One of the more interesting races on the KMT side can be found in Taipei 3, where the always outspoken Lo Shu-lei 羅淑蕾 is running for re-election. She is being challenged by Chiang Wan-an 蔣萬安, who is the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek, and city councilor Wang Hung-wei 王鴻薇. There are two angles that will be interesting to most observers. On the one hand, Chiang Wan-an is the first member of the fourth generation of the Chiang family to enter politics. Simply because of his heritage, his candidacy has important symbolism for democracy in Taiwan. On the other hand, Lo Shu-lei has always been a controversial legislator. She has never hesitated to speak out against her own party leaders and has offended many within the KMT. In the past year or so, she has also made provocative statements angering many supporters of the student movements and the Ko mayoral campaign. After making so many enemies, it will be interesting to see if she can survive another election. Most people are ignoring Wang Hung-wei, which might be a mistake. I would not be surprised in the least if Wang ended up winning the nomination and the seat.
Let’s start the story several decades ago in China, where Chiang Ching-kuo had twin sons out of wedlock with a woman named Chang Ya-juo 章亞若. The two sons were brought to Taiwan and raised in a military community in Hsinchu city by their aunt. Unlike Chiang’s legitimate children, the twins grew up in relative anonymity. By most accounts, Chang Hsiao-yan (John) 章孝嚴 and Chang Hsiao-tsu (Winston) 章孝慈 had a modest upbringing, interrupted only by occasional visits by surprisingly high-ranking KMT figures who wanted to make sure the Chang family’s needs were taken care of. Of course, they knew of their lineage as did many other connected people, but it was a taboo topic during the authoritarian era. The legitimate heirs were extremely protective of their Chiang Fang Liang’s 蔣方良 legacy, and would brook no discussion of the existence of other CCK children. The legitimate members of the third generation grew up in power and privilege, and there was a period of time when it seemed possible that CCK would pass power dynastically to his son Chiang Hsiao-wu (Alex) 蔣孝武. It was a major milestone when CCK instead publicly declared in 1983 that there would be no third generation of Chiangs and sent Alex to Singapore. No one considered the possibility that John or Winston were suitable heirs to power; indeed they were not even publicly acknowledged as part of the family. Perhaps because of their grounding in normal society, the twins eventually went on to have far more distinguished careers than their half-siblings. Winston went into academia, and eventually rose to become President of Soochow University. He was renowned for his dedication to liberal ideals, and people from both sides of the political spectrum mourned when he died suddenly of a stroke in 1994.
John Chang entered politics, coming up through the diplomatic corps. His family connections, which became public when Taiwan democratized, probably guaranteed that he would not be stuck in the lower levels of the foreign service. However, he would not have risen quite so high without the patronage of Lee Teng-hui, who appointed him to Foreign Minster, Vice Premier, and KMT Secretary-General. In early 1998, Ma Ying-jeou was equivocating about whether he would run for Taipei Mayor. Lee did not want Ma to re-enter politics, and he set out the word that the KMT had plenty of other suitable candidates, notably John Chang and Jason Hu. Eventually, Ma declared his willingness to run, and Chang was put on the back burner. He never again reached the same level of influence.
In 2005, Chang and his family members changed their surname to Chiang, taking the imperial surname and all the symbolism and baggage that went with it.
Chang went into the legislature in 2001. While he was one of the more famous members of the legislature, he wasn’t really a legislative leader. Still, he seemed fairly well entrenched in Taipei 3, so it was a shock to everyone when he unexpectedly lost the primary to Lo Shu-Lei in 2012.
Originally an accountant, Lo Shu-lei entered the legislature in 2004 on the PFP’s party list. In 2008, all the PFP legislators joined the KMT. As part of this deal, the KMT put Lo in a good spot on its 2008 list. During Ma Ying-jeou’s first term, Lo repeatedly spoke out criticizing the government. She was on TV talk shows nearly every night, and if you didn’t know better you might have thought she was from the opposition, not the government, camp. This behavior grated on the nerves of the more loyal party soldiers, and many KMT members started calling on party leaders to muzzle her. At one point, party leaders ordered her to go out into society and listen to KMT voices to see how they felt. The implication was that if her statements didn’t start reflecting mainstream party views, she would face party discipline. Of course, if her party membership were revoked, she would also lose her seat in the legislature. This threat seemed to work, as she was decidedly more orthodox in the last months of her first term.
Of course, it could have been that she was moving toward standard party positions because she was worried about re-election. There was no way the KMT was going to give her another party list seat in 2012. If she wanted to stay in the legislature, she would have to win a district seat. She chose to challenge John Chiang in Taipei 3. Chiang was not widely considered to be vulnerable, but Lo unexpectedly won the polling primary by a razor-thin 0.58%. In retrospect, there are two common explanations for Lo’s upset win. First, Chiang had become complacent. He may not have done enough constituency service, attended enough weddings and funerals, or whipped his ground network hard enough. Second, Lo may have won considerable cross-party support. This is speculation, but many suspect that many DPP sympathizers supported Lo in the polling primary because they liked her willingness to criticize the KMT and because they wanted to deal a blow to the Chiang family.
Lo started out the current term by going back to her critical ways. Once again, she was a regular guest on the TV talk show circuit, and she never hesitated to criticize her own party. However, about halfway through the term she once again shifted to a more orthodox stance. This was most notable during the mayoral campaign. Lo was the spokeswoman for Sean Lien’s campaign, and, true to form, she was always quick to speak her mind. However, now the incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric was aimed at the Ko campaign and the opposition camp. This may have been a strategic move to shore up her support in the KMT, but it probably had the effect of alienating any cross-party support she may have enjoyed.
So now the Chiang family is challenging Lo in an attempt to retake the Taipei 3 seat. From what I can glean in the newspaper accounts, Chiang Wan-an doesn’t seem to have any particular qualifications to be a legislator other than his family background. His campaign doesn’t seem that organized. No one seemed aware that he was planning to challenge Lo until the day the KMT accepted applications. I go to that district quite often, and I’ve never seen any of his banners or billboards. His name recognition must be extremely low.
Chiang’s best hope is that KMT supporters are unhappy with Lo. Moreover, assuming that Lo had considerable cross-party support in 2012, she probably won’t do as well with non-KMT sympathizers in 2016. Her scorched-earth performance in the 2014 campaign probably dashed any illusions that green voters had of her being a “reasonable” or half-green voice.
If voters are unhappy with Lo and unfamiliar with Chiang, they have a credible third choice. Wang Hung-wei is a city councilor. She won her first two terms as a representative of the New Party before joining the KMT and winning a third term in 2014. As an established politician, she has sufficient name recognition and local organization to mount a significant challenge to Lo.
The three candidates are all positioned in the deep blue end of the spectrum. Wang is a former New Party member, Lo is a former PFP member who has spent the past year blasting everything to do with the opposition camp, and Chiang is, well, a direct descendent of the ROC imperial family. If Lo has an advantage, it might be that she is perhaps a little less clearly identified with that corner of the spectrum. Alternatively, everyone might be mad at her, while Wang and Chiang probably have some enthusiastic supporters.
We should probably stop to consider the rules of the game. According to the KMT’s latest rules, the contest proceeds in two rounds. First, the party will do a survey to determine if a primary is necessary. If the incumbent wins the survey by at least 5%, he or she will be renominated. (Technically, the incumbent’s performance in the legislature also has to be approved by the committee; I’m still waiting to see the first time they reject someone.) If the incumbent doesn’t win or wins by less than 5%, a full-blown primary is necessary. Unlike the first round (which the KMT does not consider a “primary”) which is a telephone survey, the second round (the “primary”) is a telephone survey. Wait. That is exactly the same thing. Why do we need two rounds again?
Actually, there is a reason. The two-round design protects incumbents. First, there is a quick first survey. If the challenger is not organized and hasn’t done much advertising (like Chiang right now), the incumbent can win the nomination before a full-blown challenge is mounted. Second, if the incumbent loses the first round, he or she gets another chance to regroup and mobilize. If this system had been in force four years ago, John Chiang would have had a second chance to beat Lo, and he would probably still be in the legislature. Now Lo has those advantages. This system doesn’t guarantee that she will win the nomination, but it gives her an advantage.
Wang is probably the most disadvantaged. I suspect she will beat Lo in the first round, but Wang cannot be nominated simply by winning the first round. If there is a second round, Chiang will be allowed to participate no matter how poorly he does in the first round. What Chiang needs more than anything right now is time so that he can get his name out and convince KMT sympathizers that he is their ideal representative. It is plausible that he might overtake Wang in the second round.
The DPP has an uphill fight in this district. They seem to have settled on city councilor Liang Wen-chieh 梁文傑, though this has not yet been finalized. For now, let’s assume that Liang is the DPP candidate. Liang would love to face Chiang. For one thing, Liang has a solid political resume, whereas Chiang is a complete novice. Both Lo and Wang have longer resumes than Liang, but experience would be a winning issue against Chiang. For another, Chiang would be easy to paint into the deep blue corner of the political spectrum. Liang’s strategy would be to define Chiang as a representative of the old regime and to try to win all the independent and some light blue voters. Most significantly, Liang has experience fighting political aristocracy. As head of the DPP’s policy research division, Liang spearheaded the investigation into the Lien family assets. He spent 2014 railing against Sean Lien, a fourth-generation heir of a prominent political family. He could easily transfer that campaign over to the Chiang family.
(I’m pretty sure that if one of the three has to win, the DPP would prefer Chiang as well. On the one hand, Chiang might turn out to have different political views from his forefathers. On the other, it could be very useful to have a Chiang in the legislature to kick around as a symbol of Chinese nationalism and the reactionary KMT history.)
Lo and Wang would be harder for Liang to defeat. The deep blue voters might be upset with Lo, but they aren’t going to vote for Liang. It will be harder for him to define her to the public, since she has already defined herself. With her past, it will be hard to call her an extremist deep blue figure. She has been many things at various times. Wang is a deep blue figure, but she has a much lower profile. For many voters who don’t pay close attention to politics, she will be a generic KMT candidate. In Taipei 3, the generic KMT candidate almost always beats the generic DPP candidate. Of course, neither Lo nor Chiang is what anyone would call “generic.”