How did the DPP win in Taitung and Hualien?

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of election night was that the DPP won the legislative district seats in both Taitung and Hualien. Moreover, this happened even though those two (and the two Fujian counties) were the only places in which the KMT beat the DPP in the presidential race. Perhaps some people thought that Taitung wasn’t a surprise since the DPP already held that seat, but let’s remember that they won that seat in 2012 with only 41.6% of the vote, taking advantage of a split in the KMT. This time, both Liu Chao-hao 劉櫂豪 in Taitung and Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴 in Hualien won convincing majorities (64.2% and 53.4%, respectively). How did they do this?

There is an obvious possibility. In both Taitung and Hualien, indigenous voters account for about a third of the electorate. While the DPP has made some inroads with this group, indigenous voters still overwhelmingly support the KMT. Since indigenous voters cast their legislative votes in indigenous districts rather than in the regular geographical district, it stands to reason that the electorates in the Taitung and Hualien legislative districts should be quite a bit greener than the electorates in those counties in the presidential race. Is that difference sufficient to explain Liu and Hsiao’s victories?

Let’s examine the party list votes. As in previous posts, I combine the votes of all the green parties, the blue parties, and the others.

  total green blue Others
Taitung 95309 34869 54453 5987
% 100.0 36.6 57.1 6.3
Hualien 152350 51887 89886 10577
% 100.0 34.1 59.0 6.9

Party lists are like the presidential votes; they include indigenous voters. Perhaps not surprisingly, Tsai got 38.4% and 36.9% in the two counties, running about 2-3% ahead of the green party list vote just as she did in the rest of the country.

Now let’s look at the vote in the indigenous districts:

  total DPP KMT Others
Taitung 30248 4191 19197 6860
% 100.0 13.9 63.5 22.7
Hualien 35745 4794 24642 6309
% 100.0 13.4 68.9 17.7

In both counties, the DPP got about 14% of the indigenous district vote, while the KMT candidates got about 65%. However, that leaves another 20% voting for other candidates. On the party list, only about 7% voted for non-blue and non-green parties. I’m going to make a few big assumptions here. First, I assume that people who voted for the DPP in the indigenous district also voted for a green list. Likewise, I assume that KMT indigenous votes indicate blue list votes. Second, I assume that indigenous voters voted for one of the non-blue and non-green party lists at about the same rate as non-indigenous voters. This means that I have to reassign some of the votes in the third column to the first two columns. Since this is sloppy, I eyeballed it and shifted 4860 votes in Taitung (leaving an even 2000 in the “other” column) and 4000 votes in Hualien (leaving 2309). Third, I’m going to assume that 90% of these shifted votes went to a blue list and 10% went to a green list. I don’t really have any defense for these proportions other than to say they sound reasonable to me. If they don’t sound reasonable to you, remember that we are talking about relatively small numbers. If you assume it is 80-20, that only changes the final numbers by about 800 votes.

Here are the adjusted indigenous votes. Remember, these are my estimates, not actual results:

  total DPP KMT Others
Taitung 30248 4677 23571 2000
%   15.5 77.9 6.6
Hualien 35745 5194 28242 2309
%   14.5 79.0 6.5

From here, it is a relatively straightforward job to subtract these numbers from those in the first table to get the estimated party list votes for the non-indigenous electorate. These should be the voters that Liu and Hsiao were competing for.

  total DPP KMT Others
Taitung 65061 30192 30882 3987
%   46.4 47.5 6.1
Hualien 116605 46693 61644 8268
%   40.0 52.9 7.1

As a reminder, here are the actual district results:

  total DPP KMT Others
Taitung 65933 42317 23616  
%   64.2 35.8  
Hualien 117594 63231 51248 3115
%   53.8 43.6 2.6

As you can see, both Liu and Hsiao outperformed the party lists by quite a lot. Eliminating the indigenous votes does not explain the results. Taitung should have been a toss-up (which is a stunning finding in and of itself), while Hualien should still have been a fairly safe KMT seat. In reality, both were lopsided DPP wins.


So if indigenous voters are not the answer, what is? The green-leaning media has fallen in love with the story that Hsiao has won over a skeptical Hualien population with her years of hard work. Supposedly, they never expected to see her again after her good showing in the 2010 by-election, but she kept coming back. Moved by her sincerity, they fell in love with her. Well, I suppose there must be some truth to that story, but a lot of candidates have spent a lot of time working local districts only to be disappointed on election day. Maybe I’m too cynical, but I suspect this story makes for a better movie script than a convincing accounting of her victory.

My guess is that these two elections turned on local factional machinations. In Hualien, there has been a constant tension over the past decade between the local KMT machinery, led by outgoing legislator Wang Ting-sheng 王廷升, and the Fu faction, which is led by county magistrate Fu Kun-chi 傅崑萁. These two have repeatedly tried to undermine the other over the past several years, and I suspect Fu might have clandestinely done it again. The KMT was worried enough about this possibility that they put Fu’s wife on the party list. I had thought that this bribe would be sufficient to convince Fu to mobilize his supporters to vote for Wang, but maybe it wasn’t. The civil war in the Hualien blue camp doesn’t get a lot of headlines in the national press, but I’ll bet there are some angry accusations flying around.

In Taitung, the factional story is even more plausible. Remember, Liu has a history of cooperating with factions on the blue side. He was the deputy magistrate from 2001 to 2005 for Hsu Ching-yuan 徐慶元, who was elected as a PFP nominee. Apparently, this local PFP-DPP collaboration went very well. In 2005, Hsu did not run for re-election. Instead he supported Liu’s unsuccessful campaign to succeed him. It would not be surprising at all to me if Liu has been nurturing all those contacts for the last decade. Perhaps his blue friends weren’t willing to openly help Liu in his county magistrate campaigns against the popular Justin Huang 黃健庭, but they might have been willing to do so against the relatively unknown KMT nominee this year.

In sum, I only have a speculative explanation for these two victories. I can, however, rule out the possibility that Hualien and Taitung have already turned decisively green, once you remove the indigenous vote. Both Hsiao and Liu somehow managed to win over a large chunk of blue voters.

4 Responses to “How did the DPP win in Taitung and Hualien?”

  1. Andrei Says:

    I think 田智宣, Hsiao’s campaign manager, plays a very important role in her victory. Tian, served Ji’an Township chief for 8 years and is the current Hualian City mayor for 6 years, has strong local supports in those two major area. He’s eyeing for the next county magistrate and this legislative campaign may be a warm-up of his own battle.

  2. ジェームス (@jmstwn) Says:

    Thanks for doing the math, I’d assumed some voters had gone green for the legislative election but the indigenous-voter factor gave me pause, so it’s great to know the scale of the trend. So you think this ticket-splitting was organized (or at least encouraged) by the factions rather than the result of independent decisions by voters that they’d rather have a ruling-party legislator to give them better access to funding?

  3. buckhead Says:

    I totally agree with Mr.Garlic, including the cynic part.

    The real winner in Hualien this time is (who else) Your Majesty King of Hualien Fu!Kun!Chi! He tricked Eric Chu to get him a legislator for free (literally) to represent his interest. Stabbed his enemy and make sure he’s no good for next at least 2 or 4 years. And no one’s going to retaliate since he managed to achieve the rare feat — blue majority in presidential and party votes. Man, this guy is good.

  4. Outrage Over The DPP's Loss In Hualien? Says:

    […] in Taiwanese identity in the past decades. But this is not always absolutely true in all cases. And recent inroads by the DPP into Hualien may not represent as large a shift in the voting trends of t… The victory of Tien Chih-hsuan by such large margins in previous mayoral elections as well as the […]

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