Archive for the ‘party discipline’ Category

Disobedient KMT legislators?

September 24, 2013

Here’s an interesting bit of news.  KMT legislative party whip Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池 announced that the legislature will not take up the nuclear referendum this session.  Lin explained that the Ministry of Economics has not yet produced a safety report, and the legislature cannot be expected to act before that report comes out.

This is interesting to me because my working assumption is that the current KMT political struggle is all about the executive branch demanding that its party members in the legislature toe the party line and pass the executive’s legislative agenda.  According to all accounts, there are three big items on that agenda: the services trade agreement, the nuclear referendum, and the annual budget.  Lin has just told the executive that Santa isn’t giving them everything they want for Christmas this year.

This comes after Ma announced the KMT would rearrange the coordinating meetings between the party, executive, and legislature by replacing Speaker Wang with Party Whip Lin.  Apparently, before the first meeting in which the president, premier, vice-president, and party secretary-general would have told him what to do, Lin pre-empted them by publicly announcing what he would not do.

Ma’s inner circle may have thought that Wang was behind all the obstruction in the legislature and that things would move much more smoothly once his power was hollowed out.  However, if the underlying problem was that many KMT legislators don’t want to be associated with unpopular executive proposals, Ma may be in for a rude awakening.

legal and constitutional arguments

September 18, 2013

On Friday, the Taipei District Court issued an injunction temporarily stopping the KMT from revoking Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s party membership.  I tried to write about it then, but I didn’t finish any coherent ideas before leaving on a mini-vacation with a bad internet connection.  That was probably fortunate, since I’ve had a chance to think about things before I write them.

I originally thought the court made a bad decision that would have bad consequences for Taiwan’s democracy.  Now I think the court probably made the right decision, but it will still have bad effects.  I’m going to go through what happened in the legal case, why the decision was reasonable, why it think it was a bad decision for democracy, and briefly discuss constitutional arguments about expelling Wang and separation of powers.

(Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and have no legal training.  I might be making some basic mistakes in my discussion of how the law works.)

Wang brought a civil suit in the Taipei District Court.  Political parties are governed under the Civil Associations Act 人民團體法, and this is the basic problem.  Membership in a political party is considered just like membership in any other association.  I think this means that legally, a party membership is no different than membership in a charity, a glass producers association, a softball enthusiasts club, a temple group, or any other association.  Wang argued that the status of his membership in the KMT was still unsure and the immediate revocation of his membership would cause him irreparable damage since there would be no way to restore him to the legislature (and the speakership) if he won his appeal.  The court agreed and issued a temporary injunction preventing the KMT from taking action until Wang’s case was decided.  In making this decision, the court treated his party membership as a type of private property.  The court was not considering the impact on the association, whether Wang was guilty of the allegations, whether he should lose his seat in the legislature, constitutional arguments about anything, or whether a delay in executing the decision would benefit Wang.  This was simply a matter of whether immediately revoking Wang’s property rights over his party membership would cause him irreparable damage.  To me, that is a terrible way to think about a case like this, but I think the court was probably right in considering things from that angle and coming to the conclusion that it would impact Wang negatively and irreversibly.

The other, less reported, part of the decision was the point that Wang’s membership status was unclear.  Why was it unclear?  The KMT party rules spelled out a procedure for revoking party for revoking party rules.  They did not violate these procedures.  Wang’s lawyers made two arguments.  First, the KMT had not allowed him to appeal before executing the punishment.  However, party rules clearly stated that, while he had the right to appeal, the punishment would be valid during the appeal period.  Thus according to party rules, Wang should immediately lose his party membership and any privileges that went with it.  Second, Wang’s lawyers argued that the KMT’s punishment was unfairly heavy.  In previous recent cases, KMT members have been formally indicted and/or convicted, and they have not lost their party membership.  Wang has neither been indicted nor convicted of anything.  The party has not taken time to objectively establish any set of damning facts, yet it has still given Wang its heaviest penalty.  The court press release did not explain its decision, but I think it must have accepted one or both of these arguments.  After talking with a friend with some legal training and reading various media reports, I think the second argument is probably the key one.  The Civil Associations Act says that organizations are not allowed to make rules for single individuals; they have to use the same rules for everyone.

The injunction is supposed to put a temporary halt to the KMT’s efforts; it is not supposed to indicate that Wang is right or wrong.  However, Wang will remain in the speaker’s chair until the legal case is decided.  No one seems to know how long this will be.  At the quickest, a higher court could overturn the injunction as early as next week.  At the slowest, various commentators have suggested that the full appeals process could easily stretch out over two or three years.  In other words, Wang could finish out this legislative term as speaker before the case is resolved. Yesterday Wang’s lawyer said he thought it would take about five months for the case to be decided.  So we might be in for a protracted scorched-earth political struggle lasting for two years, or the whole thing might be over in a few days.  My guess is that the political struggle will determine a winner and/or loser before the legal battle is finished, but that is just a guess.

I do not like the legal decision to stop the KMT from revoking Wang’s party membership at all.  The judges may have made a reasonable decision based on the case at hand, but the implication is that parties no longer have the right to discipline their members.  The problem is that political parties should not be regulated as if they were ordinary civic associations.  Membership in a political party is not a property right.

Parties deal in trust.  In every election, they ask voters to trust them with political power.  Arguably, the most important asset any party has is its party image.  For democracy to work, parties must be given full control to shape their images as they see best.  If a party believes that a member is harming that image, it should have the right to sever all associations with that member.  I don’t think that the party even needs to be able to justify its decision in legal terms.  Image is a subjective concept, and the party makes a subjective decision about what helps that image and what harms it.  For example, the KMT might have decided that the damage to its image was much smaller in the Lai Su-ru 賴素如 case than in the Wang Jin-pyng case.  In the Lai case, there were concrete accusations of bribery and formal indictments.  However, Lai is merely a Taipei City Councilor.  They might subjectively decide that a relatively bad deed by a relatively unimportant member is not that harmful to the overall party image.  In contrast, Wang’s criminally less serious case might have done more damage because Wang is such an important figure in the KMT.  I personally Lai damaged the KMT party image more than Wang, but my opinion shouldn’t matter.  The KMT should be free to take any disciplinary actions that it believes will benefit its party image, and they should not need to justify those actions to a judge.

They should need to justify those actions to the general electorate, however.  If the KMT wants to engage in vicious internal purges against popular party members, that should be their prerogative.  However, they should be prepared to lose elections when they do so for superficial reasons.  If the KMT can’t persuade the general public that Wang was dirty and the electorate instead comes to believe that this was nothing more than a political purge of one leader against another, it is the electorate’s responsibility to punish or reward this behavior.

Instead, the courts have ruled that they are the arbiters of whether a party should be able to discipline its members.  In 2010, the KMT tried to revoke the membership of Hsu Shu-po 許舒博, a party list legislator, because he had been convicted of corruption by a lower court.  Hsu sued to stop the action, and the court (incredibly!) ruled that the KMT’s action was unreasonable since Hsu’s case was still being appealed and had not yet been finalized.  Because the appellate courts had not yet conclusively determined that Hsu was legally corrupt, the judge decided that the KMT could not be sure that Hsu had harmed the party’s image.  Therefore, the judge issued an injunction stopping the KMT from kicking Hsu out of the party, and Hsu eventually served out the rest of the term in the legislature.  (Because of Hsu’s case, the KMT changed its rules so that the party’s decision would take effect immediately instead of waiting until the party’s appeals process was completed.)  This is ridiculous!  It only makes sense if you think of party membership as a property right and the removal of party membership as depriving a person of property.  If you think of a party as an organization carefully nurturing a collective image, it is completely illogical.  Voters certainly don’t wait until all the legal appeals are exhausted before considering whether they should make any political judgments.  Moreover, what if Hsu had done something completely legal but politically damaging, such as repeatedly vote against his party?  Would the courts decide that he wasn’t harming the KMT’s party image because no court had convicted him?  Why should the courts even be involved in such a decision?  This should be the purview of the party, and the voters should be responsible for approving or rejecting the party’s decision.  Political decisions should be made according to political logic, and they should be judged though political processes.

Unfortunately, the courts did not defer to party judgments because they were considering the case according to the Civil Associations Act.  There is no Political Parties Law to instruct them to treat parties differently.  I believe many different drafts of the Political Parties Bill have been introduced, but none has passed.  This is probably because members of the legislature don’t want a Political Parties Law.  There is probably some key clause in all the bills that would restrict their freedom of action or restrain them in some way.  It might be about money.  It might also be that they want the courts to think of their legislative seats as private property rather than as delegations of power from voters or a party.  The current case should highlight the need for a Political Parties Law, but it probably won’t.  Since most people support Wang against Ma, the Taipei District Court is a popular one.  My argument about party discipline is coming from Ma’s side.  Since Ma is losing the war of public opinion, concerns about parties’ needs to be able to discipline themselves are also on the losing side.  Hopefully the next time the court steps in and stops a party from expelling a member, the member will be less sympathetic to the public.

In recent days, a number of prominent legal scholars have made two prominent constitutional arguments.  First, some suggest that party list legislators should be allowed to keep their seat in the legislature even if they lose their party membership.  Second, President Ma’s efforts to remove Speaker Wang from his position violate the principle of separation of powers.  I think both of these arguments are wrong.

The first argument is a bit bewildering to me.  As I understand it, the argument says that party list legislators are not merely representatives of their party.  The voters consider the individual names on the party list when they decide how to cast their party list ballots, so the individuals have a bit of legitimacy based on non-party factors.  Revoking their party membership does not revoke the voters’ delegation of power to them, since voters voted, at least in part, for them as individuals.  Thus, they should not be stripped of their seats but should be allowed to continue serving as independent legislators.  In Germany, when the Green Party tried to expel a list legislator in 1988, a judge used this logic to rule that he should keep his seat.

I am not a lawyer, and I don’t always understand legal logic.  However, I can claim some expertise in electoral systems, and I have never seen this sort of logic used to explain how closed list proportional representation systems should or do operate.  In a closed list PR system, the voter marks a vote for a political party.  In some countries, a few names are listed on the ballot next to the party name (I am not aware of any cases in which the complete list is presented), but the vote is for the party, not for the names.  The voter has no way of indicating which name he or she likes or dislikes.  Moreover, the order of the names is fixed in advance by the parties.  If the party already has enough votes for twelve seats, one more vote will help only the 13th person on the list get a little closer to winning.  It doesn’t matter whether the voter really likes the 7th person or the 15th person better.  Moreover, voters can only guess whether it will be the 13th, 15th, or 18th person who is on the bubble.  In other words, voters really can’t vote for individuals on a closed list.

Empirically, we have pretty good evidence that voters do not try to vote for individuals.  The Taiwan Election and Democracy Surveys (TEDS) are the standard academic datasets for election studies in Taiwan.  After both the 2008 and 2012 elections, survey respondents were asked if they could name anyone on any party lists.  Very few people could.  I don’t remember the numbers, but I believe it was fewer than 20% who could even name one person.  Most people who named someone named Wang Jin-pyng.  However, this should not be taken as an indication that voters delegated personal power to Wang.  Many of the people who named him did not vote for the KMT.  At any rate, since he was listed at #1 and the KMT eventually elected 16 members, his election was assured; voters could not do anything to help him or prevent him from winning.  Instead, people voted for a particular party list based on the whole party, not because they wanted to delegate power to a particular legislative candidate.  This finding is general.  Voters around the world rarely know who the individual candidates are anywhere that closed lists are used.  With closed lists, voters vote for parties, not individuals.

In fact, the primary argument justifying the use of closed lists is precisely that they create strong political parties that can constrain individual members and act cohesively.  The ability to discipline members by stripping their seats or giving them a lousy spot on the list is central to the logic of the system.  Voters vote for parties, parties put individuals into offices, parties oversee those individuals and ensure that they act as the party intends, and voters judge parties on the results.  If the individuals are allowed to flaunt party discipline, the system breaks down.

As far as the German judge goes, I simply don’t care.  Just because one German judge made a terrible argument based on a flawed understanding of representation does not mean that Taiwan is obliged to follow his awful precedent.  Why in the world should we accept the ludicrous idea that party representatives are not actually representatives of the party?

The second argument is far less stupid.  The constitution lays out a system with separation of powers, and the president tried to remove the speaker of the legislature.  This strikes many people as fundamentally wrong.  The executive branch should not be able to dictate to the legislative branch.  Indeed, one of the primary achievements of democratization in Taiwan was creating a legislature that could say no to the president.  Today’s Taipei Times has a more detailed summary of this argument.

I understand why people instinctively don’t like seeing the president bully the speaker, but I think this argument is ultimately flawed because it fails to consider the centrality of parties in democratic politics.  One of the most important books in the past generation informing our understanding of presidentialism is titled Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America (Shugart and Wattenberg, eds. 1997).  The book makes the point that presidents generally enjoy two types of power.  The constitution grants them certain formal powers that they wield as president.  In addition, most presidents are the formal or informal leader of a political party, and this yields a set of partisan powers that they wield as party leader.  Interestingly, presidents with the strongest set of constitutional powers often have weak partisan powers and vice versa.  Critically, the most stable and successful democracies tend to be those with presidents who have weak constitutional but strong partisan powers.  Presidents with strong constitutional powers but weak partisan powers try to ram things through the legislature regardless of whether they have any support there.  However, those decisions are commonly blocked by an incalcitrant legislature or reversed by the next imperial president, and some results include gridlock, vitriolic rhetoric, wild policy reversals, and impeachments.  Presidents with weak constitutional powers but strong partisan powers are able to operate more smoothly because they have a solid block of footsoldiers in the legislature.  Presidents are also constrained from taking actions that are too radical because they need to consider the electoral fortunes of those footsoldiers, even if the president himself will not be running for re-election.  Moreover, laws enacted with the full approval of the legislature are more likely to remain in force after the president leaves office.  In short, the executive and legislature are not always independent actors.  The system operates best when they are linked together by political parties.

Taiwan is fortunate to have strong parties paired with a constitutionally weak president.  The president has no decree powers, so he cannot unilaterally make a law.  He has a very weak veto, only a package veto which the legislature can override with a mere majority.  The executive branch can introduce bills, but they have no special status in the legislative process.  The major exception is that Taiwan’s president has fairly strong control over the national budget.  However, as the 2001 showdown over nuclear power demonstrated, when the president faces a determined majority opposition in the legislature, the legislature will win.  Taiwan’s president cannot simply command the legislature; he has to persuade it to do his bidding.  This is where the partisan powers come in.  The president can use softer tactics, such as communication through the party legislative caucus or appealing to the public to give him more footsoldiers in the next election, or harder tactics, such as threatening to withhold nominations from unruly members in the next election.  By doing such things, the president can help channel the disparate energies and ambitions of the diverse set of party members toward a specific set of political goals.

Of course the president might abuse his partisan powers by employing them for a goal that many or most of the party members do not want.  Arguably, that is what has happened in the current case.  If this happens, it is the party’s responsibility to constrain the president.  In the current case, if KMT legislators and other party members are worried that Ma’s actions will harm them electorally, they should probably take some action to strip him of some of his partisan powers during this month’s party congress.  For example, they might implicitly repudiate him by requiring the Central Standing Committee to affirm all disciplinary measures, or they might explicitly repudiate him by standing up and applauding when Wang walks into the room.  Either way, a clear message would be sent that Ma does not fully control the party, and Ma would be politically hobbled for the rest of his presidency.  The KMT might be able to restore its tarnished image by turning to a new set of leaders to fight the 2016 campaign.

The important point here is that partisan powers are a critical and legitimate element in presidential politics.  The fact that Ma has used his partisan powers to interfere with the inner workings of the legislature is not a violation of separation of powers.

In fact, from one point of view, there is no such thing as a pure separation of powers.  The executive branch has a lot of legislative powers, including the right to introduce bills, and the right to veto.  The legislative branch has some executive powers, such as the right oversee the workings of the executive branch by demanding that bureaucrats regularly report to the legislature on their activities.  Both branches also have some judicial powers as well.  Thus contrary to popular belief, the constitution does not actually establish a system with separated powers; it shares the powers among the branches of government.  From this point of view, criticizing the president for interfering in the legislative branch does not make sense.  The president is, by order of the constitution, a legitimate player in the legislative branch.

Another way to think about the idea that there is something wrong with the president trying to remove the speaker is to think about an alternate world in which Speaker Wang had been elected in a district.  Suppose people in Wang’s district were dissatisfied with his performance and wanted to recall him.  If he were actually recalled, he would lose his seat and, of course, the speaker’s chair.  No one thinks this would be illegitimate.  The voters of the district elected him and delegated power to him.  They also had the right to remove him from power.  Similarly, in the real world, the Taiwanese voters gave sixteen party list seats to the KMT and the KMT entrusted one of these seats to Wang.  When Wang acted in a way that the KMT did not approve of, it tried to take the seat back, just as voters could try to recall their district representative.

Of course, what really rankles some people is that Wang is not just another party list legislator, he is the speaker.  But why is he the speaker?  The KMT has already “interfered” in the legislature’s internal business by nominated Wang as speaker and then using its party powers to ensure that all KMT legislators voted for Wang and ratified the party choice.  Somehow it is not seen as illegitimate when the party puts the speaker in power, but it is illegitimate to try to remove him.

By now my basic points should be clear: parties are legitimate and critical actors in the democratic process, and they should have the freedom to discipline their own members.  If they do so irresponsibly, it is up to the voters to punish them.  I personally do not buy Ma’s assertion that Wang’s supposed illegal lobbying was the most embarrassing day in the party’s history, and it seems that most of the public does not buy it either.  However, if the KMT bought the argument, that should be sufficient.  If they want to plunge their party into internal chaos, that should be their choice to make.  I think they are doing serious damage to their party image and future electoral prospects, but apparently they do not agree.

All the King’s Horses and all the King’s men

September 13, 2013

So it looks like President Ma 馬英九 will succeed in his quest to purge Speaker Wang 王金平.  A lot is still ongoing and we certainly haven’t seen the end of this story.  Moreover, there is always a lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t see, so we don’t really have a full set of facts about the basic events.  However, at this point I think I can start to make some preliminary comments about what has happened and what it will mean.

One thing that I still do not feel I understand well is why Ma wanted to purge Wang.  I haven’t heard any such uncertainty from the talking heads on TV, but then no one there ever says “I’m not sure” about anything.  They have offered several motives.  Ma has hated Wang ever since the 2005 fight over the KMT party chair or the 2007 fight over nomination for president.  The talking heads point to one of Ma’s campaign ads that said his campaign was a fight against black and gold, and (obviously??) this meant Wang.  Another pundit said the hatred goes back to the mid-1990s when certain KMT legislators blocked Justice Minister Ma from prosecuting corrupt KMT politicians.  A different tack is that Ma was hearing rumors that various forces (perhaps including Lien Chan 連戰, Hau Bei-tsun 郝柏村, Wu Po-hsiung 吳伯雄, and/or Eric Chu 朱立倫 and his father-in-law 高裕仁) were planning to push Wang for party chair, and the purge was Ma’s pre-emptive strike to secure his power and avoid becoming a lame duck.  Then there are the people who think that the legislature was not passing Ma’s legislation (nuclear plant referendum, trade and services pact) quickly enough or not blocking potential amendments.  All of these make a little sense, but none is quite persuasive to me.  If you had asked last week who the biggest threat to Ma was, I wouldn’t have said Wang.  The dredging up of old events looks like post-hoc reasoning, much like how stock market analysts confidently say the latest unemployment stats were (obviously) good news if the market went up or bad news if the market went down, regardless of whether unemployment was up or down.  The idea of Wang challenging Ma for party leadership is ignoring the point that Wang is just not a confrontational guy.  I’ll talk more about the effect on the legislature below, but the basic problem is that the referendum and the services trade pact are unpopular and KMT legislators don’t want to go on the record casting votes for them.  Removing Wang won’t change that.  At any rate, these sorts of internal tensions always exist inside every political party, but the various actors usually just put up with things rather than declare full nuclear war.  I don’t have a better answer; I’m just not fully satisfied with any of these proposed motives.  I’d really like to know why Ma chose this course.

One thing I am absolutely sure of is that this is a political purge.  Ma’s accusations of influence peddling and harming the party’s image are clearly window dressing.  As many, many people have pointed out, Ma didn’t react nearly as strongly to other recent cases (eg: Lin Yi-shih 林益世, Chang Tung-jung 張通榮, Chuo Po-yuan 卓伯源, Lee Chao-ching 李朝卿, Lai Su-ju 賴素如) in which actual crimes were committed and people were convicted by the judicial system.  Every report I’ve seen so far says that there is no legal case against Wang.  Indeed, the KMT rescinded his membership for the vague offense of harming the party’s reputation, not for any specific legal cause.  This is in marked contrast to the usual practice of declining to take any action until a party member is convicted by a court and the legal appeals process has been exhausted (and not always even then).

No, this was a power play.  Ma decided to remove Wang, planned carefully, and ruthlessly executed that plan.  The timing is a clear tipoff.  Are we to believe that Ma really learned of this “egregious offense” right before Wang coincidentally left the country?  And, even more fortuitously, Wang chose to go to a fairly remote part of Malaysia with bad communications and infrequent transportation back to Taiwan.  Wang could hardly come back early since he would have had to cancel or miss his daughter’s wedding, but even if he had wanted to, it would have been logistically challenging.  (I even heard one pundit claim that Ma had waited until right after Wang cleared customs at the airport to send the first message to explain himself and the second call went out right after the plane took off.  Take that story with a grain of salt.)  If we are to believe the official timeline, the Special Investigation Division learned of the lobbying while (illegally?) listening in to a DPP legislator’s phone calls.  However, the phone calls took place in late June, but Huang supposedly did not (illegally?) report this information to President Ma until August 31.  So supposedly the SID sat on this info for over a month and, by random chance, reported to Ma at exactly the worst time for Wang to defend himself.  That seems a bit fishy.  More likely Ma sent word to the SID to pass him any dirt on Wang and knew of this incident by early July.  The official timetable is almost certainly contrived for public consumption.  After springing the trap, Ma acted quickly to ensure that Wang could not wiggle out.  Ma scheduled the KMT disciplinary meeting less than 24 hours after Wang arrived back in Taiwan.  When the decision came down from that obedient body, it was finalized and the paperwork was sent out to the Central Election Commission that day.  The disciplinary committee even “rescinded” 撤銷 his party membership rather than “expelling” 開除 him, because the party rules require the latter decision to be ratified by the Central Standing Committee.  Ma does not dominate the CSC as thoroughly as the disciplinary committee, and Wang might have been able to overturn the decision in that arena.  Instead, the CSC was merely informed of the decision.  Now that the Central Election Commission has received the KMT notification, I don’t see how the decision can be reversed.  The CEC is not responsible for judging whether the decision was fair or reasonable.  It received an official document from the legitimate party office saying that Wang is no longer a party member.  The CEC’s hands should be tied.  According to law, if Wang is not a party member, he loses his seat on the KMT party list.  Since he will no longer be a member of the legislature, he automatically ceases to be speaker.  (Then again, I’ve seen stranger things happen in Taiwan’s politics…) This was a lightning strike, designed to render a decision before Wang was able to mobilize any support for a counter-offensive.  At this point, it looks like it has succeeded.

[Update: Wang has gotten a stay of action from a court.  I think this is probably just delaying his fate.  But maybe not.  I hate writing while things are still unfolding.]

[2nd update five hours later: Oops.  It seems the court decision has overturned everything and Wang will survive.  What??  I don’t understand the legal ruling at all.  At any rate, a lot of this post is immediately rendered obsolete.  Imagine that: after months of writing nothing for this blog, I spend hours and hours writing a 4000+ word post that is out of date before it is even published.  This is why academics usually wait a few months or even years after the fact before trying to publish anything.  ]

Supposing Wang really has lost the Speaker position.  What then?  Several people have suggested that Wang will run for Kaohsiung City Mayor next year or president in 2016.  Others think he will try to get back in the legislature and regain the speaker’s chair.  Still others wonder if he will split his faction off from the KMT and ally with the green camp.  I think none of these will happen.  The reason that Wang has been such a great fit as speaker for 15 years is that he is a consensus seeker.  By nature, he shies away from conflict whenever he can.  He just doesn’t have the personality to try to storm the castle all by himself.  At any rate, none of these options has a sliver of a chance of succeeding.  We’ve seen again and again how dismally third party candidates do in Taiwan’s elections.  And there is no clear path to get back into the legislature quickly.  Even if a close ally resigned a seat and Wang won the by-election (ignoring the fact that he would have to beat a KMT assassin and a DPP candidate), by the time that happened there would already a new speaker sitting in the chair.  At any rate, Wang is old and was planning on retiring after this term anyway.  I think he’ll just fade away.  But, as always, I could be wrong.

Another line of speculation says that the Wang faction in the legislature will ally with the green camp to elect the new speaker.  According to this logic, it takes 57 legislators to win a majority and the KMT has 64 legislators, so all Wang has to do is get 7 or 8 KMT members to split off and combine with all the DPP, TSU, PFP, and independent legislators to elect the new speaker.  Think about that coalition for a bit and see if it sounds like it could agree on anything.  I doubt it.  More importantly, which 7 or 8 KMT members are going to break off?  One thing that has been overlooked is that the “Taiwan KMT” legislative caucus is much smaller than it used to be.  Moreover, many of the most senior legislators with leadership capability are no longer in the legislature.  Some of the people who MIGHT (not always clear who belongs where) be considered Taiwan KMT who have left the legislature in the past few years include Lin Yi-shih 林益世, Chung Shao-ho 鍾紹和, Li Fu-hsing 李復興, Huang Chien-ting 黃建庭, Lin Ping-kun 林炳坤, Lin Chien-jung 林建榮, Chiu Ching-chun 邱鏡淳, Liu Chuan-chung 劉銓忠, Hou Tsai-feng 侯彩鳳, Chiang Lien-fu 江連福, Yen Ching-piao 顏清標, and Chiang Yi-hsiung 江義雄.  Some of them retired, some were defeated, and some took other offices.  Regardless, that is a lot of talent and experience that is now missing from the Taiwan KMT.  What’s left?  Perhaps Weng Chung-chun 翁重鈞, Huang Chao-shun 黃昭順, Yang Chiung-ying 楊瓊瓔, Hsu Yao-chang 徐耀昌 and a handful of new or uncharismatic legislators.  That doesn’t look to me like a group with the guts or skill to take on a party leadership that will be invoking draconian party discipline on the speaker vote.

The more interesting question is whether this case will cost the KMT votes.  There are two ways this could happen.  First, Wang has his own personal networks that could refuse to mobilize for the KMT again.  They might even actively work against the KMT to try to show that expelling Wang was a bad idea.  This effect would be limited to a very small segment of the electorate in Kaohsiung.  Second and potentially much more significant, the “Taiwan KMT” could reconsider its loyalties.  Wang was widely seen as the leader of the native wing of the KMT, that vague grouping of people who are ethnic Min-nan, prefer to speak Taiwanese, have a predominantly Taiwan identity, come from central and southern Taiwan, are somewhat earthier, and/or have “complicated” ties with local society (read: local faction politicians embedded in black and gold networks).  Many (mostly green) pundits are arguing that Wang’s purge is a signal to the Taiwan KMT that they are clearly subordinate partners to the dominant Taipei/mainlander/bureaucratic/elite Chinese KMT wing.  Because of this, some people wonder whether the elites and their supporters in the Taiwan KMT will reconsider their support for the blue side and defect to the green side.  This is certainly possible, but I am dubious.  These people have had numerous opportunities to defect over the years, and yet they are still in the broader blue camp.  Unless Ma comes out and explicitly says something to the effect of “you people are not full partners and your Taiwan orientation is illegitimate,” don’t expect them to defect now.  Of course, Ma will say nothing of the sort.  Instead, he rejects the notion that Wang represents anything more than one person.  In Ma’s discourse, this was a regrettable but isolated incident, and the KMT remains a broad tent welcoming people from all corners of Taiwan.  By the time the 2014 and 2016 elections roll around, this will probably once again be the dominant way of thinking within the Taiwan KMT.  In short, I don’t think this purge will trigger much lasting change to the political map, much less a full-scale reorganization of the party system.  If there is any effect, I think it will be marginal.  This ugly factional infighting will be just one more thing in a litany of KMT problems, including the Dapu land case, the recent death of a military recruit, a few corruption scandals, continuing economic stagnation, and now this.  I expect many previous blue camp supporters to be disgusted with the KMT when they vote in 2014 and 2015, but they won’t necessarily be able to tell you which incident was the critical one.  All these things blur together.

If Wang has lost, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Ma has won.  You can’t just purge someone of Wang’s stature and go back to work the next day expecting everyone to pretend that nothing has happened.  The KMT will probably go through an extended internal struggle over the next month or two.  Ma will either emerge hobbled and constrained or dominant within the party.  It’s still not clear how that struggle will unfold and who will be on which side.  So far, only a few KMT figures, most notably the Lien family, have been willing to openly attack Ma for this power play.  However, Ma did very little in this episode to try to package his actions to make them more palatable to the public, and public opinion is running very strongly against Ma.  Likewise, other party elites were shocked and most seemed rather dismayed by this purge.  If we are to believe the media reports, almost none of them had any inkling that Ma was about to ambush Wang.  (The plot was said to be planned by only handful of people, including Ma, VP Wu 吳敦義, Premier Jiang 江宜樺, consigliore King Pu-tsung 金溥聰, King’s man in the presidential office Luo Chih-chiang 羅智強, and the former Foreign Minister Yang 楊進添.  Again, grain of salt.)  Some party elites, like Mayors Hau 好龍斌 and Chu 朱立倫, have accepted the fait accompli and grudgingly expressed support for Ma.  Other, like Mayor Hu 胡志強, have remained silent.  There could be much more to come.  For that, we will just have to wait and see.

One of the points of contention within the KMT may be the extent to which Ma, as party leader, can make decisions for the entire party.  In particular, legislators on the party list are supposed to serve at the pleasure of their party.  If they run afoul of the party, it has the right to take that seat away and give it to someone more reliable.  In democratic theory, parties play a crucial role by restraining individuals from pursuing their own personal gain at the expense of the collective.  Since many members of the party will have to face the electorate at some time in the future, they act to constrain their members from engaging in harmful behavior such as taking unpopular positions on critical issues or taking bribes in order to protect the reputation of the whole group.  If Wang had really damaged the KMT’s reputation by influence peddling, the party would be justified in expelling him.  However, Wang did not seem to run afoul of the collective KMT.  Rather, he ran afoul of one person, Ma.  In making the decision for the entire party based on his personal considerations, Ma seems to have gone far beyond what most members of the party wanted.  Remember, parties are supposed to constrain their members, and Ma is a KMT member.  If he was usurping the party machinery to do something that harms the greater party image (eg: launch a highly visible factional purge), the collective should try to restrain him.

At any rate, Ma has sent a clear message to all KMT party list legislators that they are responsible to him, not to the wider KMT.  This is a departure from past practices.  In the past, list legislators have only been stripped of their seats if they were convicted of a crime or if they blatantly disobeyed party discipline on a very critical issue.  In the former case, it was the courts, not the party, that usually took the seat away.  This case is something new.  Ma has apparently taken Wang’s seat away because of a factional dispute or because Wang was not pushing Ma’s legislative agenda to Ma’s satisfaction.

I have been arguing for a few years that Taiwan’s legislature has a class system, with dominant district legislators and relatively powerless district legislators.  The main exception to this pattern came from senior legislators who decided to take a spot on the party list rather than go through the trouble and expense of winning another district election.  In the future, those senior legislators will have to think twice about whether they should stay in their districts.  If even Speaker Wang was vulnerable, everyone has to worry about whether they might unexpectedly end up on the wrong side of a factional power struggle.  If I were any of the senior list legislators now, I would be thinking very seriously about reopening a few constituency service centers and preparing for a district race.  On the KMT side, I’m looking at Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu 洪秀柱, Pan Wei-kang 潘維剛, Chi Kuo-tung 紀國棟, and Hsu Shao-ping 徐少萍.  In the DPP, Tien Chiu-chin 田秋堇, Wu Ping-jui 吳秉叡, Tsai Huang-liang 蔡煌瑯, and Chen Chi-mai 陳其邁 might be better off running in districts next time.  Of course, if only people who cannot win a district are willing to take list seats, the power gap between district and list legislators will grow larger.  (There were some hints that it had been shrinking after electoral reform; now we may not see these trends develop to fruition.)

What should we expect in the post-Wang legislature?  All the rumors say that the KMT will push for Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu to take over the speaker’s chair.  Hung is a very different person from Wang.  Demographically, she is female, mainlander, and from the Taipei area.  Ideologically, she is clearly part of the Chinese KMT, not the Taiwan KMT.  Her personality is also very different from Wang’s.  She is sharp-tongued and confrontational.  She is often called a “chili pepper” in the media.  She will be a very different speaker than Wang was.  (Casual observers who know only one thing about Taiwan’s legislature – that fighting occurs regularly – might be surprised to learn that it was chaired by a dedicated consensus seeker!  You mean there will be MORE fighting in the legislature in the future??  Yup.)

Frankly, I wonder if there was growing impatience with Wang’s consensual style.  Wang gave the DPP and smaller parties quite a bit of input into how the agenda was set.  I wonder if there was a growing demand in the legislature to rein in some of the individualism or consensualism and run the institution along more majoritarian lines.  I don’t mean that there was any danger within the legislature to Wang’s leadership.  I think he was still extremely popular and most blue camp legislators were stunned and probably somewhat dismayed by recent events.  However, it’s possible that, moving forward, the KMT caucus won’t be entirely unhappy with the new regime.  Let me explain.  As I noted above, the Taiwan KMT wing of the party is much smaller and has weaker leaders than in past years.  Instead, the party is increasingly dominated by the Chinese/northern wing of the party.  Of the KMT’s 64 members, 25 are from Greater Taipei, Taoyuan, and Hsinchu City, and almost all of these belong to the Chinese KMT wing.  A further 16 are on the party list and can be counted on to toe the party line.  A handful of other legislators from districts around Taiwan can also be counted as Chinese KMT.  In all, the Chinese KMT might control as many as 45 or 50 votes in the legislature.  In other words, the current KMT legislative caucus is more narrowly based in the north and more ideologically cohesive than previous caucuses have been.  On the other hand, this is a crude generalization as it still maintains a wide range of opinion on some policy questions, such as nuclear power.  Even if it cannot agree on all policy questions, I think there might be some consensus on the desire to cut the DPP and other smaller parties out of the decision-making process.  I think it is quite possible that the KMT under Speaker Hung will revise some of the organizational laws to allow for more majoritarianism.  While this wouldn’t necessarily be undemocratic in principal – legislatures have the right to determine how they will reach decisions and are constantly moving between more minority rights and more majority control – it might not be a great thing for an already polarized Taiwanese society to see more things forced through the legislature by an already-unpopular president.  Alternatively, she might just use her agenda power as chair to disallow some motions or bills.  In the extreme, she could do what the KMT did a couple of decades ago to pass controversial national security laws: seeing the chaos on the floor, Speaker Liu yelled that legislators would vote yes by standing up and then hammered the gavel down and declared the bills passed.  If the DPP can’t oppose KMT bills through normal legislative procedures, it will react by resorting to more extraordinary tactics, such as interrupting legislative proceedings and street protests.  (On the positive side for me and my colleagues, we might see a lot more roll-call votes if Hung tries to do more things without first getting unanimous consent.  Data!)

So let me try to sum up a bit.  On the one hand, it’s easy to see how this might lead to a more China-friendly government in the short run.  The president has purged a nativist rival and may have cowed others into silence.  At any rate, the KMT legislative caucus has been evolving toward a more pro-China orientation.  If Ma is able to consolidate his power inside the KMT over the next couple of months, he could have quite a bit of leeway to govern as he pleases over the next year or so.  On the other hand, other forces in the KMT might not be so happy with this power play and might be able to encroach on his power within the party to make sure they are not the next casualties.  On the third hand, eventually we will return to electoral politics.  The more radical Ma and the KMT are over the next year or so, the more out of step with the electorate they will become.  I think it is becoming increasingly likely that the DPP will win power in 2016.

One more thing.  Suppose the KMT finds itself out of power in 2017.  When the hardliners in the DPP demand a thorough investigation of corruption in the Ma administration (and there is always something to be found), how many KMT supporters will stand in his defense?  I’m pretty sure it will be fewer now than it was last week.  Ma displayed more ruthlessness this week than I thought him capable of, but political hardball is a dangerous game.  He may have sown the seeds of his own eventual disgrace.

LY race in Changhua 2

November 29, 2011

The race in Changhua 2 looks fairly simple – it is a straight contest between the KMT and DPP.  However, it almost got very complicated, and the story behind this race allows me to emphasize a couple of points.  First, while we always focus on the people in the race, the people who don’t enter the race can be just as important.  Second, there is a reason that the KMT announces its party list so late.

This story is all about the KMT.  The DPP challenger this year is a county assembly member who I know almost nothing about.  This district should probably favor the KMT slightly, though it’s hard to know exactly.  At any rate, Tsai Ing-wen should run well ahead of the local DPP candidate, so this is the KMT’s district to lose.

Changhua 2 includes Changhua City and two much smaller towns.  Changhua City is one of the older cities in Taiwan.  It developed a bit later than Lugang and it was overtaken by Taichung decades ago, but for much of the Qing Era, Changhua was the preeminent city in central Taiwan.

Changhua City currently has two representatives in the legislature, Lin Tsang-min 林滄敏 and Chen Chieh 陳杰.  Chen’s career starts earlier, so we’ll start with him.  Chen won a seat on the Changhua town council in 1986, and then served two terms in the county assembly.  In 1998, he was elected Changhua mayor.   In 2001 he was elected to the legislature, where he is now finishing his third term.  Most Changhua politicians have power bases in the farmers associations, but Chen is more active in labor unions.  Chen has been the head of the Changhua branch of the Chinese Federation of Labor.  The CFL is a corporatist organization, intended more to keep labor docile than to aggressively represent their interests.  Taiwan and Mexico are the two classic examples of this kind of state corporatist labor union.  Anyway, this organization can still deliver some votes, so it is a valuable source of power for whoever is at the top.

Chen’s move to the legislature meant that the mayoral seat was open, but rather than letting this power base slip away, Chen’s brother Wen Kuo-ming 溫國銘 became the new mayor.   Wen was re-elected in 2005, and after Wen’s two terms were up, the family tried once again.  In 2009, Wen’s wife ran for mayor.  It was a particularly nasty campaign.  Wen’s wife and another KMT candidate filed lawsuits against each other for dirty tricks, and on the last night, Wen’s wife 溫吳麗卿 shaved her head and begged voters to unite around her.  She did defeat the other KMT candidate, but because they split the KMT vote, the DPP won the mayoral race with a plurality.  I can’t think of an example of a single family transferring an office to three different members of the same generation, so the Chen-Wen family nearly accomplished something unique.  However, after 12 years, they lost control of the city government, one of their most important power bases.

In the meantime, another county assembly member was moving up.  Lin Tsang-min ran for the legislature in 2004.  We see the first signs of tension between him and the Chen family earlier that year, when Mayor Wen accused Lin of blocking some funds earmarked for Changhua City in the County Assembly.  Then, in the final days of the campaign, Mayor Wen announced that the city government was forming a team to prevent vote buying.  In most cases, such a team is not intended to prevent all vote buying, just vote buying by other candidates.   Since you usually buy votes in your own home base, and Chen and Lin shared a home base, the anti-vote buying team was probably aimed directly at Lin.  And indeed, after the election, one of Lin’s supporters was indicted on charges of buying votes for Lin, though this case seems to have disappeared soon after.  At any rate, the election was a great triumph for Lin, as he won the most votes of anyone in Changhua.   Chen also won, coming in second, about 12,000 votes behind Lin.

In 2008, with the new single member districts, the KMT had to choose one of them as its candidate.  Both registered for the nomination, and neither one would yield.  Suddenly, about a week before the KMT was to hold its telephone surveys, Chen withdrew from the race and announced he would work in Ma’s presidential election campaign.  A few months later when the KMT announced its party list, Chen’s name was high enough to assure him a seat.  Lin went on to win the district seat easily over the DPP candidate, getting over 60% of the votes.

Fast forward to this year.  Chen did not contest the district nomination, and Lin was re-nominated with little ceremony.  Instead, Chen lobbied actively to maintain his spot on the party list.  However, when the list was announced, his name was not on it.  Chen immediately put out word that he might run as an independent.  Then his family decided that his brother, Wen, would be the candidate.  However, on the last day of registration, they decided not to file the paperwork.  Thus, Lin was left with a simple one-on-one race against the DPP.

What happened?  The rest of this is all speculation, of course, but I think we can make educated guesses about some of the things going on behind the scenes.  It is pretty clear that Chen and Lin have been struggling against one another for most of the past decade to establish primacy in the Changhua City area.  With the old electoral system, it was possible for both of them to survive.  However, with the new system, the struggle took on added urgency.  Lin clearly won the struggle in 2008.  Chen wanted the district seat, but he must have seen that Lin was going to beat him for the nomination, so he withdrew.  Of course, Chen got a side-payment, the party list seat.  That is a pretty good consolation prize.  Let’s remember that the KMT only had a few of these seats to give away as consolation prizes to losers, so why did they give one to Chen?  Chen had blackmail power.  He was a proven candidate who had won every race for many years.  His brother was the mayor and could mobilize the city government (and all the neighborhood heads) on his behalf.  In other words, even if Chen couldn’t beat Lin, he could still cause enough trouble to cause the KMT to lose the seat.  In 2012, the KMT didn’t feel the need to give Chen a seat on the party list.  What was different?  Chen had not run a successful campaign since 2004, so it wasn’t a sure thing that his network was still in top form.  In fact, his sister-in-law hadn’t even been able to win 30% of the vote in the 2009 mayoral election.  And with the family out of the city hall, Chen didn’t have the resources of the local government on his side.  Chen and Wen simply didn’t have as much blackmail power in 2012 as in 2008.

There is one more thing.  After the KMT announced its list, Chen and Wen only had a week and a half to figure out their next move.  It looked a lot like they simply ran out of time before they could get everything straightened out.  This lack of time is not an accident; that is one of the most important reasons the KMT waited so long to release its list.  The KMT’s delay puts people like Chen in a dilemma.  It takes a bit of time to organize a campaign, so you need to start early.  However, you can’t start early if you are trying to win a spot on the party list.  Any organizing is easily spotted by the party leaders and is a clear signal that you are planning to be disobedient.  With such keen competition for spots on the list, any black mark is sufficient to disqualify you.  So people hoping to get on the party list have to sit and wait until the list is announced.  When they are not on it, they often don’t have time to put their backup plan into motion.[1]

If delaying the announcement of the party list is so effective, why doesn’t the DPP do it?  We political scientists like to model parties as interchangeable,[2] but this is an instance in which different parties behave differently because they are not interchangeable.  Renegade campaigns are much more of a problem for the blue camp than for the green camp.  For whatever reason, green camp voters have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not vote for someone who does not sport the party label.  A DPP politician who quits the party and runs as an independent is almost certainly terminating his political career.  This is not the case on the blue side.  There are plenty of examples of KMT politicians who ran as independents and were able to prolong their careers.  Since the KMT has to worry a lot about this problem, they release their party list very late.  The DPP has other things to worry about, such as having time to heal rifts caused by factional fighting, so they prefer to finalize their list as soon as possible.

Who knew that such a simple race – Lin will probably win by about 55-45% – could teach us so much about Taiwanese politics!

[1] Another possibility is that Chen and Wen got a payoff of some sort for not registering.  There are often rumors that the candidate who is running pays a secret bribe to the other candidate for dropping out.  Of course, the bribe theory and the time theory are not mutually exclusive.

[2] For example, in articles with spatial models you often see something like, “Consider a two party system along a single issue dimension.  Without loss of generality, suppose that party A is on the left side of the spectrum.”

first cut at city council results

December 1, 2010

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

The following will all deal with city council election results.

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


disciplining Luo

March 28, 2010

One of the big stories in today’s news is that the KMT is making noise about disciplining one of its party list legislators.

The legislator in question is Luo Shulei 羅淑蕾, a former PFP member.  Luo is a nightly presence on the evening talk shows, and is famous for her eagerness to criticize the KMT leadership.  She is often more critical than DPP politicians, and she is quite good at saying things in a quotable way.  For example, when KMT secretary general Jin Pucong 金溥聰hired a new person who resigned within days due to ethical problems, Luo said that Jin thought he had dug up a treasure, but instead he dug up a pile of shit.  For the last two years, Luo has been spewing out a nearly constant stream of these types of statements.

As you might imagine, there has been quite a bit of grumbling from other KMT members.  Luo is, after all, a party list legislator.  Perhaps the dominant vision of what a party legislator should do is to exclusively pursue party goals.  That is, party list legislators should push forward the party bills in the legislature and they should defend the party line in public.  Since their seat is given to them by the party, they do not have a mandate of their own.  This is quite different from list legislators, who after all are elected by the voters in their districts.  If they disagree with the party, they can reasonably claim to be listening to their voters.  Moreover, parties have the ultimate disciplinary tool for list legislators.  If a list legislator loses her party membership, she also loses her seat in the legislature.  (Parties cannot strip district legislators cannot be stripped of their seats.)  So there have been calls for nearly all of the last two years for the KMT to force Luo to shut up or take her seat away, but they have not been seriously pursued.  That might be changing now.

Jin Pucong is suggesting that there is enormous grassroots pressure on him to do something about Luo.  He hasn’t said anything about disciplining her yet, but he said that he might invite her to go with him to meet some grassroots supporters, since party list legislators don’t know anything about how actual elections work (nice condescending touch!).  The message is unmistakable: shut up or else.

What I like about this story is that it conforms almost exactly to how political scientists think about party discipline.  In the British and American systems, the person in charge of enforcing party discipline is called the “whip.”  This conjures up an image of a tyrant forcing the rank-and-file to do his bidding, regardless of what they want.  That is not how party discipline works.  Parties are only disciplined to the extent that the large numbers of members (the rank-and-file) want to impose collective discipline on themselves.  They simply empower a leader to enforce that collective discipline (that they want).

In this case, most KMT members have been very unhappy about Luo’s actions.  However, the leadership has failed them.  President Ma ran a very loose ship for the first two years, allowing individual members to do or say pretty much anything with no fear of consequences.  When Ma brought Jin back into power three months ago, it was significant because Ma gave Jin the power to sanction bad behavior (as defined by the great majority of KMT members).  After a lousy two years, Ma is finally starting to understand the logic of democratic politics.

There was a counter-example in one of the stories that illustrates this perfectly.   During last year’s furor over American beef, KMT legislator Huang Yijiao 黃義交 took the lead in criticizing the government’s policy, writing a bill that would undercut the deal negotiated with the USA, and pushing that bill through the legislature.  No one wanted to discipline Huang Yijiao for this.  His actions had quite a lot of support both from KMT voters and other KMT legislators.  He was opposing the cabinet, but he was not clearly acting against the entire party and its interests, as defined by the overwhelming majority of the rank-and-file.  In this case, there was no clear KMT position; different KMT members had different ideas.  Enforcing discipline would have been very difficult and very controversial.