Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Han is, um, unique

May 23, 2018

The KMT has nominated Han Kuo-yu to run for Kaohsiung mayor, and I want to say a few words about him. This is a near hopeless race for the KMT, so Han is highly unlikely to win. Chen Chi-mai is almost certain to win, and he is a talented and promising politician who will join Lai, Lin, and Cheng vying for the 2024 presidential nomination. So this is not an post about the horse race; it is about how Han is not a normal KMT candidate.

The KMT has been doing terribly in the south for several years, but it can’t afford to write off the entire region. If it wants to be competitive in future presidential races, it has to figure out some sort of appeal for southern voters. What it has now just isn’t working. The KMT could have nominated a standard KMT candidate and tried the same script again; instead it nominated Han who promises to try a new strategy.

Han came up in Zhonghe politics, up in New Taipei City. He served three terms in the legislature (1992-2001), though he was pretty anonymous. He drew strength from the KMT’s Huang Fu-hsing military system, and he was a pretty standard military-sponsored politician. Like a couple other Huang Fu-hsing representatives (eg: Shih Tai-sheng), Han also is reported as having extensive ties to organized crime gangs. (Gee, that was a strangely constructed sentence!)

Han mostly disappeared from the public eye for about 15 years. Then, a couple years ago, he emerged as head of the Taipei City farmers association, where he was allied with former Yunlin county magistrate Chang Jung-wei (who other people have also suggested might just perhaps be deeply enmeshed in criminal networks).

And then last year, Han ran for KMT chair. He didn’t win; he only got 5.8% of the votes. However, his discourse was interesting and very different from all the other candidates. I watched all the debates on youtube, and this is what I wrote about Han:

 

Five of the candidates sounded rather similar. Han sounded completely different. During both debates, Han didn’t talk about things like the 1992 Consensus, KMT party assets, or other partisan topics. Instead, he talked about the difficulties of everyday life for lower income and less educated people. Good jobs are scarce, drug use is common, things are too expensive, and life is generally hard. Notably, he did not blame all of these woes solely on President Tsai and the DPP. He was complaining about the effects of President Ma’s policies just as much. His discourse was limited to expressing the pain felt by the lower class. He did not bother to offer any solutions, not even Trump-esque claims that everything could be easily fixed if only someone really wanted to. This was a campaign aimed at the people who know the system is rigged against them and will continue to be rigged against them. It was also aimed at young men, especially the types who might drive a truck or join a gang. This may not have been the best strategy for a KMT party chair race, since I would wager that KMT members are less likely than the general population to be young, unemployed, financially struggling, or to feel that the system is rigged against them. Nevertheless, Han didn’t do terribly. I wonder how many candidates will pick up this campaign strategy for the city and county councilor elections next year.

 

There are two names that I really don’t want to drop into this post, but I can’t think of any better way to make the point. The first is Donald Trump. Han is pushing an angry, populist message aimed at young and middle-aged men with low education levels and who want blue collar jobs. There are, of course, lots of aspects of Trump’s discourse that are missing (eg: immigration, attacks on the media, anti-trade), but the target audience is similar.

The second name—well maybe I’ll just let you guess. Unlike the standard-issue KMT-allied (alleged) organized crime boss (think Chang Jung-wei, Lo Fu-chu, Yen Ching-piao, Lin Ming-yi, …), Han is not merely allied with Chinese nationalism for convenience or patronage benefits. Coming from the Huang Fu-hsing system, Chinese nationalism is a core principal for Han. This makes him a different type of gangster. I am suggesting that the KMT might be interested in seeing how Han’s discourse plays out, but I suspect the PRC is also watching this very closely. If Han does well, they might be even more aggressive in sponsoring crime gangs in Taiwan politics.

 

I don’t know if Han’s message will work. I suspect it will not. If it doesn’t, he doesn’t have the deep organizational networks to overcome the lack of a compelling message. It’s entirely possible that more conventional KMT city council candidates will panic and encourage a more standard politician to run an independent mayoral campaign, worrying that their voters will not want to turn out to vote for a mayoral candidate like Han. However, if Han somehow manages to break into the low 40s, KMT presidential and legislative candidates (in green districts) in 2020 might decide to copy his populist approach. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

(Would it have been wrong to title this post “Han Solo” just for the extra clicks?)

DPP divorces Ko

May 17, 2018

I’ve been too busy to blog much. I’m way overscheduled for most of the rest of the year, so this probably won’t be a great year for Frozen Garlic. Sorry. I’ve been thinking about this post for about two weeks, and, unlike most of the things I think about these days, I finally found some time to sit down and bang it out.

 

The DPP has finally made a decision about the Taipei mayoral race. It will not cooperate with Ko Wen-je this time and will instead nominate its own candidate. This decision to split with Ko has been building for a long time.

Four years ago, the DPP was desperate to win what seemed an impossible race in Taipei. They didn’t have a strong candidate of their own, and they (and their new young allies from the Sunflower Movement) absolutely detested the KMT nominee, Sean Lien. Ko Wen-je emerged seemingly from nowhere as a viable candidate who was generally sympathetic to DPP ideals, and yet he was different enough to pull a few votes from the KMT base. The DPP yielded to him, and he eventually won with a seemingly unfathomable 57% of the votes. Ko was lauded in the media as an electoral juggernaut, but let’s not forget that he was running against a terrible KMT candidate. Ko was probably never as popular as he was made out to be. As mayor, Ko governed as an independent. He appointed people from both sides to his mini-cabinet, and he pointedly mostly stayed home during the 2016 election. He did not go out of his way to reinforce ties with the DPP.

That would have been fine. Mayors are not really expected by the national parties to do specific things. As long as they are competent and don’t get into any major scandals, the parties are pretty much ok with anything else. The decisions to pay down Taipei debt, stop the Taipei Dome project, tear down lots of overpasses, and not build very much are not at issue.

What really damaged Ko was his trip to China when he famously uttered that people on both sides all belong to the same family 兩岸一家親. With that statement, he crossed a line for many DPP supporters. Ko later “explained” that he worried about the possibility that China would cause problems for the upcoming University Games, so he was willing to say whatever was necessary to “get through it” 過關. China is famous for asking Taiwanese to go one step further, and Ko is not the first person to fall into this trap. Eric Chu did the same thing right after taking office as KMT chair in early 2015. Ko, like Chu, was guilty of thinking that he was simply playing word games, and that he could be cleverer than everyone else. The problem is that you can’t win that game. You can’t say one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience. On this topic, everyone is always watching, and everyone sees and hears everything you do and say. Moreover, everyone understands the little nuances of the words, and when there is ambiguity, unfortunately China’s superior international presence and influence allows it to clarify the ambiguity as it sees fit for the rest of the world. Ko might have thought he was cleverly walking a thin line without falling over by plausibly meaning that the two sides are distant relatives from the same family, thus implying no need for unification. However, it could also mean that the two sides are close family. Ko might have satisfied China (which certainly chose to hear the latter interpretation), but DPP supporters back home also heard Ko’s ambiguity and wondered why they had put him in office.

There is only one way to play the word games with China, and that is not to play them. You have to carefully settle on a formula that says exactly what you want to say and then stick doggedly to that formula. You simply cannot “go a little further” in order to make a few PRC officials at a banquet happier; any deviations from the formula have to be carefully planned and vetted. Cleverness is not an advantage; you have to stick to the script. Ko may think he is the smartest person in the room, but that lack of humility is exactly why he messed up.

Let’s also be cynical about Ko’s motives. He probably wasn’t just worried about the University Games. After freezing out the Tsai government and with the impotence of the KMT, the PRC was actively looking for a new partner in Taiwan. Ko was exploring whether he might fit into that role. His ambiguous statement about the nature of Taiwan was a message to China that he might be someone they could work with if they wanted to bypass Tsai. Likewise, China’s appeal for him to go a little further was a probe to see if he might be their conduit. In this sense, Ko was not merely building amiable ties between the Taipei and Shanghai city governments; he was actively undermining the Tsai government’s ability to demand that the PRC deal with Taiwan’s national government.

 

At the beginning of this year, the DPP still had not decided whether to cooperate with Ko again. From the outside, it certainly looks to me as if President Tsai was the strongest voice in favor of cooperation. In January, she lobbed a softball to Ko, publicly asking him to “reassure” everyone that he shared “Taiwan values”. All Ko had to do was state in some vague way that he believed the 23 million people of Taiwan had the right to determine their own future, that Taiwanese are close family and China is distant family, that he subscribed to Tsai’s formula of respecting the ROC constitution, or something of that nature. Instead, he publicly wondered what Tsai meant by “Taiwan values.” This was not the answer Tsai and the DPP were looking for.

DPP legislator Yao Wen-chih 姚文智 wants to run for mayor, so he has been leading the calls for the DPP to nominate its own candidate. He has held several demonstrations, each one seemingly larger than the previous one. Notably, almost all of the DPP city council candidates have joined him. They have developed two powerful (and plausible) rationales for nominating their own candidate. First, city councilors fear that, because DPP loyalists are so disgusted with Ko’s China discourse, they will not come out to vote. They argue they need a strong mayoral candidate to drive up turnout so that they can also win their races. One might doubt this argument, but the DPP city council candidates have almost all voted with their feet. They have almost unanimously gone on record against Ko. Second, they have argued that Ko is going to run for the presidency in 2020, whether or not they cooperate with him in the mayoral race. According to this reasoning, it is better to split with him now rather than build him up even stronger. Amazingly, as this consensus within the DPP built and built over the past four months, Ko did almost nothing. It was as if he was oblivious to what was happening. A couple weeks ago, the DPP national party made one last effort, suggesting that internal polls showed that DPP supporters were split on whether to support Ko. However, while casual DPP supporters may still be amenable to Ko, the loyalists are not. Over the last few weeks, faction after faction has come out in favor of nominating their own candidate.

Ko did finally seem to awaken last week, he belatedly made an “apology” for his statement in China. However, he did not disavow the statement that both sides belong to one family. Rather, he said that he was sorry if anyone had been upset by his statement. You know, “Sorry, not sorry.” Then he made his excuse about just trying to successfully hold the University Games and claimed he had said things in the moment without really thinking about them. To me, it was a fairly pathetic show. Ko’s apology probably made people angrier. Moreover, he was suggesting he a) thought holding some stupid games were more important than cross-straits relations, and b) was basically incompetent at diplomacy. Also, he finally announced that he would support Tsai in her 2020 re-election bid for the presidency. This might have had some impact if he had said it in January, but now it is far too late. After several months of distancing himself from the DPP, his denial of presidential ambitions at the moment the DPP was making a final decision on whether to nominate its own mayoral candidate rang a bit hollow. It is certainly plausible to look at events and conclude that Ko was keeping his options open and might eventually turn on the DPP.

 

Aside: This whole process is a case study in President Tsai’s leadership style. Tsai believes strongly in consensus. She has her own preferences, but she does not generally try to impose them on the rest of the party. Instead, she prefers to slowly let a consensus build, and then she will lead the party in that consensus position. We have seen this on pensions and marriage equality, and now the same thing is playing out with the mayoral nomination. If Ko was counting on her to insist that the party yield, he hasn’t been paying much attention.

 

I’d like to think briefly about an article written by DPP city councilor Liang Wen-chieh 梁文傑. Liang argues that Ko won in 2014 because voters despised Lien’s actions as a comprador, but that Ko in office has followed exactly that path. As with all good political attacks, this takes events and stretches them a bit. I don’t think Ko’s feelers toward China constitute Lien-level comprador activities, but he was plausibly taking the first steps in that direction. The significance of this article isn’t so much that it is incisive analysis; rather, this is more important as a blueprint for how the DPP will attack Ko over then next few months (or years, if he runs for president). They will pain him as a political speculator ready to sell out Taiwan’s interests for the sake of his own political career. It looks like a pretty good line of attack to me.

 

I’ve consistently underestimated Ko Wen-je over the past five years. I may be doing so again, but this looks like the beginning of the end for him to me. I expect the DPP to start attacking him, and these attacks will take their toll on his popularity. Right now the DPP is in third place in the race, but if they can knock Ko down to third place, strategic voting will eviscerate him. Right now, my guess is that he will end up between 10% and 15%, far behind the KMT and DPP candidates.

I can still see a second act for Ko if he, in fact, does hold presidential ambitions. I’ve been saying almost since he was elected that there is a political vacuum waiting for him to step into. James Soong is old and ripe to be replaced. With the DPP now repudiating Ko, it is certainly plausible that he will slide over into that space in the political spectrum, perhaps taking over the PFP or perhaps leading a new force centered on current PFP supporters. If the KMT does not figure out how to revitalize itself, Ko could eventually displace the KMT as the main political force opposing the DPP. We are a long way from that happening, but it is a bit more plausible today than it was at the beginning of the year. If it does happen, we might look back on the One Family discourse as a foundational strategic move launching Ko into national politics rather than as a monumental blunder that cost him the mayorship.

 

 

On polling primaries

March 8, 2018

The KMT and DPP have now finished their first round of polling primaries. It seems to me that the polling primary might not be around very much longer. But before I get to that, let me start this post with some quick comments about the DPP results of the past couple days.

We have been headed for factional wars in Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Chiayi for a few years now, but it turned out that the full-blown battle only materialized in Chiayi. Chen Ming-wen’s 陳明文 side has won that battle, so he and his friends will control the county government for the next four years. This will make a full two decades in power for him since he switched sides in 2002. To recap, during the 1990s Chiayi County was reliably KMT, with the DPP never really coming close to victory. Even in the 1997 DPP tidal wave, Chiayi stayed blue. Chen himself was the second most important politician in the Lin Faction, which was clearly the second faction in the KMT. The dominant Huang faction won the intra-party struggles, and then the KMT won the inter-party struggles. Two things changed this. First, the dominant Lin faction politician, legislator Tseng Chen-nung 曾振農 (famed as king of rattan chairs涼椅王), faded away. I can’t remember clearly, but I think he had some legal and financial problems and eventually went to exile in Cambodia where he died in the early 2000s. Chen Ming-wen thus assumed leadership of the faction. Second, Chen read the changing political environment, and showing considerable political skill convinced nearly his entire to switch sides. Inside the DPP, Chen’s faction was the dominant force, and the newly strengthened DPP easily beat the KMT. Chen served as county magistrate for two terms and then turned the county over to his ally (and Tseng Chen-nung’s widow) Helen Chang 張花冠. During her two terms she apparently decided to try to take over leadership of the faction, and so here we are today. The Chen and Chang factions went head to head in the primary, and Chen’s candidate Weng Chang-liang 翁章梁 won a narrow but clear victory 43-35. I really only know three things about Weng: 1) He is in Chen’s faction, 2) He comes from the Wild Lily student movement, and 3) He has three surnames 翁、章、梁.

The Kaohsiung primary momentarily turned nasty about a month ago, when mayor Chen Chu 陳菊 released her book and rehashed some of the unpleasantness of her 2006 campaign. It turned out to be a terrible strategy, and her favored candidate Liu Shi-fang 劉世芳 ended up withdrawing from the race. This left the field wide open for Chen Chi-mai 陳其邁, who was probably always going to win anyway. However, without Liu (and with mayor Chen staying neutral), Chen Chi-mai lapped the field, getting more support than the other three candidates combined. This large win makes it highly unlikely that anyone from the green side will challenge him in the general election. Unless something really strange happens, Chen is a shoe-in to win in Octobler.

Chen Chi-mai’s smashing victory in the Kaoshiung primary is important for another reason. Chen has a good head on his shoulders and plenty of ambition. He probably slots into third place in the future DPP presidential candidate sweepstakes, just behind Premier William Lai 賴清德 and Taichung mayor Lin Chia-lung 林佳龍. I think he jumps ahead of other contestants, such as VP Chen Chien-jen 陳建仁, Taoyuan mayor Cheng Wen-tsan 鄭文燦, Chen Chu, and people not currently in the DPP such as Huang Kuo-chang 黃國昌 and Ko Wen-je 柯文哲. I have a very high opinion of Chen Chi-mai, and I expect his national profile to soar over the next few years.

The contest in Tainan was also a blowout, with Huang Wei-che 黃偉哲 clearly beating Chen Ting-fei 陳亭妃 and the rest of the field. Tainan can be a launching pad to the presidency (see Lai, William), but I don’t have such a high opinion of Huang. Thus far in his career, he has been better at going on talk shows than actually doing politics. But there is absolutely no chance that the KMT will win Tainan, so Huang will get a chance to prove himself and make me eat my words.

 

I don’t really want to write about the specific races. I want to write about the future of the polling primary. I think this institution might be on its last legs.

Nominations are always challenging. Parties want to nominate a (1) candidate who will win the race and is (2) ideologically consistent with the party’s mainstream values. They further want to do this in some sort of process that (3) gives the party some degree of control over who they nominate, and (4) convinces the other aspirants not to challenge the decision in the general election. These various goals usually conflict with each other. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when elections were becoming more and more competitive, both parties struggled with nominations. The KMT tried decentralizing its process, but it ended up with candidates the party leaders didn’t like. It also found that candidates who were highly rated by the local party office weren’t always great candidates, such as the 1989 Taipei County magistrate debacle in which all the local factions rebelled against the bookish and clueless Lee Hsi-kun 李錫錕. (Somehow, Lee has re-emerged after all these years to launch an internet-fueled campaign for Taipei mayor. The world is weird.)

The early KMT “primaries” were generally advisory and non-binding. The DPP tried holding binding votes among party members. This resulted in widespread accusations of mindless factional vote trading, cultivating phantom party members, and outright vote-buying. When the DPP tried giving more weight to elite party members’ preferences, the factionalism only intensified.

This clearly didn’t work. The DPP tried moving toward an American-style public primary in the 1996 presidential nomination. However, in the USA, the primary elections are run by the state. The Taiwan government was not interested in helping the DPP run its primary election. Instead, the DPP launched a touring roadshow. They set up a stage, just like a political rally, and the two finalists debated each other (saying the same things every night). After (ok, during) the debate, the audience could go to the side tent and vote by casting a special commemorative coin into a custom-made vending machine. It was a disaster. The machines broke repeatedly, there were rumors of repeat voters and other forms of cheating, turnout was much lower than the DPP had hoped for, and the DPP fundamentalists ended up nominating Peng Ming-min 彭明敏, one of the worst candidates in Taiwan’s electoral history. (He could barely be bothered with unimportant things like, you know, policy.) The DPP was never going to win in 1996, but it was clear that in a more winnable race this nomination process might torpedo their chances.

Telephone polls were the answer. At first, parties used a mixture of party member voting and telephone polls. However, the polls were seen as a more authentic gauge of support in the electorate. A candidate who lost the party vote but won the telephone poll was not going to withdraw in favor of a candidate who had won the party vote but lost the telephone poll. Moreover, as long as there was some component of party voting, there was a danger of vote buying. The death knell for party voting came prior to the 2008 election, when the electoral law was revised extending the penalties for vote buying to primary elections. The parties (especially the DPP) were terrified that their nominees would be indicted for vote buying BEFORE the election. Since 2008, the parties have resolved all of their nomination disputes by polling primaries. They don’t always need the polling primary; sometimes they can negotiate a nominee acceptable to everyone. However, the polling primary is always the default final solution.

Telephone polls were particularly useful because they convinced losers to accept losing. When they work properly, polls give each candidate a fair chance to demonstrate their support. It is hard to argue that you are actually the more deserving nominee when a telephone poll with a representative sample says the opposite. Polls are also hard to manipulate, especially in comparison to other alternatives such as voting by party members. Because each resident with a telephone is potentially a polling respondent, it is inefficient to buy votes or intimidate voters.

To top it off, polling is pretty cheap, so parties can easily afford to hire multiple companies and do large samples.

So what is the problem? I think that polls are losing their authoritativeness. For one thing, there are rumors that innovative politicians are finally learning how to manipulate polls. We hear again and again that politicians are buying thousands of telephone lines to increase the chances that pollsters will call them. I have doubts about this. Wouldn’t Chunghua Telecom notice a person registering 1000 new numbers at one address and flag that transaction? Who would staff all those telephones? Besides, you need a lot more than a thousand extra numbers to move the needle in, for example, Kaoshiung, which has over 2 million residents. Nonetheless, rumors of manipulation are an important ingredient.

The second ingredient is real. There is a growing crisis in polling caused by the rise of mobile phones. For decades, pollsters have assumed that a representative sample of household landlines was effectively a representative sample of the entire population. Every house had a phone, so a sample of phone numbers covered everyone. This was never actually true, but it was close enough. No longer. Now we don’t quite know how construct a representative sample. It is clear that you cannot rely simply on landlines. However, there is no theoretically rigorous algorithm to combine landlines, cell phones, and internet surveys. That 3% margin of error (which is calculated solely by sample size) you see reported in every newspaper story was always something of a lie, because a sample of landlines was never actually a true random sample. Now it is even more meaningless.

Note that I did not say that pollsters are intentionally manipulating the results. Professional pollsters don’t do that, especially for something like a party primary. The protocols are set up to allow observers from each candidate to make sure that no manipulation occurs during the interview process.

Many candidates don’t know what they are looking at; the speakers of the Keelung and Chiayi councils are not exactly members of the numerati. They might really think they have somehow been cheated because, for instance, the polling company refused to call the list of telephone numbers they brought in. Other candidates, such as Chou Hsi-wei 周錫偉 in New Taipei, probably do understand the basics of polling but cynically proclaim doubts that the results were manipulated to explain away their losses. The problem is that when these sorts of accusations are made (as they always are), the experts no longer fight back with a unified front. We no longer have absolute confidence in our own results. Rather than a solid wall of rejection from the experts, the complainers now have little cracks to exploit. Polls simply don’t have the authority that they did ten or twenty years ago.

Without this aura of authority, polling primaries will probably start to fail at one of their most basic tasks: convincing losers to accept defeat. That means that parties will need a new mechanism. I suspect the next thing they will try might be an American-style publicly run primary election. However, that will require significant legal changes, so it is still some distance in the future.

Wayne says no

January 21, 2018

Wayne Chiang 蔣萬安 has announced that he will not run for Taipei mayor. You might think that it would be no big deal for a person who has been in politics for all of two years and has never publicly declared his intention to run to clarify that he is, in fact, not running. You would be wrong. To give you an idea of how important some people see this, here is the front page of today’s China Times.

Wayne Chiang is, as all you fine readers are doubtless already aware, the son of former Foreign Minister John Chiang, grandson of former president Chiang Ching-kuo, and great-grandson of the generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. There are family politicians, and then there are political royalty. So when Wayne* announced he was entering the political world in 2015, he was immediately a media star. It’s not just that he is young and reasonably good looking, moderately charismatic, and a scion of the imperial household, it’s also that he is all of those things at a time when the KMT is facing an acute shortage of leaders. One of the most devastating legacies of the Ma presidency is that Ma did not cultivate a large cohort of potential successors. They have old warhorses like Wu Den-yi, politically damaged figures like Eric Chu, Hau Lung-pin, and Yi-huah Chiang, and not much else. They are desperate for a savior, and many people have projected all their hopes and dreams on Wayne. He’s the Lion King; his name is Wayne, but lots of people look at him and see Simba.

[*I would normally refer to Wayne Chiang by his last name. However, in order to avoid confusion with the other members of his family, I’m going to call him “Wayne.” This is purely for clarity and is not meant as a sign of either disrespect or familiarity.]

I’m in the early stages of a project on family politics, and I’m still working out how to think normatively about politicians who inherit their power bases. On the one hand, family politicians still have to win elections. The voters have to confer power on them through a democratic process. It would be strange to disqualify a group of citizens from democratic politics simply because their parents held power. On the other hand, the children of politicians are far more likely than other citizens to become elected politicians in their own right. This is true of every profession, but the advantage in politics is greater than in almost every other profession. To quote Dal Bo, Dal Bo, and Snyder, “power begets power.” In a democracy, the notion of hereditary political power is disconcerting. (This is especially true in the modern world, in which Picketty reminds us that the returns to capital are returning to historical norms so that people who have money are the people best positioned to continue to have money. If democratic politics also perpetuates wealth and power and cannot counterbalance the concentration of wealth, what hope do we normal people have for an equitable or just society?) I think it is safe to say that most people’s actual behavior suggests that the former discourse is the dominant one. People might occasionally complain about politicians from political families, but voters generally seem quite happy to vote for them. It certainly doesn’t seem that family politicians pay any electoral penalty (though I haven’t produced any systematic evidence on that yet).

Wayne is a fairly popular politician who seems to enjoy the benefits of coming from a prominent family without paying much penalty for that advantage. He won his seat almost entirely on the strength of his family name. That is, if he had merely been a 37 year old American-educated lawyer, he would not have been able to defeat the KMT incumbent legislator in the party primary. In campaign events, he made sure to remind voters of his heritage, even though everyone was already quite aware of it. If you only know one thing about him, it’s going to be his family pedigree. The hardcore KMT supporters see him and think of the glory days of the ROC, when the prestige of the Chiang dynasty was unchallenged. What’s more interesting and a bit surprising to me is the extent to which the rest of the electorate does not seem to hold that past against him. It isn’t as though he has renounced or questioned his family’s record (even to the extent that some other members of the fourth Chiang generation have). He has shown zero signs of anything other than fully embracing the Chiang legacy, but somehow he hasn’t been painted as a reactionary, extremist, or ultra-nationalist. Quite the contrary, his support of marriage equality and his opposition to parts of the DPP’s revisions of the Labor Standards Law have allowed him to present himself as forward-looking and progressive. Small wonder that many in the KMT wanted him to run for mayor!

If Wayne did run, I think he would have a reasonably good chance of winning. In the 2016 election, Taipei was almost a tossup between the blue and green camps. Before that, however, Taipei reliably produced sizeable blue majority. None of us really know whether the 2014-2016 electoral lines were ephemeral or will prove durable, though most in the KMT seem to believe that 2018-2020 won’t be as bad as the 2014-2016 for them. If that’s the case, a KMT nominee should be favored to win back Taipei City. Longtime readers of this blog will know that I wasn’t that impressed with Ko Wen-je in the 2014 election. I still think the 2014 result was more due to Sean Lien being a historically horrible candidate than to Ko Wen-je being a particularly good one. I don’t think Ko has done much in office to build an imposing political coalition. He has alienated a lot of DPP supporters who voted for him last time. He has not been terrible, but I suspect that his support is much more fragile than it appears at first glance. Wayne might have a 50-50 shot (or slightly better) in a one-on-one race with Ko. If the DPP ran its own candidate, Wayne would become a clear favorite.

If Wayne is the KMT’s best candidate and he has a reasonably good chance to win, why isn’t he running? There are two good reasons. First, he probably realizes that he is still a political novice and isn’t ready to step onto the big stage. My first instinct was that he should wait another four years to get a more solid political foundation before making his move. However, the more I thought about it, the less I believed that. Opportunities are precious, and you have to seize them when you have them. Inexperienced people can and do learn on the fly. It’s not as if people judge mayors harshly. Unlike the president or premier, mayors get the benefit of the doubt, and you have to do a pretty bad job as mayor to get bad press. Moreover, the upside is tremendous. The mayor of Taipei is almost automatically on the short list for the presidency. If Wayne steps up to the big stage at this early age, he will be a potential president for the next two or three decades. Wayne might already have a higher probability than anyone else in the KMT of winning the presidency at some point in the future; if he becomes the mayor, he will be far ahead of everyone else.

Second, and I suspect this is the real reason, Wayne might worry that he won’t be able to control his family and their cronies in the KMT. Keeping Dad at arm’s length is an underappreciated problem for all young dynastic politicians, and it might be especially acute in Wayne’s case. Wayne knows he is still a political novice, so he will have to rely heavily on other people’s expertise to run the city government. There will be lots of people eager to volunteer, and most of them will have their own agenda. Remember what Alex Tsai did after losing the mayoral primary in 2014? He jumped into Sean Lien’s campaign team and tried to hijack it with his own schemes (like privatizing and selling off the airport land). If he couldn’t be mayor himself, having an inept figurehead like Sean Lien to manipulate would be just fine. He would have happily monetized and sold off Taipei city property to his friends while letting Lien take all the blame. Of course, Sean Lien’s father may have intervened to prevent that, since he presumably had his own ideas about how to milk the cow. Wayne’s father is not as venal as Sean’s father, but there are plenty of people in the KMT who would love to put Wayne in office and serve as the shadow regent. Wayne needs time to build up his political foundations. He needs to learn how to exercise power, cultivate talented people loyal to him, and build up the capacity to fend off the hordes of eager leeches. In short, Wayne might win the election, but he could very well see his promising political career destroyed in a corruption scandal. If he runs for mayor in 2018, I think Wayne is at least as likely to spend 2025 or 2029 in jail as in the presidential office.

Perhaps you think I’m overestimating the potential for corruption. Consider Ko Wen-je’s record in office. No, I’m not suggesting Ko has been corrupt. Quite the opposite. Ko ran as a progressive, but I don’t think he has an especially progressive record. He hasn’t gotten involved in the debate on marriage equality (unlike Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu). He hasn’t done much for working conditions. He has built some public housing, but so has Eric Chu, who no one thinks is particularly progressive. He promised direct democracy, but his ivoting project really hasn’t gone anywhere. Putting aside his attempts at carving out an independent China policy, Ko has done two things. First, he has torn down lots of bridges and overpasses. Most politicians want to build things (to put their names on). Ko has done the opposite, tearing down lots of those unsightly and mostly unused things. The city streets now looks more open and spacious. The most spectacular example was the overpass in front of the north gate. Now that that ugly thing is gone, we have a restored view of the north gate. Ko’s demolition has reminded Taipei of its history and given it a new public symbol. Excellent! Second, Ko has paid off a lot of Taipei’s debt. Demolition is cheap, and he hasn’t launched any major spending projects. Most of the current MRT construction is out in New Taipei. Taipei’s revenue streams aren’t as egregiously high now as they were 20 or 30 years ago, but Taipei still takes in more than its fair share of revenue. Ko has taken the surplus and paid down the debt. Taipei’s debt has fallen from 160 billion to 100 billion in the last four years. Don’t expect future generations to thank Ko, because there is no chance that they will enjoy his frugality. The prime beneficiary will the next mayor, who will have as much money as he wants to launch spectacular new initiatives. Want to build a trophy building downtown? No problem. How about a dozen new exercise facilities? Fantastic. Will fifty new day-care centers help spur a higher birth rate? Give it a shot. Or perhaps you just want to line the pockets of your cronies with expensive and useless “cultural and creative” festivals. Bam! There is a golden goose sitting there just waiting to be plucked. A wise politician could use that to both make Taipei a better place and advance his or her career. A clumsy and greedy politician could end up jailed and disgraced. If Ko wins another term and continues to pay down the debt, that golden goose will still be waiting for a more mature Wayne (and a less energetic father four more years removed from power) to harvest.

 

One more thing. Let’s not assume that Wayne is definitely not running for mayor this year. I think he was probably sincere in announcing his intention not to run, but it might not be that easy. The rest of the KMT isn’t going to just give up their dream without a fight. We’ll almost certainly see a movement to draft him, especially if Ko continues to lead all other potential KMT candidates in the polls.

Twenty years ago, President Lee tried to neuter the KMT heartthrob, Ma Ying-jeou. Lee replaced Ma as Justice Minister and gave Ma a meaningless position as Minister Without Porfolio. After a few months, Ma resigned his cabinet position, famously asking “what am I fighting for” 為何而戰? Ma announced he was retiring from politics and took a full-time teaching job at the NCCU Department of Law. Supporters repeatedly implored Ma to run for Taipei mayor in 1998, as he seemed to be the only person with a chance to defeat the popular incumbent, Chen Shui-bian. Again and again, Ma refused. At one point, he answered in exasperation that he had said he wasn’t running a hundred times, and he had given the NCCU president his personal word that he wasn’t merely using the university as a launching pad for the next stage of his career. But under extreme pressure, Ma did eventually decide to run, and it was the right political decision. He beat Chen, positioned himself to eventually take over the KMT, won two terms as president, and was able to attempt to fundamentally alter Taiwan’s path. Don’t be surprised if Wayne hears a lot about his duty and unique opportunity for his party and country over the next few weeks and ultimately comes to the same decision as Ma did.

 

 

The recall aftermath, part 2

December 25, 2017

In my previous post, I noted that since there haven’t been many recalls, we don’t really know how to interpret the results. I suggested that, for the time being, I was using the working assumption that recall votes were very similar to normal party votes in a by-election, at least for the “yes” side.

Let me explain that a bit more. I am considering two basic mobilization stories. In one, the KMT and ambitious KMT politicians are the main actors. They appeal to their normal networks, so the pattern of yes votes should look basically like a KMT party vote. In the other story, the mobilization is done by social activists. The marriage traditionalists might have some allies in the KMT or in traditional KMT networks, but they also have their own connections. Equally importantly, even when they ally with the KMT, they can’t tap into all of the KMT strength. As a result, if this is the dominant group, the pattern of yes votes will look quite a bit different from an ordinary KMT vote.

When I wrote the previous post, I still only had the numbers for the seven administrative districts in New Taipei 12. To be honest, these numbers weren’t much more illuminating than the overall result. Seven subgroups isn’t a whole lot, and nearly two-thirds of the population is concentrated in one of those districts, Xizhi. However, just about the time I finished that post, the Central Election Commission released the precinct-level data. So now we can dig more carefully into the results and see if the yes votes do, in fact, look like they are simply a reflection of KMT mobilization.

Let’s start with those district-level results.

  yes eligible Yes% turnout
overall 48693 251191 0.191 0.278
Jinshan 2614 18072 0.143 0.235
Wanli 2707 18434 0.146 0.212
Xizhi 33907 157860 0.209 0.306
Pingxi 674 4362 0.159 0.221
Ruifang 5865 33333 0.177 0.239
Shuangxi 1535 8000 0.197 0.261
Gongliao 1391 11130 0.126 0.191

Turnout was much higher in Xizhi than everywhere else. This is reasonable. Xizhi is overwhelmingly urban; it is a lower-cost suburb of Taipei City. Most of the people with residences there actually live in Xizhi (and many commute to work in Taipei every day). Very few people have to make an effort to go home to vote since they are already home. In contrast, the rest of the district is mostly rural and relatively hard to get to. Many of the people with household registration in these places actually live somewhere else. For them, going back home to vote (in a relatively low-salience recall election) is more of a burden. Still, because of the difference in turnout, Xizhi has 63.6% of eligible voters but produced 69.6% of the yes votes.

In the above table, the column yes% is the number of yes votes divided by eligible voters (not valid votes). However, if we want to argue that recall votes are simply a matter of mobilizing previous party votes, we need to control for party support. I went back to the 2016 legislative election and looked at the votes for two candidates: KMT nominee Lee Ching-hua and Faith and Hope League nominee Chen Yung-shun. If you recall, the Faith and Hope League’s main issue was opposition to marriage equality and many of their leading figures had originally belonged to the KMT, so I think it is reasonable to group their 4892 votes together with the KMT’s 68318 to get our potential base of support. The following table shows the percentage of eligible voters won by these two candidates in 2016, the percentage of eligible voters who voted yes in 2017, and the ratio of these two numbers:

  李陳% Yes% ratio
Overall 0.291 0.191 0.654
Jinshan 0.261 0.143 0.547
Wanli 0.279 0.146 0.522
Xizhi 0.295 0.209 0.707
Pingxi 0.300 0.159 0.531
Ruifang 0.316 0.177 0.560
Shuangxi 0.288 0.197 0.682
Gongliao 0.234 0.126 0.540

Overall, the yes side mobilized 65.4% of the previous votes. It was higher in Xizhi (70.7%) and much lower (between 52-56%) nearly everywhere else. Shuangxi is the glaring exception. In Shuangxi, the yes side mobilized 68.2%, nearly matching Xizhi. What happened there? I don’t have any idea. However, I will note that this is not exactly consistent with a KMT mobilization led by ambitious city councilors. The two people most likely to benefit from a recall are the two KMT councilors from Xizhi. However, their district includes only Xizhi, Jinshan, and Wanli. If they were behind this, I would have expected Jinshan or Wanli to be the outlier, not Shuangxi. Whatever the story in Shuangxi is, it isn’t that one. This looks more like the social movement story, in which the marriage traditionalists have a particularly strong organization in Shuangxi.

Anyway, let’s turn to Xizhi. I’m going to focus on Xizhi and ignore the rest of the electoral districts for three reasons. First, Xizhi is much bigger than the other places. Because of its size, the fate of the recall was determined here, not in the outlying areas. Second, I’m going to use maps, and the teeny areas with dense populations in Xizhi would be nearly impossible to see on a map of the entire district. (Also, I’m lazy, and it is easier to use a single shapefile than to combine seven.) Third, I know Xizhi in much more detail than I know the other areas in New Taipei 12. Because I have so much more local knowledge about Xizhi, I can tell a much more informative story. I’m sure the rest of map is equally interesting, but I don’t have the skills to read it.

Xizhi map

Most towns have one main population center, but Xizhi has three distinct centers. The traditional downtown area is in the eastern part of the city along the three train stations. About half the population lives in this area, which is as similar in population density to Taipei City. The other two centers are on the western edge, and they are really lower-cost extensions of Taipei City. South of the river, about 10% of the population lives in an area that is an extension of Nangang. This area is geographically cut off from the rest of Xizhi. The main road in and out of this area is Academia Road in Taipei City. On the west side of the road, you have Academia Sinica and a few Nangang neighborhoods. There is a tiny river that runs about a block east of the road that forms the border between Nangang and Xizhi, so the eastern half of these neighborhoods around Academia Sinica is in Xizhi. North of the river, there is a bigger urban center that comprises about 25% of Xizhi’s population. This neighborhood is an extension of Taipei’s Neihu District. More specifically, it borders Eastern Neihu (Donghu 東湖). One small two-lane road is the main conduit between Donghu and downtown Xizhi. I’ve never driven this road during morning rush hour, but it’s already pretty miserable during the off-hours. Freeway #1 runs right through this area, but there is (infuriatingly) no easy access to it. Nonetheless, this area is significantly cheaper than Donghu, and the population has more than doubled over the past two decades. The three li on the eastern edge of this area 湖蓮里、湖光里、湖興里 are a bit different from the rest of the gritty neighborhoods north of the river. These three li are filled with gated communities and townhouses, so they are quite a bit wealthier than their adjacent areas.

Now that you have a firm grasp of Xizhi geography, let’s look at the election results. This map is NOT the raw data. It is the ratio from the last column of the above table. That is, it is looking at how many yes votes there were, controlling for how many votes the KMT and FH League won in 2016. If the yes side was actually a disguised party effort, then it should have simply mobilized about 70% of the KMT/FH vote in every li. If it was not, then we might see some variations. In fact, you can see at a glance that there is a distinct geographical pattern. The yes side turned out far more of the KMT/FH vote in the eastern (downtown) area than in the western (overflow suburbs) area. The gap is pretty large, about 10-15%. In the east, most li are in the high 70s; in the west, they are in the mid 60s. For whatever reason, the yes side turned out far more votes in the downtown Xizhi area than anywhere else.

recall 2017 xizhi yes_kf.png

[Quick aside. There are two conspicuously green li 義民里、禮門里 right downtown in the sea of red. These two lightly populated li are dominated by the traditional market street that runs behind the main road, though so is the very red li 仁德里 to their east. Turnout in these two li was not markedly lower than in adjacent li. However, a much higher percentage of voters cast a “no” ballot. In 禮門里, the no side actually beat the yes side 146-142. This was one of only six li in the entire New Taipei 12 district in which no beat yes. I don’t have any explanation for the high proportion of no votes in these two li, though I will note that Huang Kuo-chang has an office in one of them. Maybe his staff made the mistake of working too hard in the surrounding neighborhood and ignoring more distant areas.]

 

Does this lopsided map suggest that the yes vote was actually driven by a social organization and not the KMT? It certainly is consistent with that story. A new group with no previous experience has to try to mobilize voters wherever it can reach them. One obvious strategy is to go where the voters are. Downtown Xizhi has the most voters, and many of them commute to work on the train. Camping out at the train stations and haranguing commuters is an obvious strategy. It certainly is more appealing than trying to talk to people commuting to work in individual cars or buses on the western edge of town. It might also be that the yes side had more previous connections in downtown Xizhi. Perhaps many of their church members live there. If you are a brand-new organization, you play to your strengths. Parties are a bit different. Parties have a long-term orientation, and they have spent decades filling in the weak areas. Parties should have connections everywhere, not just in the city centers. My first impression on looking at this map was that it looks like the work of a hastily organized social movement, not the effort of an established party organization.

However, there is a bit more to the story. The two people who stand to benefit the most from Huang’s recall are the two KMT city councilors, Pai Pei-ju 白珮茹 and Liao Cheng-liang 廖正良. Perhaps we should look at them more closely.

First, let’s look at Pai Pei-ju’s vote share in the 2014 city council election. Her support is concentrated on the western edge of Xizhi, especially in the extension Donghu north of the river. Her pattern of support doesn’t look anything like the pattern of yes votes.

cc2014 Pai Pei ju.png

However, Liao is a different story. His support is on the east side, especially in downtown Xizhi. His map looks very similar to the yes vote. (The three more affluent li north of the river are the most notable outliers.)

cc2014 Liao Cheng liang.png

What does this suggest? To me, it looks like only part of the KMT mobilized to support the yes side. Pai Pei-ju may have sat on her hands, while Liao Cheng-liang went all out trying to recall Huang. The relative weakness of the yes side outside of Liao’s core suggests that most of the KMT machinery also held back. The social groups may have drummed up some support to augment Liao’s base (such as in the three affluent li), but this looks mostly like Liao was the driving force turning out higher numbers of voters in downtown Xizhi.

Some media report indicate that this may indeed be what happened. Liao is frequently mentioned in reports of the pre-recall campaign activities, while Pai rarely is. The KMT seems to have had an internal debate about how to approach the recall. While Hung Hsiu-chu was still chair, she apparently wanted to go all-in on the recall. However, Chair Wu Den-yi has been much more cautious about getting too involved. For one thing, marriage is a thorny topic that cuts across party lines, and the KMT grassroots workers seem to have been reluctant to get too involved. [Note: this doesn’t mean that a majority supports marriage equality. You can’t afford to offend a minority of your network, even if that minority is only a third or a fourth of the people. Neighborhood chiefs (lizhang) prefer to emphasize valence issues (things that everyone likes) such as local development, not divisive things like marriage equality.] For another, the KMT was unsure about how an unsuccessful recall campaign would be interpreted. Finally, I found this article which states explicitly that Pai has been sitting on her hands. Pai’s political base is in the farmers association. [Her father served a term in the legislature on the KMT party list as a representative of farmers associations.] While Liao presents himself to the public as an orthodox KMT member (all his ads cloak him in ROC symbols), Pai’s ads present her is much less overly partisan pink and light blue themes. To put it another way, Liao presents himself as a member of the Chinese KMT, while Pai presents herself more in the tradition of the Taiwanese KMT. I don’t know if that reflects their actual positions, but that is the vibe they send out. The article echoes this difference, suggesting that many of Pai’s allies in the farmers’ association are actually quite sympathetic to Huang, and that is why she was hesitant to dive in to the recall effort.

 

To put it more generally, I no longer believe the yes vote was simply two-thirds of the normal KMT vote. Instead, it was the result of differing efforts by various parts of the (diverse) KMT coalition, plus an outside social group. Some parts of the KMT went all out, while other parts held back. The national KMT leadership hesitatingly endorsed the recall, but it deliberately kept enough distance to decouple the result from any interpretations about the KMT’s or President Tsai’s current popularity.

If this interpretation is correct, the recall effort did not max out its potential. If President Tsai or Huang Kuo-chang had been somewhat less popular, the people who held back, like Pai Pei-ju, would have been much more likely to eagerly dive into the fray. Those 48,000 yes votes might have gone a lot higher. (Remember, 24.2% of eligible voters voted yes against Alex Tsai in 2015 in a district with a clear blue advantage, while only 19.1% did against Huang this time in a district with a much more even partisan balance.) In this recall, the yes side was 15,000 votes short of the threshold, and that is a large number. It’s doubtful that Pai Pei-ju has that many votes in her pocket ready to be mobilized. However, if she and all of the other KMT figures throughout NT12 had plunged in enthusiastically, they might have come close.

The lesson that many people will probably take from this recall is that it is hard to successfully recall a legislator. That’s too strong. This result shows that it is hard to recall a legislator who has performed reasonably well in a tossup district when there hasn’t been a clear national partisan swing since the previous election. In different circumstances, it looks to me like a recall might have quite a plausible chance of success.

The Recall: Is 48,693 a lot?

December 20, 2017

As readers of this blog likely already know, the recall vote for NPP legislator Huang Kuo-chang 黃國昌 was held last Saturday. The measure failed, and I keep reminding myself that the top-line result is important in and of itself. Because it failed, Huang probably won’t run for mayor (or if he does, he’ll drop out as soon as he extracts a few concessions from the DPP) and marriage equality won’t suddenly be recast as a toxic issue. Also, Huang will continue to be a legislator, which some people might see as kinda important.

Nevertheless, the top line result isn’t everything. 48,693 people cast votes to recall Huang, while 21,748 cast votes to oppose recalling him. I keep asking myself, are those numbers big or small? To be honest, I’m not really sure.

Maybe a good place to start is by examining the election night reactions. As the vote-counting wound down and the result became clear, the leader of the recall effort and Huang both gave interviews to the TV cameras. Huang spoke like he had been shocked and disappointed. He was contrite and promised to listen to the message that voters had sent. He did not act like a victor. However, Sun Chi-cheng 孫繼正, the leader of the recall effort, didn’t seem that much happier. His body language and mannerisms also struck me as coming from someone who was deeply disappointed with the result. He repeatedly pointed to the cold and rainy weather as an important factor in depressing turnout.* What was most interesting to me was that he never mentioned marriage in his remarks. From his voting night comments, you would have thought that the whole recall was an intellectual exercise in establishing the right of social movements to exercise oversight over elected officials. He made no attempt to claim a popular mandate against marriage equality, even though that was the driving force behind the recall effort. For that matter, Huang did not mention marriage either. To me, this omission suggests that both sides expected to do better and did not want to tarnish their cause by linking it with a poor election result. For what it’s worth, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je also cast shade on the results, implying that Huang had not done very well.

(* The fragile citizens in the rest of the country might be persuaded by the weather argument. As a next-door neighbor of New Taipei 12, I’m not so impressed. It rains all the time in this area. If people stayed indoors every time it rains here, no one would ever go to the market and we’d all starve.)

So the recall side probably expected more than 48,000 yes votes. I’m not sure if Huang and the NPP were more surprised by how many people cast yes votes or how few people cast no votes. It seems clear to me that they were disappointed with at least one of those numbers. Again, I have to ask, should they have been disappointed? Are 48,000 and 21,000 more or less than we should have expected?

One thing to remember is that the main actors in this recall might not have had realistic expectations about how easy or hard it is to produce votes. The NPP is a brand-new party, and unlike the previous three significant small parties (New Party, People First Party, and Taiwan Solidarity Union), the New Power Party is not a splinter party. It isn’t composed of several established politicians with years of electoral experience. NPP members have fought exactly one campaign. In 2016, they won a lot of party votes, but those didn’t really require a lot of grassroots organization and most voters were already turning out to vote for the president. The three district legislators who won, including Huang Kuo-chang, probably overestimated their own efforts (as most people do) and underestimated how much support they “borrowed” from the DPP. The recall election is arguably much more like the 2018 city council elections will be, in which the NPP has to mobilize voters to support it, not simply rely on an alliance with the DPP. The point is, the NPP has yet to contest one of those elections, and they might not yet realize how hard elections are. (Go back and check the optimistic expectations and dismal record of the NP, PFP, and TSU in local elections. Ick.) And if the NPP perhaps had unrealistic expectations, the recall organizers were probably even worse. The Stability Power Alliance 安定力量 is a social group with conservative Christian churches at its core. Its members have even less electoral experience than the NPP. Moreover, social movements always overestimate their support in society and think that their support can translate directly into votes. In short, both sides were disappointed, but I suspect both sides had somewhat unreasonable expectations. I have not made any headway at all in answering my question: Should I be impressed with 48,000 yes votes?

 

Let’s turn to the electoral record. Unfortunately, this was the first recall vote under the new rules, so there isn’t any recall election history to look to.

(There was a recall vote against Alex Tsai 蔡正元 in February 2015, but that that was under a different set of rules in a highly charged atmosphere and there was no chance that the recall would pass because it needed 50% turnout. I’ll come back to this recall below, but let’s just ignore that vote for the time being.)

I think the closest thing to this recall vote is a legislative by-election. By-elections typically get modest news coverage, as did this recall election. If you think of the partisan vote in a general election as full turnout, both sides typically have enough potential votes to win in a by-election. The problem is turning all those votes out. Even for professional politicians who have dedicated their careers to building connections in society, mobilization is hard. In these elections, rather than looking at the share of valid votes, it is perhaps more illuminating to look at the share major candidates get of the eligible voters. There have been nineteen by-elections since the 2008 election. I’m going to ignore the 2009 Nantou 1 by-election since that was held on the same day as the county magistrate general election and had a turnout of 66.3%, far out of line with the eighteen other by-elections. There are 37 major party candidates in the other eighteen by-elections. (In 2009 Miaoli 1, the DPP did not run a candidate and instead cooperated with the eventual winner, independent Kang Shi-ju 康世儒.) These 37 major party candidates won an average of 18.0% of eligible voters. I think that is a pretty good baseline for how much we might expect a competent partisan campaign to turn out.

By-election eligible KMT% DPP% turnout
2010 Taoyuan 3 233116 0.183 0.195 0.414
2010 Taoyuan 2 241609 0.153 0.222 0.384
2010 Hsinchu Cnty 358854 0.157 0.200 0.360
2015 Miaoli 2 231684 0.203 0.142 0.351
2009 Miaoli 1 253375 0.158 0.327
2010 Taichung 3 257460 0.201 0.246 0.451
2015 Changhua 4 259816 0.134 0.200 0.376
2015 Nantou 2 205390 0.188 0.170 0.371
2009 Nantou 1 (185818) (0.355) (0.287) (0.663)
2009 Yunlin 2 279854 0.105 0.265 0.456
2010 Chiayi 2 221816 0.122 0.259 0.384
2015 Pingtung 3 202129 0.102 0.213 0.324
2010 Taitung 119762 0.177 0.194 0.394
2010 Hualien 197426 0.199 0.168 0.416
2009 Taipei 6 241498 0.191 0.151 0.391
2015 Taichung 6 255203 0.129 0.177 0.308
2013 Taichung 2 275086 0.242 0.237 0.489
2011 Tainan 4 291588 0.105 0.168 0.276
2011 Kaohsiung 4 228805 0.102 0.235 0.340
Ave: 18 elections 0.158 0.202 0.378
Ave: 37 cands

0.180

The recall vote against Huang did a hair better than this baseline. The 48,693 yes votes represent 19.1% of all eligible voters in New Taipei 12. That is mildly impressive.

Of course, we now have to ask whether it is reasonable to compare a partisan election with a recall vote. The argument for doing so is that, while the social group was the public face of the recall, we might suspect that the actual muscle behind it was old-fashioned partisanship. There were two KMT city councilors salivating at the prospect of taking Huang’s place in the legislature, and KMT deputy chair Hau Lung-pin campaigned on behalf of the recall. I am reminded of a chat I had with a second-generation KMT politician back in the 1990s, who told me that his father told him to run his first campaign his own way, with lots of idealistic young people putting out lots of policy papers. Then, in the last week, Dad mobilized his own network, bought a ton of votes, and won the election the old-fashioned way. In a similar way, the Christian activists may have just been window dressing distracting us from the low-profile professionals who actually turned out the voters. If this is what happened, then this recall election is a big yawn. In a swing district like New Taipei 12, we should have expected the KMT pro-recall side to produce about 46,000 votes, and they did.

 

What about the 21,000 no votes? Is that a lot? Let’s remember that there was a lot less motivation to vote no than yes. Most observers expected the recall to fail because the yes side would not reach the 25% threshold, and that is what happened. The no votes did not really affect the outcome. Voting no was more of an expression of support for Huang than a mechanism to determine his fate. Lots of mild supporters may have decided to just sit this one out. Therefore, we shouldn’t really be surprised that there were fewer no votes than yes votes.

I suggested above that this recall vote may have just been a partisan vote in disguise. If that is correct, Huang was probably missing a lot of his 2016 coalition. Let’s not forget that Huang is a NPP member, not a DPP member. The NPP has been vocally and publicly drawing lines between itself and the DPP in recent weeks over the Labor Standards Law, and quite a few DPP politicians and supporters probably aren’t feeling as supportive of Huang and the NPP today as they were 22 months ago. One of the two DPP city councilors (Shen Fa-hui) asked his followers to vote no, but I have no idea if that plea was matched by active efforts. If Huang loses his seat, the two city councilors are first in line, and they will presumably want support from Huang’s sympathizers.

I don’t have a standard to judge the 21,000 no votes. I wouldn’t expect a regular by-election turnout for the no side, and Huang probably didn’t have a “full” partisan effort supporting him. Maybe in the future after a few more recall votes, we will be able to look back and see that this result was fantastic or dismal. Right now, I just don’t know.

 

I guess my tentative conclusion is that this election was … about normal??

 

Assuming that by-elections are at all useful in thinking about recalls, can we see any indicators that will tell us about future recalls?

This recall did not come close to passing. The yes side needed 25% of eligible voters, but it only got 19.1%. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future. Of the 37 major party candidates, two have actually broken the 25% barrier. Both were DPP candidates running in deep green districts (Chiayi County 2 and Yunlin 2), and both got over twice as many votes as their opponents. So if a candidate won a three-way race in the other side’s territory, that might be a prime candidate for a recall vote. There aren’t any really obvious examples right now, but in 2012 Chen Shui-bian’s son ran against the DPP incumbent in Kaohsiung 9 and threw the district to the KMT. Under the current law, that KMT legislator would have to worry about a recall.

There are several other candidates who came very close to 25%, including some in competitive races. In Taichung 2 in 2013, Yen Ching-piao’s son (who probably has a name) and the DPP candidate both broke 23%. In 2010 in Taichung 3 (now Taichung 7), both candidates broke 20%. 25% is hard, but it isn’t impossible, even in a competitive district. The more the district leans to one side or the other, the easier it becomes for the dominant side to recall a “mismatched” legislator.

Oh, and remember that recall against Alex Tsai in 2015? 76,737 people voted yes, accounting for 24.2% of eligible voters. Against that figure, the 19.1% voting to recall Huang doesn’t seem so impressive. I think the difference in the two results probably has more to do with the supercharged political atmosphere in early 2015 than the individual candidates, but Tsai is nonetheless one of the few legislators who I consider to be more controversial and disliked by the other side than Huang. Under the current rules, the recall would have needed 79,359 yes votes to pass. I’m fairly sure if they could have gotten the extra 3,000 votes if recall had been a realistic possibility. (In fact, the people who rewrote the recall law might have been thinking along these same exact lines.) However, that doesn’t mean that Tsai or Huang should have been recalled. Tsai was elected as a KMT legislator (with 111,260 votes) and did a lot of KMT things. The district was so furious with him that they … elected another KMT legislator in 2016. Would it really have been appropriate for 80,000 unhappy voters to overturn the decision of 111,260 voters? I don’t have any evidence, but I’m betting that almost all of the 76,359 people who voted to recall Tsai were among the 78,097 people who voted for the DPP candidate or the 39,593 people who voted for the PFP candidate in 2012. They couldn’t coordinate to support one candidate and defeat Tsai in 2012, and when they did cooperate in 2016 they still couldn’t defeat the KMT candidate. It might be easier to agree on who they didn’t want, but eventually the voters have to choose someone as a representative. The recall is seductive as an easy way to get a negative result (removing someone you don’t like), but it doesn’t solve the problem of producing a positive result (agreeing on someone to put in office).

The recall is clearly a mechanism with the potential to be used and abused. Even beyond the potential to remove a legislator, recall can severely damage an incumbent. They have to divert energy away from their normal activities to deal with the harassment, and the result will almost always look bad to most observers. In Huang’s case, the recall may have damaged him by focusing attention on his (supposed) neglect of constituency service, especially in the more outlying areas. It almost certainly makes his 2020 re-election campaign harder. Remember, the post-sunflower recall efforts targeted four legislators. All of them failed, but none of the four legislators was re-elected in 2016. I suspect Huang might be the fifth to survive a recall only to find that he sustained a severe wound.

 

Who is next? This depends on how the major parties react. As of now, all the recalls have been spearheaded by a social group, and the major parties have (quietly) lent background support. It might be necessary to have some idealistic social movement take the lead. If that is the case, they might not pick their targets so strategically. For example, if the social group’s members are mostly in Taipei, they might have to pick a Taipei legislator even if there is a better target in Chiayi. If the two major parties decide to weaponize the recall mechanism and go after each other’s weaker members, they should target based strictly on vulnerability. We’ll see how this unfolds. Right now, there aren’t a lot of obvious mismatches between the legislator and the district, so I’d expect the two big parties to stay in the shadows. Anyway, here are a few people that could be on a watch list.

 

  1. Taipei 5, Freddy Lim 林昶佐 (NPP). Freddy is far and away the most obvious target. There is already a social group ready to go, and they have already practiced once. Taipei 5 is not a particularly green district, though there is more support for gay marriage in Taipei City than in the rest of the country. Nonetheless, social conservatives will probably relish the idea of trying to recall a death metal rocker.
  2. Taichung 3, Hung Tzu-yung 洪慈傭 (NPP). Yep, the three NPP district legislators are the top three. Hung’s district is greener than the other two, so it is probably less fertile soil for a recall. However, there is almost certainly less support for gay marriage in Hung’s district than in Taipei City. If they go after Hung before Freddy, that will be a good indicator that the activists –not the partisan politicians – are setting the agenda.
  3. Taoyuan 6, Chao Cheng-yu 趙正宇 (IND). Chao is an independent cooperating with the DPP in a district that had always been heavily blue before 2016. Because he is an independent, attacking him wouldn’t send the same partisan message as attacking a DPP or NPP member. However, he looks more vulnerable to me than any DPP members.
  4. New Taipei 10, Chiang Yung-chang 江永昌 (DPP). Chiang won his seat by beating Chang Ching-chung, who (in)famously tried to ram the Services Trade Agreement through committee hearings and touched off the sunflower movement. Chang was severely damaged by the sunflower movement and the subsequent recall effort, so it isn’t yet apparent that Chiang won (as opposed to Chang being tossed out). Zhonghe District is traditionally a very blue area, so Chiang has to be considered as highly vulnerable.
  5. Hsinchu City, Ker Chien-ming 柯建銘 (DPP). The DPP floor leader won his 2016 election fairly convincingly, but Hsinchu City is historically blue territory. Moreover, the NPP and their supporters detest Ker. A recall against him would drive open the divisions between the DPP and NPP and perhaps create some opportunities for the KMT to exploit in the legislature.
  6. Hualien, Hsiao Bi-khim 蕭美琴 (DPP). Hsiao won her seat by beating a lackluster KMT incumbent in a district that voted for the KMT in the presidential race. I have no reason to think that she has done a bad job in office or is unpopular in her district, but there is an obvious partisan mismatch in Hualien.
  7. Changhua 1, Wang Hui-mei 王惠美 (KMT). If the DPP wants to fight back and attack the KMT, there aren’t a whole lot of obvious opportunities. Most of the vulnerable KMT legislators lost in 2016, so the remaining ones are generally in safe seats. Wang is one of the few KMT legislators in a green district. However, she is personally very popular, and it is highly unlikely that a recall effort would get very far. The logic here is harassment. Wang is running for county magistrate in 2018, and a recall effort might undercut that campaign by sapping some of her energy while also giving the impression that she is not a great legislator.
  8. Taichung 8, Chiang Chi-chen 江啟臣 (KMT). Basically the same logic as with Wang, except that Chiang is still contesting the mayoral nomination. Nonetheless, this is one of the greener districts in central Taiwan, so this is prime territory for an attack by the green side.
  9. Taichung 2, Yen Ching-piao’s son 顏清標之子 (KMT). Unlike nearly everyone else on this list, Yen consistently gets terrible ratings from the Citizen’s Congress Watch (as did his father before him). Add in the Yen family association with organized crime, and we finally have someone who might deserve to be recalled. However, Yen has deep local roots, the district is less green than Changhua 1 or Taichung 8, and I personally wouldn’t want to go around his district on a petition drive asking for signatures to recall him.
  10. Kaohsiung 1, Chiu Yi-ying 邱議瑩 (DPP). Chiu is emerging as the most strident DPP voice. When you need a hardline opinion embodying the DPP position or someone to storm the podium, Chiu is your woman. Of course, this recall wouldn’t have a chance in hell. Kaohsiung 1 is deep green territory, and Chiu’s antics probably play fairly well with her constituents. This would be a quixotic move, akin to the recall of Alex Tsai in 2015.

 

I hope everyone sees a few people on this list who they like. If you think it would be a democratic travesty if that person were recalled, I agree. Recalls should not be part of the normal process. They should be reserved for extraordinary cases in which a legislator has done something to lose support from the people who originally voted for him or her. A NPP/KMT/DPP legislator who does NPP/KMT/DPP things should not be recalled; s/he has not broken the contract with his/her original supporters. The best outcome would be to revise the recall law to increase the threshold. The current system makes recall too easy.

Huang Kuo-chang’s recall vote

November 18, 2017

The Central Election Commission has announced the date – December 16 – for the vote to recall New Power Party legislator Huang Kuo-chang 黃國昌, which gives me a convenient opportunity to rant about how stupid the new law is.

Recall that after the Sunflower movement, activists tried to recall several KMT legislators, including Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠, Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇, Alex Tsai 蔡正元, and Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池. All of these efforts failed, and activists believed that the requirements for recall were unreasonably stringent. (The effort may have had some effect. None of the targeted legislators won re-election in 2016.)

When the NPP entered the legislature, one of its first goals was to revise the election law to make recall easier. Strangely, neither of the two big parties put up much resistance, and the revision was passed last December. I’ll steal this table from a UDN article summarizing the main changes:

  Previous law New law
Initiate a petition 2% of eligible voters 1% of eligible voters
Signatory period 30 days 60 days
Advertising Prohibited Allowed
Signatory threshold 13% of eligible voters 10% of eligible voters
Voting day concurrent with other election? Not allowed Allowed
Turnout threshold 50% of eligible voters Abolished
Yes votes Yes > No Yes votes must exceed 25% of eligible voters;

Yes > No

Let’s focus on those last two rows, since they are the most important. Previously, 50% turnout was required to pass a recall. This made it nearly impossible to pass a recall. The legislator could simply advise supporters to ignore the vote and stay at home. That meant that the opposition had to supply 50% of all eligible voters. In normal conditions and in normal districts, this was nearly impossible.

Huang’s district, New Taipei 12, had 251,191 eligible voters in 2016. (It’s probably a few thousand more now since Xizhi is a fast-growing area, but for the sake of simplicity I will ignore that.) This means that to recall Huang under the old law, opponents would have had to mobilize 125,596 votes. In winning the seat, Huang had only gotten 80,508 votes. That was in a general election concurrent with a presidential election, featuring campaign that dominated news in Taiwan for several months. The recall would have to mobilize 50% more votes without the benefit of a general election atmosphere. Not gonna happen.

As I’ve stated before, I think that is exactly how it should be. It should be nearly impossible to overturn an election result. One of the main ideas behind fixed terms is that we don’t need to continually re-litigate elections. We have a general election period, and then the winners get some time to focus on governing. The next election comes along in only a few years, so the wait is not oppressive. There is no need to overturn an election result except in the most exceptionally egregious cases. As a general principle, recalls should be doomed to fail unless most of the people who originally voted for the winner turn against him or her. In most such cases, the legislator will resign unilaterally, and there will be no need for a recall. However, if the legislator has really lost the confidence of his or her original supporters and refuses to step down, a recall may be necessary. In this case, that high threshold might be manageable.

The new law makes recall far too easy. Instead of 125,596 yes votes, recall supporters only need half that number, 62,798. How low is that number? In the 2016, Huang’s main opponent Lee Ching-hwa 李慶華 got 68,318 votes. That was nowhere near enough votes to win the seat, but if every one of those voters supports the recall, they can remove Huang from his seat. Take note, in this scenario, not a single person who originally supported Huang has changed his or her mind. It is now easier to recall Huang than it was to elect him in the first place.

Of course, the previous paragraph is ignoring the difficulties of mobilizing 62,798 yes votes without the atmosphere of a general election. This threshold is still probably unreachable. However, it is low enough that I have some doubts. 63,000 is difficult, but by no means impossible.

This puts Huang Kuo-chang in a difficult position. He now has to decide whether to try to mobilize his supporters to defend his seat. Even if they can pass the 62,798 threshold, he could still keep his seat if he can mobilize his original 80,508 supporters to come out to the polls and vote no. However, mobilization is expensive and difficult. The burden should be on the side trying to recall the legislator, not on the incumbent legislator. They are the ones trying to overturn a previous election result.

In a vacuum, I’d simply advise Huang to ignore the anti-gay marriage groups behind the recall effort. It’s highly unlikely that they have enough penetration in society to mobilize 10,000 votes, much less 63,000. However, there are other politicians making strategic choices. In particular, there are four city councilors who would love to have Huang’s seat. For the two KMT city councilors, this is a golden opportunity. Huang removed the old KMT incumbent, so now they have a wide open seat staring at them if the recall passes. You can bet that they are mobilizing their networks trying to recall Huang. The two DPP city councilors have to be more careful, since many of their supporters also voted for Huang. However, I suspect they wouldn’t be heartbroken if the seat were to come open. The point is, there are a lot of well-connected people who have an interest in Huang’s recall. The anti-gay marriage activists don’t have to supply all 63,000 votes; self-interested politicians will supply a substantial number of yes votes. It’s still a longshot, but it isn’t impossible.

Huang Kuo-chang won over 50% in 2016. Imagine how the calculations would be different for a candidate who had won a three-way race. For example, Tsai Shih-ying 蔡適應 won the Keelung seat with only 41.5% of the vote. He got 78,707 votes, but 111,162 people voted for one of the three blue camp candidates. The threshold in a recall election would only be 74,736, so a successful recall would be quite likely even if no voters who originally supported them had changed their minds. Recall elections are supposed to be tools to remove legislators who have betrayed their electoral contract, not second chances for when one side can’t agree on a single candidate. However, if Huang’s recall succeeds, this is where we are headed. Every legislator elected on the other party’s turf with less than 50% had better start looking over their shoulder.

If there is any ironic justice in this episode, it is that Huang and the NPP brought this recall on themselves. They insisted on drastically revising a law that was working well. At least they are the first ones to face the consequences of their lousy choice. And if the recall does pass, it won’t just be Huang personally who suffers. The outcome will be widely interpreted as an indicator that the general public is not ready for marriage equality, and the NPP will have succeeded in kneecapping one of its most cherished goals. Good going, guys.

Hopefully after the recall vote, the parties will decide to revise the election law again to make recalls harder and end this stupidity. In the meantime, Huang deserves to sweat a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Taipei LY races revisited

May 11, 2017

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, but I actually have been mulling over a topic for a few months now. I want to write about the KMT chair election. Nope, just kidding. I want to write about the past rather than speculate about the future. I want to revisit the 2016 legislative elections. More specifically, I want to take another look at the DPP’s choice to cooperate with non-DPP candidates, especially in Taipei City. Did that strategy work well? Did DPP voters obediently vote for their party’s electoral ally? Did the non-DPP candidates bring in other voters that the DPP wouldn’t normally win? Should the DPP (or KMT) try this again in the future? I won’t provide definitive answers to any of these questions, but maybe we can unearth some suggestive evidence.

 

Caution: This section is about methodology. It is extremely boring. I suppose you could skip it, but I will judge you and think you are a bad person who probably believes all the fake news on the internet. If you can’t stand to read boring stuff, you aren’t educated. Also, what are you doing reading my blog.

Normally the way to attack this topic would be to look at individual-level vote choices from survey data. If we wanted to look at national-level vote choices, that is exactly what I would do. I’d go to the TEDS survey data and put together a table of how people voted in the presidential and district elections. Imagine if there were only two presidential candidates and two legislative candidates:

  LY: DPP LY: KMT
Prez: DPP p 1-p
Prez: KMT 1-q q

Of the people who voted for the DPP presidential candidate, some percentage p also voted for the DPP legislative candidate, while the rest (1-p) defected to the KMT legislative candidate. Similarly, q of the KMT presidential voters were loyal while 1-q defected. We have two fairly large post-election surveys from TEDS for the 2016 election (one face-to-face, one telephone), so we could put together fairly good estimates for p and q.

However, I’m interested in Taipei 4, where the DPP supported PFP city councilor Huang Shan-shan. I’m also interested in Taipei 8, where the DPP supported independent (and former KMT and New Party) city councilor Lee Ching-yuan. For any given legislative district, we only have about 50 or 60 respondents from the two surveys combined. That isn’t enough to produce even a really bad estimate. National surveys simply aren’t much help; we would need a dedicated post-election survey for each legislative district. Unfortunately, I don’t have such data, and I am not aware that any such surveys were ever conducted. We will have to look elsewhere for evidence.

Instead of surveys, I look to the aggregate election results. The CEC has provided electoral returns from each precinct. In 2016, Taiwan had 15,582 precincts, so the average legislative district had 200 to 300 data points. The problem is that these are aggregated data, not individual-level data. These reports do not tell us how individual voters voted, which is what we really want to know.

This problem, which is known as ecological inference, has a long and not very distinguished history in political science. W.S. Robinson identified the basic problem in 1950. Aggregate data from the American states showed that states with higher levels of foreign born residents also had higher levels of literacy. In other words, the ecological inference should be that foreign-born residents had higher levels of literacy than native-born residents. However, it was well known that the opposite was actually true. The ecological inference was not just off by a little; the basic relationship was backward! From this, social scientists have learned to beware of what is called the ecological fallacy: inferring individual-level relationships from aggregate data can go horribly wrong.

Nonetheless, there are many instances in which all we have to work with is aggregate data. About twenty years ago, two of political science’s leading methodologists, Gary King (Harvard) and Chris Achen (then at Michigan, now at Princeton) published books about this problem. King’s book made the bigger splash. King put together a software program that would take the aggregate data, run thousands of simulations, and provide estimates for p and q. Unfortunately, there were a few limitations. King’s method worked well in a 2×2 case, but much less well with 2×3 or larger tables. His program might be able to manage 3×3, but as the number of rows or columns increased, the program often simply couldn’t converge to a solution. Second, his program didn’t handle covariates well. Imagine you wanted to control for the percentage of Hakka voters. His program could usually handle one covariate. However, if you wanted to control for the percentages of Hakkas, university graduates, farmers, and people who had moved into the district within the past five years, the program was likely to crash. I tried using King’s program a few times in grad school and gave up in frustration. (Another problem: Chinese language fonts make the interface go bananas, so it is hard for me to navigate.) That was probably fortunate for me. Not a whole lot of articles using his method were ever published, and I suspect many were rejected by reviewers who couldn’t be sure that they weren’t still running up against the ecological fallacy. At any rate, I thought I’d download the program and try some models for this blog post, but his software won’t run on my computer. Apparently, Gary King hasn’t bothered to update his software since 2003, which I take as a pretty good indication that he doesn’t consider it to have been a smashing success. But don’t feel too sorry for him, he’s got lots of other triumphs. Recently he has made headlines analyzing government funded posts on Chinese social media.

Unlike King, Chris Achen didn’t make any grandiose claims to have definitively solved the ecological inference problem. Achen’s book, co-authored with W. Phillips Shively (Minnesota), explored the old warhorse of ecological inference, the ecological regression, which is what I will use in this blog post. If you’ve taken any basic social science methodology course, you have probably studied ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. If you have a dependent variable Y and two independent variables X1 and X2, the normal equation is:

Y=b0 + b1X1 + b2X2 + e, where e is an error term (that we will henceforth ignore).

The normal model has a constant, b0. However, in an ecological regression, there is no constant. Effectively, the regression line is forced to go through the origin. This makes the equation:

Y = b1X1 + b2X2

In the above table, Y is the DPP’s district LY vote share, X1 is the DPP’s presidential vote share, and X2 is the KMT’s presidential vote share. B1 is an estimate of p, the percentage of DPP presidential voters who remained loyal and voted for the DPP legislative candidate. B2 is an estimate of (1-q), the percentage of KMT presidential voters who defected to the DPP in the legislative race.

Easy! Except it isn’t. Theoretically, b1 and b2 should never be less than zero or greater than one. Unfortunately, that happens quite frequently. You get results saying that 107% of DPP presidential voters voted for the DPP legislative candidate, and negative 11% of KMT presidential voters defected to the DPP legislative candidate. That doesn’t make any sense at all.

Achen and Shively suggest putting a squared term in the model to get a slightly less biased estimate. Unfortunately, this also makes it harder to interpret. Since the benefit is small and I’m looking for something quick and dirty, I’m going to just live with biased estimates.

Fortunately, Achen and Shively do tell us something about how the estimates are biased. First, loyalty rates are overestimated and defection rates are underrated. Second, if one election is more polarized than the other, estimates will commonly exceed the 0-1 range. Third, if there is a uniform swing, every ecological regression will have at least one estimate outside the 0-1 range (Achen and Shively 1995, 85). Let’s not worry too much about the second and third points, which simply suggest that it is nearly impossible to avoid having some estimates outside the 0-1 range. Unlike surveys, getting more data will not necessarily result in a better estimate. However, the first point is very important to keep in mind. The results I show you will probably overestimate the prevalence of straight-ticket voting for the KMT and DPP. When you see an estimate for straight-ticket voting, you should mentally insert “at most” in front of that number.

Achen and Shively have not solved the problem of the ecological fallacy. Strictly speaking, ecological regressions should be seen as evidence of aggregate-level trends rather than individual-level trends. As in most empirical inquiries, the best way to avoid falling victim to an unwarranted inference is a thorough knowledge of the facts and a robust theory explaining how the pieces fit together. It is usually a mistake to think the facts can speak for themselves, and this is more true than normal in the case of ecological inference.

 

[Digression: I first met Chris Achen about 20 years ago, when he spent a few months as a visitor at the Election Study Center. In fact, I have a vague memory of him teaching me how to do an ecological regression to estimate the incidence of split ticket voting in the 1997 Chiayi City mayoral election and the concurrent LY by-election. Chris is a wonderfully sunny and generous person; we quickly dubbed him 阿陳 (A-Chen). He has regularly returned to Taiwan over the past two decades, and he has trained several prominent Taiwanese political scientists. You might be most familiar with Hsu Yung-ming, who is now a New Power Party legislator. He is also one of the driving forces behind The Taiwan Voter, which will be the authoritative work on voting behavior in Taiwan for the next generation and the go-to source for anyone wishing to understand identity politics. (It will be published by University of Michigan Press later this year and is co-edited by Chris Achen and T.Y. Wang.) Chris is an awesome dude; everyone loves Chris.]

 

To recap the methodology section: I’m using ecological regressions to infer individual-level voting decisions from aggregate level data. This risks falling afoul of the ecological fallacy, and no reputable academic journal would publish such dodgy research. Nonetheless, the results are quite suggestive, and I believe they have some value. Moreover, we have fairly strong suspicions of how votes might have been distributed; we will want to see evidence that the results are more or less “reasonable.” Finally, remember that these results will overestimate straight-ticket voting and underestimate defections. When two people split their tickets in opposite directions, in the aggregate data it looks like they have both voted straight-ticket. There is a lot more churning under the surface. Proceed with caution. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have spent all this time working on this post if I didn’t think I wasn’t learning anything.

 

Substantive Results:

For each legislative district, I attempted to learn how the district candidates’ votes were produced by trying to figure out how the party list vote and the presidential vote translated into the district votes. For each important district candidate, I thus ran two regressions. The cases were precinct-level vote percentages. (Indigenous voters do not vote in normal legislative districts, so I only used precincts in which the number of eligible voters in the district election was at least 90% of the eligible voters in the presidential election.) For both regressions, the dependent variable was the vote share of the district candidate. In the first model, the independent variables were the vote shares of the party lists. However, the nine smallest parties kept producing crazy results, so I lumped them all together. Sorry. Next time win more votes. In the second model, the independent variables were the vote shares of the three presidential candidates. As you will see, the results of the two models generally tended to be consistent with each other, which should provide a small measure of confidence in the results.

 

Taipei 1

Taipei 1 is a good place to start since it was the only district in Taipei in which a KMT candidate faced a DPP candidate. The presidential and party list votes showed that this formerly blue district had turned light green:

Tsai 55.3 DPP 42.5
Chu 34.8 TSU 2.1
Soong 9.9 NPP 6.2
    KMT 27.2
    PFP 5.1
    New 6.5
    MKT 2.1
    F&H 2.2
    G/S 3.2
    Nine 3.0

There were five total candidates, but two got negligible votes and the third candidate got just a hair over 5%. It was fairly close to a straight KMT-DPP contest.

丁守中 Ting KMT 82649 43.77%  
吳思瑤 Wu DPP 95951 50.81% *
黃清原 Huang 台灣獨立黨 379 0.20%  
王靜亞 Wang MKT 9480 5.02%  
吳忠錚 Wu 健保免費連線 348 0.18%  

The overall totals are fairly similar across the three elections. However, this will not necessarily imply massive straight-ticket voting. If there are variations from precinct to precinct, the ecological regressions might show significant split-ticket voting. This could result if a candidate has a geographical stronghold, has done large and effective amounts of constituency service, or has some other cross-party appeal.

So what do the ecological regressions tell us? I ran regressions for the top three candidates:

  DPP KMT MKT
DPP .985 .008 .008
TSU 1.050 .061 -.139
NPP .712 .102 .173
KMT -.085 1.071 .016
PFP .031 .713 .240
New .138 .928 -.063
MKT .015 -.107 1.074
F&H .023 .961 -.010
G/S .827 .147 -.003
Nine .327 .531 .116
.      
Tsai .949 .033 .016
Chu -.041 1.050 -.009
Soong -.026 .550 .446

These results show a fairly straightforward party to party fight. Of the voters who voted for the DPP list, 98.5% also voted for Wu Si-yao. Likewise, these results show that 107.1% of the people who voted for the KMT list voted for Ting Shou-chung. Technically speaking that isn’t possible, so we should probably state the results much more imprecisely: Almost all of the DPP and KMT list voters also voted for that party’s district candidate. Supporters of the two smaller parties in the green camp, the TSU and NPP, mostly followed suit, though the number is a bit lower for the NPP. On the blue side, New Party list voters mostly supported Ting. However, the fourth blue camp party, the MKT, had its own district candidate. The regression results show that MKT list voters overwhelmingly voted for the MKT district candidate. The PFP and MKT allied on the presidential ticket. However, in the district race, PFP voters mostly supported the KMT district candidate rather than the MKT candidate. Of the two non-aligned parties, the Green/SDP Alliance voters mostly opted for Wu, while the Faith & Hope League overwhelmingly supported Ting.

I was particularly heartened to see that latter result. F&H is led by conservative Christians whose main demand is to stop marriage equality. Ting Shou-chung has been one of the strongest voices against marriage equality. It makes perfect sense to see overwhelming F&H support for Ting, though the regression models, which know nothing of the fight over marriage equality, would not have been predisposed to produce this result. Ecological regressions CAN impart knowledge!

Looking at the district race from the presidential perspective, the story is roughly the same. Almost all Tsai voters supported Wu; almost all Chu voters opted for Ting; and Soong voters split roughly half and half between Ting and the MKT candidate.

Remember, these coefficients overestimate party loyalty, so there was probably a bit more split-ticket voting than these results suggest. Still, Taipei 1 was pretty darn straightforward. I couldn’t have asked for a better example to set the stage for the other seven Taipei districts.

 

Taipei 2

Taipei 2 is the DPP’s strongest district in Taipei, and it is the only one that the DPP won in 2012. This year, the KMT basically gave up on this district and did not nominate its own candidate. Instead, it nominated a New Party city councilor. Nominating a candidate from a more extreme party seems a somewhat dubious strategy to appeal to the median voter in a green-leaning district. For this post, an obvious question is whether KMT supporters and other more moderate blue camp supporters all lined up behind the New Party candidate.

Here are the presidential and party list results:

Tsai 61.6 DPP 48.6
Chu 28.7 TSU 2.6
Soong 9.7 NPP 6.3
    KMT 23.4
    PFP 5.5
    New 4.9
    MKT 1.4
    F&H 1.8
    G/S 2.7
    Nine 2.8

The district race had seven candidates, but the top two candidates took over 95% of the total votes:

王銘宗 Wang IND 1342 0.74%  
陳民乾 Chen 台灣獨立黨 865 0.47%  
吳俊德 Wu F&H 3550 1.96%  
林幸蓉 Lin 健保免費連線 1561 0.86%  
潘懷宗 Pan New 65967 36.42%  
姚文智 Yao DPP 107366 59.29% *
陳建斌 Chen 自由台灣黨 433 0.23%  

The ecological regressions:

  DPP New Faith
DPP 1.012 -.014 -.004
TSU 1.284 -.532 .067
NPP .681 .209 .045
KMT -.056 1.058 -.010
PFP .228 .512 .037
New -.062 1.033 .029
MKT .236 .328 .237
F&H .030 .510 .622
G/S .457 .574 .083
Nine .446 .551 -.044
.      
Tsai .979 .000 -.002
Chu -.094 1.055 .050
Soong .178 .629 .068

The regression coefficients for party lists are a little far out of the bounds, especially for some for some of the smaller parties. -53.2% of TSU voters supposedly voted for Pan Huai-tzong, and the coefficients for the three equations don’t add up to anything near one for the NPP, PFP, or MKT. Maybe we shouldn’t take these results too seriously. Instead, let’s look at the regression coefficients for the presidential race. With only a 3×3 table, these bottom coefficients place fewer demands on the data. The bottom set of coefficients show another fairly straightforward green-blue contest, in which both sides mostly stayed loyal. The major exception is with Soong voters, of whom 17.8% voted for Yao Wen-chih. So KMT supporters did not seem to defect, but a fair proportion of Soong voters did. I would be cautious about attributing this to an extremist New Party candidate, though. As we go through different districts in the country, you will see that coefficients for Soong voters vary significantly from district to district, and 17.8% is a bit high but not terribly extreme.

 

Taipei 3

Now we are getting to the messier and more interesting districts. In Taipei 3, Wayne Chiang Wan-an defeated the KMT incumbent Lo Shu-lei in the primary, thus avenging his father’s own defeat at Lo’s hands in the primary four years prior. The DPP made a mess of this district. It originally nominated city councilor Liang Wen-chieh, but the self-appointed moral authority Lin Yi-hsiung protested and Liang was forced to withdraw. For months, it was not clear who the main green camp candidate would be. The DPP finally agreed to throw its support behind Billy Pan, a physician running as an independent who styled himself as a second Ko Wen-je. (Ko, however, did not seem so interested in supporting Pan.) This was a contentious decision in the DPP. Pan was strongly supported by the Hsieh faction, but he had less support from the rest of the party. Many green camp voters were also attracted to Social Democrat Lee Yan-jung. However, she ran a lackluster campaign. Until the last few weeks, she seemed more interested in her ideals than in actually winning votes, leading her to do things such as print fewer leaflets (such nasty and unenvironmental waste!).

The district, which had previously been solidly (though not overwhelmingly) blue turned a light shade of green. Here are the presidential and party list results:

Tsai 52.1 DPP 39.7
Chu 37.5 TSU 2.1
Soong 10.4 NPP 6.0
    KMT 28.3
    PFP 5.7
    New 8.4
    MKT 1.2
    F&H 2.2
    G/S 3.5
    Nine 2.9

The district race had ten candidates, but only three mattered:

高士恩 Kao 大愛憲改聯盟 541 0.28%  
潘建志 Pan IND 73797 38.41%  
林新凱 Lin 台灣獨立黨 794 0.41%  
趙燕傑 Chao IND 352 0.18%  
邱正浩 Chiu 和平鴿聯盟黨 450 0.23%  
陳科引 Chen IND 1448 0.75%  
李晏榕 Lee G/S 23706 12.34%  
李成嶽 Lee 軍公教聯盟黨 721 0.37%  
黃麗香 Huang IND 607 0.31%  
蔣萬安 Chiang KMT 89673 46.68% *

Chiang Wan-an won the district, putting the KMT’s first family back into the political fray. However, he did not get a majority; the combined totals of Pan and Lee would have defeated Chiang. Was Chiang’s victory due to the green camp’s failure to concentrate its support on one candidate?

  IND KMT G/S
DPP .867 .000 .125
TSU 1.041 -.080 .002
NPP .466 .155 .360
KMT .097 .878 .010
PFP -.362 .915 .236
New -.061 1.214 -.089
MKT -.376 .570 .587
F&H -.004 .612 .386
G/S -.024 .264 .792
Nine -.212 .932 .019
.      
Tsai .783 .020 .181
Chu -.049 1.023 .044
Soong -.052 .702 .123

The ecological regressions suggest that green camp supporters were not enthralled with Pan. Only 87% of DPP list voters supported Pan. 87% may sounds high, but in normal districts this figure was generally close to 100%. 87% is actually a disaster. Pan’s support was even lower among NPP voters, who gave almost as much support to Lee as to Pan. This ambivalent green camp support for the designated DPP ally is also evident in the presidential candidate regressions, where only 78% of Tsai voters supported Pan. In short, Pan failed to consolidate the green camp vote.

But wait, there’s more. Pan was an independent. When Ko Wen-je ran for mayor, we heard endless arguments that blue camp voters might be able to defect to Ko because he was not a DPP member. Did Pan eat into the blue camp vote? Or was Chiang able to consolidate all the blue votes?

The evidence here is mixed. The top set of regressions have some numbers that suggest there may have been significant numbers of voters who crossed the normal boundaries. Chiang only has 88% of KMT list voters, while nearly 10% of them voted for Pan. However, the bottom set of ecological regressions seems to indicate that Pan got almost no support from Chu or Soong voters. My guess is that the bottom numbers are probably closer to the actual result.

Both sets of regressions indicate that the blue camp lost some votes to the Social Democratic candidate. In the party list regressions, Lee took 24% of the PFP votes and 59% of the MKT votes. In the presidential regressions, she won 12% of Soong’s votes.

Overall, it looks to me as though Lee took votes from both camps, but she took significantly more from the green side. In the alternate world in which the DPP nominated Liang Wen-chieh and he consolidated almost all of the green camp support, it would have been a much closer race. The Chiang family had better remember to send a Christmas card to Lin Yi-hsiung.

 

Taipei 4

Taipei 4 might be the most interesting race of all; the rest of this post was mostly a by-product of a crazy idea that maybe I could figure out what happened in Taipei 4. In past years, this district had been nearly hopeless for the DPP. Several DPP city councilors were eager to run, but the party leaders refused to nominate any of them. Instead, Tsai Ing-wen doggedly insisted on cooperating with PFP city councilor Huang Shan-shan. I will not delve into the various strategic angles of this decision at this time. For this post, we simply note that it was a bit controversial for the DPP to collaborate with a PFP stalwart, even as the PFP chair ran against Tsai in the presidential race. Many traditional DPP supporters were unhappy at being instructed to vote for Huang Shan-shan. Without a major “true green” candidate in the race, minor party candidates volunteered to fill the void. TSU, NPP, and Social Democrat candidates all picked up significant numbers of votes. The top two candidates finished within 2% of each other, so a minor shift from any of the three minor candidates to Huang would have delivered the seat to her. Of course, as a PFP candidate, Huang presumably tapped into pools of support that normal green candidates could never hope to win.

At the national level, in 2016 the district shifted from a deep blue district to a tossup district.

Tsai 51.3 DPP 38.0
Chu 37.3 TSU 1.8
Soong 11.5 NPP 6.8
    KMT 28.9
    PFP 6.2
    New 7.8
    MKT 1.5
    F&H 2.4
    G/S 3.3
    Nine 3.3

The district race was extremely fragmented, with five relevant candidates:

何偉 Ho IND 2497 1.16%  
陳尚志 Chen G/S 10278 4.78%  
黃珊珊 Huang PFP 85600 39.86%  
李岳峰 Lee 和平鴿聯盟黨 251 0.11%  
陳兆銘 Chen 台灣獨立黨 568 0.26%  
李彥秀 Lee KMT 89612 41.73% *
蕭亞譚 Hsiao TSU 13648 6.35%  
林少馳 Lin NPP 12246 5.70%  

Here are the ecological regressions:

  PFP KMT TSU NPP G/S
DPP .627 .121 .128 .077 .033
TSU -.080 .760 .270 -.074 .123
NPP .399 .081 .082 .228 .142
KMT -.124 1.106 -.021 .005 .043
PFP .721 .377 -.041 .009 -.056
New .736 .288 .010 -.008 -.048
MKT .048 .047 .187 .353 .134
F&H .750 .035 .202 -.131 .099
G/S 1.152 -.929 .134 .219 .397
Nine .339 .538 -.001 .082 .001
.          
Tsai .501 .200 .131 .091 .061
Chu .202 .739 .004 .007 .050
Soong .573 .359 -.048 .065 -.019

There is exactly one coefficient in this table that looks normal. 111% of KMT voters supported Lee Yen-hsiu. Ok, that isn’t quite logical, but the idea the almost all of the KMT party list voters also voted for the KMT district candidate is the most normal thing about this table. Lee didn’t get a lot of the other blue camp votes, though. Nearly three-fourths of PFP and New Party voters opted for Huang. On the other hand, Lee did get 12% of DPP list voters. In addition to that 12%, a further quarter of DPP list voters plumped for one of the three minor party candidates, leaving a mere 63% for Huang. A very, very large number of DPP voters were unwilling to support a PFP nominee, regardless of Tsai Ing-wen’s entreaties.

It’s important to note that there are a lot of really strange results on this table that are probably simply wrong. If we take the numbers literally, most TSU list voters supported the KMT candidate (even though there was a TSU candidate in the race); the models can’t figure out what happened with nearly half of the MKT voters; and negative 92% the Green/Social Democrat voters supported Lee Yen-hsiu. We are probably demanding too much of the data.

Nonetheless, the regressions from the presidential election largely echo those from the party list election. Tsai’s voters were fragmented in the legislative race, with half voting for Huang and the other half splitting their votes among the other four candidates. Three fourths of Chu’s voters supported Lee, but 20% opted for Huang. Among Soong voters, more supported Huang than Lee.

What can we conclude? The DPP strategy partly succeeded and partly failed. Their ally took quite a few blue votes. If Huang had been able to add all the green votes to her blue votes, she would have won. However, the green camp clearly did not unite behind Huang. Hordes of green voters could not stomach supporting a candidate from the other side of the political spectrum. Judged narrowly by the district election outcome, the DPP’s alliance strategy was a failure. Not only did it not win, it also angered and frustrated a large number of sympathizers.

 

Taipei 5

Taipei 5 was one of those districts that the DPP erroneously deemed as “difficult.” It had lost by a lot in 2008, and by a fair amount in 2012. Nonetheless, this was a district that the DPP could hope to compete in with a mildly favorable partisan swing. In the tidal wave of 2016, this district turned a clear green.

Tsai 53.4 DPP 41.3
Chu 36.3 TSU 2.2
Soong 10.4 NPP 5.9
    KMT 28.3
    PFP 5.7
    New 7.1
    MKT 1.4
    F&H 1.9
    G/S 2.8
    Nine 3.3

The district race was essentially a two man race, featuring two of the most different people imaginable. On the on hand, the KMT featured a long-term incumbent, Lin Yu-fang. Lin was straight-laced, professional, conservative, and a committed Chinese nationalist. Facing him was Freddy, the death-metal rocker. In a result that almost certainly still bewilders Lin Yu-fang, Freddy won:

林郁方 Lin KMT 76079 45.58%  
李家幸 Lee 台灣獨立黨 885 0.53%  
黃福卿 Huang IND 587 0.35%  
洪顯政 Hung 大愛憲改聯盟 478 0.28%  
龔偉綸 Kung IND 1710 1.02%  
林昶佐 Lim NPP 82650 49.52% *
尤瑞敏 You 樹黨 4506 2.69%  

How did Freddy win? Did the NPP open up some new constituency, or was it simply a DPP campaign clad in yellow? The ecological regressions:

  NPP KMT Tree
DPP .971 -.014 .018
TSU .845 .242 -.130
NPP .953 .048 .057
KMT -.038 1.021 .023
PFP .116 .765 .042
New -.043 1.037 .008
MKT -.261 .935 .163
F&H .308 .682 -.037
G/S .749 .046 .146
Nine .064 .611 .123
.      
Tsai .936 .019 .020
Chu -.056 1.030 .021
Soong .152 .699 .085

For the most part, this looks like a classic blue-green contest. Lin Yu-fang got almost all of the KMT, New Party, and MKT votes, while Freddy soaked up almost all of the DPP, TSU, and NPP votes. The only number that might be a bit surprising is the 11% of PFP voters who opted for Freddy. In doing this exercise, I’ve noticed again and again that there seems to be a minority of both NPP and PFP voters who will support the other one. During the campaign, I also remember social movement activists who seemed to differentiate between the PFP and the other blue parties. I suspect that there was a pool of voters that liked both the PFP and NPP (and perhaps also the Social Democrats). If so, it would make sense that this pool was prone to split its support among those parties.

 

Taipei 6

This is the forgotten race of Taipei. Taipei 6 has always been a deep-blue stronghold, and the DPP was fully justified in looking for an ally here. They opted to support Fan Yun, the well-known sociologist and activist. Unfortunately, she turned out to be an uninspired candidate. It turns out that elections and social movements are completely different animals.

Tsai 47.0 DPP 34.2
Chu 42.9 TSU 2.0
Soong 10.1 NPP 5.5
    KMT 30.3
    PFP 5.2
    New 11.1
    MKT 1.6
    F&H 2.9
    G/S 3.9
    Nine 3.2

This is the most highly educated district in Taiwan, and, perhaps not coincidentally, it always draws large numbers of useless candidates. This time there were twelve candidates, but only two got more than 4%. That isn’t to say this was a classic one-on-one race; the two top candidates combined for only 81% of the votes.

陳家宏 Chen 樹黨 1986 1.23%  
范雲 Fan G/S 56766 35.35%  
龎維良 Pang IND 2963 1.84%  
趙衍慶 Chao IND 3212 2.00%  
林珍妤 Lin 台灣獨立黨 1328 0.82%  
周芳如 Chou IND 4120 2.56%  
蔣慰慈 Chiang IND 271 0.16%  
鄭村棋 Cheng 人民民主陣線 4927 3.06%  
曾獻瑩 Tseng Faith 4826 3.00%  
蔣乃辛 Chiang KMT 74015 46.09% *
古文發 Ku 大愛憲改聯盟 184 0.11%  
吳旭智 Wu MKT 5962 3.71%  

Chiang Nai-hsin, the KMT incumbent, was held under 50%, but he won by a comfortable margin since Fan Yun only managed 35%. Did she fail to consolidate all the potential green camp voters? Was her poor showing the result of the same process as in Taipei 4, where DPP voters refused to obediently follow their party leaders’ instructions? Here are the ecological regressions for the top five candidates:

  G/S KMT MKT Faith Cheng
DPP .857 -.038 .008 .018 .046
TSU .733 .180 .012 .105 -.050
NPP .542 .337 -.175 -.046 .061
KMT -.066 .998 .066 -.019 -.006
PFP -.017 .744 .026 .007 .153
New .136 .828 .006 .012 .086
MKT -1.172 .662 1.312 -.014 -.002
F&H .367 -.074 -.028 .842 -.002
G/S .963 -.034 -.045 .005 -.052
Nine -.287 .361 .124 .122 -.027
.          
Tsai .788 .017 .004 .032 .034
Chu .018 .871 .036 .036 .027
Soong -.238 .782 .195 -.006 .029

These results indicate that both of the two main candidates had some difficulties consolidating potential votes, though it was nowhere near the scale of Taipei 4. Chiang was somewhat more successful, winning almost all of the KMT votes and 87% of Chu’s voters. Most DPP voters went along with Fan, but not all. 86% voted for her, and 79% of Tsai’s supporters also did so. Perhaps the most interesting numbers are from the NPP supporters. Since the NPP and Social Democrats were both born out of the Sunflower Movement, I expected that NPP voters would enthusiastically support Fan Yun. The regression coefficients say otherwise, indicating that she only won 54% of NPP list voters.

 

Taipei 7

Taipei 7 nearly turned out to be one of the biggest shocks of election night. This had always been a deep, deep blue district. I questioned the DPP’s decision not to nominate its own candidate in many districts, but not this one. Defeating incumbent Alex Fai with an ordinary DPP candidate seemed rather hopeless to me, and the DPP needed to try something new. It turned to Yang Shih-chiu, an erstwhile KMT city councilor. Yang had dropped out of the KMT to run as an independent, but he had longstanding blue credentials. The DPP’s hope was that Yang could keep some of his blue voters and that they could deliver all of their green voters. This was a reasonable strategy, though I had very little reason to believe it would succeed.

Shockingly, this deep blue district experienced such a big partisan swing that that the district seat came into play.

Tsai 49.6 DPP 37.2
Chu 39.6 TSU 1.9
Soong 10.8 NPP 6.0
    KMT 29.9
    PFP 5.6
    New 8.9
    MKT 1.5
    F&H 2.2
    G/S 3.4
    Nine 3.4

The district race turned out to be very close. This was even more surprising since there was a G/S candidate available to soak up any protest votes from green camp supporters who couldn’t stomach voting for Yang:

林文傑 Lin IND 1063 0.64%  
呂欣潔 Lu G/S 17747 10.73%  
詹益正 Chan IND 625 0.37%  
蘇承英 Su 和平鴿聯盟黨 689 0.41%  
范揚律 Fan 大愛憲改聯盟 231 0.13%  
林芷芬 Lin 台灣獨立黨 588 0.35%  
費鴻泰 Fai KMT 74455 45.04% *
楊實秋 Yang IND 69882 42.28%  

Here are the ecological regressions for the top three:

  IND KMT G/S
DPP .832 -.015 .161
TSU 1.162 -.004 -.152
NPP .971 -.230 .368
KMT -.072 1.062 -.019
PFP .160 .544 .201
New .258 .845 -.046
MKT .306 .636 -.027
F&H .612 .496 -.044
G/S .138 .100 .686
Nine -.008 .678 .145
.      
Tsai .789 .009 .182
Chu .024 .985 -.007
Soong .200 .518 .186

The picture these numbers paint is fairly clear. Fai consolidated almost all of the KMT votes, but Yang ate away at rest of the blue camp vote pool. If DPP voters had unified behind Yang, he would have won. However, they were unable to do this, and about 16% of DPP voters protested by voting for the G/S candidate. Probably the very same qualities that enabled Yang to win a number of blue votes were also the qualities that prevented him from getting all the green votes.

A quick note: Alex Fai has been a prominent opponent of marriage equality, so you might expect him to win all the Faith & Hope votes. However, Yang Shih-chiu is a Christian, something I know because most of his campaign ads featured a cross somewhere in the logo. It is thus reasonable to see that they split the F&H vote.

 

Taipei 8

Taipei 8 was almost exactly the same story as Taipei 7. This was a hopeless district for the DPP, so they cooperated with a KMT city councilor who had left the party to run for legislator. In this case, they cooperated with independent Lee Ching-yuan, who had previously been a member of the KMT, PFP, and New Party. As in Taipei 7, there was also a G/S candidate ready to soak up protest votes.

The big difference between Taipei 7 and Taipei 8 is that the latter is even deeper blue. There would be no election night suspense in this district. Even with the 2016 DPP tidal wave, this remained a solidly blue district.

Tsai 44.2 DPP 31.5
Chu 44.3 TSU 1.7
Soong 11.4 NPP 6.0
    KMT 32.1
    PFP 5.9
    New 10.4
    MKT 1.4
    F&H 3.2
    G/S 4.0
    Nine 3.8

The KMT incumbent easily won the district race:

李慶元 Lee IND 60459 35.79%  
賴樹聲 Lai IND 1071 0.63%  
苗博雅 Miao G/S 21084 12.48%  
賴士葆 Lai KMT 83931 49.69% *
陳如聖 Chen 台灣工黨 808 0.47%  
方景鈞 Fang IND 1540 0.91%  

The ecological regressions:

  IND KMT G/S
DPP .956 -.054 .077
TSU .029 .302 .615
NPP -.036 .420 .540
KMT .124 .921 -.045
PFP .584 .370 .021
New -.372 1.220 .120
MKT -.037 .650 .362
F&H .015 .867 .113
G/S .586 -.437 .884
Nine -.004 .530 .366
.      
Tsai .828 -.022 .171
Chu -.088 1.020 .066
Soong .274 .477 .169

There are some differences from Taipei 7, but I think the overall story is roughly the same. In these models, the top set of regressions don’t seem quite right to me. I’m a little skeptical that almost zero TSU or NPP supporters voted for Lee Ching-yuan, but 30-40% of them voted for the KMT candidate. I think it may be wiser to look to the bottom set of results. Nearly all the Chu voters stayed loyal to the KMT, but roughly a quarter of Soong voters shifted to Lee. However, Lee could not win all the Tsai voters, as 17% of them defected to the G/S candidate.

 

Conclusions

We observed several patterns. (1) When the KMT or DPP nominated its own candidate, that candidate was generally able to consolidate the entire KMT or DPP vote as well as most of the allied small party vote. (2) When the KMT or DPP supported a candidate from an allied party (New Party in Taipei 2, NPP in Taipei 5), there wasn’t much difference from the cases in which they nominated their own candidates. (3) When the DPP supported an independent who had formerly been part of the blue camp, that candidate was able to win some blue votes. However, roughly a fifth of DPP voters refused to go along with the strategy, thus negating those gains. (4) When the DPP supported Huang Shan-shan, who was still a member of a party actively competing with and usually opposed to the DPP, there was a widespread rebellion within the party. Only about half of Tsai’s voters voted for Huang. The losses from unhappy green voters probably outweighed the gains from luring over blue voters.

Please remember that ecological regressions are a very shaky method. These results are not definitive in any way, and there is a possibility that they are entirely wrong. I don’t think they are generally misleading, but I might be wrong.

 

Effort to recall Ker

November 30, 2016

Hey, there’s a bit of election news in Taiwan. As part of the current battle over marriage equality, there are efforts to recall DPP floor leader Ker Chien-ming 柯建銘.

[As an aside, I haven’t paid particularly close attention to Taiwanese politics over the past ten months. Rather, I have watched developments in Europe and America, often rapt in horror. We seem to be on the cusp of a fundamental shakeup in the international order, and, in my darkest nightmares, I worry that a democratic implosion is right around the corner. I’m not sure if it is reassuring or terrifying that Taiwan is preoccupied with “normal” political controversies, such as how to schedule vacation days, blissfully unconcerned that the rest of the world looks like it might be about to go up in flames. Is this oasis of calm one of the few sane spots in the world right now, or is it sticking its fingers in its ears and willfully ignoring the looming storm?]

The Taiwan Law Blog speculates that I do not support the efforts to recall Ker Chien-ming. That is correct, even though I support marriage equality. I explained my general dislike of recalls in the post the Taiwan Law Blog links to, and I stand by that reasoning. When the votes are counted, the election should stop. The battle over who occupies the seat should be settled until the next regularly scheduled election.

Recalls have a role, but they should only be used as a last-ditch resort when an elected official has fundamentally violated the implicit contract with the voters. I do not believe Ker Chien-ming has fundamentally violated his contract with his voters. When he ran, I do not remember him ever taking a public stance on marriage equality. His campaign was about representing the DPP and supporting Tsai Ing-wen’s agenda in the legislature. Marriage equality was merely one, very small part of that agenda. No matter what he does on this issue, it is hard to imagine it constituting a fundamental betrayal of his positions.

What do I think would be justifiable grounds to launch a recall? To give one example, I think South Korean President Park has fundamentally violated her contract with the voters. Massive corruption, allowing an unelected and unappointed spiritual advisor to make major decisions, and all the rest of it were clearly not what the Korean voters had in mind when they voted for her.

To go back to Ker’s case, since Ker’s central appeal was being a good party soldier, if he suddenly emerged as an intransigent opponent of Tsai’s agenda and plotted with the KMT to thwart her proposals, a recall would be justifiable. If we confine the hypothetical to the issue of marriage equality, if Ker had made support for marriage equality a central issue in his campaign but then had decided to throw his support behind a separate law that did not grant full equality, I think that would probably still be defensible and not justify a recall. After all, it is eminently defensible to compromise for 50% or 75% of your original goal. If he did all that, and then we further learned that he had accepted a massive bribe from an opponent of marriage equality to change his position, then a recall would probably be justified. In that case, Ker would have ignored his voters’ demands in favor of the briber’s demands. Ker’s current behavior is nowhere near these thresholds, and I hope the recall effort fizzles out.

The Taiwan Law Blog suggests that, instead of trying to recall Ker, perhaps marriage equality activists should campaign for him to lose his spot as the DPP party whip. I think he and many others are making the same mistake that President Ma made when he tried to purge Speaker Wang in 2013. They are imagining that the party floor leader is pursuing his own agenda.

In fact, what successful floor leaders do is to help the party rank-and-file get what they want. Sometimes, this means that the floor leader has to take some public heat in order to shield the backbenchers from criticism. In the American case, the classic example is from budgetary politics. A house member knows that a particular spending item should be cut but it is also very popular back home. The backbencher needs the speaker to arrange the agenda so that he can tell his voters that he fought hard to keep the item in the budget but he just couldn’t overcome opposition from everyone else. Sometimes, the legislator will even single out the speaker for criticism, and a good speaker understands what is happening and facilitates it. In 2013, President Ma blamed Speaker Wang for not pushing the Services Trade Agreement strongly enough. Ma should have realized that Wang was protecting KMT legislators who did not want to defend support for particular clauses to their voters.

In today’s case, Ker is probably protecting DPP legislators as well. Most DPP legislators have publicly come out in support of marriage equality, probably because they cannot afford to alienate progressive activists and voters. They certainly do not want to alienate young people. (Ask Hillary Clinton if alienating young voters has any costs.) However, Taiwanese society has hardly reached a consensus in support of marriage equality. The surveys I have seen suggest that support and opposition are about evenly split. I am a bit skeptical of these support levels. While elites and young people have mostly come to a consensus on gay marriage, I suspect the rest of society has not. To put it simply, I doubt that Taiwan has wrestled with this issue enough yet. To too many people, homosexuality is simply an idea rather than an everyday reality of many friends and family. There are still a lot of moms and dads my age or older who grew up with the unchallenged assumption that homosexuality was weird and/or wrong, and you can’t simply tell them that they have been prejudiced all their lives. They will need some time and a lot of discussion before they come around. Moving too quickly could cause a backlash, and I suspect that many DPP legislators intuitively grasp that not everyone in society is comfortable with rewriting the social rules just yet. If there were actually overwhelming support for marriage equality in the DPP caucus, Ker would make it happen quickly. He hasn’t been re-elected party whip time and time again because he ignores the rank-and-file’s wishes. If he is stalling or pushing some compromise package, it is almost certainly because they are asking him to do it. Moreover, like any good floor leader, he is taking the public criticism so that they won’t have to.

So what do I suggest for marriage equality activists? Ker Chien-ming is not your problem. Your problem is that you haven’t yet thoroughly sold Taiwanese society on the idea of marriage equality. To put it another way, the DPP caucus looks like it would like to change the law, but activists haven’t done enough work changing minds among ordinary voters to make DPP legislators feel comfortable taking this step. Rather than bullying or threatening Ker Chien-ming, activists should be focusing on broader society, explaining why marriage equality is a good idea that everyone can support. The good news is that the marriage equality side has good arguments and, with a lot of discussion and persuasion, should be able to produce a stronger consensus in society. When that happens, resistance in the legislature will melt away.

2016 election data

January 23, 2016

I know all of you have been waiting breathlessly for a neatly organized spreadsheet of the presidential and legislative elections broken down by legislative districts, so here it is! Start analyzing, and let me know if you find anything interesting.

2016 LY prez by LY district