any ground on symbolic issues or help a pro-independence DPP in any way. It appears that one of their strategies is to reach out to Ko. If these ties deepen over the next few years, it is not impossible that Ko could play a critical role in cross-strait relations. While Ko denies that he is either blue or green, I can easily see Ko shifting to the blue side of the divide.

By now, you should be able to see where I’m going. If the KMT persists in its pro-rich agenda, Ko will have an opportunity to organize a political party representing the ordinary citizens on the blue side of the spectrum. Yao Li-ming 姚立明 might run the party, and he might build alliances with established politicians such as Soong, Wang, or defectors from the KMT legislative caucus. However, Ko would be the star, and everyone else would revolve around him. In 2018, instead of running against the KMT, he would cooperate with the KMT to defeat the DPP. In my scenario, the KMT wouldn’t particularly be happy about cooperating with Ko in 2018, but their supporters would demand it since a three-way race would probably be won by the DPP. I’m assuming Ko would easily win a polling primary against anyone the KMT could throw against him. Ko might then try to extend this model to the 2020 presidential race.

I’m not sure exactly why the KMT was able to fend off the PFP challenge a decade ago. I suspect the KMT party assets were a major factor in holding the party together. Neither side could access the resources of the state, but the KMT chair had a big pile of money he could throw around. The KMT still has those, but, unlike Soong and the PFP, a party led by Ko could draw on the resources of the Taipei City government, the richest local government in Taiwan. We’ll see how energetically Ko works for “his” legislative candidates this year; the legislative races might be a test run.

Separately, the KMT nomination difficulties, Ko’s political ambitions, and the shifting economic discourse could each lead to a minor reshuffling. If the KMT nominates Wang, I can easily see a deep blue rebellion. If the KMT nominates Wu or Hau, the Taiwan KMT wing might defect to the green side or support a Soong candidacy. Regardless of KMT presidential politics, Ko might organize a party as his best bet to win re-election. However, none of these seem likely to bring about a fundamental partisan realignment. It is the confluence of these factors that piques my interest. There is an outside chance that everything could mesh together perfectly to completely reshuffle politics in the blue half of the spectrum.

Taipei 3 update

April 20, 2015

The KMT announced the results of its preliminary poll in Taipei 3. (For background, see my previous post.) Incumbent Lo Shu-lei羅淑蕾 did not win the poll by more than 5%, so there will be a full-blown primary in this district between Lo, Wang Hung-wei王鴻薇, and Chiang Wan-an蔣萬安.

Lo immediately cried foul, saying there were irregularities in the polling process. According to her, several of her supporters who answered phone calls complained that they were not allowed to answer the survey. When a man answered, the interviewer asked to speak to a woman. When a woman answered, the interviewer asked to speak to a man. Sounds bad, eh? Actually, not at all. This is called “in-house sampling,” and it is a standard part of the KMT’s survey protocols. The basic idea is that while the telephone number is randomized, the person answering the telephone may not be. In order to ensure randomization, the interviewer first asks how many people live at the residence and then, according to a predetermined table, asks to speak to the second oldest female, the youngest male, or whoever else the table demands. With in-house sampling, it is quite normal that the person answering the phone is not sampled. Either Lo simply has no idea how this process works (note: they usually brief the candidates on the process, and the candidates are allowed to have observers watch the process), or she is simply making up a fake complaint. I think it is the latter.

(Aside: The DPP does not use in-house sampling. The KMT’s philosophy is that the polls should reflect public opinion as accurately as possible. The DPP’s philosophy is that polling primaries are partially a contest of mobilization capacity, so they encourage candidates to mobilize supporters to go home and sit by the phone, especially if opinions inside their household are divided. Generally speaking, in-house sampling is theoretically superior, but, in practice, it doesn’t affect results all that much. In this case, since Lo reportedly won by 4.2%, it is conceivable — though certainly not obvious — that in-house could have driven her lead under 5%.)

Lo hasn’t lost yet; why is she crying foul? More than most candidates, Lo needed to win in the first round. Over the next six weeks, her three biggest advantages will all fade. First, now that she has been shown to be vulnerable, her organizational base will start to crack. She has built fairly close ties with all the neighborhood heads, going to all their local events and representing their demands to the bureaucracy. This organizational base was one of her main advantages. However, now that she is not an overwhelming favorite to get the nomination, some of these neighborhood heads will reconsider their affiliation. Many of these loyal KMT footsoldiers probably were never that happy with her in the first place, due to her tendencies to openly criticize party leaders. If Chiang looks like he will be the local legislator for the next four years, many will decide that the smart thing is to change sides, and that will happily allow them to support a more reliable party member. Second, Chiang Wan-an somehow succeeded in garnering a substantial level of support in only 17 days. Most voters only know one thing about him, that he is John Chiang’s son and Chiang Kai-shek’s great grandson. Some voters may have been uncomfortable supporting someone whose last name was his primary (only?) appeal. Now he has about six weeks to introduce himself to voters and flesh out that picture. If he does this wisely, he should be the favorite to win the nomination. It is instructive that almost none of the media reports mentioned Wang. If Chiang can frame the election as a contest between a loyal KMT member who seeks to better the country by improving the party from within versus a loose cannon who doesn’t hesitate to damage the party’s reputation for the sake of making a splash on TV, he will win the nomination easily. However, if Chiang fails to define himself appropriately to the media, this could easily become a contest between Lo and Wang. Lo’s third advantage in the first round was that Wang’s support was heavily concentrated in a small part of the district. Only about a third (the parts in Songshan District) of the legislative district falls within Wang’s city council district. In the other two-thirds (Zhongshan District), Wang is relatively unknown and has little organizational support. Wang now has another six weeks to work on getting votes in Zhongshan. A fourth advantage for Lo could also disappear in a hurry. Right now, the anti-Lo vote is roughly split between Chiang and Wang. If a neutral media source, such a TVBS, were to publish a poll of this race that showed either Chiang or Wang as significantly ahead of the other, this three-way race could quickly become a two-way race. Lo would almost certainly lose that contest.

As of today, I no longer think that Lo is the favorite. As I see it, Chiang is now most likely to win the nomination and the seat. It will be interesting to see if Lo or Wang turn to negative campaigning to try to take him out. Because he is so unknown, he is the perfect target for mudslinging. With an established politician, you know enough about him or her that it is nearly impossible for any single new bit of information to fundamentally change the way you think about him or her. With an unknown, every bit of information can completely rewrite the story. If I were in the Lo, Wang, or DPP camp, I’d be thinking about how to redefine Chiang Wan-an as the 2016 version of Sean Lien. If I were in the Chiang camp, I’d be trying to build up a more robust image of him as someone who has not relied on the family name, who has lived a modest lifestyle, and who is earnest and down-to-earth.

In the end, Lo has no one to blame but herself. She simply could not discipline herself. Time after time, she lambasted President Ma and other KMT leaders on TV and in print, and she seemed to love being in the limelight and willing to say anything to attract attention. Many people have observed that she sounded more like an opposition politician than one from the KMT. It should not be all that surprising to her if the KMT voters who dominate her district want a legislator who represents the values, ideas, and interests of the KMT.

Eric Chu declines … maybe

April 17, 2015

This morning Eric Chu said he would not run for president in 2016. I have a few thoughts.

First, this wasn’t really an announcement. It was more like something that just slipped out. Chu was touring a temple, reporters were badgering him about whether he would serve out his mayoral term, and an exasperated Chu spat out, “I won’t run in 2016, is that good enough?” In other words, this was not something that came out at a carefully planned press conference, and it might not be his final decision. He might have been trying to get the media to stop asking him that same damn question for the n thousandth time!

Second, it sounds like he means it, and today’s slip (if that is what it was) will make it a little harder to backtrack and accept the KMT’s nomination. It might also cost him a handful of votes from people who won’t trust him.

Third, Chu’s strong point is supposed to be his coolness. He is not supposed to get rattled. I don’t care if he was having a bad day. Dodging routine questions about future plans is basic politics 101. If he can’t handle this sort of minor pressure, how is he going to hold up in a full campaign?

Fourth, this is a signal to the rest of the KMT to start the high pressure tactics. Chu is the only viable candidate who isn’t hated by a large part of the party and who is acceptable to the general electorate. Wang is detested by a large chunk of the party, including the Ma group and the military Huang Fu-hsing system. If Wang gets the KMT nomination, the best case scenario is that Ma and Huang Fu-hsing will smile politely and stay seated. At worst, they might decide to go down swinging and back a minor party candidate representing the “true spirit of Sun Yat-sen.” There is no chance that they will thoroughly mobilize to elect Wang. Wu has the opposite problem. He is too closely associated with Ma, and he is extremely unpopular in the general electorate. Hau is not exactly in the Ma camp, but his family background labels him clearly in the Chinese KMT camp. If either one of those (or Hung Hsiu-chu) is at the top of the ticket, the KMT is going to suffer massive losses in the legislature and Tsai is going to win in a landslide. The KMT needs Chu. If I had clout in the party, I would be using every tactic possible to put pressure on him to run. In the party chair race, he seemed to want the party to beg him to run. Now is the time for massive, shameless, overt, craven begging. They’ve got about two weeks until he makes a final final decision. Apparently, he is planning on not running at this point. It would be a disaster for the KMT if they can’t get him to change his mind.

A side note while I’m on the topic of the KMT presidential nomination. Yesterday the KMT announced that of its 350,000 members, only 90,000 or so are eligible to vote in the party primary. There are two large blocs in this 90,000: Huang Fu-hsing (military) system members and people over 75 years old. (Longtime members over 75 are exempt from paying party dues.) This means that while President Ma has very little support in the society at large, he and his faction will be very powerful in any vote of party members.

Currently, the presidential nomination is to be decided by 70% polls and 30% party member votes. Wang and Chu both favor changing this to 100% polls. I think they want to cut Ma out of the process. Wang’s only chance of winning is to draw on his support in the general electorate. If Chu runs, he is favored to win no matter what the process is. However, with 100% polls he wouldn’t have to go to Ma and ask for support. There are always costs to things like that.

One of the downsides to the KMT’s culture of waiting for the rest of the party to beg you to take the crown rather than actively and overtly pursuing it is that no one has prepared for the party vote. Since no one is officially a candidate, no one has done the dirty work of making sure that their supporters within the party bothered to pay dues. As a result, the KMT expression of “party will” will reflect the preferences of old soldiers and older geriatrics.

five KMT incumbents in trouble

April 15, 2015

I’ve been delinquent in writing about the legislative nominations, but today we have some big news that I absolutely need to mention. Today the KMT announced that four incumbents did not pass the first round polls. The four are Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠 (New Taipei 8), Lu Chia-chen 盧嘉辰 (New Taipei 10), Lu Yu-ling 呂玉玲 (Taoyuan 5), and Tsai Chin-lung 蔡錦隆 (Taichung 4). In addition, Lu Hsueh-chang 呂學樟 (Hsinchu City) announced that he is forgoing his opportunity to win a quick nomination in the first round. This was not a generous gesture to his opponent. Rather, the polls indicated that Lu was losing. I don’t have any concrete numbers, but the stories I read seemed to indicate that Lu might be losing by a significant margin. That makes five KMT incumbents who are in serious trouble. At the very least, they will have to go to a second round. That means they will need to go through the full primary procedures, including paying a deposit, gathering signatures, and finally going through another round of decisive polls in a month or so. These five aren’t dead yet, but the red lights are flashing.

Remember, several other KMT incumbents have already declared that they are not running for re-election. This includes Alex Tsai 蔡正元 (Taipei 4), Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池 (New Taipei 6), Hsieh Kuo-liang 謝國樑 (Keelung), Hsu Chi-jung 徐志榮 (Miaoli 2), Chang Chia-chun 張嘉郡 (Yunlin 1), and Weng Chung-chun 翁重鈞 (Chiayi County 1). In addition, Hsinchu County incumbent Hsu Hsin-ying 徐欣瑩 withdrew from the KMT to found her own party. I think Weng and Chang might eventually be persuaded to represent the KMT in the south; they are probably holding out in an effort to get the KMT to reward them for carrying the party flag in what promise to be very difficult races. Still, that makes 12 incumbent KMT district legislators who might not be seeking re-election, and we aren’t even done with the first round of nominations. By my count, 23 have already been renominated, and no decisions have been made on another 12.

This is in marked contrast to the DPP’s incumbents. Of the 26 DPP district incumbents, only two, Hsu Tain-tsair 許添財 (Tainan 4) and Chen Tang-shan 陳唐山 (Tainan 5) retired. All 24 who registered for the primary won renomination, including all five who faced a primary challenge.

One interesting way – though probably the wrong way – to look at the KMT’s primary season is to think about the Sunflower Movement. Several of the KMT’s most prominent voices might not be in the legislature come February 2016. Alex Tsai and Lin Hung-chih are not running for re-election, while Chang Ching-chung and Lu Hsueh-chang are in serious trouble. (On the other hand, Wu Yu-sheng (New Taipei 1) and Alex Fai (Taipei 5) easily won re-nomination.) It is tempting to wonder if there is a relationship. My gut tells me that the backlash from the Sunflower period might play a role, but it is probably not the most important factor. Tsai has been saying he would not run for re-election for several years. Lin is rumored to be preparing to run in the by-election for New Taipei mayor when and if Eric Chu runs for president. I don’t know much about Lu Hsueh-chang’s primary opponent, other than that he is a city councilor. However, I do know something about the politician challenging Chang. Chiu Chui-yi 邱垂益 was mayor of Zhonghe City for nine years, and he has been the appointed district head for the past four years. Zhonghe factional politics are messy and largely familial. In the last two elections, Chang has beaten a cousin representing the DPP. The other families may finally have become fed up with Chang’s family monopolizing the legislative seat. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Chiu’s appeal is that he will be a better legislator and won’t do stupid things that might kick off a major student rebellion. However, Chiu is a powerful politician in his own right, and he could easily displace Chang.

Nomination races

April 15, 2015

The following table shows the nomination races for the two major parties so far. Candidates in the 43 DPP regular districts are those who registered with the party according to the official press release. The KMT did not issue a single press release for its registrations, so I have collected names from various news stories. For the DPP’s 30 “difficult” districts, some, such as the three Taichung districts, have release official lists of registrants. However, most have not. Candidates for the others are collected from whatever news report I could find. In some of these cases, the “candidacy” may be more of a rumor or cheerleading by supporters than an actual intent to run.

The numbers next to DPP candidates are the results from the party polling primaries, as published on the party’s website. The DPP had two different sorts of polls. When the numbers are four decimal places (.XXXX), respondents were asked to pick which of the DPP aspirants they preferred. When the numbers have two digits plus four decimal places (XX.XXXX), respondents were asked whether they preferred the DPP aspirant or a likely KMT opponent. To save space, I did not list the KMT candidate’s support. In Taitung, the DPP held a poll but did not release the numbers.

The KMT has not released the results of the first round of polling. Instead, they have merely announced that an incumbent did or did not lead all others by at least five percent.

Candidates who have won a nomination are marked in blue for the KMT and green for the DPP.

(I apologize if this table is hard to read. WordPress is making it more and more difficult to produce legible tables.) (Update: I finally broke down and learned some basic HTML code. Now the table is readable. It would be nice if this were simply easy to do.) (I know I’m whining, and you don’t care. It’s my blog; it’s my right to whine.)

[most recent update: July 2, 2015]

district KMT DPP
Taipei 1 ‡ 丁守中 何志偉
Taipei 2 姚文智
Taipei 3 ‡ 羅淑蕾 $
2nd round
羅淑蕾 44.624
蔣萬安 55.376
梁文傑 nominated, then withdrew
Taipei 4 ‡# 邱毅
2nd round
邱毅     18.05
闕枚莎  27.15
吳世正  22.69
李彥秀  32.12 (nominated after long delay)
Taipei 5 ‡ 林郁方 *
Taipei 6 ‡# 蔣乃辛 *
Taipei 7 ‡# 費鴻泰 *
Taipei 8 ‡# 賴士葆 *
New Taipei 1 ‡ 吳育昇 游盈隆
New Taipei 2 陳明義 @ 林淑芬
New Taipei 3 高志鵬 49.5396
李余典 45.4604
New Taipei 4 李鴻鈞
陳茂嘉 withdraw
吳秉叡 .5413
鄭余豪 .0320
New Taipei 5 黃志雄 蘇巧慧 .3809
歐金獅 .1173
廖宜琨 .1023
New Taipei 6 林國春
2nd round
游秉陶 .1263
余莓莓 .1570
莊碩漢 .1468
張宏陸 .2004
New Taipei 7 江惠貞 蔡瑞堂 withdraw
New Taipei 8 ‡# 張慶忠 $
 江永昌 @
New Taipei 9 ‡# 林德福 *
New Taipei 10 盧嘉辰 $
蔡美華 26.3224
吳琪銘 42.9647
New Taipei 11 ‡# 羅明才  陳永福 @
New Taipei 12 ‡# 李慶華
Taoyuan 1 陳根德 鄭運鵬
Taoyuan 2 廖正井 *
彭紹瑾 .1471
陳睿生 .0650
彭添富 .0949
陳賴素美 .1871
郭榮宗 .1518
Taoyuan 3 ‡ 陳學聖 *
徐景文 @
Taoyuan 4 ‡ 楊麗環 *
Taoyuan 5 ‡ 呂玉玲 $
2nd round
呂玉玲 37.212
舒翠玲 30.870
謝彰文 22.470
葉滿新 9.447
 張肇良 @
Taoyuan 6 ‡ 孫大千
Taichung 1 蔡其昌
Taichung 2 顏寬恒
紀國棟 disqualified
陳世凱 .3278
王至劭 .0706
Taichung 3 ‡# 楊瓊瓔 吳則磐
Taichung 4 蔡錦隆 $
2nd round
蔡錦隆 50.179
黃馨慧 49.821
張廖萬堅 .3679
陳淑華   .2735
Taichung 5 ‡ 盧秀燕
陳天汶 withdrew
曾朝榮林靜儀 @
Taichung 6 沈智慧 45.276
洪嘉鴻 33.845
鄧鴻吉 20.880
Taichung 7 何欣純
Taichung 8 ‡ 江啟臣 翁美春
Tainan 1 葉宜津 .3365
賴惠員 .1817
李退之 .1966
Tainan 2 黃偉哲 .5766
林宜瑾 .1428
Tainan 3 陳亭妃 .6015
邱莉莉 .1680
Tainan 4 陳淑慧 @ 林俊憲 .5089
蔡旺詮 .1442
李文正 .0703
Tainan 5 林易煌 @ 王定宇 .4459
郭國文 .2231
Kaohsiung 1 邱議瑩
Kaohsiung 2 邱志偉
Kaohsiung 3 黃昭順 林瑩蓉 .3132
劉世芳 .3464
Kaohsiung 4 林岱樺
Kaohsiung 5 蔡金晏 @ 管碧玲
Kaohsiung 6 黃柏霖 @ 李昆澤
Kaohsiung 7 莊啟旺 @ 趙天麟
Kaohsiung 8 黃璽文 @ 許智傑
Kaohsiung 9 林國正 陳信瑜 .2879
賴瑞隆 .3370
陳致中 withdraw
Yilan 李志鏞 @
許南山 withdraw
Keelung ‡ 楊石城
Hsinchu County ‡ 劉文禎
2nd round
林為洲 59.3
劉文禎 40.6
鄭永金 DPP will support as IND
Hsinchu City ‡ 呂學樟 $
2nd round
鄭正鈐 46.697
曾煜銘 19.085
張祖琰 34.219
Miaoli 1 ‡ 陳超明 *
Miaoli 2 ‡# 徐志榮 @ 傅偉哲

吳宜臻 @

Changhua 1 ‡ 王惠美 陳文彬
Changhua 2 林滄敏 *
賴岸璋 withdraw
邱建富 withdraw
Changhua 3 鄭汝芬 洪宗熠
李俊諭 withdraw
Changhua 4 張錦昆 @
Nantou 1  ‡ 馬文君 張國鑫 @
Nantou 2 許淑華 蔡煌瑯 .3087
陳翰立 .1557
賴燕雪 .2987
Yunlin 1 張嘉郡 @ 蘇治芬
Yunlin 2 劉建國
Chiayi County 1 蔡易餘 .4087
林國慶 .3789
Chiayi County 2 陳明文
Chiayi City 李俊俋
Pingtung 1 蘇震清
Pingtung 2 王進士 李世斌 .1447
鍾佳濱 .2237
李清聖 .2200
施錦芳 .1738
Pingtung 3 莊瑞雄
Taitung 張家瑋
2nd round
陳建閣 poll winner
Hualien 王廷升 *(nominated after long delay)
Penghu 陳雙全 @ 楊曜
Kinmen 陳水龍 19.046
陳天成 15.321
陳清寶 22.701
楊鎮浯 42.933
Lienchiang 陳財能
Plains Aborigines 鄭天財
2nd round
Mountain Aborigines 孔文吉
2nd round
孔文吉 52.701
簡東明 44.108
曹明生   3.191
簡海樹 withdrew?

‡  DPP “difficult district”

#  DPP designated district as possible one to yield to other parties

*  won the first round poll by over 5% to win KMT nomination

$  did not win the first round poll by over 5% (or renounced right to first round poll)

@ initially did not register; later recruited by party