Archive for the ‘local factions’ Category

On polling primaries

March 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musings on the old and new premiers

September 11, 2017

It seems I don’t get around to blogging very much these days. Hopefully I’ll pick up the pace as we move into the next election cycle. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts on the recent cabinet reshuffle.


Former Premier Lin Chuan’s 林全 resignation did not come as much of a surprise. After 16 months, it was time for a reset. His satisfaction ratings were not great, but it’s easy to overstate that point. We’ve had several stories in the international media gasping about President Tsai’s cratering satisfaction ratings in the high 20s or low 30s (“worse than Trump!!!!”), and Lin’s ratings were a notch below those levels. However, the Taiwanese electorate is historically much stingier with its approval for national politicians than the American electorate, and ratings in this range haven’t historically heralded disaster. I’ll have more to say on public opinion in a subsequent post. For right now, let’s just say that Lin’s ratings weren’t spectacular.

Taiwanese cabinet members come in two broad prototypes: elected politicians and technocrats. Lin is a classic technocrat, having served in various administrative and policy-focused positions since the mid-1990s. It is somewhat ironic that his biggest failings were technical rather than political. In recent weeks, the KMT has enthusiastically thrown the legislature into chaos protesting the Forward-Looking infrastructure package. They have made some substantive arguments against the package, such as claiming that spending on railways is wasteful, but their first and most effective argument was that the documentation was sloppy and incomplete. The cabinet’s original proposal for the massive eight year package came with a pitifully thin set of documents explaining exactly what the money would used for. In other words, the technocrats had not bothered to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. This is the kind of problem you might expect a career politician – with a focus on power and coalitions – to make, not a career technocrat who supposedly revels in the details of public policy. Lin ran into the same sort of problem in his biggest failing, the revision of the Labor Standards Law that has left almost no one satisfied. The broad and inflexible brush strokes of the new policy are the kind of thing you would not expect from a policy nerd with a detailed understanding of labor markets. They are exactly what you might expect from a politician catering to the whims of a specific interest group and ignoring all the others.

Meanwhile, Lin passed one of the most important political tests for any premier: he could almost always count on support from a majority in the legislature. The DPP LY caucus may not have been thrilled with the amendments to the Labor Standards Law, but they were willing not only to vote en masse for those amendments but even to physically push KMT legislators off the speaker’s podium so that they could vote for Lin’s bill. Likewise, in the fight over infrastructure, the DPP LY caucus allowed the KMT caucus to make noise and express their discontent, but at the end of the day, they passed the cabinet’s plan relatively unchanged. For the most part, the LY had Lin’s back. If you think that is trivial, try talking to former KMT Premier Jiang Yi-huah 江宜樺about whether a majority party in the LY always supports the premier’s agenda.

From a political perspective, Lin also handled marriage equality quite deftly. In the face of strident demands from pro-marriage equality forces to amend the Civil Code and deep trepidation from DPP legislators staring at polls showing substantial opposition to this among back in their districts, Lin simply sidestepped the issue. By interpreting the Grand Justices’ ruling as implying that the language in the Civil Code requiring marriage to include one man and one woman was unconstitutional, Lin decided that there was no need to amend the Civil Code. Gay marriages can be registered under the current law. In this way, Lin did not force DPP legislators into a no-win situation by forcing them to offend either their young voters or everyone over forty.

This is not to say that Lin has been a terrible technocrat and a genius politician. He has had plenty of political failings. For example, somehow the DPP managed to tackle the very thorny issue of pension reform, pass a bill that the KMT didn’t dare try to physically block in the legislature, and still leave the majority of people dissatisfied. What should have been a crowning triumph of Lin’s tenure is instead something that most people think should have been handled better. The technocratic efforts are, by nature, less visible, but it is reasonable to assume that he has quietly launched drives to remake government policy in a number of areas. Still, it is striking to me that his highest profile setbacks were mostly technical in nature.


Tainan mayor William Lai 賴清德 is the new premier, and there is a lot of speculation about his next move. Some people think he will run for New Taipei mayor next year, while others think he is planning to run for president in 2020. I don’t think either of these are likely.

The timetable for a mayoral run is very tight. The election will be in late November or early December next year, so he would have to start his campaign (and resign as premier) by May or June at the latest. However, he would have to announce his intention (or “reluctant capitulation” to the intense arm-twisting pressure from the rest of the DPP) to run a month or two before that. In other words, he would ony have a maximum of eight months in office as premier before starting the campaign. In April 2010, Eric Chu 朱立倫 announced he would be willing to run for New Taipei mayor after only eight months as deputy premier, so maybe the calendar isn’t too tight. However, I think premier and deputy premier are fundamentally different positions. The deputy premier isn’t the one in charge of the executive branch; Chu was not the one determining policy directions. When the deputy premier resigns, there is no need to formally reshuffle the cabinet. Mayor is arguably a step up from deputy premier, while it is almost certainly a step down from premier. It just doesn’t make sense for the premier, after only eight months, to claim that he has successfully accomplished everything he wants to do in his current job and is now ready to move on to a new and less important challenge. For the deputy premier, though, that makes perfect sense. Perhaps Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 is a better model for this proposed jump than Eric Chu. Hsieh was re-elected as Kaohsiung mayor in 2002, became premier in 2005, and then ran for Taipei mayor in 2006. However, Hsieh served as premier from February 2005 to January 2006, almost a full calendar year. Moreover, he took over as premier much earlier in the cycle (February rather than September) and he resigned well before the nominations for the next mayoral elections were decided. His calendar was much less compressed than Lai’s. Still, one year is not a particularly long time as premier, and Hsieh did not exactly resign in triumph. This lackluster record as premier probably contributed to his landslide defeat in the Taipei mayoral race. It is hard to see Lai arguing that he was a successful premier with only eight months in office. Running for mayor would probably require him to talk defensively rather than brag proudly about his tenure as premier.

Lai is even less likely to run for president in 2020 than to run for mayor in 2018. For one thing, as premier, he will now be tightly identified with Tsai. His triumphs are her triumphs, and her failings will rub off on him. More fundamentally, there simply is not much demand within the DPP right now for someone to split the party by running against their incumbent president. Tsai is still the leader of the party. Some of the shine may have come off her leadership, but she is still the unquestioned top dog and still on track to win a second term.

Lai’s goal should be for the DPP’s 2024 nomination. He is not necessarily in a great position for this. Premiers tend to have a relatively short shelf life. If he does very well, he might make it to the 2020 presidential election as premier. It is almost unthinkable that he might make it all the way to the 2024 election as premier. Perhaps his best scheme might be to persuade the current VP to yield that spot to him in order to guarantee his survival to 2024. However, it seems highly unlikely at this point that Chen Chien-jen 陳建仁 would want to step aside or that Tsai Ing-wen would ask him to. If we are still thinking of Lai as a presidential contender after his tenure as premier ends, he will have to find some other platform to keep him in the public eye for a year or three until the 2024 presidential campaign begins. However, that is a problem that we don’t have to worry about right now.


We are hearing a lot about how Lai is a leader of the New Tide 新潮流 faction, and some people are wondering if the New Tide faction is becoming dominant within the DPP. After all, it now controls the cabinet, many important local governments (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taoyuan, Changhua, Pingtung), and it has a powerful presence in the LY. This is correct on the surface, but it is worth asking how cohesive the New Tide still is. From the 1980s through the Chen presidency, New Tide was famous for its internal discipline. There were three leaders (Lin Cho-shui 林濁水, Chiu I-jen 邱義仁, and Wu Nai-jen 吳乃仁) who ran the faction. They defined the ideals and policy priorities, built the organizational network, raised money, recruited and trained talent, made deals with other factions, and generally cultivated a tightly disciplined faction. Those three leaders have mostly faded from the scenes. Today’s New Tide is led by a disparate group of local leaders (the aforementioned mayors) and legislators (especially Tuan Yi-kang段宜康). There is no longer any central authority. Chen Chu 陳菊 may be a New Tide member, but she is primarily the mayor of Kaohsiung and her highest priority is on Kaohsiung’s problems. She isn’t going to take orders from William Lai or any other New Tide member. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to think that she has organized her own Kaohsiung-based faction including many people who are not necessarily New Tide figures and who answers to her rather than to any national New Tide leadership. The same goes for Cheng Wen-tsan 鄭文燦 in Taoyuan and every other mayor. In the legislature, the New Tide faction might help win nominations, but I don’t think it exercises quite as much control over its members as it once did. During the Chen-era, we started hearing about the North Tide 北流, Central Tide 中流, and South Tide 南流. These three had very different attitudes about whether to support the embattled President Chen. The North Tide led calls for him to resign, while the South Tide was much more supportive (reflecting difference in the larger population among northern and southern voters). The New Tide didn’t quite fracture, but its cohesion did suffer. I don’t think it has or will ever fully recover. So while it is not meaningless that Lai is a New Tide member, this doesn’t imply that New Tide is taking over everything. New Tide isn’t really a cohesive (unitary) actor with a distinctive set of policy preferences these days.


I’m not exactly buying into the hype about William Lai. I think there are a lot of parallels between Lai and Eric Chu. Both were relentlessly promoted by the media as the party’s great savior without having done very much to earn that mantle. Chu was a scholar and Lai was a doctor, both were singled out at a fairly young age and placed into a solidly blue/green district that they could win without much challenge. Both are physically attractive enough, neither is brimming with charisma, and neither has actually accomplished as much as you have the impression they have. Yet, somehow, we all have been led to believe that they are presidential material. In their first forays into cross-straits affairs, they even employed similar strategies by playing superficial word games. Chu tweaked the 1992 consensus, changing one character and advocating One China, both sides with the same interpretation 一中同表. Lai tried to coin a vacuous pro-China, love Taiwan 親中愛台. Both seemed to think that they could cleverly clear away all the obstacles to cross-straits relations by coming up with a better four-character slogan than anyone else. Neither seems to have bothered to think through the implications of these formulae the way Ma, Tsai, or Hsieh did.

In early 2015 when Chu took over as KMT party chair, I wrote that he was now stepping out of the easy aura of a local mayor, in which most every action is reported with a favorable tinge by an accommodating local reporter, and into the harsh light of national politics, where every action would be scrutinized and (fairly or unfairly) attacked if any partisan advantage could be gained. Likewise, Lai now steps into that harsh limelight. Rather than taking credit for the mango harvest or paving a road, he will more likely be blamed for not having a quick and painless solution to a variety of intractable problems such as the low birthrate, systemic youth unemployment, or companies willing to compromise food safety in order to cut costs. Lai just stepped into the big leagues, and the vague hero image that his boosters have so assiduously cultivated won’t survive if he doesn’t deliver the goods.

The parallel to Chu isn’t perfect. Lai has faced and overcome a few more electoral challenges than Chu. Chu won one term in the legislature; Lai won four terms. In particular, Lai survived the 2008 KMT tidal wave even though Ma beat Hsieh in his district. In addition, while Chu had both the Taoyuan and New Taipei mayoral nominations handed to him, Lai won an intense primary in 2010 to secure the mayoral nomination. However, if Lai has a few more substantial victories than Chu, he also has a couple of red flags. Lai has not been able to forge a compromise with affected residents over the rerouting of a rail line. He was also unable to manage a Dengue Fever outbreak.

But most disturbing was his response to the election of a KMT politician as speaker of the Tainan City council. Lai accused the speaker of buying votes and refused to attend city council meetings until the speaker was removed. The speaker probably had bought votes, but that is hardly justification for Lai’s behavior. The mayor does not have the power to assign guilt; that is job of the judiciary. Lai’s certitude in his right to assign guilt and ignore his legal duty to give reports and answer interpellations in the city council belies a stunning moral arrogance. The KMT sarcastically dubbed him Deity Lai 賴神, and, dishearteningly, he has not shied away from that moniker. It is very easy to imagine him refusing to see a flawed decision or even doubling down on it. If he is to have a successful tenure as premier, he will have to show a bit more humility that he has thus far.


KMT party chair election, revisited

June 22, 2017

Wu Den-yi was elected KMT chair about a month ago. At the time, one of the popular theories about his win was that it represented a victory of the Taiwan-oriented local factions over the orthodox Chinese nationalist wing. (Or, if you prefer, the Taiwanese wing defeated the Mainlander wing.) In this line of thought, Wu was inheriting the support previously won by Lee Teng-hui, Wang Jin-pyng, and Huang Min-hui. The unspoken implication was that native Taiwanese Wu would lead the KMT in a more localist direction, perhaps even becoming another Lee Teng-hui.

I’ve never been too enamored with this discourse, but I keep talking with smart people who believe it is more or less what happened. I see Wu as a firm believer in the orthodox KMT catechism. He may not be as extreme as Hung Hsiu-chu, but all of his statements and actions over the past four decades seem to me to indicate someone who is quite comfortable with the direction established by Lien Chan and Ma Ying-jeou. That is, he should be acceptable to both wings of the party. I think what happened in the chair election is that KMT members – who want to return to power – simply chose the strongest leader.

So what if I’m wrong? What if Wu was elected because the local factions mobilized to support him? What would that look like? One notable difference between the KMT chair elections in 2016 and 2017 was that there were about 50% more eligible voters and valid votes in the 2017 election. Many people have speculated that this was the result of local factions signing up new party members in support of Wu. If so, we should see a clear pattern. There should be far more new voters in central and southern Taiwan, where the local factions are strongest. Moreover, if Wu inherited and built on Huang Min-hui’s 2016 support, the increase should be greatest in places where more new people signed up for KMT membership.

Let’s look at the results of the 2016 and 2017 KMT party chair elections. The KMT tallied results for individual ballot boxes, but I can only find the full results aggregated up to the city and county level:


2016 KMT party chair election

    陳學聖 李新 黃敏惠 洪秀柱
    Chen Lee Huang Hung
合計 139558 6784 7604 46341 78829
台北市 12802 756 901 2990 8155
新北市 16694 723 916 4131 10924
基隆市 1931 121 136 504 1170
宜蘭縣 2845 139 138 1110 1458
桃園市 10745 1597 787 1698 6663
新竹縣 3378 153 191 1389 1645
新竹市 1944 74 112 485 1273
苗栗縣 5204 216 265 1796 2927
台中市 11238 548 751 3484 6455
彰化縣 8074 249 325 4217 3283
南投縣 4038 159 210 1905 1764
雲林縣 4354 148 188 2627 1391
嘉義縣 3842 47 92 2765 938
嘉義市 2678 27 62 1748 841
台南市 11102 316 561 3895 6330
高雄市 15996 632 1048 4956 9360
屏東縣 6358 197 370 2808 2983
花蓮縣 3420 189 243 795 2193
台東縣 2738 121 117 1315 1185
澎湖縣 1367 86 79 361 841
金門縣 1606 74 23 132 1377
連江縣 445 33 14 65 333
海外黨部 6759 179 75 1165 5340


And here is the 2017 election:

  valid Hung Han Pan Hau Chan Wu
  有效票 洪秀柱 韓國瑜 潘維剛 郝龍斌 詹啟賢 吳敦義
合計 272704 53065 16161 2437 44301 12332 144408
台北市 26887 5209 1689 248 6250 1338 12153
新北市 28684 6486 1658 240 4544 984 14772
基隆市 4537 461 217 33 1586 156 2084
宜蘭縣 6055 1244 302 63 749 180 3517
桃園市 18372 4001 998 132 4067 458 8716
新竹縣 7192 955 400 70 1413 346 4008
新竹市 5253 1576 355 78 696 212 2336
苗栗縣 9671 1641 693 100 1579 445 5213
台中市 22588 3934 1121 151 4035 707 12640
彰化縣 18808 2566 889 172 2770 1002 11409
南投縣 8566 879 234 31 577 179 6666
雲林縣 8765 1062 1476 95 1390 288 4454
嘉義縣 5038 898 198 19 524 391 3008
嘉義市 4810 1078 267 63 817 675 1910
台南市 20535 4588 1262 178 3124 1882 9501
高雄市 36623 6657 2239 389 4645 1695 20998
屏東縣 14798 2377 667 108 1418 476 9752
花蓮縣 9645 2681 690 156 1424 318 4376
台東縣 5100 810 255 42 1193 114 2686
澎湖縣 2711 768 124 32 546 302 939
金門縣 2382 747 148 20 448 91 928
連江縣 574 124 53 1 97 26 273
海外黨部 5110 2323 226 16 409 67 2069


You will notice right away that the total number of valid votes nearly doubled, increasing by 133,146. At the same time, the number of votes won by the (supposed) representative of local factions (Huang in 2016, Wu in 2017) increased by 98,067. It seems plausible that these two shifts are related.

98,068 divided by 133,146 is .74. A reasonable interpretation is the pre-existing party members voted basically as they had in 2016, but 74% of the new party members voted for Wu. However, once you start looking at individual cities and counties, things start to break down. We expect Wu’s mobilization efforts to be most effective in central and southern Taiwan, where the local factions supposedly went all out to mobilize new party members for Wu. Assuming Wu’s increase came entirely from new members, he only won 8% of the new members in Chiayi City and 20% in Chiayi County. Those results can perhaps be explained away because Huang was from Chiayi, so they might have already mobilized for her in 2016. However, if you accept the hometown effect for Chiayi, you also have to discount the high ratio in Nantou, since that is Wu’s home. Throughout the rest of the region, the ratio does not differ markedly from the national average; if anything it is slightly lower. At any rate, Wu’s supposed share of new voters is lower in all of central and southern Taiwan (excepting Nantou) than in New Taipei (.89) and Taoyuan (.92). These are not the supposed loci of local factions in Taiwan.

    Increase Increase  
    Wu-Huang Valid ratio
合計   98067 133146 0.74
台北市 Taipei 9163 14085 0.65
新北市 New Taipei 10641 11990 0.89
基隆市 Keelung 1580 2606 0.61
宜蘭縣 Yilan 2407 3210 0.75
桃園市 Taoyuan 7018 7627 0.92
新竹縣 Hsinchu Cnty 2619 3814 0.69
新竹市 Hsinchu City 1851 3309 0.56
苗栗縣 Miaoli 3417 4467 0.76
台中市 Taichung 9156 11350 0.81
彰化縣 Changhua 7192 10734 0.67
南投縣 Nantou 4761 4528 1.05
雲林縣 Yunlin 1827 4411 0.41
嘉義縣 Chiayi Cnty 243 1196 0.20
嘉義市 Chiayi City 162 2132 0.08
台南市 Tainan 5606 9433 0.59
高雄市 Kaohsiung 16042 20627 0.78
屏東縣 Pingtung 6944 8440 0.82
花蓮縣 Hualien 3581 6225 0.58
台東縣 Taitung 1371 2362 0.58
澎湖縣 Penghu 578 1344 0.43
金門縣 Kinmen 796 776 1.03
連江縣 Lienchiang 208 129 1.61
海外黨部 Overseas 904 -1649 -0.55


Maybe I’m thinking of this wrong. Maybe the point is that the growth in new KMT voters was much higher in central and southern Taiwan. The valid votes grew by 95% from 2016 to 2017. In 2016, Huang Min-hui won 33.2% of the votes, while Wu Den-yi won 53.0% in 2017, for an increase of 19.7%. If it was mobilization, these two numbers should move together. For example, valid votes increased by 129% while Wu beat Huang by 26.4%. Both of these numbers are larger than the national average, and Kaohisung is in the south. The problem is that we don’t see similar numbers throughout the rest of center and south. For example, in Changhau valid votes increased substantially, by 133%. However, Wu only bested Huang by 8.4%. All those extra voters didn’t seem to be going to Wu. In Tainan, valid votes only grew by 85% and Wu only outperformed Huang by 11.2%. In fact, some of Wu’s best areas were in the north. Wu outperformed Huang by 31.6% in Taoyuan and 26.8% in New Taipei, but neither one of these places had a particularly large increase in new voters. If you stare really hard and long at this table, you might convince yourself that you see a pattern. However, you are probably hallucinating. The correlation between the two columns is 0.05, just about as close to zero as you will ever see.

    % increase Vote share
    Valid votes Wu-Huang
合計   95 19.7
台北市 Taipei 110 21.8
新北市 New Taipei 72 26.8
基隆市 Keelung 135 19.8
宜蘭縣 Yilan 113 19.1
桃園市 Taoyuan 71 31.6
新竹縣 Hsinchu Cnty 113 14.6
新竹市 Hsinchu City 170 19.5
苗栗縣 Miaoli 86 19.4
台中市 Taichung 101 25.0
彰化縣 Changhua 133 8.4
南投縣 Nantou 112 30.6
雲林縣 Yunlin 101 -9.5
嘉義縣 Chiayi Cnty 31 -12.3
嘉義市 Chiayi City 80 -25.6
台南市 Tainan 85 11.2
高雄市 Kaohsiung 129 26.4
屏東縣 Pingtung 133 21.7
花蓮縣 Hualien 182 22.1
台東縣 Taitung 86 4.6
澎湖縣 Penghu 98 8.2
金門縣 Kinmen 48 30.7
連江縣 Lienchiang 29 33.0
海外黨部 Overseas -24 23.3

In the end, there just isn’t any compelling evidence for the idea that local factions elected Wu chair by mobilizing tons of new voters for him. Heck, there isn’t evidence that anyone mobilized new voters for Wu.

I think the increase in new KMT voters is related to party morale, not to the KMT party chair election. Morale was at a nadir in the aftermath of the 2016 wipeout, and lots of party members let their membership lapse. As morale has recovered (slightly), some of those party members have drifted back (and paid their dues). The turnout rate was also markedly higher this time. However, the number of eligible voters and valid votes are far below the levels of 2005, when the winner was widely expected to become the next president.

  Valid votes Eligible voters turnout
2005 518324 1033854 50.2
2016 139558 337351 41.6
2017 272704 476147 58.1

At any rate, I think the evidence suggests that Wu Den-yi was elected by a fairly broad base of support within the KMT rather than by any specific group such as local factions or Taiwan nationalists. Admittedly, there is a limit to what we can see with crude data like this, so maybe it is best to state my conclusion in the negative. I don’t see any clear evidence for the local faction mobilization thesis.




Kaohsiung 9 primary results

March 21, 2015

In the conclusion of my previous post about the DPP primary in Kaohsiung 9, I casually suggested that Chen Hsin-yu of the Hsieh faction was probably well ahead of Lai Jui-lung of the Chen Chu (CC) faction. Today the results were released, and, as you probably should have expected, I was wrong. Lai won the polling primary by a clear 5%, 33.70 to 28.79%.

This was a shocking result to me. I don’t know much about either Chen or Lai, but based on the little I did know, Chen should have been the superior candidate. Chen is an incumbent city councilor while Lai was the head of the city Marine Bureau. Time and time again, some bureaucrat runs for office. The national media loves him, pundits talk about how qualified he is, and people in the bureaucracy praise him for his hard work at solving substantive problems. Then he gets crushed by some local politician who no one has ever heard of. The thing is, politics is a difficult game, and local politicians have been working at it (successfully) for years. They have been going to local housing association meetings, mediating car crashes, convincing schools to enroll voters’ children, getting roads paved, showing up at countless weddings and funerals, and so on. They have been building ties, one at a time, for a long time. Chen Hsin-yu, for example, has been working her district for over a decade.  Lai, in contrast, was a last-minute entrant into the race. Bureaucracy, on the other hand, is a very different game. Bureaucrats develop connections primarily with other bureaucrats. Those are great for working the levers of power, but they don’t do a whole lot when it comes to wooing ordinary voters. Politicians are almost always better than bureaucrats at elections. This is even true when the bureaucrat is sponsored by a popular elected politician. Many popular mayors or magistrates at the end of their second term have tried to pass the office on to a trusted deputy. However, the few that manage to make through the party nomination stage generally fare poorly in the general election. Voters historically don’t buy the idea that “a vote for him is a vote for me.”

Moreover, Chen Hsin-yu (and everyone else) acted as if she expected to win. Leading candidates are the ones who keep repeating that everyone should just follow the process and have a fair and clean test of strength. Calls for more negotiations, delays, or changes in the process always come from people who think they are losing.

So what happened? I think this has to be considered a huge triumph for Chen Chu. Because Chen Shui-bian’s son was involved and because this turned into a fairly nasty fight between Hsieh and CC, this race got a lot of media coverage. By the time the polling was held, we all had a pretty clear idea that this was a proxy war between the CC and Hsieh factions. Normally, even in nasty faction battles, the individual candidates are the deciding factors. I assume most of the 28% who supported Chen Hsin-yu made their decision because they supported her personally. However, I simply can’t make that assumption for the relatively anonymous Lai. His 33% almost certainly reflects a tremendous vote of confidence for CC.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that CC is different. She is more popular than almost any other mayor. Her satisfaction ratings have been in the 70s for several years, and she is consistently rated as one of the best two or three mayors in the country. She just won re-election with an unthinkable 68%. Moreover, she runs Kaohsiung, a major city with a big budget. She has a lot of resources to spread around, and she is very good at spreading them around. She has been so effective at building her faction in Kaohsiung that people commonly talk of the “Chu Faction” rather than of the local New Tide faction. (Among the current seven DPP legislators from Kaohsiung, Li Kun-tse is her nephew, Chiu Chih-wei was previously in her mini-cabinet, Chiu Yi-ying (who is usually considered part of the Su faction) is married to the deputy mayor, and Lin Tai-hua has connections to the New Tide faction. I don’t know anything about Hsu Chih-chieh, and the other two are in the Hsieh faction.) Given the overwhelming dominance of the DPP in Kaohsiung 9, she has almost certainly just added another major post to her faction’s power base.

If Chen Chu is the big winner, Frank Hsieh and Chen Shui-bian are the big losers. The former president no longer has enough popularity to win a primary for his son, even when deep green voters were jolted back to 2007 by unfounded accusations of corruption. At least he withdrew before suffering a humiliating defeat. The former premier went into this battle with a clear advantage in candidate quality and suffered a stunning loss in the city he governed for six years. If other races go like this, this could be the year that the old factions formed in President Chen’s second term give way to new factions oriented toward politics in the next decade.


I should note that this primary has worked out quite well for Tsai Ing-wen. For one, she has always had better relations with Chen Chu and New Tide than with Hsieh and A-Bian. For another, her top goal was simply for the green side to settle on a single candidate in order to win the seat. That seems to have been achieved. For a third thing, this contest may have silenced Chen Shui-bian. Tsai didn’t want to have Chen Chih-chung running for the simple reason that she didn’t want the blue camp and the media constantly talking about him. She wants voters to think about what a lousy president Ma Ying-jeou is, not what a lousy president Chen Shui-bian was. By allowing Chen Chih-chung back into the DPP, she forced him to take part in the party primary where he could be defeated. Even better, the Chen family withdrew, perhaps because they were made aware of how tenuous Chen’s medical parole is. I can’t imagine the former president will stay completely out of the limelight, but he made have come to understand that a lower profile has some advantages. A silent Chen is exactly what Tsai wants.


Finally, I want to make a point about intra-party fights. These fights are healthy for the DPP. If Chen Chu’s power is increasing and Hsieh’s is waning, it will be better for the party if that is out in the open. Conflict can be papered over in the short-term, but eventually they will burst out into the open. Now, a full ten months before the election, is the perfect time to have those fights. Remember what happened four years ago when the DPP tried to avoid having a fight over its party list. They delegated power to Tsai Ing-wen to determine the list. Inevitably, people were unhappy with the result. Moreover, since the losers had not had a chance to have an open fight, they felt cheated. They raised the issue deep into the presidential campaign, complaining that Tsai’s list was “the same old people” and it didn’t have any social activists or progressives, and demanding that it be revised. In addition to damaging party unity, this long, drawn-out fight tarnished Tsai’s image as a leader and the DPP’s image as a reformist party. They would have been much better off with a vicious but fair and open fight in the early spring. Almost as much as fights between parties, fights within parties are an essential part of the democratic process.

Why did Chen Chih-chung drop out of Kaohsiung 9?

March 19, 2015

Last week, former president Chen Shui-bian’s 陳水扁 son, Chen Chih-chung 陳致中, dropped out of the DPP’s contest for the nomination in Kaohsiung 9. This took me (and most people I talked to) by surprise. What’s more, Chen Chih-chung justified his action with a very strange explanation: He didn’t want people to think the struggle between Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 and his father was still raging. Great, but no one seemed to think that this struggle was tearing apart the DPP in the first place.

After reading a few media reports and reflecting on the history, I think there is an interesting story behind all this. The short answer is that this is, in fact, a raging factional conflict. However, it isn’t the one Chen Chih-chung tried to make us think about. Rather, this is all about the conflict between Hsieh and Kaohsiung mayor and New Tide faction bigwig Chen Chu 陳菊. The A-bian faction is involved, but it isn’t the main player. The long answer starts years and years ago, and even though this is a story about Kaohsiung it starts in Taipei.

Chen Shui-bian and Frank Hsieh were arguably the two brightest stars to emerge from the cohort of defense lawyers at the 1980 trials for the Kaohsiung Incident. They both went into electoral politics in 1981, winning seats to the Taipei City council. In 1985, Hsieh easily won re-election. Chen went back home to Tainan, trying to become the Tainan County magistrate. He lost that race, and days after the election his wife, Wu Shu-chen 吳淑珍, was run over in a mysterious (that is, not mysterious at all) traffic accident and permanently paralyzed. Legislative elections were held in 1986, and both Hsieh and Chen decided to contest them. Chen was convicted of libel and spent several months in jail, so he could not personally run. Instead, he put his wife forward as a candidate. There were three main opposition candidates in the Taipei City race, Hsieh, Wu, and senior opposition leader Kang Ning-hsiang 康寧祥. Everyone expected that Hsieh would win a huge victory. Indeed, many were worried that Hsieh would win too many votes and cause both Wu and Kang to lose. On election eve, Hsieh famously told the crowd to cast their first vote for Kang, the second for Wu, and only the third vote should go to him. Apparently they took this advice to heart, because both Kang and Wu won, while Hsieh unexpectedly lost. In 1989, Hsieh ran again while Chen replaced his wife as the candidate. By this time, the two were developing a friendly rivalry, vying for leadership in the DPP. Hsieh still had the upper hand at this point, clearly outpolling Chen, though both easily won. Once both entered the legislature, however, Chen began to overtake Hsieh. Chen was a master at getting favorable media coverage, and he was an extremely effective legislator. In 1992 Chen outpolled Hsieh, and he was widely considered the DPP’s most outstanding legislator. By this point, the rivalry between the two was in full gear. Moreover, since the regime had agreed to open up the Taipei mayor to elections, the two were now fighting over something concrete. By early 1994, it was apparent that Chen would win the nomination, but it was not clear how Hsieh would deal with the loss. Many people wondered if Hsieh would quit the DPP and run an independent campaign rather than yielding to Chen. In the event, Hsieh decided to stay in the DPP and support Chen’s candidacy. When Chen won and became a superstar mayor, Hsieh seemed to be out in the political wilderness.

Hsieh had grown up in Taipei City and his whole career had been based in Taipei City, but with Chen in the mayor’s chair Hsieh decided to look elsewhere. He cast his gaze southward, to Kaohsiung City, where the mayor’s seat was held by future Premier and Vice-President Wu Den-yi 吳敦義. Before challenging Wu, however, Hsieh had to first secure the DPP nomination. His prime competition came from Chen Che-nan 陳哲男, a member of Chen Shui-bian’s inner circle. Chen Che-nan had been a Kaohsiung legislator when Chen Shui-bian appointed him as head of the Civil Affairs Department in Taipei City. After several years of experience in governing, Chen Che-nan was ready to return home to put his training to work. Hsieh would have won a popularity contest, but it might have been draining and acrimonious. Chen Shui-bian stepped in to prevent this by convincing Chen Che-nan to withdraw. Mayor Chen didn’t rely merely on his personal charisma or appeal to party loyalty, he cemented the withdrawal by promoting Chen Che-nan to secretary general of the Taipei city government. After the path to the nomination was cleared, Hsieh shocked everyone by beating Wu despite a double digit poll lead for the incumbent.

As mayor, Hsieh embarked on several new projects. The most famous of these included cleaning up Kaohsiung’s rivers, improving the city’s water quality, and building the MRT lines. He easily won re-election in 2002 and was promoted to Premier in February 2005. Chen Che-nan’s son, Chen Chi-mai 陳其邁 was appointed as Acting Mayor of Kaohsiung City and seemed primed to win a full term in 2006. (If you are counting, we are now up to five people named Chen. Isn’t anyone named Lee or Chang anymore?) Up to this point, the story is one of Chen and Hsieh sometimes competing, sometimes cooperating, and always as rivals. The New Tide faction hasn’t really entered into this particular story yet.

In August 2005, Thai laborers working on the MRT project rioted. This would eventually turn Kaohsiung politics upside down. The workers were protesting working conditions and low pay. Investigations showed that the workers were being severely underpaid. They were only being paid for some of the overtime hours they worked, and they were only actually being paid NT20000 a month when the government had budgeted NT29500. The story got dirtier and dirtier the deeper investigators probed. As former mayor, Premier Hsieh bore some responsibility for the corruption. However, he managed to avoid any legal charges and, for the most part, he also avoided taking political responsibility. A second person who might have born responsibility was the head of the Council of Labor Affairs, Chen Chu. Labor Affairs, after all, was the office in charge of managing foreign workers, and it should have overseen working conditions to ensure that the Thai workers were treated appropriately and paid on time. Chen Chu managed to avoid any connections with the corrupt aspects of the case, but she did resign her office. The responsibility for the corruption fell most squarely on Chen Shui-bian’s close advisor, Chen Che-nan. Chen Che-nan had been deeply involved with arranging several of the contracts. The smoking gun came when the TV news showed a video of him with one of the company executives at a casino at a resort in South Korea. Chen Che-nan was eventually convicted and went to jail, while his son, Chen Chi-mai, had to resign as Acting Mayor.

Let’s stop the Kaohsiung story here for a minute to jump up to national politics. During President Chen’s first term, he forged an alliance with the New Tide faction. Indeed, since most members of his own Justice faction were very junior, the New Tide faction was able to put many senior members in several key positions in the government. Chen Chu was one of the most prominent. While Labor Affairs is not a particularly powerful ministry, Chen Chu turned it into something of a training agency for New Tide politicians and the Labor Affairs bureaucracy was widely considered to be a major center of New Tide power. After President Chen’s re-election, New Tide started to distance itself from him. Several New Tide members resigned posts in the executive branch, and in the legislature New Tide ceased pushing Chen’s agenda. Chen Chu’s resignation from Labor Affairs was a key step in this process. President Chen did not insist that she stay in the cabinet, and many saw this as a clear sign that the Justice-New Tide coalition was decisively shattered. During 2005 and 2006, more and more stories of corruption in the Chen administration emerged, and New Tide moved into open warfare with the administration. Two New Tide legislators resigned their seats in 2006, calling for reflection and self-renewal. This did not sit well with the rest of the party. The Red Shirt protests and the attempts to impeach Chen led the rest of the party to close ranks in defense of his presidency. Increasingly, all the other factions saw New Tide as traitors and enemies. Eventually, Frank Hsieh would win the 2008 DPP presidential nomination by portraying Su Tseng-chang as an ally of New Tide and running against New Tide.

Returning to Kaohsiung, the next fight was over the 2006 mayoral nomination. Chen Chi-mai’s candidacy was fatally damaged by the MRT scandal. He was replaced as Acting Mayor by Yeh Chu-lan 葉菊蘭, a Hsieh ally. Hsieh had perhaps resigned himself to losing control of the city to the Justice faction as the cost of becoming Premier. Now, with Yeh in charge, he had a chance to retain the city within his own faction. Unfortunately for him, Yeh was only the second most popular candidate. Chen Chu was the leading candidate. A United Daily News poll published March 18 showed Chen Chu supported by 23%, Yeh Chu-lan 12, Chen Chi-mai 11%, and legislators Kuan Pi-ling 管碧玲, Tang Chin-chuan 湯金全, and Lin Chin-hsing 林進興 had 6%, 5% and 5%, respectively. (On the KMT side, Huang Chun-ying 黃俊英 had 12%, Huang Chao-shun 黃昭順 and Chen Hsueh-sheng 陳學聖 each had 9%, Chiu Yi 邱毅 had 7%, and Huang Chi-chuan 黃啟川 had 6%.) Knowing that she could not win a polling primary, Yeh refused to register for the DPP primary. Hsieh tried to maneuver to get the party to simply draft Yeh or to change the decision process to some other criteria, but Chen Chu refused to budge. She insisted that the process should proceed according to the established party rules. However, she did agree to restart the process to give Yeh another chance to register. When Yeh still refused to register, Kuan Pi-ling (Hsieh’s other stalking horse) dropped out and conceded the nomination to Chen Chu. To recap, Chen Chu managed to swoop in and take over the Kaohsiung City government, which both the Chen and Hsieh factions thought they had prior claims to. This occurred in a very acrimonious atmosphere, with Chen Chu’s New Tide faction locked in vicious party infighting with the other factions. All sides were deeply scarred by this experience.

Fast forward to today, nine years later. Chen Chu has been a very energetic and popular mayor, but now she is in her final term and the various sides are beginning to prepare for the fight to control the city after 2018. As she did at Labor Affairs, Chen Chu has used the city government to train a new generation of politicians, building up a powerful faction of people loyal to her. These are not exclusively New Tide members, but many are. As the end of her term nears, she will undoubtedly try to promote one of her protégés as her successor. However, the Hsieh faction is also plotting to take back the city, and they have the early front-runner in legislator Kuan Pi-ling. There is even a chance that Chen Chi-mai, who has re-emerged from obscurity as an ally of Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文, might be able to regain the mayor’s chair. At this point, it is all very early. The 2016 legislative elections are seen as a key opportunity to bolster each faction’s strength before the 2018 battle.

Hsieh fired the first shot, by mooting the possibility of contesting the Kaohsiung 3 seat. The Hsieh faction already has two legislators in Kaohsiung (Kuan and Chao Tien-lin 趙天麟), and the Chen Chu faction did not want to see it win a third. They immediately responded by recruiting former deputy mayor Liu Shih-fang 劉世芳 to contest the nomination in Kaohsiung 3 and simultaneously by shaming Hsieh for choosing to contest such an “easy” seat. Hsieh promptly withdrew.

This finally brings us to Kaohsiung 9. Until the last day of registration for the DPP nominations, this looked like a race between Chen Chih-chung and a city councilor from the Hsieh faction surnamed (what else?) Chen. At the last minute, Lai Jui-lung 賴瑞隆, who had worked in the city government as head of the Marine Bureau, also registered. The race was then suddenly catapulted into the national limelight when remarks by a New Tide faction leader, Hsu Chia-ching 徐佳青, surfaced accusing President Chen of taking millions of dollars from construction companies and asking what Chen Chih-chung had ever done that he should deserve a legislative seat. Then, after a couple of days of complaining about being wronged and seeming to be on the offensive, the Chen family suddenly surrendered, with Chen Chih-chung withdrawing from the race even though he claimed to be leading by 10 points, promising not to continue the Hsieh-Chen (Shiu-bian) conflict, and suggesting that Chen Hsin-yu 陳信瑜 should also withdraw.

In retrospect, it seems as though the hidden story might go like this. Chen Chu’s primary aim was to prevent the Hsieh faction from winning the nomination. If Chen Chih-chung could beat Chen Hsin-yu, that would be fine. However, it seems plausible that Chen Hsin-yu was actually leading. We don’t have any public media polls, but the key players all have private polls and they certainly knew how the race was shaping up. In order to block Chen Hsin-yu, Chen Chu sponsored her own candidate. She then had to persuade Chen Chih-chung to withdraw and endorse Lai. This was complicated by Hsu Chia-ching’s incendiary comments. Both Hsu and Chen Chu belong to the New Tide faction, so it is natural to assume that Hsu’s comments were made with the aim of advancing Chen Chu’s goals. In fact, the end result was that Chen Chih-chung withdrew and endorsed Chen Chu’s candidate. However, I don’t think that Hsu’s comments were a part of any master plan, and they probably impeded rather than aided Chen Chu. During President Chen’s second term, cracks began to appear in the previously rock-solid New Tide faction. Northern and southern wings of the faction began to emerge, with the northern wing more stridently opposed to President Chen and the southern wing being more pragmatic and more sympathetic to Chen. Hsu is from the northern wing, and her distaste for Chen Chih-chung is probably a lingering aftermath of a decade ago. I think her attacks were sincere rather than strategic, since (a) she had no expectations they would be made public and (b) they ruined her otherwise promising career. I don’t think her primary goal was to stop Hsieh or help Chen Chu. I think she was simply disgusted by Chen Shui-bian and Chen Chih-chung. Chen Chu, who represents the southern wing of New Tide, was trying to make an alliance with Chen Chih-chung, and these attacks potentially complicated that effort. However, she eventually persuaded Chen Chih-chung to withdraw. The rivalry with Hsieh was a smokescreen. Several media reports suggested that this appeal originated from Chen Chu’s camp, not Chen Chih-chung’s. In fact, there was considerable pressure on Chen Hsin-yu to withdraw, as many DPP supporters bought into the idea that the principal contestants should all withdraw in the interests of party unity and healing the scars opened up by Hsu Chia-ching’s accusations. I suspect that the real reason Chen Chih-chung withdrew is that he was trailing in the polls. If he had actually run and lost decisively, it might have been a devastating blow to his family. Clear evidence of weak public support combined with new accusations of corruption might be enough for the Ma government to revoke Chen Shui-bian’s medical parole. Chen Chih-chung was intent on framing his withdrawal to appear as if he was acting for the greater good. As he told it, he withdrew, even though he was leading and even though his family had been slandered, for the greater good of the party and to heal factional rifts. He even apologized to the previous DPP incumbent, Kuo Wen-cheng 郭玟成, for splitting the green camp vote in 2012. Even thought he has endorsed Lai, the Hsieh faction was probably also somewhat happy to see him withdraw. Assuming that Chen Hsin-yu was clearly in first place and Chen Chih-chung was clearly leading Lai, Chen Chih-chung’s withdrawal effectively left the seat wide open for Chen Hsin-yu. It is very hard to transfer support from one candidate to another, so Chen Chu’s gambit will almost certainly fail. Like Chen Chu in 2006 and most other leading candidates in countless other races, Chen Hsin-yu has insisted that the party has a standard nomination mechanism, and, rather than asking specific people to withdraw, they should simply respect the institutional rules. If Chen Shui-bian can’t win power, he at least needs goodwill. Pulling out made Chen Chu happy since he endorsed her candidate. It made Hsieh happy since it clears a path for his candidate. It made the New Tide faction happy since he stopped the counteroffensive against them and he stopped trying to put his son in the legislature. It made Tsai happy since the media won’t be able to talk about Chen Shui-bian every day for the next ten months. It made DPP supporters happy since it resolved a potentially nasty party conflict. Withdrawal was a smart option.

evolution of the political map and money politics

November 25, 2014

In the last week before the election, all signs point to a good election night for the DPP. This should be their best local election since the 1997 landslide. Since that particular election is burned vividly into my memory, I thought I’d go back and look at a couple of things that have changed since then. In particular, I want to discuss (1) geography and how the political map has changed (2) the way that money politics is different today than a generation ago.


In 1997, the DPP’s victory was almost unbelievable in geographic scope. Taipei and Kaohsiung Cities were not up for election, but all the other cities and counties were. The DPP won nearly every major race. In the south, the DPP held power in Kaoshiung County and Tainan County, they took back power in Pingtung, won a messy four-way race in Tainan City, and their ally, Chang Po-ya 張博雅(now the head of the Control Yuan) won a fifth consecutive term for the Hsu family dynasty in Chiayi City. In the north, the DPP easily retained power in Yilan County, won a tough three-way race in Hsinchu County, somehow held Taoyuan County (where Annette Lu 呂秀蓮 had won the office in a by-election a year earlier), won an outright majority in Hsinchu City, and narrowly edged out the KMT in the biggest prize, Taipei County. The DPP even won in Taichung City and County. They didn’t win in Nantou, but former DPP legislator Peng Pai-hsien 彭百顯 edged out both the DPP and KMT nominees to take that race. It could have been even worse for the KMT. They barely squeezed out victories in Changhua and Yunlin, the two biggest districts they held onto. In terms of numbers of cities and counties that each party won, it didn’t look so bad since the KMT won all the little districts. However, the DPP ended up governing about 80% of Taiwan’s population.

Today, that looks a little strange. The KMT’s last redoubt was in Changhua, Yunlin, and Chiayi County. Today, Yunlin and Chiayi usually can be counted on to vote for the DPP, and Changhua is far from a reliable area for either party. Today it would be nearly unthinkable for the DPP to sweep Taoyuan, Hsinchu County, and Hsinchu City. It seemed far less impossible then. The DPP had held the Hsinchu County government since 1989, and it had been very strong in several elections in Hsinchu City during the 1980s.

Many of us don’t realize (or can easily forget) just how much the political map has changed. In the 1990s, we didn’t talk so much about the blue north and green south. Rather, the DPP had strength in the north and south, but central Taiwan was often thought of as a “democratic desert.” Perhaps the best way to see the changes is to look at the DPP’s vote in national elections over the years.

  national north mid-north central mid-south south E/F
1994 39.4 41.7 33.8 36.3 43.8 40.6 26.3
2000 39.3 37.4 30.0 37.4 49.5 46.2 20.5
2004 50.1 45.9 42.5 50.5 59.6 57.0 29.1
2008 41.6 38.4 32.9 40.5 51.0 49.7 21.8
2012 45.6 42.2 37.4 44.9 57.0 53.6 25.1
(12-94) 6.2 0.5 3.6 8.6 13.2 13.0 -1.2

North: Taipei City and County, Keelung City, Yilan County

Mid-north: Taoyuan County, Hsinchu City and County, Miaoli County

Central: Taichung City and County, Changhua County, Nantou County

Mid-south: Yunlin County, Chiayi City and County, Tainan City and County

South: Kaohsiung City and County, Pingtung County, Penghu County

East/Fujian: Taitung, Hualien, Kinmen, Lienchiang (1994: Taitung, Hualien only)


Ignore the East/Fujian category; it is much smaller than the other five regions. It is also geographically incoherent.

In 1994, look at how close the other five regions were to each other. From the weakest to the strongest, the difference was only 10%. Moreover, the north was actually a better region for the DPP than the south. Today that is unthinkable. By 2012, the difference between the weakest and strongest regions had grown to 20%, and the south was about 8% better than the north.

Now look at the difference between 1994 and 2012 for each region. The north has barely changed (+0.5%), the mid-north has slightly increased, the center somewhat more, and the mid-south and south have both increased by a whopping 13%. The DPP’s gains over the past generation have come almost entirely in the southern half of the island.

This is what we mean when we talk about the south turning green and the north turning blue. In an absolute sense, the north hasn’t really gotten bluer. However, relative to the national average, the north and mid-north look far bluer than they did a generation ago. The southern half of the island is, of course, much greener. The central region, rather than being a “democratic desert” halfway between DPP bastions in the north and south, has become the bellwether area. As goes the center, so goes Taiwan.


You will notice that the mid-south has always been the DPP’s best area in national elections. However, it has not always been the DPP’s best area in local elections. In 1997, when the DPP won nearly everything else, it could not win Yunlin or Chiayi Counties. Somehow the KMT managed to maintain control of local politics in what objectively should have been the DPP’s best area. In the past 20 years, however, the KMT has completely lost this control. This gets me to my second big change in the past generation: money.

Money is emerging as a defining issue in current politics, but it runs on a very different logic today than a generation ago. Now we are increasingly aware of the power of large, multinational conglomerates that have extended their reach through every facet of Taiwan’s society. The old picture of an economy dominated by small and medium businesses (with a lot of family businesses) and a large middle class seems less and less accurate as a description of today’s Taiwan. Moreover, almost all businesses have established extensive ties with China. They either do their manufacturing in China, or they want to access China’s enormous domestic market. Because of these ties, economic inequality is increasingly bound together with identity politics.

A generation ago, businesses were just starting the move to China, and China itself was far poorer, less powerful, and had a much less aggressive foreign policy. The KMT, headed by Lee Teng-hui, was encouraging a Go-Slow policy for businesses toward China. The USA was still by far Taiwan’s most important market and trading partner.

Nevertheless, money in politics was one of the defining issues in the 1997 election. More specifically, the election was all about what voters called black and gold politics. Black referred to organized crime, and during the 1990s organized crime increasingly penetrated local politics. Following the spectacular police crackdowns on organized crime in the late CCK era, crime figures started to run for elected office as a way of gaining legal protection. If a crime boss was in the county assembly and could threaten to cut the local county police budget, the police learned quickly to back off. Minor crime figures ran for township councils, more important ones ran for county assemblies, and the biggest ones ran for the legislature. The ever-increasing presence of organized crime in elected offices led to more and more violence in local politics, larger and more ostentatious brothels and gambling parlors (you couldn’t miss the garish neon lights), and more petty and violent crime.

Local KMT factions had always used local government budgets to feed their electoral machines, and this continued in the 1990s. If you needed to build a road or a school, your friendly local contractor would inflate the budget, skimp on materials, and kick back 10% to the politicians. This could then be recycled back into politics. Candidates amassed huge war chests to buy votes at ever-increasing prices. Organized crime turned out to be very good at vote-buying. On the one hand, they had lots of tough young men who could either buy votes or scare off the vote buyers for rival candidates. On the other hand, they could remind voters who took the money that their ballot box had better have a lot of votes for the right candidate or else…

Anger against black and gold politics came to a climax in the summer of 1997 when actress Bai Bing-bing’s 白冰冰 daughter was kidnapped by a gang. The whole country watched on TV as the police incompetently tried to raid their hideout completely unaware that the gang was listening in on the police radio. When the gang killed Bai’s daughter, the nation was outraged. There was a massive protest in Taipei calling only for President Lee to apologize and Premier Lien to resign. A week before the election, the case flared up again when the last gang member stormed the South African embassy and held the Ambassador and his family hostage. Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 emerged the hero by going in to negotiate the gang member’s surrender and coming out with the Ambassador’s baby. When people went to vote the next weekend, black and gold issues were at the front of their considerations.

Today, even in local politics, money operates in different ways. On the one hand, if you try to play the traditional game of recycling money through local construction projects, it doesn’t work as well. On the one hand, prosecutors have much better tools for sniffing out corruption and more leeway to pursue those cases in court. On the other hand, the presence of organized crime has diminished considerably. There is much less (visible) prostitution and gambling. Vote buying doesn’t work as well as it used to. Perhaps most importantly, administrative reform in 2010 eliminated local township governments in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung Counties, removing a vital source of cash in many of the most prosperous areas of Taiwan.

Of course, building stuff in the old ways is still attractive, but the future might be in the John Wu 吳志揚 Taoyuan model. As Michael Cole has repeatedly reminded us over the past few years, the Taoyuan government is pursuing an enormous development plan around the airport. However, rather than handing off contracts to lots of small time local cronies, Wu has invited big Chinese investors to come in and fund the project. It is hard to know exactly how the money is then recycled, but it doesn’t take much imagination to speculate that these Chinese investors repay the favor with political influence for Wu’s (or allies’) business dealings in China.

This may be simplifying things too much, but it seems to me that the old factional politics that used to be the basis of KMT local power in central and southern Taiwan have simply become much less lucrative. As the money slowed down to a trickle, faction politics were squeezed out by party politics. Since the DPP had always had quite a bit of sympathy bubbling under the surface in the south, once the factions weakened, it was nearly impossible for the KMT to maintain its partisan hold on those local governments. What was left of the factions switched sides and transferred their remaining support to the DPP. In the center where the two parties are much more evenly balanced, the factions have not yet made the same move en masse, but a few people have switched sides. In the north, the DPP had much less support and the factions have not been tempted to change sides. Now in Taoyuan, Wu may have figured out how to marry the traditional construction development state model with the new integration into the Chinese market. This new source of money might allow him and the KMT to maintain and reinforce their coalition of ideological supporters (of whom Taoyuan has always had many) and the watermelon faction who go wherever their economic interests point them.


By-elections in Taichung

December 19, 2012

After nearly a year in hibernation, Frozen Garlic has awoken!  Apparently, an election has broken out!

At the end of November, the Taiwan court system finally rendered a verdict in one of the myriad corruption cases.  Most of these cases seem to disappear into the file cabinets, but in this one, the court found legislator Yen Ching-piao 顏清標 and Taichung City Council Speaker Chang Ching-tang 張清堂 guilty of corruption.  Both have been stripped of their seats.

(By the way, the corruption in question involved spending public funds to visit KTVs and other places where singing may not have been the main entertainment attraction.  Supposedly, they spent several million NT.  In the grand scheme of things, this is probably one of the more innocuous incidents of corruption they have been involved in.  It isn’t very much money, and their defense, which I do not doubt, is that everyone got reimbursed for these sorts of “public expenses.”  Both are deeply embedded in the systemic corruption of local factions and have almost certainly been involved in far grander abuses of the public purse.  Moreover, A-piao is no run-of-the-mill faction politician — he came to prominence as one of the top organized crime leaders in central Taiwan.  So I find it slightly amusing that these guys have seen their political careers end for a fairly trivial offense.)

There are two interesting stories.  Most of the attention will be on the contest to fill the empty Taichung 2 seat, so let’s start with that one.  The Taichung 2 district boundaries were drawn specifically for Yen Ching-piao.  His best town, Shalu, was put into Taichung 2 with the rest of his base instead of Taichung 1.  This created a bit of a population imbalance as well as a political imbalance, since the blue camp is quite a bit stronger in Taichung 2 than Taichung 1 and Shalu, where the KMT is particularly strong, exacerbates the difference.[1]  In fact, Taichung 2 is easily the blue camp’s strongest district in the old Taichung County.

Back in 2006 or so when Yen was settling into the new district, the alternative for the KMT was to put another incumbent Black faction legislator, Chi Kuo-tung 紀國棟, into the district.  Eventually, the KMT resolved the roadblock by putting Chi on the party list.  Now that Yen is out, the KMT would prefer for Chi to take the seat.  This would free up a spot on the party list for someone else, keep the seat for the KMT and the Black faction, and put a less controversial person into the seat.  However, that is not going to happen.  The KMT learned (or should have learned) a lesson a couple of years ago when it ran a list legislator for in a by-election in Tainan City.  The DPP candidate had an easy argument.  “If you vote for her, she will still be in the legislature and the empty seat will effectively be filled by some other KMT party list person who doesn’t represent you.  If you elect me, this district will have two local legislators.”  Chi might want to take over the seat in 2016, but he probably doesn’t want to run an expensive and risky campaign right now, especially if he has to tell people that a vote for him is equivalent to a vote for an outsider.

Anyway, someone else wants the seat.  Yen Ching-piao’s son, Yen Kuan-hen 顏寬恒, is planning to run.  I don’t know much about the younger Yen except that he had considered running for Shalu Township mayor in the past, and he looks a lot like his father.  The father was not a formal member of the KMT.  Probably both sides found it convenient to maintain the fiction that Yen was an independent, given his controversial background.  The younger Yen is a KMT member, and he is the only person to register for the KMT’s nomination.  So he’ll probably be the KMT candidate.  Running a family member to appeal directly to the voters for justice for a disgraced or convicted politician is a time-honored tradition in Taiwanese politics.  It makes a lot of sense when you can claim some sort of unfair suppression.  Former President Chen’s son has run twice in the last three years making precisely this sort of appeal.  I’ve never understood why it should work in cases like Yen’s, when he can’t really claim innocence or political persecution.  However, it often seems to be effective, so it might work for Yen as well.

The DPP has drafted a city council member, Chen Shih-kai 陳世凱.  I don’t know a lot about Chen except that he is more of an image politician than a grassroots-type politician.  He is in his first term in the city council, and he isn’t very closely associated with any particular locale the way that Yen is based in Shalu.

How will this unfold?  The KMT hopes to ride Yen Ching-piao’s extensive local organization and connections to victory.  The DPP wants to turn this into a referendum on President Ma.  As I said before, this is a strong KMT district, so it might be strange that the KMT wants to talk about local things and the DPP wants to talk about party politics.  However, both parties are right.  President Ma’s satisfaction ratings are dismal right now, and voters might be eager to send the KMT a message.  Moreover, if the by-elections from 3-4 years ago are any indication, the DPP is quite capable of winning this sort of race.  Turnout is typically around 40% in by-elections, and it might be that without a high-profile mayoral or presidential candidate, KMT supporters just don’t turn out.  The DPP won several by-elections 3-4 years ago in territory even more hostile than Taichung 2, and Ma’s satisfaction ratings are even worse now than they were then.  If Chen turns out to be a competent candidate, he has a good chance of winning this seat for the DPP.

The second, less obvious, story is the more interesting one to me.  This story is about the KMT’s local factions and their fight to adapt to the new Taichung City.  Unlike the first story which will be resolved by the end of January (and probably rendered irrelevant when Chi Kuo-tung takes the seat from the winner in 2016), the story of factional evolution will be unfolding over the next few years.

Before the merger of Taichung City and Taichung County, the two had completely separated local political environments.  City politicians didn’t have much to do with county politics or vice versa.  In Taichung County, KMT politics were dominated by the Red faction and the Black faction.  Taichung County has the most institutionalized factions of any city or county in the country.  The Red and Black factions fought out every electoral contest, from legislator to town council, in the county.  In a way, this made Taichung County much easier to understand since you could just ask who was Red and who was Black.  The factions can trace their roots all the way back to the first county executive election in the early 1950s, when Lin He-nian 林鶴年 handed out red name cards and Chen Shui-tan 陳水潭 handed out black cards.  Those two dominated local politics in the 1950s and then passed their support down to the next generation.  Indeed, the two factions are still sometimes called the Lin and Chen factions.  Over the past half-century, the Red faction has been the more successful of the two, producing a speaker of the Provincial Assembly in the 1970s and a speaker of the legislature in the 1990s.  As in most counties, the KMT tried to ensure that neither faction became too powerful by balancing them against one another.  This meant that when one faction controlled the county executive, the other controlled the county assembly.  Prior to the merger in 2010, the Black faction held the executive, while the speaker, Chang Ching-tang, was from the Red faction.

KMT factions in Taichung City were less stable.  Traditionally, people would talk of the Chang and Lai factions.  However, the Lai faction hadn’t really been powerful since the 1980s.  The Chang faction was named for Chang Chi-chung 張啟仲, who was mayor in the 1970s, and was sustained by his protégé, longtime legislator Hung Chao-nan 洪昭男.  However, Hung retired a few elections ago.  The current leader of the Chang faction is Chang Hung-nien 張宏年, who was speaker of the Taichung City Council before the merger.  Chang Hung-nien’s Chang faction still retains the Chang faction name, but it is not really the same thing as Chang Chi-chung’s Chang faction.  In fact, in today’s Taichung City, you are as likely to hear people talk of the Hu-Lu faction (named for mayor Jason Hu 胡志強 and legislator Lu Hsiu-yen 盧秀燕) as of the Chang or Lai factions.  The Hu-Lu faction, however, is more of a coalition of two people than a full-fledged faction.

So the merger of Taichung City and County in 2010 brought about a merger of these two very different factional systems.  It didn’t go well for any of the factions.  In Taichung County, the two factions lost most of their institutional power.  They had alternated control of the county executive and dominated most lower-level elections.  The Black faction’s power base was arguably in the 21 township mayors, but both had faction members scattered throughout the township councils as well.  With the merger, these offices were abolished.  The Red faction may have survived the merger in better shape, since its power base was in the Farmers Associations, which continued to exist, but both lost a lot of institutional power.  Moreover, the two factions did poorly in the one arena left to them, the new city assembly.  With too many incumbents running for a limited number or seats, the 2010 election was particularly bloody for the two county factions.

The city factions did not lose as much institutional power in the merger, since there were no townships in the city.  However, since the smaller city merged with the more populous county, the city factions found themselves at a numerical disadvantage.  In the end, the county factions struck a deal, and the Red and Black factions took the speaker and vice-speaker seats, leaving the city factions in the cold.

Now, two years later, Red faction speaker Chang Ching-tang has been stripped of his seat, and this might give us some insight on how the various local factions are reorganizing in the new Taichung City.  One might expect the losers of the last elections to try to form a new coalition.  The most obvious loser was former city council speaker, Chang Hung-nien, who wanted to remain speaker (or at least vice-speaker) but was completely shut out.  The lesson of the last election should have been that, as long as the battle was county vs city, he could never win.  I would expect that he has spent the past two years trying to build ties with county politicians to construct a new faction that crossed the old administrative district borders.

In fact, events unfolded without much hubbub (which is quite interesting to me).  As might be expected, the KMT tabbed (Black faction member) vice-speaker Lin Shih-chang 林士昌 to take over as speaker.  However, instead of nominating a Red faction member for vice-speaker, the KMT chose Chang Hung-nien.  Lin and Chang won the election with minimal fanfare.

Now, I don’t know whether Chang has tried to merge his faction with the Red faction or whether the old factional systems have completely collapsed and are undergoing a fundamental reorganization or whether this is an isolated case and nothing significant has happened.  I haven’t seen much in the media about factional politics.  However, something has to be happening.  The merger upset the basic environment, and the various factions have to be doing something to adapt to their new challenges.  We will have a much clearer idea of what is happening after the 2014 elections, but I think we are starting to see the first clues that the old systems are evolving.

Whether they are able to survive could be critical for Taiwan’s future.  Taichung is the tipping point between the green south and the blue north, and the KMT has managed to hold it on the blue side thus far.  If the local factions disintegrate or one of them defects to the DPP (as happened in Chiayi), the national balance of power could swing to the DPP.  We’ll all pay more attention to the upcoming legislative by-election, but the evolution of the KMT’s local factions will eventually be far more consequential.

[1] The DPP won Taichung 1 in 2012.  Maybe they should thank Yen for insisting that Shalu be in Taichung 2.

One Side One Country Alliance Roster

September 30, 2010

I found a list of members in Chen Shui-bian’s current political vehicle, the One Side One Country Alliance (OSOCA, 一邊一國連線, my translation).  I’m not sure how this list was compiled.  My guess is that it was released to the media by Chen’s people.  Lists like this are invariably flawed.  The people issuing the list want to make their organization look as impressive as possible, so they put lots of names on it.  People named on these types of lists, by contrast, are sometimes surprised to see themselves listed as members of something that they just attended a few functions for.  In other words, don’t take this list as established fact.

On the other hand, everyone on this list should more or less have good relations with the former president.  One of the things we will want to know when this election is over is whether Chen’s influence is waning or not.  The electoral fate of these candidates will be a good indicator.  If all of them win, you can bet that he will try to put together something similar for the next legislative elections.  If they fail miserably, it will be one more sign that Taiwan is moving on from the Chen era.

My first impression is that this is a really impressive list.  Chen has managed to put together a group of candidates that covers most districts in the five municipalities.  Moreover, many of the ones he is missing are small.  Most voters will have an opportunity to express support for Chen if they wish.  Of course, it is debatable whether a vote for Chen Bifeng or Zheng Xinzhu should be understood as a vote for Chen.  Those two and several others are long term incumbents with their own constituents, and it is arguable that Chen is piggybacking on their popularity.  But after all, that’s usually true of political coalitions.

OSOCA City Council candidates

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

odds and ends

March 30, 2010

A few unrelated thoughts.

Premier Wu Dunyi 吳敦義 seems to have settled into his job.  During his first couple of months with American beef and the like, it seemed to me that he wouldn’t last a full year.  The last two or three months, though, he seems much more in command.  I’m moving him from zombie status (effectively dead but still stumbling around) up to vampire status (he has arisen from his coffin, dressed up nicely, and has an outside shot at seducing the beautiful electorate).  (Maybe I should lay off the analogies.)

I watched an hourlong one on one interview with Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 on TV last night.  I came away with the impression of Yang as a sincere, hardworking, and simple guy who knows everything about agriculture and not much about anything else.  All he could talk about was farmers, farming, growing up on a farm, marketing farm produce, and how ECFA would be bad for farmers.  Fine, but aren’t there a few people in Greater Kaohsiung who are not farmers?  (It reminded me of Bob Kerry running for the Democratic nomination for president in 1992: his answer to every question, from nuclear arsenals to education policy to tax reform was health care, health care, health care.)  The other thing that struck me about the interview was the three minutes in which he talked about how intense the primary campaign has been.  He downplayed it completely, saying he didn’t think it was that bad at all, that he was just providing information to the party central office about all those abuses, and that he and Chen Ju 陳菊 would certainly cooperate to support the winner.  There must have been a serious backlash against his earlier tactics.  Also, Cai Yingwen’s 蔡英文 gambit — telling him to cool it — has paid off.  I think he is changing courses because the strident strategy didn’t work, but she will get some credit for refereeing and keeping the competition under control.

Liu Quanzhong 劉銓忠 has announced he is running for Taichung mayor.  Liu is a legislator with decades of political experience, the younger brother of former legislative speaker Liu Songfan 劉松藩, and, most importantly, one of the most senior leaders in the Taichung County Red Faction.  This means that both the Red and Black factions have someone contesting the nomination.  It is still nearly unthinkable that anyone other than Jason Hu 胡志強 is going to win the nomination, so why are they fighting an unwinnable fight?  I think I have overlooked how becoming a direct municipality is going to affect local factions.  Control of budgets is the lifeblood of local factions.  Currently, they prosper when they control the county executive, and they build grassroots strength by winning township mayors, agricultural and irrigation cooperatives, and county assembly seats.  The two biggest pillars, county executives and township mayors, will be disappearing after this year.  Of course, if they could win the Greater Taichung mayorship with its enormous budget, all would be peachy.  So even though the odds are slim, there is probably tremendous grassroots pressure to try.  From that angle, Ma would be foolish to give in.  He has a chance to end the Faustian bargain with Taichung local factions.  There might be a cost in votes in 2012, but he will never have a better chance to deal the local factions a fatal blow.

Zhonghe City politics

March 14, 2010

Since I’m temporarily living in Zhonghe City 中和市, and Zhonghe is a district in the upcoming Xinbei City Council elections, I thought I’d write a little about this city’s history, its politics, and maybe even about the upcoming city council elections.  (I’m stealing heavily from Wikipedia, the Zhonghe City website, and a few other things I found on the internet.)


Zhonghe City is in Taipei County, just southwest of Taipei City.  It has a population of over 400,000 today, but almost all of this population has arrived relatively recently.  When Yonghe Town 永和鎮 (which was not yet Yonghe City 永和市) was carved off of Zhonghe Village 中和鄉 in 1960, the population of Zhonghe was a mere 23,000.  Taipei City grew fastest during the 1960s, and by the 1970s population growth in the Taipei metro area was mostly across the river in Banqiao 板橋市, Yonghe 永和市, Xindian 新店市, Xinzhuang 新莊市, Sanchong 三重市, and Zhonghe 中和市.  These six cities exploded through the 1970s and 1980s.  By the mid-1990s or so, they were largely saturated, and areas a bit further out in Taipei County, such as Tucheng 土城市, Shulin 樹林市, Xizhi 汐止市, Danshui 淡水鎮, and Sanxia 三峽鎮 started experiencing much faster growth.  Zhonghe was promoted to a city in 1977.  Currently, it is the sixth largest city in Taiwan (after Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan, and Banqiao), but this will no longer be the case when Taipei County is upgraded to a direct municipality and Zhonghe simply becomes a district of Xinbei City at the end of this year.  Then it will be simply the second largest administrative district in Taiwan (after Banqiao).

Here is what I found on Zhonghe’s population growth:

Year Population Land





1960 23,000 19.71 1,167
1970 77,382 19.71 3,926
1975 130,835 19.71 6,638
1980 261,684 19.71 13,277
1985 324,930 19.71 16,486
2000 398,123 20.14 19,768
2008 412,060 20.14 20,460

For reference, a population density of 20,000 is roughly equivalent to what you find in the most densely populated districts of Taipei City.  However, where downtown Taipei City has more parks and businesses competing with residential space, Zhonghe has larger areas of mountainous land.  (Neighboring Yonghe City, which is almost entirely residential space, has a staggering 41,408 people per square kilometer.)

A large portion of Zhonghe’s population is immigrants from other parts of Taiwan who moved to the Taipei area but could not afford Taipei City’s high real estate prices.  However, unlike Sanchong and Xinzhuang to the northwest which are almost entirely populated by native Taiwanese (meaning Minnan or Hakka), Zhonghe’s population is more complex.  I don’t have data on the percentage of mainlanders in Zhonghe, but it is fairly high.  Taipei County as a whole has about 18% mainlanders; I’m guessing it is somewhere around 25-30% in Zhonghe.  What makes this politically more significant is that Zhonghe has a lot of “communities” 眷村.  There are several military installations here, and many of them have housing communities.  As you might guess, these were the KMT’s “iron” votes until the emergence of the New Party and People First Party.  Now that the KMT has absorbed those parties back into the fold, these communities tend to be very solid in their voting behavior.  This is not only because they individually share the KMT’s ideology, but also because the tight social network reinforces that stance, mobilizes voters, and punishes deviants.  There are also communities for other groups, such as workers in state owned companies.  One of the more famous groups of mainlanders here in Zhonghe hails from the Golden Triangle area of Burma, Thailand, and southwestern China.  On Huaxin Street 華新街, lots of signs are in Burmese and/or Thai, and you can get delicious ethnic food.  I think they probably have been revitalized in recent years by new immigrants in the same way the American Chinatowns have been.  A less prominent group of Zhonghe residents hails from Jinmen 金門縣, the island right next to Xiamen.  I have even heard claims that more Jinmen people live in Zhonghe than in Jinmen, though I doubt that.  The Jinmen County government owns five communities in Zhonghe City.  Originally, these were owned by the military, which basically ran Jinmen as its own fief for several decades.  The five communities are Fuxing New Village, Taihu New Village, Taiwu Village, Wujiang New Village, and Jiuru New Village (復興新村、太湖新莊、太武山莊、浯江新村、九如新村).  To give an idea of how big a community can be, the Fuxing community has around 300 households.

Politically, Zhonghe is a very blue city.  Even when the DPP wins Taipei County, it never wins Zhonghe.  Generally the DPP is 10-15% lower here than in the whole county.  Moreover, because there is a large part of the electorate that is highly unlikely to consider voting for the DPP, Zhonghe is far less likely to swing to the DPP than other areas in Taiwan that seem to have similar partisan balances.  For example, think of Hsinchu County, which is also heavily blue.  In Hsinchu County, the mostly Hakka population favors the KMT, but it is not a betrayal of basic identities to swing to the DPP in certain conditions.   So if 70% of the electorate is skeptical (but not deathly opposed), a successful DPP candidate has to win 2 of every 7 of these skeptics (plus the 30% base of DPP supporters).  In Zhonghe, first you have to subtract the 25% of the electorate that is mainlander and which is highly unlikely to ever swing to the DPP.  So if the DPP has a base of 30% and 45% are skeptics, the DPP has to win roughly half of these skeptics to win the election.  That is much harder, since “skeptic” is already a very generous term for people who habitually vote blue, many of whom are very firm in their beliefs.  The first 5% of defectors are much easier to attract than the second 5% and so on.  Getting half of the native Taiwanese KMT vote is a monumental task for any DPP candidate.  Here is the party vote in Zhonghe City in several recent elections:

KMT DPP New/PFP other
1993 County executive 40 36 23 1
1994 Provincial governor 59 31 10 0
1996 President 41 19 28 12
1997 County executive 45 34 4 18
2000 President 20 30 49 1
2001 County executive 58 42
2004 President 61 39 0
2005 County executive 63 37 1
2008 LY party list vote 57 29 (TSU: 3) 8 3
2008 President 68 32

These are all straight party to party races.  The partisan balance is somewhere between 60-40 and 70-30.  In multimember races, such as the old legislative and national assembly elections, the blue camp tended to be a bit stronger.  (I’d show those, but I don’t have them at my immediate disposal.  Maybe I’ll edit that table in later.)

Enough of the boring national politics; what about the much more exciting local politics?  Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of juicy stories here, but I’ll try to sketch some of the basic outlines of Zhonghe factions.  Remember, almost all local factions in Taiwan support the KMT.

Most observers have identified three broad local factions, the Lin-Jiang faction 林江派, the Lu faction 呂派, and the You faction 游派.  Sometimes these two latter factions are combined as the Lu-You faction.  Here are the principal members that I have identified in various sources as faction members.  I also list a few other politicians whose names indicate they might be part of that faction, but who I have not seen listed in any roster.  This latter group is marked with an asterisk.

Lu Faction

Name name Offices
呂芳契 Lu Fangqi County assembly (58-82) vice-speaker (68-73) speaker (73-82)
呂芳海 Lu Fanghai City council, mayor
呂芳煙 Lu Fangyan County assembly (82-98), mayor (98-06)
呂芳雲 Lu Fangyun
呂學圖 Lu Xuetu National Assembly

You Faction

Name name offices
游火金 You Huojin Mayor
游任和 You Renhe Provincial assembly
游詩源 You Shiyuan County assembly (90-02)
游輝廷 You Huiting County assembly (90- )
游明財 You Mingcai Legislator
游文貴* You Wengui* County assembly (82-90)
游國華* You Guohua* County Assembly (90-94)
游文煌* You Wenhuang* City council, county assembly (98-02)

Lin-Jiang Faction

Name name offices
林德喜 Lin Dexi Mayor
江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan County assembly (46-58), mayor
趙長江 Zhao Changjiang County assembly (68-82), national assembly
江上清 Jiang Shangqing City council speaker, mayor, provincial assembly
趙永清 Zhao Yongqing Legislator (92-08)
張慶忠 Zhang Qingzhong National Assembly, legislator
陳錦錠 Chen Jinding County assembly (94- )
江永昌 Jiang Yongchang County assembly (06- )
江敏行* Jiang Minxing* County assembly (82-94)

Another way to think about factional presence in Zhonghe politics is to consider this table with the main three offices of the city government (mayor, city council speaker, city council vice speaker).  Note how many people are named Lu and You.  Since You and Lu are not particularly common surnames, the odds are pretty good that they are members of those factions.  Probably many of the people with different surnames are also related to one faction or another by marriage or other ties.  (Source: Zhonghe City website.)

year mayor mayor speaker Speaker Vice speaker Vice speaker
1946 游火金 You Huojin 林江榮塗 Lin Jiang Rongtu
1948 游建池 You Jianchi 呂傳濤 Lu Chuantao
1950 呂傳濤 Lu Chuantao
1951 蕭昌銅 Xiao Changtong
1953 蕭昌銅 Xiao Changtong
1955 呂傳濤 Lu Chuantao
1956 蕭昌銅 Xiao Changtong
1958 游火金 You Huojin
1960 江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan
1961 呂傳亮 Lu Chuanliang 簡阿甫 Jian Apu
1962 江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai
1964 江貴元 Jiang Guiyuan 林坤地 Lin Kundi 林士斌 Lin Shibin
1968 林德喜 Lin Dexi 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai 游祥雲 You Xiangyun
1973 林德喜 Lin Dexi 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai 游象傳 You Xiangchuan
1977 呂芳海 Lu Fanghai
1978 徐宗居 Xu Zongju 游象傳 You Xiangchuan
1982 江上清 Jiang Shangqing 游明財 You Mingcai
1985 江上清 Jiang Shangqing 游明財 You Mingcai 林再發 Lin Zaifa
1986 江上清 Jiang Shangqing 游明財 You Mingcai 林添福 Lin Tianfu
1990 童永雄 Tong Yongxiong 林建宏 Lin Jianhong 邱獻樹 Qiu Xianshu
1994 童永雄 Tong Yongxiong 林建宏 Lin Jianhong 許進勝 Xu Shengjin
1998 呂芳煙 Lu Fangyan 許進勝 Xu Shengjin 邱献樹 Qiu Xianshu
2002 呂芳煙 Lu Fangyan 許進勝 Xu Shengjin 游象賢 You Xiangxian
2003 呂禮旺 Lu Liwang
2005 邱垂益 Qiu Chuiyi 游象賢 You Xiangxian 馬兆玲 Ma Zhaoling

There is a fourth grouping that is emerging, which we might call the Qiu faction 邱派.  It is centered around the incumbent mayor Qiu Chuiyi邱垂益, city council vice speaker Ma Zhaoling馬兆玲, former city council member Qiu Xianshu邱獻樹, and Qiu Chuiyi’s son and candidate for Xinbei City Council Qiu Fengyao 邱烽堯.

I don’t know very much about the You, Lu, or Qiu stories, but the Lin-Jiang faction has some interesting ties.  It looks to me like the key figure is Zhao Changjiang趙長江.  The two mayors from 1960 to 1973, Lin Dexi林德喜and Jiang Guiyuan江貴元, were allies, but Lin seems to fade into the background.  Zhao Changjiang married someone in Jiang Guiyuan’s family (his daughter?), and most of the prominent subsequent politicians are descended from Zhao Changjiang.  Zhao’s oldest son is Jiang Shangqing江上清, who took his mother’s surname.  Jiang was speaker of the city council (82-85), mayor (85-89), and then a member of the provincial assembly (89-98).  Zhao Changjiang’s other son who is prominent in politics is Zhao Yongqing趙永清, who was in the legislature from 1992 to 2008.  He is by far the person with the highest national profile in this story, so we’ll come back to him in a moment.  Zhao Changjiang also adopted a daughter (or perhaps she is a foster daughter or the relationship is purely informal, the terminology is confusing to me).  This daughter, Chen Jinding陳錦錠, has served in the county assembly since 1994.  She is married to Zhang Qingzhong張慶忠, who sat in the national assembly (91-96) and has been in the legislature since 2004.

Let’s go back to Zhao Yongqing.  Zhao graduated from NCCU 政治大學 with a degree in political science and then got an MA in political science from New York University.  He came back to Taiwan and plunged into politics in the 1992 legislative election, when he was 35 years old.  I seem to remember an MA thesis that someone with connections to the Zhao-Jiang family wrote, in which the author claimed that Zhao really had two campaigns in 1992.  He ran his campaign based on issues and high political appeals, while his family, who looked at his campaign with a mixture of amusement, condescension, and indulgence, ran the far more important “traditional” campaign (read: they bought votes).  My memory is fuzzy on this point, and this is such a common story that I may have mistakenly applied it to Zhao.  At any rate, Zhao quickly developed into a fully mature politician, and by the mid- and late-1990s, he was fully in control of his own political destiny.  He developed an image as a fairly incorrupt (certainly by the standards of local faction legislators) politician who was concerned about firemen, education, environmental protection, and good governance.  He developed his “little sun” logo somewhere in this era, and it fit him well.

His stance on nuclear power turned out to be critical for him.  During the 1990s, the KMT was trying to build a 4th nuclear power plant in the Taipei County township of Gongliao 貢寮鄉.  Gongliao is pretty far from Zhonghe, but it was still in Zhao’s legislative district (all of Taipei County), and he was resolutely opposed.  Many other Taipei County KMT legislators were also opposed, but Zhao proved to be the most intransigent.  In 2000, Chen Shuibian was elected president, and his first big showdown with the KMT-dominated legislature was over nuclear power.  The Premier ordered construction halted, and the legislature demanded that the budget be spent.  During this struggle, KMT member Zhao found himself on the wrong side and was subjected to party discipline.  He eventually quit the KMT, and after a short period as an independent (including his re-election in 2004), joined the DPP.

This makes him unique.  All of the other faction members listed in this post are either KMT or independents; only Zhao has aligned himself with the DPP.

The KMT reacted quite shrewdly to Zhao’s defection.  They nominated Zhang Qingzhong, Zhao’s brother-in-law (or at least informal brother-in-law) to run in 2004.  Both Zhao and Zhang were able to win, even though they were drawing heavily on the same factional network.  In 2008, Zhao and Zhang ran against each other once again, but this time, with the new electoral system, only one could win.  By all accounts, the campaign was quite vicious and personal.  Zhang eventually won 60-40%, which is not surprising given Zhonghe’s partisan structure.  You’ll note, however, that 40% is the high end for DPP candidates in Zhonghe, and it came on the same day that the DPP and TSU combined for 32% in the party list tier.

Factions are continually evolving, and my guess is that the Lin-Jiang faction does not really exist any longer.  The Zhao-Zhang fight, which is not just a factional fight but also a partisan fight, has probably forced everyone connected with their network to choose sides.  I’m guessing that there are probably now two distinct networks.

I’m astounded at the degree to which politics is a family business in Zhonghe City.  In my mental model of factional politics, factions rely heavily on dense social networks.  They should not work so well in a place like Zhonghe, which has lots of people moving in and out and people enjoy the anonymity of life in the city.  Somehow, the same few families have managed to absorb waves of immigrants into their political networks.  I have no idea how this works.

Ok, what does the upcoming Xinbei City Council race look like in Zhonghe?  Zhonghe is its own district, and last time it had seven seats.  Here are the results from the 2005 Taipei County Assembly election:

name name party votes % win? incumbent?
205053 100.0 7 5
陳錦錠 Chen Jinding KMT 27343 13.3 Y Y
簡文劉 Jian Wenliu KMT 22829 11.1 Y Y
林秀惠 Lin Xiuhui DPP 21398 10.4 Y Y
張瑞山 Zhang Ruishan DPP 20612 10.1 Y Y
游輝廷 You Huiting KMT 19014 9.3 Y Y
江永昌 Jiang Yongchang IND 18775 9.2 Y
李肇南 Li Zhaonan PFP 16298 7.9 Y
楊桂屏 Yang Guiping KMT 15334 7.5
馬兆玲 Ma Zhaoling IND 15255 7.4
呂萬煜 Lu Wanhuang PFP 14295 7.0
劉梅花 Liu Meihua New 13900 6.8
By party KMT 84520 41.2
DPP 42010 20.5
PFP 30593 14.9
New 13900 6.8
IND 34030 16.6
By camp Blue 144268 70.4
Green 60785 29.6

There were no turkeys in this race, and it was dominated by incumbents.  There are also several faction members in this table, including Chen Jinding, You Huiting, Jiang Yongchang (Zhao Yongqing’s cousin and ally), and Ma Zhaoling (Qiu Chuiyi’s ally).  I don’t know if Lu Wanhuang is from the Lu faction.

The PFP and New Party did quite well in the race, taking a combined 22% of the vote, more than the DPP won.  However, if one counts Jiang Yongchang’s[1] vote, the Green camp got 30%, a quite good showing.  (Remember, the DPP always does worse in multi-member districts and much, much worse in local elections.)

I expect Zhonghe will continue to elect seven members to the new Xinbei City Council.  So far this year, the public campaign has been almost entirely dominated by KMT hopefuls.  I assume this means that the KMT is moving earlier with its nomination process.  Over Chinese New Years, all the KMT candidates put up copious numbers of Happy New Year signs, both of the billboard variety and the more traditional doorway couplet 春連 variety.  Here are the eight candidates vying for KMT nominations (ok, the eight that have advertised enough to make me aware that they are running):

name Name notes
陳錦錠 Chen Jinding Incumbent, wife of Zhang Qingzhong
簡文劉 Jian Wenliu Incumbent
游輝廷 You Huiting Incumbent, You faction
許進勝 Xu Shengjin Member (and former speaker) of Zhonghe city council
邱烽堯 Qiu Fengyao Son of mayor
戴德成 Dai Decheng Member of Zhonghe city council
金瑞龍 Jin Ruilong Member of Zhonghe city council
楊宗翰 Yang Zonghan

Last time, the blue camp had eight candidates running for seven seats; they only won four seats with 70% of the vote.  This wasn’t really the KMT’s fault, since it only nominated four.  The blue camp would do well to nominate six candidates this year.  I don’t know whether the PFP and NP will nominate their own candidates, or if they have been completely absorbed into the KMT.  Since the PFP incumbent is not in the above table, I have doubts as to whether the KMT will be able to control the total number of blue candidates.  Also, I’m not sure if the Lu faction has a candidate in the race.

Let’s assume the three incumbents will be renominated.  That leaves two or three other spots.  I’m going to guess that Yang Zonghan and Jin Ruilong are the two weakest candidates.  This is based entirely on how many billboards each has put up.  I’ve seen one Yang billboard and only a handful of Jin billboards.  Billboards are not a good indication of popularity, but a lack of them, especially for a challenger, is an indication of financial weakness.  With nothing else to go on, I’m going to consider them to be fighting uphill battles.

That leaves the other three challengers, Xu, Qiu, and Dai, as the interesting candidates.  Xu and Qiu have a little history.  Qiu’s father is the current mayor, and he won the seat in 2005 by defeating Xu.  One newspaper article said that Xu had the backing of Zhonghe’s traditional factions (so maybe Xu is the missing Lu faction candidate), and that Qiu’s victory was an indication that the traditional factions were weakening.  At any rate, Xu and Qiu will fight another battle this year, and the first round will be for a KMT nomination.  It is, of course, possible that they could both win.

The last candidate is Dai Decheng.  Dai is a bit unique in that he is the only one of the eight candidates whose billboards say anything at all of substance.  Almost all billboards feature hackneyed and meaningless slogans (developing a new Xinbei City, moving forward) or just feature the candidate’s picture, name, and ask for support.  Dai is positioning himself as the image candidate.  He promises to be a professional/expert interested in social welfare issues and he claims he will run a clean campaign.  He seems to have good financing, at least judging by his picture plastered all over the city.  He is also working pretty hard in my neighborhood.  He has sponsored a couple of (apolitical) events in my housing complex, and he seems to employ quite a few workers.  I’m moderately impressed.

So if the KMT decides to nominate only five candidates, the last two spots will come down to the faction candidate (Xu), the son (Qiu), and the image candidate (Dai).

[1] The Taipei County Assembly website still lists Jiang as an independent, but I found a couple of news articles that seem to indicate he has now joined the DPP.