The Humiliation of Hau

Let’s consider the case of Hau Lung-bin. Two weeks ago, Hau seemed pretty well positioned to take over leadership of the KMT. All the other potential contenders were old (Wang, Hung, Wu, Hu), unpopular with the general electorate (Wu, Hung), unacceptable to a crucial faction within the KMT (Wang), had just been discredited by a terrible election loss in 2014 (Hu, Wu Chih-yang, Lien), or had proven to be a terrible leader as was about to suffer a humiliating election defeat (Chu). Hau was going to be the last man standing. He didn’t lose in 2014, and he was acceptable to the powerful mainlander faction in the KMT while still being perceived as more moderate than Hung. All he had to do was prove his electoral viability by winning his legislative race in Keelung, a city that had always been reliably blue until 2014.

Let’s remember that Hau originally indicated that he was going to go to southern or central Taiwan to win a difficult seat for the KMT. I even wrote a post looking at his options. In hindsight, they all look ridiculous. The DPP won all of the other possibilities by huge margins, and Hau would almost certainly have been slaughtered in any of them. Instead, Hau decided that the cautious approach was the wisest. He probably could see the DPP’s wave coming and cynically decided to save himself by choosing the one winnable race. After he muscled the locals aside, his road to the legislature and leadership of the KMT seemed to be on track.

Instead, Hau lost. Perhaps the important point isn’t merely that he lost, but just how badly he lost. He didn’t lose because there weren’t enough blue votes. He didn’t lose because the DPP nominated a spectacular candidate. He lost because blue voters didn’t vote for him. In a city that still has more blue voters than green voters, Hau could only manage to win 36.1% of the vote. This election was supposed to prove Hau’s popularity with the general public and solidify his position as the only KMT leader who could win elections in a difficult year. Instead, the Keelung electorate collectively decided to veto Hau’s aspirations to take over the KMT.


Hau’s basic problem was that he was unable to consolidate the blue vote. There were two other blue candidates in the race. Liu Wen-hsiung is an old PFP warhorse, and Yang Shi-cheng is a city councilor who lost to Hau in the KMT primary and ran under the MKT banner. The fact that they were in the race is insufficient to explain Hau’s loss; a strong KMT candidate would have easily marginalized these two candidates and consolidated almost all of the blue vote.

Duverger’s Law says that single seat plurality elections tend to produce two main contenders. One reason is that voters simply won’t waste their votes on trailing candidates. Why did nearly a quarter of Keelung’s electorate vote for the two minor candidates? There are several possible reasons. One, voters must be able to identify who are the leading and who are the trailing candidates. This probably wasn’t a problem. All the media focus focused on Hau and the DPP’s Tsai, and the few publicly available opinion polls also showed them to be well ahead. Besides, years of experience (including last year’s Keelung mayoral race) have shown that the KMT and DPP nominees are almost always the top two candidates. In short, many voters chose to support Yang or Liu even though they knew those two were unlikely to win. Second, the race between the top two candidates must be close enough for strategic voting to make a difference. All indications were that Hau and Tsai were in a close race, so this should have driven Liu and Yang supporters to abandon their favorites in an effort to help determine the outcome of the race. Third, potential strategic voters must have a clear preference between the top two choices. This might be a more likely culprit. Several recent surveys have shown that PFP identifiers (unsurprisingly) don’t like the DPP. More surprisingly, their evaluations of the KMT are roughly as low as those for the DPP. In other words, many PFP supporters don’t clearly prefer the KMT to the DPP. Hau’s status as an outsider who parachuted in from Taipei may also have hurt him, especially among people who voted for Yang. Yang represented the localist faction of the KMT, and his supporters might disliked the outsider Hau just as much as they disliked the DPP’s Tsai. Fourth, most models assume that strategic voters are short-term rational. This means that they care only about the outcome of this election. However, some voters might choose to vote for a hopeless candidate precisely because they care more about some long-term goal. For example, PFP or MKT supporters might have voted for Liu or Yang because they cared about the long-term health of the PFP or MKT. More intriguingly, I wonder if some light-blue voters didn’t look to the impending KMT leadership struggle and decide that the best way to support a nativist KMT leader was to vote against Hau in the legislative race.


Let’s look at some votes. The following table shows the party list votes aggregated into green camp (DPP, NPP, TSU, Free Taiwan, Taiwan Independence), blue camp (KMT, PFP, MKT, New, MCFAP, China Unification), and others. It also shows the four candidate’s votes:

Yang Liu Hau Tsai
list list list 楊石城 劉文雄 郝龍斌 蔡適應
green blue Other MKT PFP KMT DPP
87915 92463 11963 19,045 23,485 68,632 78,707
中正 11971 13051 1602 2,202 3,336 9,242 10,530
信義 11529 14320 1756 2,414 3,491 11,284 10,152
仁愛 11421 10673 1365 2,329 2,942 8,139 10,057
中山 11923 11889 1404 5,480 2,525 7,645 9,646
安樂 19208 20158 2629 3,434 4,588 15,192 18,521
暖暖 8354 9844 1252 1,529 2,752 7,542 7,455
七堵 13509 12528 1955 1,657 3,851 9,588 12,346

On the party lists, there were about 4,500 more blue votes than green votes. (This might be a bit misleading since it includes about 3,500 indigenous voters who didn’t vote in the district election. The DPP only got about 500 of those votes, so the overall blue advantage in the legislative district was probably closer to 2,000 votes. I’m going to ignore the indigenous vote for the rest of the post.) However, Tsai was not able to soak up all the green votes. Nearly 9,000 green list voters split their tickets and voted for a blue district candidate. Given this, the race should have been winnable for Hau.

Some people like thinking in numbers of votes, but I think it is often easier to think in vote shares.

  List Tsai list Hau
  Green DPP blue KMT
45.7 41.5 48.1 36.1
中正 Zhongzheng 45.0 41.6 49.0 36.5
信義 Xinyi 41.8 37.1 51.9 41.3
仁愛 Ren-ai 48.7 42.9 45.5 34.7
中山 Zhongshan 47.3 38.1 47.1 30.2
安樂 Anle 45.7 44.4 48.0 36.4
暖暖 Nuannuan 43.0 38.7 50.6 39.1
七堵 Qidu 48.3 45.0 44.8 34.9

Hau ran 11.9% behind the blue list vote. This gap was similar everywhere except Zhongshan District, where he ran 16.9% behind the list. Tsai ran 4.3% behind the green list vote. He also did worse in Zhongshan, where he was 9.2% behind. However, he did better in Anle, where he was only 1.4% behind. If you guessed that Tsai’s city council district is Anle, you guessed correctly.

Let’s look at the other two candidates. This time we’ll compare their votes with their party’s list share.

  List Liu list Yang
9.2 12.4 2.0 10.0
中正 Zhongzheng 9.5 13.2 2.0 8.7
信義 Xinyi 9.1 12.8 1.9 8.8
仁愛 Ren-ai 8.4 12.5 2.0 9.9
中山 Zhongshan 9.2 10.0 2.8 21.7
安樂 Anle 9.4 11.0 1.8 8.2
暖暖 Nuannuan 9.9 14.3 1.9 7.9
七堵 Qidu 8.8 14.0 1.7 6.0


Keelung is one of the PFP’s stronger areas, as its list garnered 9.2% here compared to 6.5% nationally. Like in the rest of the country, Soong got roughly twice as many presidential votes (16.5%) as the PFP list. Liu Wen-hsiung split the difference, getting 12.4% of the vote. Liu’s vote thus looks like it is mostly a party vote rather than a personal vote. These PFP voters might be part of the blue camp when it comes to national identity, but they seem fed up with the KMT. Many of them didn’t give any of their three votes to the KMT, something the new KMT leadership should probably reflect upon.

Finally, we come to Yang Shi-cheng and the MKT. Unlike the other parties, the MKT doesn’t really have much of a presence. Its party list only got 2.0% in Keelung, and Yang’s vote seems to be rather unrelated to the MKT support. I imagine most people who voted for the MKT list probably also voted for Yang, but the vast majority of his votes came from other sources. You have probably guessed by now that Zhongshan is Yang’s city council district, and he got more than twice as much support in Zhongshan as in the rest of the city. Since each of the other three candidates’ vote shares suffered in Zhongshan, it stands to reason that Yang’s local networks extended into KMT, DPP, and PFP vote bases alike. In the rest of the city, I think that Yang’s vote probably reflects the localist backlash against Hau. We saw a similar backlash in the 2014 mayoral election. The KMT can probably win these votes back, but only if they stop nominating outsiders from Taipei.

Hau lost the race by 5.4%. He probably could have won the race if he had been able to make an alliance with the localist faction represented by Yang. However, this is precisely the part of the former KMT coalition that is furious with the mainlander KMT elite for their treatment of Speaker Wang and their efforts to promote ideological purists such as Hung Hsiu-chu. There were some districts in which these voters stayed with the KMT, especially in central Taiwan. However, the nominees in those districts were almost all from the nativist wing of the KMT. Hau is decidedly not from that wing.

In the wake of the election, several KMT pundits have attempted to downplay the KMT’s defeat by pointing to low turnout, the K-pop singer incident, and the splintering of the blue camp vote by other parties. All the KMT needs to do, they suggest, is simply to consolidate the blue vote. Keelung’s experience suggests there is nothing simple about it. A localist candidate might have won, but that would have required Hau to put his leadership ambitions aside. More generally, the orthodox wing of the KMT seems unwilling to put aside or water down its ideological positions or to yield leadership of the party to the nativist wing. Absent those sorts of compromises, the KMT might be headed for a future with many more races like Keelung.

10 Responses to “The Humiliation of Hau”

  1. Irwin Says:

    Another interesting analysis. I’m so glad there is someone doing this kind of work. Big thanks to Nathan!

    The last paragraph kind of sums up my personal take on the MKT defeat. The orthodox wing will add up the MKT and PFP votes in all the district where KMT won only 40% (or less) and conclude that it will win them back next time. The nativist wing will do the same math and conclude that maybe they should be aligned with DPP or PFP for their own future electoral path (I think MKT is done and will disappear). More KMT civil war ahead.

  2. ジェームス (@jmstwn) Says:

    The MKT district candidate ran well ahead of the MKT party list seemingly everywhere. The MKT did a great job finding disgruntled nativist candidates but a poor job at party branding.

  3. ジェームス (@jmstwn) Says:

    Just watched Hau’s press conference to declare his chair candidacy. He seems to have lost his confidence and even came off sounding like he thinks Wu Den-yih is a better candidate than he is.

    • buckhead Says:

      I’m stunned that Hau still wants to run, since Mr. Garlic already publicly disqualified him here. I guess there’s only one reasonable explanation — he’s someone’s pawn (you know who). He definitely represent the deep-blue side and most likely was convinced to run in order to block Hung (flood control “防洪陣線”)

      • frozengarlic Says:

        Didn’t you learn anything from my repeated attempts last year to understand what Eric Chu was thinking or would do? I clearly have no idea about how people in the KMT inner circle make decisions. If I declared him disqualified, then of course he’s running!

      • buckhead Says:

        That’s right! Should’ve thought that……..I guess this just proved that buckhead is no different then any other mankind since he never learn anything from history…….

  4. les Says:

    I still think daddy will come to the rescue here. The KMT nativist faction has options to leave the party and go to PFP or DPP. The former has no clear succession path after James Soong dies, so there may even be a chance there to grab the Chair. DPP has a history of taking in people it really shouldn’t, but who can probably bring some votes along. Expect another wave of defections and/or another purge to cleanse the KMT of ‘uppity’ Taiwanese.
    Where are the old soldier Chinese elites going to go, the New Party? Not as long as KMT still has some assets to fight over.

    The old soldiers are going to push the nativists out if they have to in order to remain in charge. While Hung Hsiu-chu may appeal to some of the extreme right-wingers, Hau Bo-tsun will not miss this chance to push his son into the Chairmanship. Wu Den-yi and some of his moderate supporters will put up a fight but the old soldiers are on their last gasp now and it’s going to be a full-contact, no-holds-barred fight to the death.

  5. buckhead Says:

    A side plot that I heard it from different sources related to alliance strategy and Keelung so I suppose I’ll put it there. It was revealed that DPP agreed to support Huang Shan Shan (PFP) in Taipei D4 (Huang was approached by KMT to represent, but she refused) in exchange that Liu Wen Hsiung can (and should) run in Keelung in order to split blue camp’s vote. I’m not sure where Liu’s votes from and he looks like he has a core supporter group in all administrative region in the district (probably from Soong’s core supporter? He runs 4% behind presidential votes but 3% ahead of party votes). Anyhow, this strategy (if that’s true) worked out pretty well for Tsai since it’s still a blue-leaning district.

    • ジェームス (@jmstwn) Says:

      Mr. Buckhead, I know you can’t burn your sources but I think what you’ve revealed is really interesting, since the official story from Liu and the DPP is that Liu was always going to run and wanted the pan-greens to step aside for him. Do you mean that once the DPP insisted on running its own candidate they used approval of Huang as an incentive to keep Liu in the race? This all must have been decided before Hau entered by the way, since the DPP’s endorsement of Huang and Liu’s candidacy were already underway by then.

    • buckhead Says:

      Unfortunately I have no good answer to that. It’s obviously not my source which is just an ID posted some interesting tidbits and I think it’s somehow credible. He posted some pieces here and there before and it sounds like he’s at (higher) staff level and can assess quite convincing stories. Well, people tend to leak information to show they are important or for their personal motive which is quite frequent and human nature. I think it’s something you can never or very hard to verify — ever you ask the main players they’ll never admit the trade-off (which is something everybody is against — at least publicly — now. The negotiation in the black box). NPP strongly against that in legislative yuan. But I noticed that Huang just soften his tone a bit (though a very tiny bit though) said he’ll not “video taped” it when in negotiation phase. I am glad he finally gets that because if everything’s open then it’ll basically just force everybody to stick to their ground since “holding to one’s principle” will stand you on moral high ground and it looks good. But it’ll never get anything done.

      Back to our Keelung, I did a moderate news scrub and there’s tons of interesting story lines (that I didn’t notice before). I think again I’m not able to decipher which is the correct version of the story since it’s very fluid and most likely there’s multiple negotiation that happened in the same time frame. Remember, the last day to officially register is 11/27 (that’s the day 文魯彬 withdraw from Taipei D1 that’s why I remembered that day) and everything said before that is somehow negotiable or just gesture.

      I think there’s few interesting things even we can see from news:

      1. Liu and Yang tried very hard to consolidate (since both parties run presidential campaign together remember?) even until the last day (11/27). Both Liu and Yang registered at the last day.

      2. Yao Li-Ming actually suggested Liu to run as independent to stand a chance (actually, Liu did that before in 2007 Mayor election).

      3. Liu said he ” doesn’t care about winning or losing” few days after registration. I suppose that’s the sign that he knows he has little chance.

      OK. That’s a bunch of crap that I just wrote to prove….I guess nothing. Shame on me.

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