Archive for the ‘2010 mayoral’ Category

Speculation on Hau’s big victory

December 9, 2010

Like many people, I was a bit surprised at the Taipei City mayoral election results.  I wasn’t terribly surprised that Hau won, but I was surprised by the margin of victory.  A couple of days before the election, Mrs. Garlic and I kicked around the question of what results we would have found surprising.  In the Taipei race, I thought I would be surprised if Hau won by more than 10% or lost by more than 2%.  The national swing toward the DPP that I expected did, in fact, materialize.  And remember, 44% is a very good result for the DPP in Taipei City.  However, I expected more.  The KMT had an incumbent with a shaky to lousy record, depending on your viewpoint, and the DPP was running a proven administrator.  With a national swing toward the DPP, it looked like the perfect storm.  I fully expected Su to set a new benchmark for the DPP in Taipei City.

So what happened?  While the popular explanation is the shooting incident, I have my doubts about how much influence that had.  (I have backed off my original stance that it most likely had zero influence.  Enough people have told me that it changed their own behavior now that I have to believe that it mattered a little.  However, I doubt that it was sufficient to sway either Taichung or Xinbei, and it almost certainly couldn’t have been enough to produce Hau’s big victory.)  I think it is more likely that partisanship simply asserted itself.  I have a couple of ideas in mind.

First, I think that after months of polling showing Su close or even leading and the disastrous march/carnival/parade the weekend before the election, no pan-blue supporter could delude themselves into thinking that Hau would win easily.  In short, they all sensed danger and eventually came out to vote.  Anyway angry or disillusioned blue voters would have had to think twice before “sending a message” or trying to give Hau a black eye.  Sending a message is one thing; causing him to lose is another.

Second, while Su spent the whole campaign in his pink shirt talking about good government and non-ideological local issues, he is after all a former premier, prospective presidential candidate, and one of the most senior leaders of the DPP.  You simply can’t ignore the political ramifications of a Su victory.  With months to mull over this (instead of only a few days as in Taichung), pan-blue voters might have decided to stick with their party.


Many green supporters were disappointed that the Taipei City electorate would choose a lackluster blue candidate over an effective green one.  As one complained to me, how can you talk about democracy when voters mindlessly vote their party and don’t pay any attention to the incumbent’s performance in office?   Doesn’t democracy demand that voters punish bad politicians by voting them out of office?

Well, yes.  But also, not necessarily.

Most of us support one party or another for good reason: that party fights for things we want.  Put it this way, would you rather have a candidate who tries to do things that you like but does them badly, or a candidate who tries to do things that you don’t like and does them well?

Now it happens that, given the overriding dominance of the unification-independence (UI) cleavage, there isn’t a whole lot of disagreement about specific city policies.  We all want smoother traffic, better schools, less corruption and so on.  So you could argue that the previous question is irrelevant in the context of Taipei City.  However, the person sitting it the mayor’s chair eventually does matter for the  UI cleavage as well.  A DPP mayor would help DPP candidates for the presidency and the legislature.  A DPP mayor would divert city contracts to firms friendly to the DPP, and some of that money might find its way back into other campaigns.  And think about all the young political talent that has come through the Kaohsiung City government over the past 12 years.  A DPP mayor with a mini-cabinet would be an important cultivator of political talent.  (Perhaps I should say “could” be.  Ma and Hau haven’t taken much advantage of this opportunity.)  President Ma might also take the election as a signal that his policy of faster integration with China should be curtailed.  In short, putting a DPP politician in the mayor’s chair would probably help the DPP nationally.  If I am a pan-blue voter, I have to think carefully about whether that price is too high to pay for voting out an incumbent with a lackluster performance.

E.E. Schattschneider, a former president of the American Political Science Association and an important theorist of democracy, once wrote that democracy is unfathomable save in terms of political parties.  I think this represents the mainstream opinion of political science, especially those of us who study democratization and new democracies.  So if this election was a triumph of partisanship above everything else, that is probably a good thing.

Surveys?? Already? Yuck!

November 30, 2010

As much as it pains me to do this while I still haven’t even started digesting last week’s election, I have been forced by UDN and China Times to start a page showing presidential race polling results.  Can we wait a while before we start that race?  Please?  I only want a month or two.  I’m just not psychologically ready for the next election to start yet.

In a related story, both polls asked questions about the shooting, and both found that about 4% of respondents claimed that they changed their behavior in reaction to the shooting.  However, this doesn’t mean you can just subtract 4% from KMT candidates’ vote shares to get the “real” vote (ie: what would have happened if the shooting had never occurred).  Some of the people who were mobilized to vote or changed their votes ended up voting for the DPP.  The net effect may have benefited the KMT, but these results suggest the effect was very small.  (Surveys can’t tell you whether the effect was 1% or 2% because those are statistically not different from each other.  However, we can probably be sure that the effect wasn’t over 5%.  At any rate, I’m going to stick with the qualitative conclusion of “small.”

Are we over-emphasizing votes?

November 30, 2010

In my immediate post-election reaction, I paid a lot of attention to the numbers of votes gained by the KMT and DPP.  However, as I’ve slowly digested the election outcome, I wonder if I’m putting too much weight on that.  The point of an election is to win office, and the KMT won three of them.  All of those DPP votes over the last two years haven’t translated into many public offices.  Even now, if the presidential election were held tomorrow, my gut tells me that Ma would win a second term by a narrow, narrow margin.  Again, all those votes might not translate into any concrete gains in power.  The most important fact of this election is that the KMT won Taipei, Taichung, and Xinbei.  It will hold those seats for the next four years no matter how public opinion evolves.  Moreover, if public public opinion starts to swing back toward the KMT, this DPP wave, which produced lots of votes but not much political power, will have very little to show for it.  The votes give a hint of how public opinion is now and might evolve over the next two years, but they do not guarantee any future results.  Maybe the KMT got the cow and the DPP got the magic beans.  The only problem for the DPP is that magic beans are rarely actually magic.  I’ll take the cow.

Obviously, I need to go to sleep…

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 prediction about Lien Sheng-wen

November 29, 2010

When I heard about the shooting, I only had two predictions.

1) As soon as the results were out, a lot of people would say, “As soon as I heard about the shooting, I knew it would mean disaster for the XX Party.” (I had no prediction about whether XX was the KMT or DPP.)

2) Almost everyone would insist that the incident had a major effect on the election result.

Many of my expectations for the election were wrong (no big surprise), but not these two.  It may not shock you to hear that I think both of these arguments are a bunch of baloney.

Before the votes were counted, I had no idea what the effect would be.  On the one hand, the story that most people are telling now is that the incident was very advantageous to the KMT.  The shooting inspired sympathy for Lien, and mobilized lots of otherwise lethargic blue camp sympathizers to come out and vote.  Maybe it reminded them of the 2004 shooting incident and aroused their sense of partisan indignation.  Also, the news completely wiped away all the media coverage of the DPP’s big events on the last night, so any atmosphere of a huge DPP wave was destroyed.

On the other hand, who would be sympathetic to Lien Sheng-wen?  When he bandied about the idea of running for a seat in the legislature a few years ago, the DPP salivated at the thought.  They thought that Lien Sheng-wen might be their best (only) hope for winning the Da-an District seat.  The KMT nominated an uncontroversial party footsoldier instead.  Also, it seemed pretty clear within a few hours that the incident had something to do with organized crime.  If the incident shifted voters’ focus to organized crime, that would be a big help to the DPP.

On the third hand, did this thing really change anyone’s behavior at all?  Apparently this only had an effect in Taipei and Xinbei, but not in Taichung or the south.  (Well, those people in the south are more rational and less emotional.  What?)  Uh, the media is national; it should have an effect everywhere.  As Jason Hu said through tears to his rally in Taichung, “We condemn all violence and hope no party will use this incident for political advantage.  Now let’s all have a moment of silence for Sheng-wen.”

Even if it did change a few people’s behavior, was it enough to influence the outcome?  Hau won by 13%.  Did all (or even most) of that margin come from this?  No way!  I can’t believe this would even be important enough to swing the Taichung election, which Hu won by 2.2%.  (If everything had turned out like the Taichung election — with the DPP doing better than expected, we would be hearing the other story.)

There are always people who will tell you that something affects “those people.”  Until I hear someone tell me it affects their own behavior, I’m not going to believe it.  Believing that other people are unreasonable or irrational sheep is usually a sign of lazy thinking, and it tells you more about the speaker than about the people he is talking about.



There is one other reason that the DPP loves this narrative: it absolves them of responsibility for their losses.  They can say, we were going to win until the last moment.  We were just unlucky.  (Or, Damn KMT and their dirty tricks.)   The DPP did quite well in the elections, but the expectations were extremely high.  The shooting gives Tsai one more reason not to resign as party chair and makes both Su and Tsai look a bit better as they reposition themselves for 2012.


My election reaction

November 27, 2010

Here is my immediate reaction to the election.

campaign trail: Chu in Yonghe

November 26, 2010

Last night, I went to see Su Tseng-chang in Wanhua, right next to the Longshan Temple.  There was not too much available space, but it was all completely packed.  It is hard to estimate crowds in irregular spaces; my best guess is 3000, give or take 500.  The crowd was pretty enthusiastic, which was not terribly surprising.  There wasn’t a lot of speaking; most of the evening was filled by musical performances.  Su Tseng-chang was the only person to give a full-fledged speech.  He didn’t say much new, so I won’t bother to report on it.

Tonight I went to Yonghe to see Eric Chu.  Well, technically I think we were in Zhonghe.  The event was in the 823 Park, which is right on the border between the two cities.  The site was extremely small, but it was filled to capacity.  Since President Ma was coming, they established a security perimeter.  I think there were probably 1000 people inside the perimeter and 500 outside.  Again, I couldn’t see the whole crowd from one single angle, so this estimate is not very precise.

The crowd was equal to DPP crowds in its level of enthusiasm.  This is the first time I have seen that from a KMT crowd this year.  Also, I really like events held in Yonghe for one simple reason: everything is in Mandarin!

The speakers were really slamming Tsai for her divided attention.  As one speaker put it, she wants to be mayor, party chair, and run for president.  Chu spent several minutes stressing how important the first mayor of Xinbei will be in establishing all the precedents.  He concluded: a mayor has to focus all his attention on these problems, and he can’t afford to divide his attention.  It’s a good point; I think Chu could have made it much more forcefully.  At any rate, Wu Nai-ren 吳乃仁 didn’t do Su or Tsai any favors by suggesting that they could still run for president.

Ma Ying-jeou was the most interesting speaker tonight.  He spent about 80% of his speech talking about national issues.  First, he talked about the KMT’s record on economics.  He gave the economic growth stats again (GDP growth of 9.98%, unemployment rate of 4.92%), but he also talked about the KMT’s record in managing the economic crisis.  He was particularly proud of the fact that not one bank failed.  Next, he spoke about diplomacy, concentrating on the EU’s recent decision to allow Taiwanese enter without a visa.  Taiwanese can now visit 96 countries visa-free, and this is a big improvement over the Chen era.  Finally, he spoke about his record in national security.  Ma said that there are two powderkegs in East Asia: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait.  The Korean Peninsula is as volatile as ever, as we have seen in the past few days.  However, Ma stressed that he has successfully lowered tensions across the Taiwan Strait so that a similar event is highly unlikely here.  (There were other points, but those are the three that I remember most clearly.)  He ended this by asking the crowd which political party had performed better.  “I can’t hear you.  Louder!!”

He eventually said a few things about Chu, but he never talked about local issues for Taipei County.  I was a bit surprised by this focus on national and party issues.  I’ve heard Ma speak several times this year, and he has never been so focused on national issues.  I’m really not sure why he shifted gears tonight or whether that will help or hurt Chu.  But it clearly is a different message.

The event ended at 8:20.  They had another event, but that is still quite early to end.

When a campaign thinks they are going to win, they give off a different vibe than when they think they are going to lose and are just putting on a brave act.  Right now, it looks to me like the Su, Tsai, and Chu camps all think they are going to win.  The Hau camp isn’t so sure, though I don’t think he thinks he is clearly going to lose.  But he doesn’t exude the confidence that the other three do right now.  (Don’t ask me to justify this feeling; it’s just a feeling I have.)

(the other) Su’s great campaign

November 25, 2010

I’ve spent this entire election in Taipei and the two Taipei mayoral races have been the closest and most intense all year, so I haven’t paid enough attention to the other three elections.  The one I wish I had followed more closely is the race in Taichung.  Recall that way back at the beginning of the year, once Jason Hu 胡志強 declared that he would run, the common wisdom was that the race was effectively over and the only question was whether Hu would win by a comfortable margin or a landslide.  The DPP couldn’t even find a candidate it wanted to go to war with.

Yet here we are, two days before the election, and the DPP has an outside chance of winning.  I don’t think the KMT will lose, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility (the way that the DPP losing in Tainan or Kaohsiung is basically unthinkable right now).

Su Chia-chuan 蘇嘉全 has had a fantastic campaign.  In these past six months, he has persuaded many, perhaps most people that Hu’s record over the past nine years is decidedly lackluster.  He has also managed to present himself as a credible alternative, someone very good at local governance and familiar enough with Taichung to do the job.

Su’s campaign is what the KMT was hoping for from Kuo in Tainan and Huang in Kaohsiung.  Neither of those two have been able to muster a serious challenge to the DPP.  One way to think about this is to think back to the beginning of the year, when the parties weren’t happy with their local candidates in any of those three races.  The DPP eventually decided to abandon their local candidate and parachute in a national figure.  The KMT seriously considered doing the same thing in both Tainan and Kaohsiung.  They did poll after poll with all kinds of different people in those two races, but they never could find an acceptable alternative.  Eventually they went with the local candidates.

Isn’t this strange?  We think of the KMT as being full of capable people nurtured through their system over the last few decades.  Why did the DPP, not the KMT, have someone to parachute in?  The KMT had one person, Eric Chu 朱立倫.  They needed him for Xinbei.  Where are all their other spare tires?  (Think about all the other spare tires the DPP had available: they used Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 and Su Tseng-chang 蘇貞昌, discussed You Hsi-kun 游錫堃 and Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 publicly, and they could have gone to other figures such as Ye Chu-lan 葉菊蘭.)

This points to two big failures for the KMT corresponding to the two traditional sources of these parachute candidates.  First, many come from successful stints as county executives.  Eric Chu is one example.  The KMT has lots of former county executives, but apparently only Chu performed well enough to be considered a viable candidate as a mayor of a direct municipality.  Second, other parachute candidates come from the national bureaucracy.  However, Ma has chosen to staff the cabinet almost entirely with technocrats, not politicians.  For example, Su Chia-chuan served as Interior Minister.  Ma’s Interior Minister is Jiang Yi-huah 江宜華, a NTU political scientist.  The Transportation Minister is also traditionally a politician, but Ma’s Transportation Minister, Mao Chi-kuo 毛治國, is a career bureaucrat.  Part of governing in a democratic society is being able to put together the political support to win office and defend your policies once you get there.  You need to have some politicians along with your technocrats.


But I digress.  This post was supposed to be about Su Chia-chuan and his extremely successful campaign.  Even without knowing the final result, I think the DPP has to be thrilled with the way things have turned out in Taichung.


Campaign trail: Tsai in Wugu

November 23, 2010

Last night I went to a rally for Tsai Ing-wen in Wugu Township.  This was a much smaller event than the ones I went to over the weekend, which was not surprising.  It was Monday night, after all.  The rally was outside a parking garage, and the irregular space made it much harder than usual to estimate the crowd.  The area on the ground was not rectangular.  The parking garage had three overhang levels, all with some people in them.  And there were even people standing on the other side of the street.  It wasn’t a really big space, but it was extremely full.  I would estimate around 1500 people, give or take 500.  The crowd was not mobilized, and it was quite enthusiastic.

I haven’t written a lot about Tsai in this blog, given the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about her campaign.  Everyone else is much easier to grasp, but I never seem to be able to reach a clear thought about Tsai.  She is terrible at public speaking and bores crowds to death, yet people seem to genuinely like her.  She spends an inordinate amount of time shaking hands for that personal touch, yet when she gets around to making a speech, it is full of policy details and short on emotion.  Everything about her campaign is a mess, her opponent is quite good, the partisan terrain is disadvantageous to her, and yet I wouldn’t be shocked if she won the race.  She just isn’t like any other candidate I’ve seen.  (Maybe that’s exactly the appeal.)

Having said that, last night highlighted the lousy-on-the-campaign-trail aspect.  When Tsai got to the stage, she was incoherent, uninteresting, spoke in platitudes, and couldn’t manage much Taiwanese.  She even apologized for her worse than normal speaking.  As we say, her brain was completely fried.  Apparently she had been in a motorcade all day, which is extremely tiring.  You have to stand and wave on a moving car, which is tiring enough, but in addition there are fireworks constantly going off right near you.  Six hours of that would be exhausting.  When she entered our event, she worked her way from the back, through the middle of the crowd, all the way to the front.  Candidates like to do this because the crowd loves it.  However, as she passed by me, I stood a few feet back and got up on a stool to watch her.  She was being pushed and pulled by the mob, and she was not enjoying it.  She was not at all happy, or shaking hands.  Instead, she was covering her head with her hands to try to protect herself a bit.  When she finally got to the stage, she held up a few sheets of paper that were all crushed and dirty and sheepishly told the audience, this is my speech.  After that, it just isn’t surprising that she gave a terrible speech.

This all reflects poor planning and inexperience.  When they were planning out the schedule two weeks ago, no one asked if Tsai was going to be too brain dead after six hours in a motorcade to give a speech.  Since Tsai has never been a candidate before, she probably couldn’t have answered that question herself.  It takes a tremendous amount of physical stamina to campaign, and very few people appreciate this until they have been through the process.  Even if they decided that both the motorcade and the rally were necessary, they should have thought about ways to reduce the physical toll on Tsai.  Being unmarried, she is at a disadvantage.  Married candidates can take a break for a half an hour and put their spouse in their place in the motorcade.  But there are other things she could have done.  They could have given her a chair for at least part of the route.  They could have used fewer fireworks or quieter fireworks or shot them off further away from her.  They could have shortened the route.  And when they got to the rally, she didn’t have to go through the middle of the crowd.  If they really wanted to do that, they needed to have a group of big, strong young men clearing a path and holding back the crowds so that she could reach through the human wall and shake hands but wouldn’t feel physically threatened.  These are all things that experienced campaigns and candidates know how to do.

The miracle of it all was that, as bad as she was on stage, her crowd stayed with her.  The beginning of her speech was awful as she stumbled around, improvising and then going into really dry (and vague) policy ideas.  This would have alienated most crowds.  However, whenever she suddenly asked them a question, they immediately roared back the answer.  Usually when you have lost a crowd, there is no answer the first time.  You have to ask it a second time before they realize they are expected to respond.  This crowd wanted badly to support Tsai, even if she wasn’t helping them at all.

In the midst of all this lousy political communication, both last night and over the past few weeks Tsai has somehow communicated a few very important messages.  One of them has to do with her vision for the DPP’s future.  Currently, as everyone knows, partisan competition revolves around the question of Taiwan’s relationship with China.  Tsai is trying to reorient politics around a new axis of competition (or at least add another axis to the current single dimension).  Tsai is trying to add a left-right cleavage.  She is talking about creating a welfare state.  She is not just pushing one policy, such as old-age pensions, but a whole range of policies from public housing to childhood welfare.  She is also attacking the KMT’s economic policy as focused entirely on the aggregate numbers, such as GDP.  These numbers don’t distinguish between additional wealth that goes to already rich people and wealth that goes to poorer people.  In short, I think she is trying to reorient the DPP as something more like a European social democratic party.  (Lots of candidates make these sorts of promises, but Tsai is the party chair and might be defining the DPP’s path for the next few years.)

Dafydd Fell has studied the attempts by different parties to add new issues to the dominant unification-independence cleavage.  He concludes that these attempts to reorient politics have always failed.  You might talk about environmental politics or anti-corruption for a while, but when push comes to shove, you always line up with your allies on the UI cleavage.  Eventually something will replace the UI cleavage, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon.  The question of Taiwan’s future is just too basic to ignore.  However, there might be room for a left-right cleavage to supplement the dominant UI cleavage, especially as the gap between rich and poor grows.

Coming back to the immediate campaign, we see the paradox of Tsai Ing-wen.  The DPP will probably do very well in this year’s election.  Even if they only win two of the mayoral seats, they will almost certainly get more votes this year than they have in the past.  Tsai is person most responsible for this surge in DPP support.  Her ability to convince people to put the Chen era behind them and focus on the performance of the Ma government and her vision for the future have been instrumental in the DPP’s recovery from the disasters of 2008.  Yet, it is conceivable that she herself will be the candidate who benefits the least from this surge.

The partisan terrain

November 23, 2010

I often get too detailed and forget to look at the big picture.  So let’s step back and look at the basic partisan structure of the five metro areas.   I calculated the percentages of the blue and green camps for the past 6 executive elections (3 presidential, 3 local executive).   To simplify things, I’m just going to look at the green camp results.  Since I have already added all the splinter candidates back into their respective camps, the two camps are basically mirrors of each other, so we aren’t really losing any information by only looking at the green camp.  To make it even easier, in the second chart I have taken out all the local executive races.  This allows us to hold the candidates constant.  You can see the same basic trends in the first chart, but they are clearer in the second chart.

Unfortunately, it seems nearly impossible to paste a chart directly onto my blog post, so you’ll have to download the excel file and look at the pretty charts there.

5 metro party votes (a)

It is pretty obvious that Tainan is clearly the DPP’s best area of these five municipalities, and Kaohsiung is the second best.  Tainan has consistently been about 5% better than Kaohsiung.

What is a little more surprising to me is how closely the other three are bunched together.  Taipei has consistently been a bit worse than Taichung and Xinbei, but the difference is only about 2-3%.  Taichung and Xinbei are roughly equivalent.

Perhaps the reason I think the DPP faces a much tougher terrain in Taipei than in Xinbei or Taichung can be seen in the 2004 results.  In that year, all the DPP lines stretch upward, but less so in Taipei than in other places.  Taipei just seems more solid in its partisan patterns than in other places.


There are a couple of interesting deviations from the general trend lines in 2001/2.  In Xinbei, the DPP went way, way above its “normal” trend line.  This was the year that Su Tseng-chang ran for re-election.   In Taipei, the DPP went far below its normal trend line.  Ma Ying-jeou was running for re-election that year.  Apparently, both were pretty good candidates.

You can also see the north/south evolution.  (This is easier to see in the table than in the graphs.)  Comparing 2000 to 2008, the DPP’s vote increased by a bit more in the south than in the north.