And now, back to our regular programming.
Last Saturday, I went to Xinzhuang 新莊 to observe a campaign event. DPP candidate Wu Ping-jui 吳秉叡 was opening his campaign headquarters for New Taipei 4th district, and I thought it would be interesting to see what he said.
Wu is an incumbent legislator, but he is currently on the party list. He was originally elected in 2004 in the old multi-member districts. In 2008, he ran for re-election in the new single-seat districts in what was then called Taipei County 4th district. Xinzhuang is one of those areas that can go both ways. It usually leans a bit green, but it can also produce blue majorities from time to time. 2008 wasn’t a good year for the DPP, and Ma Ying-jeou won Xinzhuang by a 57-43% margin. Wu ran a strong campaign, but he still lost by a 52-47% margin. Four years ago, Tsai Ing-wen beat Ma Ying-jeou by a razor-thin 48.8-48.5% in this district, but the KMT incumbent Lee Hung-chun 李鴻鈞 won the legislative race by a comfortable 51.0-46.6 margin over the DPP candidate Lin Chuo-shui 林濁水, a senior legislator who had no previous ties with this district.
This year, the DPP should score a clear majority here in the presidential race, and it is imperative for them to win this legislative seat if they want to win an overall majority of seats. Their task was made significantly easier when James Soong decided to run for president. Lee Hung-chun was elected as a PFP legislator in 2001 and 2004 before going over to the KMT in 2008. When Soong announced his candidacy in August, Lee supported him by withdrawing from the race. The KMT has other competent politicians in this area, but none of them are incumbent legislators and all of them got a late start campaigning. I think they have settled on city councilor Huang Lin Ling-ling 黃林玲玲, who is a charismatic and dynamic old-style grassroots politician. However, this race should be the DPP’s to lose.
The event was right outside the Xinzhuang baseball stadium. When I was a student 20 years ago, I used to ride my motorcycle to this area all the time to watch the Tigers, Dragons, Whales, Suns, Robomen or some other baseball team that disappeared a long time ago. The city is changing. In the newly rezoned development area, there are a lot of expensive skyscrapers going up. This includes some central government buildings, lots of commercial office buildings, and some expensive residential buildings. There are lots of new expressways here as well as an MRT line that will open in a year or two. If this part of the city looks like an extension of Taipei City, the other side of Xinzhuang is like Taoyuan. That part has lots of small factories, cheaper housing, and narrow roads. The area around the baseball stadium is the old downtown, and it is the only part of the city that still looks similar to me. One of my strongest impressions this time was just how bad the air was. My lungs are still a bit sore four days later. Maybe it was a bad air day or maybe I’m just getting older and more fragile, but I don’t remember ever thinking the air was so much worse there than in the rest of the Taipei metro area.
The rally filled up the space outside the stadium quite nicely. I’d guess there were around 3,000 people on a misty day, and they were relatively enthusiastic. Each of the six DPP city councilors gave a short speech, then three or four old guys in charge of one or another support organization gave a short speech. Wu Ping-rui delivered a longer speech, and the headliner was former premier Yu Hsi-kun 游錫堃. Wu is one of Su Tseng-chang’s close associates, but Su was over in the next district opening his daughter’s campaign headquarters. Tsai Ing-wen was in Taoyuan. Yu was a nice consolation prize. It also sent a message of confidence to me. It seemed as if Wu was telling the heavy hitters that he could handle this district, so they were free to go elsewhere. Having Yu as the speaker also sent the message that Wu is supported by all factions and is not just Su’s guy.
They talked a lot about Chu accepting the KMT presidential nomination after his repeated promises to serve a full term as mayor. It was interesting to me that they didn’t really attack his mayoral record; instead they focused on the question of trust. If you couldn’t trust Chu to keep his word, how could you dare to vote for him for president?
Another topic was that of rotation of power. When he took the nomination, Chu immediately started talking about the need to avoid a DPP landslide in order to preserve some checks and balances for the sake of the democratic system. I think he brought this theme out too early. The DPP has already started trying to reframe the question by talking about rotation of power. Asking for rotation sounds much better than asking for complete power. Moreover, the DPP stressed that real power comes with the legislature, and the DPP has never controlled for the legislature. Rather than asking for a unchecked power (which might threaten democracy), they are asking for the first rotation of power in the legislature. That sounds like a normal democratic process, even a healthy process. You need rotations of power every once in a while to clear away the unhealthy excesses that can build up, right?
In his speech, Wu also discussed what he is presenting as his personal issue: settling the KMT party assets. Wu discussed the problems that the KMT’s financial empire causes for democratic politics, the unfair methods they had used to accumulate them, and the need to remove them from the system. Wu also pointed out that, as a former judge, he knows how the legal system works, and he will be able see through the KMT’s attempts to hide and keep their illicit property.
Overall, this was a successful event. It wasn’t flashy or enormous, but it conveyed a message of confidence and competence. Wu is the heavy favorite in the race, and it doesn’t look like he is doing anything to blow his lead.
I’m a lousy photographer, but here are my best two photos. I think the emcee’s just said something exciting, so everyone is waving their flags. (See, flags are an important element of participation!) The pillar on the left says, “seek a majority in the legislature” This is currently a KMT seat, so taking it would be a big help to the DPP in achieving that goal. The pillar on the right that you can’t see says, “secure Taiwan’s democracy” 顧台灣民主. That is also the slogan in green on the main backdrop. Wu is presenting his effort to strip the KMT of its financial assets as a way to protect and deepen Taiwan’s democracy.
Here is the obligatory frozen garlic picture.
Wu Ping-rui! Frozen Garlic!