Archive for the ‘2010 city council’ Category

what would happen if…

December 8, 2010

So here’s a fun little exercise.  I took the election results from the 2009 and 2010 local executive races and plugged them into the 73 legislative districts.  The blue camp wins 39 seats, and the green camp wins 34.  For reference, in 2008 the blue camp won 60 of these districts.  In this exercise, the green camp picks up 21 new districts (relative to 2008) without losing any.

Of course, we have had several by-elections since the 2008 general election, and the green camp has won several unlikely seats, such as Taoyuan 3 and Hsinchu County.  In this exercise, the green camp loses three of these seats (those two plus Taidong).  The blue camp also wins back Miaoli 1, which is currently held by an independent who has some ties with the green camp.

This does not represent an upper limit for the green camp.  In this exercise, it loses several seats by narrow margins.  Some of these include Taipei County 7, Taipei County 10, Taoyuan 4, Taichung City 3, Taichung County 2, and Penghu.  Chiayi City is also a strong candidate to go green in the next election.  The four Changhua seats look a bit precarious to me; the same phenomenon that has affected Yunlin, Chiayi, and seems to be slowly transforming Taichung could also be operating in Changhua.  However, the DPP doesn’t appear to have any candidates strong enough to match the KMT incumbents there.

Of course, there are a few seats that this exercise gives to the DPP that I am skeptical of.  I don’t think the DPP will sweep all eight Kaohsiung seats.  (Note: Chen Chu got an outright majority in six of the eight.  She was close enough to a majority in the other two that I awarded them to the green camp.  In the closest race (Kaohsiung City 1), you would have to assume that over 90% of Yang’s votes came from the blue camp to throw that seat to the blue camp.)  The green camp also wins several seats by razor thin margins, including Taipei County 6, Taoyuan 1, Taichung County 1, and Taichung County 3, as well as a few others by merely close margins.

Now, I know that you can’t just plug mayoral numbers into legislative races.  There are different issues, a different national swing, and different candidates.  This last point deserves highlighting: the KMT has an overwhelming advantage in incumbency.  However, I’m not convinced that incumbency is quite as overwhelming an advantage as many people believe.  In American politics, many people see very high re-election rates and conclude that incumbency confers an overwhelming advantage.  How else could incumbents win so many districts in which their national party is so unpopular?  It must be all that constituency service and pork.  I’m not so sure.  I think that American legislators are also very successful because they can position themselves as “a different kind of Democrat.”  American politics has enough dimensions that you can be against gay rights, for gun rights, and against abortion and still be a good Democrat if you are against the war in Iraq, against tax cuts, and for health care.  In other words, legislators can adjust their ideological packaging to fit their district.  In Taiwan, this is not so easy because there is only one big political cleavage.  Attending funerals will only get you so far if voters think you consistently disagree with them on the big picture.

Moreover, plugging executive races into representative districts is not as unreasonable as it used to be.  For years, there was a big spread between executive races and representative races.  The DPP might do 10-15% better in the former.  This was mostly because of the multimember district electoral system, which allowed local factions to avoid conflicts in representative elections.  The system also played into the KMT’s advantage in personal networks.  However, the new legislative electoral system has single seat districts, so these races, like executive races, are largely one-on-one contests.

I’m not suggesting that we should expect exactly this result if the legislative elections were held tomorrow.  However, I imagine that those election results would look more like the table below than like the 2008 results.

The point of all this is that control of the legislature will be at stake in the next election.  There is a real possibility that the DPP could win a majority.  There is a very large group of seats that flip to the DPP right around the point that the DPP gets 50% nationally.  Many people assume that because the KMT has several “cheap” seats (six aboriginal seats, Jinmen, Lianjiang), that the DPP would have to win the national vote by something like 55-60% to win the legislature.  In fact, 51% would probably be enough.  Unlike in 2000 or 2004, if the DPP wins the presidency in 2012, it might also win the legislature.


district district 2008 “2010” flip
Taipei City 1 Beitou B B  
Taipei City 2 Datong-Shilin B G G
Taipei City 3 Zhongshan-Songshan B B  
Taipei City 4 Nangang-Neihu B B  
Taipei City 5 Wanhua-Zhongzheng B B  
Taipei City 6 Da-an B B  
Taipei City 7 Xinyi-Songshan B B  
Taipei City 8 Wenshan-Zhongzheng B B  
Taipei County 1 Danshui B B  
Taipei County 2 Luzhou G G  
Taipei County 3 Sanchong G G  
Taipei County 4 Xinzhuang B G G
Taipei County 5 Shulin B G G
Taipei County 6 Banqiao north B G G
Taipei County 7 Banqiao south B B  
Taipei County 8 Zhonghe B B  
Taipei County 9 Yonghe B B  
Taipei County 10 Tucheng B B  
Taipei County 11 Xindian B B  
Taipei County 12 Xizhi B B  
Jilong City   B B  
Ilan County   B G G
Taoyuan 1 Guishan-Luzhu B G G
Taoyuan 2 SW coast B* G G
Taoyuan 3 Zhongli B* B  
Taoyuan 4 Taoyuan B B  
Taoyuan 5 Pingzhen-Longtan B B  
Taoyuan 6 Bade-Daxi B B  
Hsinchu City   B B  
Hsinchu County   B* B  
Miaoli 1 Coast (Minnan) B* B  
Miaoli 2 Inland (Hakka) B B  
Taichung City 1 W: Xitun-Nantun B B  
Taichung City 2 N: North-Beitun B B  
Taichung City 3 Central-South-East-West B B  
Taichung County 1 NW: Dajia-Qingshui B G G
Taichung County 2 SW: Da-Wu-Long B B  
Taichung County 3 SE: Taiping-Dali B* G G
Taichung County 4 NE: Fengyuan-Dongshi B G G
Taichung County 5 N: Tanzi-Daya B G G
Changhua 1 NW: Lugang B B  
Changhua 2 NE: Changhua City B B  
Changhua 3 SW: Erlin B B  
Changhua 4 SE: Yuanlin B B  
Nantou 1 N: Caotun-Puli B B  
Nantou 2 S: Nantou-Zhushan B B  
Yunlin 1 Coast B G G
Yunlin 2 Inland B* G G
Chiayi City   B B  
Chiayi County 1 Coast B G G
Chiayi County 2 Inland G G  
Tainan County 1 NW: Xinying G G  
Tainan County 2 NE: Shanhua G G  
Tainan County 3 SE: Yongkang G G  
Tainan City 1 North G G  
Tainan City 2 South G G  
Kaohsiung County 1 NE: Meinong B G G
Kaohsiung County 2 NW: Gangshan B G G
Kaohsiung County 3 SE: Daliao G G  
Kaohsiung County 4 Fengshan B G G
Kaohsiung City 1 Nanzi-Zuoying B G G
Kaohsiung City 2 Gushan G G  
Kaohsiung City 3 Sanmin B G G
Kaohsiung City 4 Lingya B G G
Kaohsiung City 5 Xiaogang G G  
Pingdong 1 North G G  
Pingdong 2 Pingdong City B G G
Pingdong 3 South G G  
Taidong   B* B  
Hualian   B B  
Penghu   B B  
Jinmen   B B  
Lianjiang   B B  


Blue 39

Green 34


first cut at city council results

December 1, 2010

I’m going to take a first stab at some of the election results today.  There are lots of things I want to look at in the data, and I almost certainly won’t be done probing this stuff two or three years from now.  At this stage, I’m just looking at some of the most obvious questions and easiest to produce descriptive statistics.

The following will all deal with city council election results.

In a previous post, I noted that Chen Shui-bian’s One Side One Country Alliance ran 37 candidates and won 30 seats.  Here are the party winners and losers:


Party lose win candidates
KMT 77 130 207
DPP 31 130 161
New 6 3 9
PFP 13 4 17
TSU 13 2 15
Green 5 0 5
Independents 187 45 232
total 332 314 646


Remember, the KMT got more total votes in these elections than the DPP, by a margin of 38.6 to 35.3.  However, there were a lot more KMT candidates, and a lot more KMT losers.

Let’s look at the two big parties in the five cities.


city party lose win candidates
Taipei KMT 2 31 33
  DPP 7 23 30
Xinbei KMT 14 30 44
  DPP 5 28 33
Taichung KMT 20 27 47
  DPP 7 24 31
Tainan KMT 23 13 36
  DPP 7 27 34
Kaohsiung KMT 18 29 47
  DPP 5 28 33


Taipei was markedly different from everywhere else.  In Taipei City, the KMT had a fantastic day, losing only two races.  Everywhere else, the KMT was bloodied.  The worst was in Tainan, where nearly 2/3 of their nominees lost.  Ouch.  The DPP’s performance was much more even across cities.  They did a bit worse in Taipei City, but the differences in DPP winning percentages were much smaller.

Remember that, compared to past years, there were more seats available in Taipei, the same number in Xinbei, and far fewer in Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung.  This meant that all those KMT incumbents in the latter three cities were chasing only a few seats.  This was less of a problem for the DPP since it had fewer incumbents and a growing share of the overall vote.  With so many incumbents and so few total seats, the KMT almost had to overnominate.  As a result, they had fewer votes for each candidate.


city Party Candidates (excluding aborigines) Votes per candidate
Taipei KMT 31 20462
  DPP 30 17204
Xinbei KMT 41 20148
  DPP 32 22587
Taichung KMT 41 12700
  DPP 31 14849
Tainan KMT 32 8995
  DPP 32 11809
Kaohsiung KMT 40 14828
  DPP 31 18132


Since the cities have different population to seat ratios, you have to look at them separately.  However, we can see that the KMT in Taipei had 3000 more votes per candidate to work with than the DPP.  Even if you don’t split your votes very evenly among your candidates, 3000 extra votes is a big cushion.  You can make some mistakes.  Everywhere else, the DPP had a sizeable cushion.  The 3000 vote cushion in Tainan is especially huge, given the lower numbers.  (DPP candidates in Tainan had 31% more votes per candidate to work with.)

Given these margins, it doesn’t look like the DPP’s superior performance was due to better vote rationing (though I’ll certainly look into that eventually).  Rather, it comes from better nominating.  Better nominating could mean two things.  It could mean that the KMT judged correctly the number of votes it would get but couldn’t persuade its members to nominate an appropriately low number of candidates.  It could also mean that the KMT thought it would get more vote, and it nominated appropriately for a higher vote share.  I’ll have to look into that.


It is interesting to look at the numbers of candidates and votes in each city.  Remember that Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung are roughly the same size.  They should have roughly the same number of candidates and the same average number of votes per candidate.  The numbers should be a bit lower in Tainan and a bit higher in Xinbei.  Instead, the averages in Taichung are extremely low.  Taichung had lots and lots of incumbents running as independents.  The numbers are extremely high in Taipei, which has very few significant independents and more seats than incumbents.


One other thing I can look at today is party mavericks.  These are people who contested the party nomination, lost in the primary, and ran as independents.  We are interested in whether the party primary works well.  If it works well, primary losers should see that they have little chance in the general election and accept defeat.  If they choose to run anyway, they should get little support.  (I’ll talk about Yang Chiu-hsing some other time.)  Here is a summary of how people who lost in the KMT and DPP primaries did:


  KMT mavericks DPP mavericks
Total 42 10
Winners 4 0
Losers 38 10
Average # votes 7246 6825


As you can see, very few of the people who lost in the primary but ran anyway were able to win their races.  They did get significant numbers of votes, which suggests that they had some appeal beyond the party label.  In fact, 7000 votes was usually sufficient to win prior to this year.  However, this has to be considered a victory for party discipline.


The biggest reason for the DPP’s good performance this year is perhaps the one-time effect of switching systems.  The KMT was hit especially hard, as it had too many incumbents.  Independents had a miserable day.  There were lots of independents who could mobilize 6000 votes.  However, it is hard to expand your personal network from 6000 to 12000.  Party votes are much more fungible.  Next time all those independents will be gone, and the elections will be even more of a competition between political parties.


My Flora Expo

November 30, 2010

Just for fun, here is some of the election swag I collected this year.  (Q: Is the word “swag” used in any other context, or is it specifically about election paraphernalia?)  I took out all the duplicates, so all of these are different flags.  Alas, I did not get out of Greater Taipei this year, so there are no specimens from Taichung, Tainan, or Kaohsiung in my collection this year.

Lots of flags and some other stuff.

Here they are spread out a little more.

Mayoral candidates.  Su’s flag comes in pink, green, blue, and orange.  I thought that pink was the most appropriate color for this photo since Su wore a pink shirt to de-emphasize his DPP affiliation throughout his campaign.  Yes, the one in the middle does double duty as a campaign flag.  But only for one side.

This is the winner of the coveted Frozen Garlic’s Best Campaign Flag of the Election Cycle (handheld flag division).  This is from Jin Ruilong (KMT, Xinbei 5, Zhonghe), whose third character means “dragon,” or more loosely, “dinosaur.”

Finally, Frozen Garlic must note a deplorable trend.  Several city council candidates chose not to produce hand-held flags this year.  This was especially common among DPP candidates, which is the main reason my collection skews toward the KMT this year.  Frozen Garlic officially condemns this lack of public spirit among candidates for political office and hopes that future candidates will not continue down this road toward drabness.  It is a scientific fact that people shout “Frozen Garlic!” with 73% more enthusiasm when they are holding a flag in their hands, and they are 229% more likely to vote for a candidate if they take that candidate’s flag home with them.

My election reaction

November 27, 2010

Here is my immediate reaction to the election.

Chen’s alliance

November 27, 2010

Chen Shui-bian’s One Country One Side Alliance won 30 of 37 city council races.  That’s pretty good.


OSOCA City Council candidates

district Name name party Win
Taipei 1 陳碧峰 Chen Bifeng DPP Y
Taipei 2 江志銘 Jiang Zhiming DPP Y
Taipei 3 許家蓓 Xu Jiabei DPP  
Taipei 5 童仲彥 Tong Zhongyan DPP Y
Taipei 6 柯景昇 Ke Jingsheng DPP  
Xinbei 3 陳啟能 Chen Qineng DPP Y
Xinbei 4 王淑慧 Wang Shuhui DPP Y
Xinbei 5 林秀惠 Lin Xiuhui DPP Y
Xinbei 6 許昭興 Xu Zhaoxing DPP Y
Xinbei 7 吳琪銘 Wu Qiming DPP Y
Xinbei 10 周雅玲 Zhou Yaling DPP Y
Taichung 3 劉淑蘭 Liu Shulan DPP  
Taichung 7 何文海 He Wenhai DPP Y
Taichung 10 江正吉 Jiang Zhengji DPP  
Taichung 11 邱素貞 Qiu Suzhen DPP Y
Taichung 13 劉錦和 Liu Jinhe DPP Y
Tainan 2 賴惠員 Lai Huiyuan DPP Y
Tainan 4 郭秀珠 Guo Xiuzhu IND Y
Tainan 5 陳朝來 Chen Chaolai DPP Y
Tainan 7 林志聰 Lin Zhicong DPP Y
Tainan 8 王峻潭 Wang Juntan DPP Y
Tainan 9 施重男 Shi Chongnan IND Y
Tainan 10 黃永田 Huang Yongtian IND  
Tainan 11 唐碧娥 Tang Bi’e DPP Y
Tainan 12 邱莉莉 Qiu Lili DPP Y
Tainan 13 李文正 Li Wenzheng DPP Y
Tainan 14 王定宇 Wang Dingyu DPP Y
Tainan 16 曾王雅雲 Zeng Wang Yayun DPP Y
Kaohsiung 1 鍾盛有 Zhong Shengyou IND  
Kaohsiung 2 張文瑞 Zhang Wenrui DPP Y
Kaohsiung 3 陳政聞 Chen Zhengwen DPP Y
Kaohsiung 4 黃昭星 Huang Zhaoxing DPP  
Kaohsiung 5 林芳如 Lin Fangru DPP Y
Kaohsiung 7 鄭新助 Zheng Xinzhu IND Y
Kaohsiung 9 陳慧文 Chen Huiwen DPP Y
Kaohsiung 10 陳致中 Chen Zhizhong IND Y
Kaohsiung 11 韓賜村 Han Sicun DPP Y


Prediction contest

November 26, 2010

Election “predictions” are a ridiculous proposition.  No one knows what will happen.  I don’t, you don’t, and neither does your friend who insists that he knows someone on the inside, because the so-called insiders don’t know either.  We are all just guessing.


So let’s have fun.


There are eight former legislators running for city council:


Chen Chien-ming 陳健銘, TSU, Taipei 1 (Shilin-Beitou)

Lin Ruey-tou 林瑞圖, IND, Taipei 1 (Shilin-Beitou)

Chin Hui-chu 秦慧珠, KMT, Taipei 3 (Songshan-Xinyi)

Wang Shi-chien 王世堅, DPP, Taipei 4 (Wanhua-Zhongzheng)

Shen Fa-hui 沈發惠, DPP, Xinbei 10 (Xizhi)

Liao Hsueh-kuang 廖學廣, IND, Xinbei 10 (Xizhi)

Wang Shu-hui 王淑慧, DPP, Xinbei 4 (Banqiao)

Tang Bi-a 唐碧娥, DPP, Tainan 11 (North)


How many of these eight will win?


I guess five (Chen, Chin, Wang, Wang, and Tang).

What’s your guess?

The turnout narrative

November 26, 2010

Over the past few weeks, I have heard a specific narrative about turnout many, many times.  Most people argue that high turnout is good for the KMT because DPP supporters always turn out to vote while KMT voters are more fickle.  Sometimes they will vote, and sometimes they won’t.

I suspect that this narrative is completely wrong.


Turnout is an incredibly hard phenomenon to study.  We all know that mobilizing your voters is a key part of the election game.  If you can get a high percentage to the polls and your opponent can’t get many of his supporters to vote, you have a huge advantage.  However, the final number that we see is the combination of both these groups mixed together.  You can’t really study this with opinion polls either.  For whatever reason, the results you see in opinion polls don’t look anything like the actual election results when it comes to turnout.  Reported turnout is always much higher than actual turnout in both pre- and post-election surveys.

That is a way of saying that I don’t have any good evidence to back up my ideas, but neither does anyone else.  I think the lack of hard evidence is part of what is driving the narrative.


I think the turnout narrative is driven by lazy thinking.  It emanates primarily from people in the blue camp (though I have heard it repeated by people in the green camp as well), and I think it reflects a blue camp perspective of the turnout problem.  People always have a tendency to think that their own problems are more daunting than those of their opponents.  For blue politicians, turnout is one of the major components of a traditional campaign.  You put together a large, complicated, and expensive grassroots network of people, and you spend a lot of energy and money motivating those people to go to the polls and vote for you.  Blue politicians must look at the green camp with envy.  Green politicians traditionally have much, much less organization at the grassroots level, and yet their voters somehow show up at the polls.  It would be easy to conclude from this that green voters are ideologically motivated (read: fundamentalists) and always show up to vote.  Blue voters, in contrast, require a lot of work.

This narrative has blue supporters wringing their hands in anxiety.  As one radio commentator put it, “If the weather is bad, people will stay home.  If it is too good, they will go out and play somewhere.  Why can’t our voters be more like those fundamentalist DPP voters?”  Note that this also makes a nice message for the last few days of rallies: the other side is going to turn out in force; we have to match their intensity.


Several years ago, I seem to remember a similar message, but it came from the other side.  It was the KMT that had iron voting brigades, and DPP supporters wondered how they could ever overcome that obstacle.  In fact, the KMT military or government villages made up only a small part of the electorate in most districts, just as the DPP fundamentalists account for only a portion of the electorate today.  Everyone tends to emphasize the difficulty of their own challenge.

I recently spent a few hours combing through Taipei City electoral data looking for evidence of a rock-solid DPP vote and a variable KMT vote.  I looked at data at the li level from 2002, 2004, and 2006.  This includes high and low turnout elections and good and bad KMT elections.  If this turnout narrative is correct, there should have been some discernable patterns, with strong KMT li behaving differently than strong DPP li.  Now, as I said before, turnout is notoriously difficult to analyze, and I doubt I got everything specified correctly, so I’m not going to present any data here.  I will just note that every time I managed to find a statistically significant pattern, it was in the opposite direction as expected.  In other words, every time something showed a clear pattern, it seemed to indicate that higher turnout helped the DPP, not the KMT.  However, I’m not at all confident that I did any of this correctly, so let’s leave it at that.

A quick glance at the data is probably better evidence against the narrative.  The total number of blue camp votes goes up and down in various elections, but so does the total number of green camp votes.  I simply don’t see any rock-solid green vote that always turns out.  Some of the highest turnouts in Taiwanese electoral history produced pretty good results in Taipei for the DPP, including the 1998 Taipei mayoral campaign and the 2004 presidential campaign.  The 2002 and 2006 mayoral campaigns, in which the DPP did relatively poorly, had relatively lower turnout.

In fact, the DPP spends a lot of energy on turnout; they just do it in a different way from the KMT.  Instead of building a grassroots organization that will contact individual voters, the DPP excels at wholesale politics.  All those enormous rallies are not about changing minds, they are about increasing turnout.

At any rate, I believe the general proposition that high turnout is good for the KMT because KMT voters are more fickle is a lousy one.


That said, I don’t necessarily believe that high turnout is not good for the KMT THIS YEAR.  This year, I suspect we are looking at a DPP wave, with energized DPP supporters and lackluster KMT supporters.  This year, enthused DPP voters will probably turn out en masse, and the overall turnout rate will probably depend on how successful the KMT is in turning out its more begrudging supporters.  A moderate turnout of 65% would probably spell disaster for the blue camp.

In other words, this year looks to me a lot like 2008 in reverse.


DPP vote rationing in Taichung 10

November 23, 2010

The DPP has announced its vote rationing scheme in Taichung 10.   It is asking voters to pair up and have one person vote for each of its nominees.

This is interesting to me.  (Most things about elections are interesting to me.)

The DPP has two nominees running for three seats.  One nominee, Huang Guoshu 黃國書, is an incumbent and quite popular.  He won the party primary with an overwhelming majority and played a major role in publicizing the gangland shootings earlier this year.  The other candidate is Jiang Zhengji 江正吉, who looks far less popular.  Jiang served several terms in the city council in the 1980s and 1990s, but he lost the last two elections.  Jiang used to be in the KMT but then became an independent in the late 1990s, ran as the TSU candidate last time, and joined the DPP for this election.  So DPP voters might also have doubts about just how dedicated he is to the green cause.  In short, you have one very strong nominee and one very weak nominee.

From a strategic standpoint, Jiang would love to split all the DPP votes evenly.  Huang probably isn’t so sure about this.  If there are enough votes to go around, it’s fine.  However, every candidate’s first priority is his own victory.  The welfare of the overall party is always second.

Are there enough votes to go around for both DPP candidates?  Last time, the DPP plus TSU got 42.8% in this district.  In this wider election environment, that should either hold steady or go up this time.  The KMT has two candidates, plus there is at least one strong independent.  (Wang Yunlin’s 王允伶 mother is longtime incumbent Jiang Nai-hui 莊乃慧.)  So that means that three blue candidates will be splitting the rest of the pie.  Moreover, one of the KMT candidates, Zhang Hongnian 張宏年, is expected to be particularly strong.  Zhang is currently the speaker, and he wants to be speaker in the new city council.  One step in this is sometimes running up a high vote total to give yourself an image of high popularity.   So if the DPP splits its votes evenly, it looks like it might be hard for the blue camp to produce two candidates who get more votes unless either Wang or Hong Jiahong 洪嘉鴻, the other KMT nominee, get almost no votes.

However, it looks to me like Huang is still hedging his bets a little.  This particular vote rationing scheme is a little soft.  Rather than giving each voter a definitive set of instructions (eg: all men vote for Huang, all women vote for Jiang), this scheme gives voters a little leeway.  You can vote in pairs, but what if you don’t have a convenient person to pair with?  What if your family has three people?  This scheme makes it just a little easier for voters to rationalize voting for the candidate they prefer rather than splitting their votes evenly among the party nominees.

Most political agreements reflect carefully negotiated bargains.  Having a vote rationing scheme, any scheme, is better for Jiang than no scheme at all.  However, this might have been the worst scheme for him.  Still, it might be enough for him to win the third and last seat.

campaign flags and strategic voting

November 23, 2010

One of the most interesting things about the SNTV (single non-transferable vote) electoral system is the way it creates strange incentives for strategic voting.  A voter engages in strategic voting when she votes for a candidate other than her most favored candidate in order to get a better outcome.  For example, in the Kaohsiung mayoral race, many KMT supporters will likely not vote for their favorite candidate (presumably Huang), but will instead vote for their second favorite candidate (Yang) in order to decrease the likelihood of a victory by their least preferred candidate (Chen).  In single seat races, strategic voting diverts votes away from weak candidates to the top two candidates.

However, in the SNTV system used in the city council elections, strategic voting can siphon away votes from the strongest candidates.   Suppose there are ten seats, and the first place winner wins 25000 votes while the tenth place winner only wins 15000 votes.  The first place winner has 10000 extra votes that she could have done without.  If another candidate from her party lost by 3000 votes, the supporters of the first place candidate might not be terribly happy, even though their favorite candidate won.  For them, a better result would have been for the first place winner to get only 21000 votes, and for the loser to get an extra 4000 votes and thus become a winner.  Voters try to anticipate this sort of result by guessing which candidates will get too many votes, and then they divert support to candidates from the same party they think will be weaker.

In Taiwan, this is often called “the curse of first place.”  No one wants the media to suggest that they are in first place, because their votes might evaporate.  The best place thing is to be perceived as being (though not necessarily actually be) on the edge of victory and defeat, because voters give candidates in that position extra votes (to the degree that voters agree on who occupies these positions.)  Candidates know this, and so everyone tries to convince voters that they are in danger of losing.

This weekend, I drove around Greater Taipei taking pictures of flags.  As the campaign draws to a close, candidates often put up flags screaming for help.  In this post, I’m going to show a bunch of these flags.

Here’s a fairly classic example from Zhang Jinting (DPP, Xinbei 3).  The dark green characters in the middle are the critical ones.  They read qiang jiu 強救.  Jiu means to save, and qiang is an intensifier, so this roughly translates as “HELP!!  SAVE ME!!!”

Here’ s another one from Zheng Jinlong (DPP, Xinbei 2).  He has put the qiang jiu characters in bright red.

Here’s a fence with banners from three different candidates in Banqiao (Xinbei 4), all of whom are screaming for help.  The three are Xiao Guanyu (TSU) in the red and yellow, Wang Shuhui (DPP) in black and red, and Huang Junzhe (DPP) in green.

Sometimes you have to do more than just scream for help.  Zhao Yanzhao (KMT, Xinbei 4) is emphasizing his ties with the Taipei County volunteer firemen.  Presumably they save lots of peoples’ lives, and now it is time for them and their supporters to save Zhao’s career.

Black and red seems to have become the official color scheme of the cry for help.  This is a bit disorienting for me.  Back in the 1980s, black was a color with a very serious political message.  The only people who used black in their campaign flags were people who were victims of political prosecution.   I suppose it is a good thing that Taiwan is far enough removed from those days that black can now be used to indicate a very different and much less serious type of disaster.  Here is a black and red call for help from Jiang Zhiming (DPP, Taipei 2).

For some reason, Taipei 3 (Songshan, Xinyi) seems to the epicenter of the black and red cries for help.  This is Wang Zhengde (KMT, Taipei 3).

Xu Jiabei (DPP, Taipei 3). Come to think of it, her father is a former city councilor who has a court case hanging over him.  However, she isn’t using black in the old sense; this black and red color scheme is clearly just another cry for strategic voting.

Yang Shiqiu (KMT, Taipei 3).  Instead of “qiang jiu” 強救, Yang has substituted “gao ji” 告急, or emergency!

Hong Jianyi (DPP, Taipei 3).

It’s not just that district.  Here is a black and red help sign in Tucheng.  (Ou Jinshi, DPP, Xinbei 7).

Ouch, too bright!

Jian Wenliu (KMT, Xinbei 5) asks people not to split up their votes.  That is, he is asking families to give him all of their votes rather than giving one to each of the KMT’s candidates.

Everyone screams for help, not just those who we might think are weak.  This banner is for Chen Jinxiang (KMT, Taipei 6) who is the vice-speaker of the Taipei City Council.  Really?  The vice-speaker is in trouble?  Really?

I can do better.  This sign is for Chen Xingjin (KMT, Xinbei 2).  Chen is currently the speaker of the Taipei County Assembly.  Just for the record, I didn’t make it to the districts of the Taipei City speaker or the Taipei County vice-speaker, so I don’t know if they were using this kind of tactic too.

Here’s another candidate who everyone expects to win.  This is former legislators Qin Huizhu (KMT, Taipei 3).

We already saw another former legislator using this tactic.  Wang Shuhui (DPP, Xinbei 4)  was one of the three people on the wall in Banqiao.

(And if you are counting, this would be the fifth black and red sign from that Taipei 3 district.)

Some candidates have figured that voters are probably inured to the save me appeal, and so they try to phrase the appeal in a more convincing way that reflects their special circumstances.  Here, Wu Yuanhao (KMT, Xinbei 3) tells voters that survey results are not equal to election results.  In other words, he is pleading with his voters not to strategically desert him for someone else.

Perhaps no one has played the save me angle as intensely as Zhong Xiaoping (KMT, Taipei 5).  Every time I go into his district, I hear a sound truck screaming that he is facing imminent death and needs to be rescued.  Zhong has another angle to his appeal.  He has lost before, so when he screams that he is in trouble, it might be more credible.  He even adds Jason Hu as his celebrity endorser.

Lin Shuishan (DPP, Xinbei 4) has a similar strategy.  Last time he came in 10th in a 9 seat district.  He has a picture of Su Tseng-chang sighing “I am worried that Lin Shuishan will be the top loser again.”

Here, Tsai Ing-wen tells that Lin Shuishan was the top loser last time and asks everyone to encourage him.

Wang Xinyi (KMT, Taipei 6) also lost last time.  Her banner exhorts voters not to let her lose by only a few votes and cry tears of regret again.

The crux of the problem is that all these candidates are trying to divide up votes from the same pool of voters, and each one wants (more than) his fair share.  One way to deal with this is to redefine the group of candidates who can legitimately draw from the pool of voters.   In Zhonghe (Xinbei 5), the two official DPP nominees (Zhang Ruishan and Lin Xiuhui) pose with Tsai and say “we are all DPP nominees.”  To understand why this is controversial, you have to know that a third candidate is trying to make claims on the DPP voters as well.  Jiang Yongchang only recently joined the DPP, and since he has been in the party less than a year, he wasn’t eligible to be nominated.  The two DPP candidates are suggesting that Jiang doesn’t deserve any DPP votes.

Predictably, Jiang Yongchang (IND, Xinbei 5) screams for voters to save him, as the “new” green soldier needs your critical vote.

Usually I think of strategic voting as something that goes on within parties, not between them.  However, Xue Yonghua (PFP, Xinbei 7) is the only PFP nominee in his district.  He asks voters to save him and adds, don’t let the PFP disappear.  In other words, he is trying to convince voters to think about the blue camp, not just the KMT.

Finally, we get to the last two candidates, and there is something strange going on.  Yang Zonghan (IND, Xinbei 5) boasts that he is a monster, 100 battles and 100 victories.  In other words, he is an election juggernaut.

In the same district, Lu Wanyu (IND, Xinbei 5) has taped a sign to his sound truck telling people that he is in third place in a recent survey.  What?  Third place?  The district has seven seats.  He should be claiming that he is seventh or eighth.  What is he doing?  And why is Yang telling voters that he always wins?  Don’t these guys know how the game works?

In fact, Yang and Lu are guarding against the traditional kind of strategic voting, in which voters desert weak candidates to support viable candidates.  Both are independents and neither is an incumbent, and the first battle they have to win is to convince voters that they are viable.  Party nominees, especially from the two big parties, have a much easier time of this.  If they weren’t strong enough to win, they couldn’t have ever gotten a nomination.  Independents don’t have this kind of credible signal, so they have to send other signals.   It seems you have to convince voters you can win before you start screaming that you are going to lose.

campaign trail: Chu rally in Zhonghe

November 22, 2010

On Saturday night, a friend and I went to a rally for Eric Chu in Zhonghe City.  We were a bit late because the traffic on the freeway was horribly backed up.  He joked that it was probably all the people going to the rally.  Of course, that would be ludicrous; no rally has that many people.  However, after our normal 30 minute trip took 90 minutes and all the other roads leading away from the rally were completely clear, it became apparent that it really was the rally.  I think they were unloading all their busses in the slow lane, so that the slow lane backed up to the freeway exit, which eventually backed up to Xindian.  Wow.

There were quite a few people at the rally.  The site was big enough for 12000-15000, but it wasn’t quite full.  There were large gaps of seats that were completely empty, while other blocks were completely full.  Well, that’s what happens when most of your crowd is mobilized.  Of course, mobilized people are still people, and there were a lot of them.  I estimated about 9000, give or take a thousand.  (My estimates tend to be a lot lower than most people’s.  This is because I count people rather than simply pick a big number out of the air.)  It wasn’t a bad crowd.  There was a reasonable amount of energy.  If the speaker was boring, the crowd wouldn’t pay much attention.  However, if the speaker got them involved, the crowd did respond.

Some of the speakers included legislators Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇 and Hung Hsiu-chu 洪秀柱, county executive Chou Hsi-wei 周錫瑋, and party elder Wu Po-hsiung 吳伯雄.  After my description of Hung’s speech in the Da-an Park rally (which I did NOT, in fact, call the “garden of hatred”) made such a stir on the internet, I feel obliged to comment on her speech this time.  Huang repeated some of her speech about Chen Shui-bian, who she still refused to call by name.  She still said that they had felt dissatisfied 悶 while waiting for a court ruling on Chen’s cases.  However, this time she did not use the word “hate.”  I repeat, she did not use the word “hate.”  Actually, her whole speech had a lot less passion in it this time.  Maybe she decided to tone it down, but I think the most important thing is probably simply that another week has gone by.  Time moderates most passions.  The crowd in Da-an Park didn’t react too strongly, and this crowd had even less reaction.  I wouldn’t call it boredom, but perhaps it was mild interest.

The best speaker of the night was County Executive Chou Hsi-wei.  When they introduced him, he got a very warm reception.  You are reading correctly: the guy who was not popular enough to be re-nominated was the star of the night.  Chou launched into a passionate speech that really grabbed the crowd.  I think he got a little carried away by the moment and went a little overboard.  Near the end of his speech, he screamed “Down with the DPP” 打倒民進黨, a line that sounds like it comes from the Cultural Revolution.  But the crowd was with him, and he was probably letting off a year of pent up frustration.

Neither Chu nor Ma was at their best.  Ma inherited a riled-up crowd (from Chou) and proceeded to put them to sleep.  It was the KMT’s 116th birthday, and he talked for 5 minutes about the origins of the KMT.  He tried to sell us on the idea that the loss of Taiwan to the Japanese was instrumental in Sun Yat-sen’s dissatisfaction with the Qing court.  In other words, the KMT’s establishment was closely linked to Taiwan.  A) I don’t remember Taiwan being a critical factor in any of the accounts I’ve read, and B) this very dry topic sucked all the energy out of the crowd.  The rest of the rally wasn’t very memorable.

Overall, it was a reasonably good rally.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a disaster.  (This seems to be my judgment about everything associated with the Chu campaign.)