Archive for the ‘2008 legislative’ Category

PFP loses legislator

July 29, 2010

PFP legislator Lin Zhenger 林正二 was convicted of vote-buying last week, and he will lose his seat in the legislature.  Lin is the only PFP legislator, so the PFP caucus will be reduced to zero.

The criminal case against Lin was dismissed.  However, the civil case ended in a conviction.

No by-election will be held.  Lin represents Plains Aborigines and was elected in a three-seat district.  By-elections are only necessary if at least half the seats in a district are vacant and at least half the term remains.  Neither of these conditions applies, so the seat will simply remain vacant until the next general election in a year and a half.

Here’s the fun part: we’ve been here before.  In 1994, Lin was elected to the Provincial Assembly.  He was convicted of vote-buying and stripped of his seat in mid-1995.  However, according to the law at the time, he was not stripped of political rights.  Lin’s response was to accept the court decision and run in the by-election.  Of course, he won the by-election and served out his term.  In 1998, when the Provincial Assembly was abolished, he moved to the legislature and has been elected four times.  (The law has since been changed, and Lin will not be eligible to run for the legislature in the next election.)

by-election results

February 28, 2010

The results of the by-elections are in.  On turf that heavily favors the KMT, the DPP won three of the four seats.  Here’s the breakdown:

English name Chinese name Party Votes Percent
Taoyuan County 3
Huang Renzhu 黃仁杼 DPP 45363 47.3
Chen Xuesheng 陳學聖 KMT 42600 44.4
Wu Yudong 吳餘棟 IND 4424 4.6
Lin Xiangmei 林香美 IND 3617 3.8
Hsinchu County
Peng Shaojin 彭紹瑾 DPP 71625 56.0
Zheng Yongtang 鄭永堂 KMT 56342 44.0
Chiayi County 2
Chen Mingwen 陳明文 DPP 57451 67.9
Lin Derui 林德瑞 KMT 27138 32.1
Hualian County
Wang Tingsheng 王廷升 KMT 39379 48.3
Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴 DPP 33249 40.8
Shi Shenglang 施勝郎 IND 8863 10.9

For the record, my predictions were:

Chiayi County 2: Chen Mingwen 陳明文 (DPP) 69; Lin Derui 林德瑞 (KMT) 31.

Hsinchu County: Peng Shaojin 彭紹瑾 (DPP) 54; Zheng Yongtang 鄭永堂 (KMT) 46.

Taoyuan County Third District: Chen Xuesheng 陳學聖 (KMT) 49; Huang Renzhu 黃仁杼 (DPP) 40; Wu Yudong 吳餘棟 (IND) 7, Lin Xiangmei 林香美 (IND) 4.

Hualian County:  Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴 (DPP) 44; Wang Tingsheng 王廷生 (KMT) 42; Shi Shenglang 施勝郎 (IND) 14.

So I got Chiayi County 2 and Hsinchu County almost exactly right, and I messed up Hualian County and Taoyuan County 3.  Oh well.  I wasn’t too far off, and election predictions are hardly a scientific exercise anyway.

In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to myself when I was discussing the underlying partisan structures of Taoyuan 3 and Hualian.  Both seem to have changed from 2008 by similar amounts; Hualian was simply a bit more overwhelmingly blue to start with.

By the way, one of the hardest things to predict is what will happen to third-party candidates.  Third-party candidates often have wide gaps between their performance in the surveys and at the ballot box.  Some candidates’ support simply disappears, most likely due to strategic voting.  Others’ holds steady.  Once in a while, a candidate with low support in surveys will produce an eye-popping vote count.  From afar, it’s very hard to tell which will be the case with any particular candidate.  This time, I came very close in predicting the three independent candidates.  However, this was mostly luck.

So that’s what happened.  More importantly, what does it mean?  From watching the talking heads on TV last night, it is obvious that you can draw nearly any lesson you want to.  Some of the stories various people were pitching include 1) we are seeing a structural change in partisan attitudes, 2) negative campaigning doesn’t work, 3) the KMT reform isn’t working, 4) the KMT reform needs more time, 5) the KMT simply failed to mobilize its votes (but no real partisan realignment), 6) the DPP will sweep all five mayoral seats later this year, 7) Ma should resign as KMT party chair, 8) the KMT nominated poorly.  Do I buy any of these?  The short answer is 1) kinda, 2) no, 3) no opinion, 4) no opinion, 5) no way, 6) that’s a little premature, and 7) that’s silly.  The ones I want to try to dig into are the stories about partisan realignment and mobilization.  I think we are seeing a partisan shift, or perhaps a reversion to the alignment of 2003 or so.  I think the mobilization story is fundamentally flawed.

Let’s do mobilization first.  The clearest version of the mobilization story I have heard is this.  Last December, Peng Shaojin 彭紹瑾 ran for Hsinchu County executive and got 77,000 votes.  He lost because the KMT candidate mobilized 97,000 votes.  In this by-election, Peng Shaojin ran again and got 71000 votes.  In other words, Peng turned out nearly every person who voted for him last time.  (In fact, the DPP has gotten between 70000 and 80000 votes in Hsinchu County in numerous elections over the past two decades.)  However, the KMT candidate this time only got 56,000, only about half as many as in December.  In short, the DPP mobilized all its votes, while the KMT did not.  This story is then fleshed out with a narrative of a divided KMT with key elites declining to work for the candidate in this election.  The Hsinchu County KMT has two dominant figures, Qiu Jingchun 邱鏡淳 and Zheng Yongjin 鄭永金.  In December, Zheng refused to support Qiu as county executive, backing a third-party candidate instead.  Qiu won, but it wasn’t easy.  The KMT tried to paper over this division by nominating Zheng Yongjin’s younger brother, Zheng Yongtang 鄭永堂, for legislator.  Publicly, Qiu expressed his support, but the actual support never materialized.  As a result, Qiu’s supporters did not turn out to vote for Zheng, and the KMT lost.

The critical feature of the mobilization story is that there are no partisan changes.  DPP supporters still support the DPP, and KMT supporters still support the KMT.  The only question is whether the parties can persuade their supporters to show up at the ballot box.  Thus, the reason the KMT has done so poorly in these by-elections is that the turnout has only been around 40%, as compared to around 60% in the 2008 legislative elections and 2009 county executive elections and 75% in the 2008 presidential election.  Since no one thinks that turnout in any of the coming general elections will be 40%, we should only worry about what a 60-75% turnout election looks like: still very blue.  These by-elections are simply an aberration.

One way to attack this theory is by looking at survey results.  TVBS published a survey of Hsinchu County voters on Jan 26, 2010.  In the report, they produced the following table:

LY race
total Peng Shaojin (DPP) Zheng Yongtang (KMT)
total N=827 44 34
County Executive Qiu Jingchun (KMT) 38 32 51
Peng Shaojin (DPP) 15 89 4
Zhang Biqin 張碧琴(IND, supported by Zheng Yongjin) 17 37 44

So the 15% of respondents who reported voting for Peng Shaojin in the county executive race continued to express support for him by an overwhelming 89% to 4% margin.  So far so good for the mobilization story.  However, 32% of the 38% who said they voted for Qiu in December expressed support for Peng, and 37% of the 17% who voted for Zheng Yongjin’s candidate in December said they would vote against Zheng Yongjin’s brother in February.  This certainly sounds like Peng was picking up support from the KMT, not simply mobilizing his previous supporters.  In other words, Peng may have gotten 70,000 votes again, but they weren’t the same 70,000 voters.  A lot of them crossed party lines.

Another way to attack the mobilization thesis is to look at election returns.  In 2008, the KMT was enthused while the DPP was depressed, so the KMT should have had a marked advantage in mobilization over the DPP.  In 2009-10, the roles were reversed.

County 2008 LY list vote 2009 county executive
Blue Green Blue Green
宜蘭縣 Ilan 87613 83313 112469 133394
桃園縣 Taoyuan 471687 265842 396237 346678
新竹縣 Hsinchu 136854 45009 97151 77126
苗栗縣 Miaoli 157868 64985 181256 95469
彰化縣 Changhua 308182 225526 348341 276897
南投縣 Nantou 125074 72421 136951 107023
雲林縣 Yunlin 144559 142869 121832 229958
嘉義縣 Chiayi 104909 121225 128973 177333
屏東縣 Pingdong 183157 187474 185384 270402
臺東縣 Taidong 54553 20072 56354 50802
花蓮縣 Hualian 87332 27244 38603
澎湖縣 Penghu 19403 14754 22664 22069
基隆市 Jilong 95939 45290 86001 65673
新竹市 Hsinchu City 97260 57252 92667 68822
嘉義市 Chiayi City 54914 52659 69962 61268
金門縣 Jinmen 23555 1190 14269
連江縣 Lianjiang 3719 385 5404

There are three basic patterns.  In some counties, the blue camp’s vote fell while the green camp’s vote increased.  In Taoyuan, for example the blue camp produced 70000 fewer votes in 2009 while the green camp increased its total by 80000.  Hsinchu County, Yunlin, Jilong, and Hsinchu City also saw blue decreases and green increases.  Second, many places saw both camps increase their number of votes, indicating that both were better at mobilizing in 2009 than in 2008.  Ilan, Miaoli, Changhua, Nantou, Chiayi County, and Chiayi City followed this pattern.  Then there is the third pattern, in which the KMT vote did not change markedly from 2008 to 2009 but the DPP vote increased dramatically.  This was the case in Pingdong and Taidong.

How can all these patterns occur with a simple story about mobilization?  One could explain this by delving into the differences in the various county executive races.  For example, in Yunlin, a popular DPP incumbent was expected to win re-election easily, so the energized DPP voters turned out while the demoralized KMT voters stayed home.  Thus, the KMT vote fell while the DPP vote skyrocketed.  Unfortunately, the story was almost exactly the same in Pingdong, except the KMT vote stayed the same.  Moreover, Chiayi County also had a race that the DPP was expected to win easily, and the KMT vote was much higher than in 2008.   Thus, we are expected to believe that demoralized KMT voters stayed home in Yunlin, voted at normal rates in Pingdong, and voted at very high rates in Chiayi County.

The stories about counties the KMT expected to win easily are similarly contradictory.  In Miaoli, Changhua, Jilong, and Hsinchu City, the KMT was widely expected to win by comfortable margins.  In all of them, the KMT experienced a slight increase in its vote.  According to the mobilization story, we would conclude that the enthusiasm over good prospects in the county race outweighed the national factors making it harder for the KMT to mobilize.  Ok, but what about Taoyuan?  The KMT’s vote dropped by 75,000.  Maybe Wu Zhiyang 吳志揚 was so sure of victory that he declined to spend the money needed for a full mobilization.  If so, he seems to have been the only one to dare to attempt the non-mobilization strategy.  If non-mobilization were a viable electoral strategy, one would have thought that the winners in Miaoli, Yunlin, and Pingdong might have attempted it as well, but we see no evidence of this.  Moreover, in light of the two-by elections in Taoyuan, it is equally plausible that Wu fully mobilized but that the KMT has simply become less popular.

In sum, I simply don’t think the pure mobilization / no partisan change story is a viable explanation for what has happened over the past two years.

I’m not arguing that mobilization doesn’t matter or that it isn’t part of the story.  We all know that mobilization is critically important.  However, political scientists have done a terrible job at explaining exactly how mobilization matters precisely because it is very complicated.  Simplistic stories like the one I argued against are nearly nuanced enough.  They are very appealing though, precisely because they are simplistic.  They focus on one variable, the network of cadres that moves people to the polls.  If you put in more resources, you get more votes.  Taken to the logical extreme, this is an anti-democratic argument.  No matter what happens, KMT voters will continue to support the KMT.  It simply might be harder to get them to the polls.  However, the democratically produced president/legislator is a function of resources, not of appeals and/or actual public opinion.  As such, the legitimacy of such officials to act on behalf of the public should be discounted.  This story is only partially wrong, but that part is critical.  Mobilization and resources matter, of course, and can affect the outcome of an election.  However, voters do change their minds, so party platforms, issue appeals, and scandals also matter.  As a result, elections do not depend solely on resources.

The difficult part is figuring out how mobilization matters in conjunction with changes in opinion.  I accept the argument that it was harder to mobilize DPP voters in 2008 and harder to mobilize KMT voters in 2009-10.  I do think that a lower turnout rate helped the DPP this time.  However, I do not think that all DPP voters turned out and only part of the KMT voters did.  A higher turnout rate likely would have helped the KMT, but only slightly.  For example, the turnout in Chiayi County 2 was 38%, and Chen Mingwen 陳明文 won 68-32%.  If the turnout had doubled, Chen would almost certainly still have won handily, though not by quite as overwhelming a margin.  Perhaps it would have been something like 64-36%.  In that case, the half of the electorate that didn’t turn out (but would turn out in a presidential election) would have preferred Chen by a 60-40% margin.  Of course, that is just a guess.

We do have some evidence of the effect of different levels of turnout.  For example, the legislative election in Jan 2008 had a turnout of 58%, while the presidential election of March 2008 had a 76% turnout.  There was very little difference in the vote share of the camps.  The presidential election was 58.5-41.5%, while the legislative election was 55.2-40.4%.  Since independent votes tend to come mostly out of the blue camp’s vote share, the two are roughly equivalent.

Since we think that the KMT was enthused in 2008, their voters should have turned out more heavily in the first 60%, and the DPP should have benefited from the higher turnout.  Thus we have to invent some story about how Ma Yingjeou 馬英九 is a great candidate (or voters were sick of President Chen 陳水扁), candidate effects offset the turnout effect.  I don’t believe this.  I think the same partisan effects drove both elections.

After years of staring at voting returns, I have come to the tentative conclusion that turnout above 60% really doesn’t affect partisan results.[1] Another way of saying this is that almost everyone who can be mobilized has already been mobilized by 60%.  Higher turnout comes from voters outside the mobilization networks, and they tend to split their votes among the parties in nearly the same way that the first 60% do.  However, turnouts below 60% start to affect partisan outcomes.[2] In jargon, there is a non-linear relationship.

So, given that I think that there has been some partisan shift since 2008 and that turnout below 60% matters, where does the partisan balance stand right now?  Nearly half the electorate has voted in the past six months, so let’s compare them to a benchmark, the party list vote in the 2008 legislative election.[3]

2008 LY Party List 2009-10 LY by-elections
votes blue% green% valid KMT% DPP%
雲林縣二 Yunlin County 2 156911 47.2 46.6 126297 23.2 58.8
南投縣一 Nantou County 1 99695 62.8 31.9 119284 55.3 44.7
台東縣 Taidong County 78880 69.2 25.4 46887 45.2 49.5
台中縣三 Taichung County 3 138134 54.5 40.8 115111 45.0 55.0
桃園縣二 Taoyuan County 2 128994 55.3 39.2 92382 40.0 58.1
嘉義縣二 Chiayi County 2 112866 43.1 52.0 84589 32.1 67.9
桃園縣三 Taoyuan County 3 135277 63.7 31.8 96004 44.4 47.3
新竹縣 Hsinchu County 195144 70.1 23.1 127967 44.0 56.0
花蓮縣 Hualian County 119669 73.0 22.8 81491 48.3 40.8
total 1165570 59.8 34.8 890012 41.6 53.4
2008 LY Party List 2009 County executive
votes blue% green% valid KMT% DPP%
宜蘭縣 Ilan County 178872 49.0 46.6 245863 45.7 54.3
桃園縣 Taoyuan County 771850 61.1 34.4 758722 52.2 45.7
新竹縣 Hsinchu County 195144 70.1 23.1 252424 38.5 30.6
苗栗縣 Miaoli County 236260 66.8 27.5 284138 63.8 33.6
彰化縣 Changhua County 564959 54.5 39.9 634640 54.9 43.6
南投縣 Nantou County 208186 60.1 34.8 269217 50.9 39.8
雲林縣 Yunlin County 305439 47.3 46.8 351790 34.6 65.4
嘉義縣 Chiayi County 238892 43.9 50.7 317135 40.7 55.9
屏東縣 Pingdong County 386762 47.4 48.5 455786 40.7 59.3
臺東縣 Taidong County 78880 69.2 25.4 107156 52.6 47.4
花蓮縣 Hualian County 119669 73.0 22.8 151730 25.4 0.0
澎湖縣 Penghu County 36867 52.6 40.0 45910 49.4 48.1
基隆市 Jilong City 147613 65.0 30.7 156065 55.1 42.1
新竹市 Hsinchu City 162818 59.7 35.2 166563 55.6 41.3
嘉義市 Chiayi City 111827 49.1 47.1 134031 52.2 45.7
金門縣 Jinmen County 25979 90.7 4.6 38280 37.3 0.0
連江縣 Lianjiang County 4321 86.1 8.9 5482 98.6 0.0
total 3774338 57.1 37.8 4374932 47.9 45.3

That’s 26 races: nine by-elections and 17 county executive races.  In three of the county executive races, the DPP did not have a candidate.  In 22 of the other 23 races, the DPP increased its vote share.  (In Chiayi City, the DPP vote share declined by 1.4%.)  The smallest gains were 4-5%, but most of the gains were 10% or more.  8 races saw the DPP gain more than 15%.  You can tell a soap opera about each election and explain the outcome in purely local terms.  However, when the same thing happens in district after district, you have to start looking for national-level explanations.  In other words, the DPP’s popularity has significantly increased since early 2008.

How much has the KMT slipped and the DPP risen?  These 26 districts are slightly more favorable to the KMT than the national average.  In 2008, the national balance in the 2008 legislative party list was 55.2-40.4%.  Among the nine districts that had by-elections, the 2008 balance was 59.8-34.8%.  In the 17 counties that elected executives last December, the 2008 balance was 57.1-37.8.

It does not bode well for the KMT that it could only manage a 47.9-45.3% advantage in the county executive races.  A 20% edge in early 2008 was cut to less than 3% in late 2009.  If this 16.7% swing extended to the entire electorate, the DPP would hold a 1.9% advantage instead of a 14.8% disadvantage.

As bad as the county executive races look for the KMT, the by-elections look worse.  Originally, the KMT held 8 of the 9 seats.  It now holds 2.  Arguably, Yunlin 2 is a DPP-leaning district, but the other 7 seats looked like they were clearly more favorable to the KMT and the DPP won 5 of them.  Where the KMT had a whopping 25.0% advantage in 2008, it ended up with a 11.8% deficit in 2009-10, an unbelievable 36.8% swing.  These results don’t merely portend a KMT loss of power, they warn of a bigger DPP sweep than the KMT had in 2008.  If even districts like Taidong, Hualian, and Hsinchu are in play, then the KMT only has two safe seats left (Jinmen and Lianjiang).

Perhaps it is not that bad for the KMT.  Remember, the by-elections generally had around 40% turnout.  The exception is Nantou 1, which held its by-election on the same day as the county executive elections and thus had a “normal” 66.3% turnout.  Not coincidentally, the KMT won Nantou 1.  Its vote share slipped significantly, but not calamitously.  I argued above that the 20% of voters missing in a 40% turnout would disproportionately favor the demoralized party, in this case the KMT.  However, I also argued (with very little evidence) that the effect wouldn’t be too dramatic.  It would probably only sway the final vote share by a few percentage points.  With a 60% turnout, instead of 41.6-53.4%, we might get something like 45-50%.  That is still a disaster for the KMT, though perhaps not of the same magnitude.

There is another possibility.  Perhaps the DPP simply does better in by-elections.  The logic of this argument would go something like this.  KMT campaigns tend to be more organization-oriented, while the DPP campaigns tend to be more issue oriented.  With only a few election districts holding elections at any one time, the DPP can concentrate all of its rhetorical fire and oratorical superstars on a small number of voters.  At the same time, with all eyes on a few districts, the KMT finds it much harder to run a “traditional” (read: corrupt) campaign.  I am reluctant to bring up this argument since I don’t really believe it.  You can easily make the opposite argument about the KMT concentrating resources.  However, I am grasping for plausible explanations for implausible results in these by-elections, even given the 2009 county executive results.[4]

So where is the national partisan balance right now?  My best guess is that the two parties are roughly even.  Perhaps the DPP has a slight edge.

How could this have happened?  I have two answers, and I think both are basically correct.  One answer is that President Ma has frittered away his entire electoral advantage in less than two years.  By moving too quickly in opening to China, bungling the relief effort to Typhoon Morakot, and so on, he has alienated all the swing voters who supported him in early 2008.  TVBS has done a series of polls on party image.  The most recent was released on Jan. 20.  They ask a series of questions, including whether you agree or disagree that the KMT (DPP) pays attention to public opinion, is honest and not corrupt, is energetic, values reform, is united, has the ability to reflect on mistakes, and is trustworthy.  Opposition parties tend to do better on these questions, but during Chen Shui-bian’s term in office, it took a full four years before the KMT started to enjoy a clear advantage in party image.  The held this advantage for roughly the last three years of Chen’s tenure and the first few months of Ma’s tenure.  However, in less than two years, the trend lines have completely reversed, and now all these indicators are solidly in favor of the DPP.

A second answer is that the KMT never had such a huge advantage.  Ma’s landslide victory was not due to overwhelming public support for him or his party.  Rather, the electorate was disgusted with the scandals of the Chen administration and was punishing his entire party.  As the DPP steps away from the Chen era, we revert to a more realistic balance of power between the parties, one based on opinions toward the entire KMT and DPP rather than just toward the very polarizing Chen Shui-bian.  I don’t mean to say that it is suddenly 2003 among the electorate again.  Other interesting things have happened in the meantime.  Geographically, the biggest change in the electorate has been a clear shift in the Yunlin-Chiayi-Tainan region to the DPP.  I’ll almost certainly delve into this some other time.  However, the biggest story nationally is that this Chen era is over.  The DPP is a viable contender for power once again.

[1] Alas, this will not be an airtight argument.  This is simply my gut-feeling after years of attempting to come up with something better.  One of the advantages of a blog is that I can make these kinds of arguments.  This would never get past a referee.

[2] Why 60%?  60% is merely a convenient number since almost all general elections have gotten 60% or more, and I have not been able to figure out any relationship between turnout and partisan results in general elections.  Only by-elections have fallen significantly below 60%.  Over the past year, most by-elections have had roughly 40% turnout.

[3] The 2008 presidential vote is nearly identical.

[4] The exception is Taidong County.  Taidong produced nearly identical results in the county executive race and the by-election.  However, aborigines voted in the county executive race, and aborigines heavily support the KMT.  Subtracting them from the electorate in the by-election produces a narrow DPP victory instead of a narrow KMT victory.

Gerrymandering in Taiwan?

February 19, 2010

So we all know that the 2008 Legislative Yuan elections were a bloodbath for the DPP.  With the new MMM system and the overall 55-40 advantage for the blue camp over the green camp, the DPP ended up with only 27 of 113 (24%) seats.  Most of us assumed that the DPP made a huge mistake in agreeing to the new system.

In fact, it goes further.  Aborigines’ seats typically all go to blue camp.  In fact, in all the different sorts of national elections (legislative, national assembly, provincial assembly), the DPP has only won one seat.  (Chen Ying 陳瑩 won a legislative seat in 2004.  Her father was an old KMT politician, and she relied heavily on his networks.  Her election did not signify a new partisan regime.)  Depending on how and who you county, aborigines make up 1.5-2.0% or so of the total population.  Since they are acknowledged as a disadvantaged group with a special place in Taiwan, they have always been overrepresented in the legislature.  In the 1998-2008 legislature, aborigines had 8 of 225 (3.6%).  Now they have 6 of 113 (5.3%).  I don’t know why the DPP agreed to this.

According to the rules, each county gets at least one seat.  The four smallest counties, Taidong, Penghu, Jinmen, and Lianjiang, had 262,016 eligible voters in 2008, or 1.6% of the total SMD electorate.  In the previous legislature, they had 4 of the 168 SNTV seats (ie, 225 total minus the 8 aborigines’ seats and the 49 party list seats).  Now they have 4 of the 73 SMD seats.  That’s an increase from 2.4% to 5.5%.  In case you’re wondering, these four seats have always been solid blue.  (Well, until last month’s shocking by-election in Taidong, that is.  But more on that later.)

So according to the rules, roughly 3% of the population that is reliably blue elects 11% of the seats in the new system, up from about 6% in the old system.  That sounds like a solid case of malapportionment to me.[1] It also sounds like a significant systemic advantage for the KMT.  If the DPP wants to govern, it should need to get quite a bit more than 50% to overcome this malapportionment.

Just for fun, I took the 2008 presidential vote and cut it into the 73 SMD districts.  Since the KMT won 58-42, not much different from the blue camp’s victory in the party list (55-40), I didn’t expect a much different outcome.  In fact, it’s basically the same.  The DPP actually won 13 seats in 2008, but the green camp led the blue camp in the party list tier in 15 districts.  For the presidential election, the green camp led in 16 districts.

What about the 2004 vote?  If we wanted to know what a DPP majority would look like, this is the best we’ve got.  Recall that the DPP won the 2004 election by a whopping 50.11-49.89%.  In other words, it was basically tied.  If we assume that on such a 50-50 vote, the KMT and DPP would each get 17 list seats, and we further assume that the KMT would sweep the six aboriginal seats, the DPP would need to win the 73 districts by a 40-33 margin.  This seems unlikely, given a 50-50 vote, but that’s exactly what you get.  Chen’s vote was higher than Lian’s vote in 40 of the 73 districts.  In other words, this little exercise produces a one seat DPP advantage, 57-56.

I was absolutely shocked by this result.  Somehow a system that looks skewed in favor of the KMT is actually quite fair.  A 50-50 election produces a 50-50 legislature.  There must be something offsetting the malapportionment.

In my previous post, I pointed to 16 districts that were very close to the overall national average in the 2008 party list vote.  Chen won almost all of these districts (by very small margins).  Ten of the twelve districts in Taichung and Changhua (in Central Taiwan) are among these 16 bellwether districts, and Chen swept them all.  In other words, the DPP has an advantage in that a large group of districts tip its way slightly before the party gets to 50% overall.  This is what offsets the malapportionment.

I had never done this exercise before, but I’m sure that both the KMT and DPP did it before agreeing to the new system.  No one wonders why the KMT agreed.  They expected to benefit from it because they didn’t expect the DPP would ever get to 50% again.  In 2008 at least, they were clearly right.  The question is why the DPP agreed, and now we have another piece of the answer.  If they can get to 50% they can win power.  This system is not as skewed as it looks.

Oh, before we conclude, let’s revisit that malapportionment.  Now that the DPP has won Taidong (albeit in highly favorable conditions unlikely to hold in the future), we probably have to stop thinking of that seat as an automatic KMT victory.  Penghu also deserves a second look.  While the DPP hasn’t won anything there since 1993 and blue incumbent seems quite well-entrenched, this is not an unwinnable district for the green camp.  According to the 2008 party list vote, this is a 52-40 district.  Last December, the DPP candidate for county executive only lost by 600 votes, or about 1%.  So really there are only 8 overrepresented seats that the KMT seems sure to win, not 10.  Even the malapportionment isn’t as severe as it appears at first glance.

[1] If you’re really a nerd and need to know these things, I figured the Samuels-Snyder Malapportionment Index to be .0704, which makes the Taiwanese legislature a moderate, though not a severe, case of malapportionment.

Significance of the By-Elections

February 19, 2010

A month ago, the DPP swept three by-elections, picking up seats previously held by the KMT.  In a little more that a week, four more seats will be up for grabs, and the media is frothing with expectations of another DPP sweep.  I’ll have more to say about the individual races, but here I’d like to look at where these districts fit into the political landscape.

The Legislative Yuan has 113 seats.  34 are elected by party lists, 6 are elected by aborigines in two three-seat SNTV districts, and the other 73 are elected in single member districts by the plurality rule.  Technically, this is an MMM (mixed-member majoritarian) system, though with the nominal tier including both SMD and SNTV seats.  It was used for the first time to elect the current legislature in January 2008.

Most analysts assume that the party vote is a better indication of the underlying partisan structure of each district than the nominal vote, which is polluted by personal factors.  Taiwanese parties are commonly sorted into two big camps.  The blue camp is centered around the KMT and includes the PFP and New Party, while the green camp is centered around the DPP and includes the TSU.  These days, the small parties are gasping for life, so we have almost returned to the pure KMT/DPP two-party system that prevailed prior to the New Party’s splintering away from the KMT in August 1993.  At any rate, the best way to look at each legislative district is to sort them by party votes, aggregated into the blue and green camps.  Overall, the blue camp held a 55.2%-40.4% advantage.  However, the election was held at the nadir of green camp popularity, and things would certainly be much different if another election were held today.  My guess is that the blue advantage would by 50-45 or so.

Sorting the 73 districts by their blue camp party list vote, we get the following

blue green
1 Jinmen 金門縣 90.7 4.6
2 Lianjiang 連江縣 86.1 8.9
3 Hualian 花蓮縣 73.0 22.8
4 Miaoli 2 苗栗縣第二選區 72.5 21.3
5 Taipei County 9 臺北縣第九選區 70.4 26.2
6 Hsinchu County 新竹縣 70.1 23.1
7 Taidong 臺東縣 69.2 25.4
8 Taipei City 8 臺北市第八選區 68.7 27.2
9 Taipei County 11 臺北縣第十一選區 68.3 28.3
10 Taoyuan 5 桃園縣第五選區 65.4 29.4
11 Jilong 基隆市 65.0 30.7
12 Taipei City 6 臺北市第六選區 64.9 31.0
13 Taoyuan 6 桃園縣第六選區 64.2 32.0
14 Taoyuan 3 桃園縣第三選區 63.7 31.8
15 Taipei City 7 臺北市第七選區 63.1 33.2
16 Taipei County 8 臺北縣第八選區 63.0 33.5
17 Nantou 1 南投縣第一選區 62.8 31.9
18 Taipei City 4 臺北市第四選區 61.7 34.6
19 Miaoli 1 苗栗縣第一選區 60.2 34.7
20 Hsinchu City 新竹市 59.7 35.2
21 Taichung City 1 臺中市第一選區 59.3 36.5
22 Taoyuan 4 桃園縣第四選區 59.3 36.9
23 Taichung City 2 臺中市第二選區 59.2 36.9
24 Taipei County 12 臺北縣第十二選區 58.9 36.5
25 Taipei City 3 臺北市第三選區 58.8 37.6
26 Taoyuan 1 桃園縣第一選區 58.6 37.5
27 Taipei County 1 臺北縣第一選區 58.2 37.7
28 Taipei City 5 臺北市第五選區 57.9 38.6
29 Nantou 2 南投縣第二選區 57.6 37.4
30 Taipei County 10 臺北縣第十選區 57.0 39.3
31 Changhua 2 彰化縣第二選區 56.7 39.0
32 Taipei City 1 臺北市第一選區 56.6 39.4
33 Taichung County 2 臺中縣第二選區 56.5 38.3
34 Kaohsiung City 1 高雄市第一選區 55.6 41.1
35 Taichung County 4 臺中縣第四選區 55.6 39.4
36 Taoyuan 2 桃園縣第二選區 55.3 39.2
37 Changhua 4 彰化縣第四選區 55.1 39.9
38 Taipei County 7 臺北縣第七選區 55.1 41.0
39 Taichung City 3 臺中市第三選區 54.9 41.2
40 Taichung County 1 臺中縣第一選區 54.8 40.4
41 Taichung County 3 臺中縣第三選區 54.5 40.8
42 Taichung County 5 臺中縣第五選區 54.2 41.2
43 Taipei County 6 臺北縣第六選區 53.9 42.2
44 Changhua 3 彰化縣第三選區 53.5 40.5
45 Changhua 1 彰化縣第一選區 53.2 40.2
46 Taipei County 5 臺北縣第五選區 53.0 43.2
47 Penghu 澎湖縣 52.6 40.0
48 Taipei County 4 臺北縣第四選區 52.0 44.3
49 Pingdong 2 屏東縣第二選區 51.8 44.6
50 Kaohsiung County 4 高雄縣第四選區 51.4 45.3
51 Kaohsiung City 4 高雄市第四選區 49.1 47.6
52 Chiayi City 嘉義市 49.1 47.1
53 Ilan 宜蘭縣 49.0 46.6
54 Tainan City 2 臺南市第二選區 48.7 47.9
55 Taipei City 2 臺北市第二選區 48.6 47.6
56 Taipei County 2 臺北縣第二選區 48.5 47.7
57 Kaohsiung City 3 高雄市第三選區 48.1 48.5
58 Taipei County 3 臺北縣第三選區 47.7 48.8
59 Yunlin 1 雲林縣第一選區 47.5 47.0
60 Yunlin 2 雲林縣第二選區 47.2 46.6
61 Kaohsiung County 2 高雄縣第二選區 46.8 48.2
62 Pingdong 3 屏東縣第三選區 46.7 48.9
63 Kaohsiung City 2 高雄市第二選區 46.4 50.6
64 Kaohsiung City 5 高雄市第五選區 46.0 50.6
65 Tainan County 3 臺南縣第三選區 45.1 51.2
66 Kaohsiung County 1 高雄縣第一選區 45.0 47.9
67 Chiayi County 1 嘉義縣第一選區 44.6 49.6
68 Tainan City 1 臺南市第一選區 44.6 52.0
69 Pingdong 1 屏東縣第一選區 44.2 51.4
70 Chiayi County 2 嘉義縣第二選區 43.1 52.0
71 Kaohsiung County 3 高雄縣第三選區 42.9 52.3
72 Tainan County 1 臺南縣第一選區 39.8 55.9
73 Tainan County 2 臺南縣第二選區 39.4 56.3

The DPP won 13 districts in the 2008 election; they are marked with green English names.  The other 60 were won by the blue camp.  I want to draw your attention to the 16 districts in the middle of the table marked in red.  These are median districts.  There are 29 districts that lean more toward the blue camp, and 28 that lean more toward the green camp.  Whoever wins these 16 districts will win a majority.  (Actually, since the blue camp regularly sweeps all the aborigines’ seats, the green camp probably has to win 40 SMD seats to win a majority.  As such, they would need to win three-fourths of this group.)  In 2008, these 16 districts were all basically 55%-40% in favor of the blue camp.  Not surprisingly, the blue camp easily swept all 16 seats.

Recall that the national party vote was also 55-40, and that the gap would almost certainly be smaller today.  So just how close would these bellwether districts be?  By-elections shed some light on the situation.

The three districts that had by-elections last month and the four that will hold them later this month are highlighted in pink.  Two of the bellwether districts, Taichung County 2 and Taoyuan 3 held elections last month, and both were won quite easily by the DPP.  Does this mean that the DPP has gained enough popularity that it would sweep the 16 battleground districts today?  And the DPP even won Taidong, a place that it had never even sniffed a victory before.  (Well, never prior to its stunningly close loss in December’s county executive race.)  Not so fast there, hoss.  The KMT’s national popularity clearly has slipped, but there are also three other important factors that must be taken into account

First, the DPP had a clear advantage in candidate quality in Taichung and Taoyuan, and arguably also in Taidong.  In Taichung and Taoyuan, both DPP candidates had previously served in the legislature, having won seats in the old SNTV system.  Both ran for re-election in 2008 and lost, but both put up a good showing.  In Taichung 3, Jian Zhaodong 簡肇棟 faced a 13.7% (54.5-40.8) deficit on the party list, but only lost by 10.0% (55.0-45.0).   Similarly, Guo Rongzong 郭榮宗in Taoyuan 2 faced a 16.1% partisan deficit but only lost by 9.6%.  In Taidong County, the DPP’s candidate Lai Kuncheng 賴坤成 has run in numerous elections since 1992 and has generally acquitted himself well.  He even won a term as mayor of Taidong City, which has about half the votes in Taidong County.  So all three of the DPP’s nominees were battle-tested and formidable.

The KMT, by contrast, did not field a great roster of candidates.  I don’t think Chen Liling 陳麗玲 in Taoyuan had any electoral experience.  She had previously worked in the county government on environmental policy, which makes her a nice person and a terrible candidate.  Yu Wenqin 余文欽in Taichung was a little better.  He was mayor of Taiping City 太平市, which had about half the votes in the legislative district.  Township mayors are like major league baseball minor leaguers.  That’s where many stars come from, but not all minor leaguers are ready for the big leagues just yet.  At any rate, Yu had much less of a proven track record than Jian.  In Taidong County, things are a bit murkier.  The KMT’s candidate was Kuang Lizhen 鄺麗珍, who had been the county executive.  She had not won the previous race in 2005, her husband had.  However, he was removed from office for “irregular” behavior.  He had appointed her as his deputy, so when he lost the office, she stepped into it.  Both of them were reportedly pious devotees of the clientilistic arts, but perhaps they were a bit heavy-handed.  The KMT did not renominate her for county executive in 2009, instead turning to the incumbent legislator, Huang Jianting黃建庭.  However, in order to get her to step aside, they agreed to nominate her for the legislative seat that would open when Huang took office.  Now, it is easy in retrospect to suggest that Kuang was a weak candidate, but candidates with illicit money flying around them tend to do quite well in Taiwanese elections.  Certainly, her family had proven its ability to assemble a winning campaign team in the past.  In this case, though, I would have to agree with the conventional wisdom and argue that she was a big drag on the KMT effort.  So give the DPP a big edge in candidate quality.

The second factor is scandal.  As just mentioned, in Taidong Kuang and her husband had to deal with swirling (and credible) rumors of corruption.  In both Taichung and Taoyuan, the seats were vacant because the KMT incumbent had been convicted of buying votes in the 2008 election and had been stripped of his seat.  So both Jian and Guo benefited from a sympathy vote, having lost to a cheater.  (I have never quite understood this psychology.  The very voters who accepted the money in the first election are supposed to be the ones who cast the sympathy votes in the second election.  But if they shouldn’t need a court conviction to tell them someone was buying votes, they took the cash!  My imaginative deficiencies notwithstanding, this sympathy vote is widely held to be a real and have a significant effect on the outcome.)

Third, turnout was very low.  In the general election, turnout was just under 60%.  In this by-election, turnout was just under 40%.  We political scientists still have no idea what to make of turnout, but I’m damned sure it’s important in producing a result like this.  If turnout had been higher, I doubt the results would have been the same.  I just don’t know how they would have been different.

Where does this leave us?  I tend to think that the Taidong election result is probably just a one-time freak occurrence.  Kuang and her husband were corrupt, heavy-handed, and bad at governance (one poll named her the worst county executive in Taiwan).  The voters were simply punishing a terrible incumbent.  (Yes, I know she wasn’t technically an incumbent since she was running for a different office.  I also realize that the county executive race in December produced a nearly identical outcome with a much cleaner KMT candidate, except that the aboriginal vote swung the outcome the other way in that race.)  I just don’t think this election suddenly produced a sea-change in the electorate.  They’ll get over it and go back to voting for blue candidates next time.  If I were Lai Kuncheng, I wouldn’t get too comfortable in Taipei.

I attach much more significance to the two elections in Taichung and Taoyuan.  While the DPP won both handily (55-45 in Taichung, 58-40 in Taoyuan), I don’t think that the DPP is so strong right now that it would easily roll through the 16 bellwether districts if another general election were held today.  However, these districts are certainly not 55-40 anymore.  They are probably around 50-45 and may even be even.

Is this a stunning development?  Why yes, it is.  2012 is more than two years away, and it looks to me like a lot of KMT incumbents will view that date with dread while a lot of DPP challengers will await it eagerly.