Archive for the ‘party rules’ Category

the KMT nomination fiasco (so far)

May 18, 2015

If the last week of KMT presidential politics hasn’t made much sense to you, you are not alone. I wish I could offer a definitive answer, but I don’t know what the hell just happened either. As for the future, it looks like the KMT is heading for an electoral disaster, but who knows which script it will follow.

I think I should start this post by reminding myself that the KMT presidential nomination is, contrary to everyone’s actions, a very valuable prize. First, the nominee might just win the presidency. Right now, it looks like Tsai can beat anyone the KMT puts forward, but there are still eight months to go. Lots of crazy things can happen in eight months. The world economy could crash, China could have a political crisis, someone could get assassinated, Tsai could have a huge scandal, a massive natural disaster could happen, or a massive street protest could change everything. Heck, it doesn’t even need to be that crazy. The British Conservative Party just won an unexpected victory when all signs pointed to defeat. Gerald Ford was down by over 30% when he was nominated for USA president in 1976, but he eventually lost by only about 1%. Weird things happen in politics. It doesn’t seem all that likely that the KMT candidate would win, but it isn’t impossible. Campaigns occasionally make up large deficits in the polls. Second, even if the KMT loses the race, the nominee can shape the KMT’s party image. After Ma steps down, will we see the Ma Era as an aberration, or will we see the Lee Teng-hui Era as the aberration? Or will we see the KMT as a conflicted party that switches back and forth between its two co-equal nativist and Chinese nationalist wings? Third, after the election, the KMT will need a new set of party leaders. Ma will clearly not be the face of the party. He will be more like Chen Shui-bian was in the 2008-2012 period for the DPP: someone who won’t go away but who the party would rather you forget ever existed. In 2008, the DPP leaders were all somewhat discredited, and they distrusted each other. Tsai Ing-wen emerged from relative obscurity to take over the party, and she has not yet relinquished control. If the KMT nominee performs reasonably well in the presidential race, he could become the post-Ma leader. At the very least, the nominee would be first in line for consideration. No one sets out to become leader of the major opposition party, but it isn’t the worst position to be in if you eventually want to win back power. The point is this: people should want to be the KMT nominee.

So why didn’t Wang Jin-pyng register for the primary? In the last few days, it had become clear that Chu wouldn’t register. Since Chu is the only person who could beat Wang in a polling primary, if Wang had registered, he would have won the primary. Wang was also clearly interested, but apparently he only wanted the nomination on certain conditions. I can think of a few possible conditions that may not have been met.

First, Chu has stated that the KMT will not use any of its funds on the presidential campaign. The nominee will be responsible for financing the campaign by himself. Wang might have been demanding that Chu relax this position and pledge a certain amount of money to the presidential campaign, and he might have been dissatisfied with Chu’s response.

As an aside, why the hell would Chu make such a stupid and self-defeating decision? Everyone knows the KMT is sitting on a mountain of assets, so no one is going to donate money to the KMT when the KMT isn’t willing to spend its own money on itself. Some have suggested that Chu wants to spend the money on legislative campaigns, but raising the presidential vote a few percentage points is a far more effective way of winning legislative votes than blowing money on lavish dinners for grassroots elites or a few more billboards of candidates promising good constituency service. If Chu really doesn’t release the money, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a rebellion within the party. Chu’s chairmanship might not make it to the end of the campaign.

Second, everyone has pointed to Ma’s opposition to Wang. Without Chu in the race, I don’t think Ma could have beaten Wang. However, he could have destroyed Wang’s campaign. Imagine if Ma had openly agitated against Wang during the polling period. Also, don’t forget that the current rules say that party member votes count for 30% and that the deep blue wing is heavily overrepresented among eligible party voters. Ma could have made it clear that the party was not united behind Wang.

I think what Wang must have wanted from Ma was a guarantee that Ma would act something like Lee Teng-hui did in 1998. In 1998, the KMT had a big dispute over who would challenge Chen Shui-bian for mayor. LTH and Ma were not allies, to say the least. Ma was something of a pop idol in this period. Media coverage fawned over his good looks, his jogging, and all the blood he donated. As Minister of Justice, Ma sent several crime lords in helicopters to prison on Green Island, making him even more of a media hero. LTH eventually forced Ma out, demoting him to Minister without Portfolio. When it became clear that Ma had no power in that role, he resigned from the cabinet, famously asking “What am I fighting for? Who am I fighting for?” 為何而戰、為誰而戰 LTH did not appreciate this criticism. During the mayoral nomination decision, the KMT considered a few people such as Jason Hu and (then) Chang Hsiao-yen. However, the polls indicated that Ma was the only person who stood a chance of beating Chen. LTH repeatedly and pointedly declined to ask Ma to run. Eventually, Ma recanted on his promise not to run, and LTH couldn’t block his nomination. During the campaign, LTH maintained distance from the election, refusing to say much in favor of either candidate. The Chen campaign even decided not to criticize LTH in hopes that he might come out and openly endorse Chen in the last few days. In fact, the opposite happened. LTH bowed to the logic of party politics and political power. The president went on stage at Ma’s rally and asked (in Taiwanese), “Ma Ying-jeou, who are you? 馬英九,你是什麼人?” Ma replied (in Taiwanese), “Reporting to President Lee, I am the eater of Taiwanese rice and drinker of Taiwanese water Ma Ying-jeou” 報告李總統,我是吃台灣米喝台灣水的馬英九。 Ma eventually won by 5%, and LTH’s late endorsement may have been a major contributor to this victory. I think it might be reasonable that Wang hoped for similar treatment from Ma. He certainly wouldn’t have expected Ma to enthusiastically support him, but he might have hoped that Ma would stay out of the race or perhaps make a symbolic gesture near the end.

If this is correct and Ma was unwilling to guarantee even this low level of support, the KMT’s toxic internal politics are destroying its post-2016 prospects. The deep blue wing’s refusal to accept Wang does not come from anything Wang has said or done. Wang has always been a party man, following whatever the party line of the day was. Rather, the deep blues have convinced themselves that Wang is a corrupt traitor. After so many editorials and talk show diatribes in the deep blue media echo chamber, they have poisoned their own well and are now unable to accept the one person who is willing and capable of running a moderately competent campaign at the top of the ticket. It seems the KMT will be paying the price for Ma’s ill-advised purge attempt for at least four more years.

After Wang announced that he would not run, some people in Wang’s camp seemed to direct their ire more at Chu than at Wang. One of them even suggested that if Chu didn’t start leading the party more effectively, his term as party chair might not last until August.

This suggests a third possible narrative. It is possible that Wang never had much hope for support or even neutrality from Ma. However, he needed united support from the rest of the party. When Ma objected to Wang’s candidacy, Wang expected Chu to make a forceful gesture of support. Chu, however, said nothing. If Ma was hostile and Chu was indifferent, Wang could probably see that his presidential effort would end in disaster. Further, if Chu wasn’t going to go all out for him, then Chu probably wouldn’t be willing to share responsibility for the inevitable loss. Wang would be hung out to dry. In other words, Wang backed away not because of opposition from Ma, but due to indifference from Chu.

So much for Wang, what about Chu? He’s the one who really is acting strangely. Just for the moment, let’s take him at face value. Chu said that he decided not to run for president when he committed to another term as mayor. He agreed to become party precisely because he wasn’t going to run for president. He has told us again and again of his intent, and we shouldn’t be surprised. When Ma said yesterday that Chu was responsible for this mess and he had the responsibility to run, Chu apparently responded by whining that Ma had insisted that Chu should run for re-election. Chu seems to want us to believe that he is doing the noble thing by acting as a neutral referee and not running. The chairmanship in an election year is a thankless job, he reminds us. If the party wins, the new president becomes chair. If it loses, he has to resign to take responsibility.

So apparently Chu always saw himself as an interim leader? He took over the party with no intention to pursue his own vision, no intention to seek power, and every intention of stepping aside when the next real leader emerged? So why did he bother taking over the party chair in the first place? He should have stuck strictly to running New Taipei City and let the power transition begin several months ago.

My opinion of Chu has dropped precipitously in the last month as Ma has repeatedly kicked him around. Ma first told Chu to attend the KMT-CCP forum. Then he called Chu to a MAC meeting where he informed Chu what his position would be at that forum. Chu dutifully adhered to Ma’s strategy of always taking things one small step further by adding the “we all belong One China” line, but when he came back to Taiwan Ma slapped him down again by “clarifying” Taiwan’s position. Then Ma blocked Wang’s candidacy and blamed Chu for it. When Chu complained that Ma had caused all this by insisting that Chu run for re-election as mayor, Ma rejected that complaint as well. Ma has shown that he is still the alpha dog in the KMT pack, and I’m no longer even sure that Chu has the desire, much less the guts or ability, to challenge him. At this point, if Chu announced that he wanted the nomination, my immediate reaction would probably be that he didn’t have the guts to resist the pressure from the rest of the party.

A week ago I thought it was barely possible, but now I’m starting to believe that the party will eventually turn to Wu Den-yi. First, however, they have to eliminate the two and a half actual candidates in the race. We won’t worry about the turkey who used to work in some local government office; he won’t pass the signature threshold. The problem is the other two candidates. Officially, there is a way out. If they can eliminate one of the candidates in the signature stage, the other will have to pass a 30% polling threshold. Hung Hsiu-chu claims that she has far more than the necessary signatures, but Yaung Chih-liang might not. I suspect the KMT workers will comb through his signatures looking for any excuse to claim that he did not get the necessary numbers. If they can do this, they will then launch a massive suggestive campaign telling voters that they don’t necessarily have to support Hung in the polls. It will be interesting to watch them talk down their potential nominee in public while trying not to say negative things about her or the party. On the other hand, if Yaung and Hung both pass the signature stage, the KMT will really be in a pickle. If there are two candidates, the rules don’t provide for any 30% threshold. The KMT talking heads will argue that the winner really needs to get 30% approval to be a credible candidate and suggest that the party shouldn’t nominate anyone who wins with a lower number than that. However, even that might not work. Yao Li-ming (the political scientist, former NP legislator, frequent talk show guest, and genius behind the Ko campaign) claimed that there was a poll done showing Yaung at 27.5% and Hung at 22% approval. Now, people make up poll numbers all the time, but this story included one important detail. Yao claimed that Hung Yung-tai had conducted the poll. Before he retired, Hung Yung-tai taught at Tunghai, NCCU, and NTU, and he is the godfather of political polling in Taiwan. Countless graduate students, including myself and probably half of all the serious pollsters in Taiwan, learned how the nuts and bolts of survey methodology from him, and we all respect him deeply. If Hung’s name is attached to that poll, it is credible. If that poll is real, there is a good chance that Yaung will pass the 30% threshold. I don’t think the KMT would nominate him, but it would be a public relations disaster for the party. The KMT has never been that committed to their internal party rules. However, to get out of this mess, they might have to blatantly repudiate their entire official process.

[Aside: I think it is legal for the party to ignore its nomination rules. I think the Central Committee always has the authority to overturn any other body’s decision and make the final decision. However, after the Wang Jin-pyng case, I’m no longer 100% sure. It has been pointed out that the Election and Recall Law has been extended so that it applies to party primaries. (This was done partially to make vote-buying in primaries a crime.) However, if party primaries are covered by law, could the primary winner – or a supporter – sue the party if they were denied the nomination, perhaps using the same law that Wang used to claim he had been unjustly denied his rights within the party? I doubt it, but wouldn’t that be fun to watch?]

[Second aside: I think Yaung’s real game is to become the next Tsai Ing-wen. He is putting himself in the public consciousness so that when the dust settles in January and the party needs a new leader, people will think about him. He is one of the few people who emerged from Ma’s government with a good reputation. While he may not be on the current short list of top party leaders, the KMT might be ripe for an outsider like him or former Interior Minister Lee Hung-yuan to take over. It’s a long shot, but it’s not impossible.]

It’s important to keep some sense of perspective here. It feels like the KMT needs to make a decision soon, perhaps because the DPP made its decision so comically early. However, there is still plenty of time. The election is still eight months away, and eight months is plenty of time to put together a presidential campaign. Heck, you can do this in three or four months if you need to. I’m fairly sure that the KMT will eventually get around to nominating someone. There’s a pretty good chance that there will eventually be a poll or two showing the KMT candidate to be fairly close to Tsai Ing-wen. At some point, all of us are going to seriously wonder if the KMT could actually win this race. This nomination fiasco isn’t helping the KMT, but it also might not be the end of the world. By the time October rolls around, we probably won’t be thinking very much about how the drawn-out nomination process doomed the KMT candidate.

The Fourth Generation?

April 3, 2015

One of the more interesting races on the KMT side can be found in Taipei 3, where the always outspoken Lo Shu-lei 羅淑蕾 is running for re-election. She is being challenged by Chiang Wan-an 蔣萬安, who is the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek, and city councilor Wang Hung-wei 王鴻薇. There are two angles that will be interesting to most observers. On the one hand, Chiang Wan-an is the first member of the fourth generation of the Chiang family to enter politics. Simply because of his heritage, his candidacy has important symbolism for democracy in Taiwan. On the other hand, Lo Shu-lei has always been a controversial legislator. She has never hesitated to speak out against her own party leaders and has offended many within the KMT. In the past year or so, she has also made provocative statements angering many supporters of the student movements and the Ko mayoral campaign. After making so many enemies, it will be interesting to see if she can survive another election. Most people are ignoring Wang Hung-wei, which might be a mistake. I would not be surprised in the least if Wang ended up winning the nomination and the seat.

Let’s start the story several decades ago in China, where Chiang Ching-kuo had twin sons out of wedlock with a woman named Chang Ya-juo 章亞若. The two sons were brought to Taiwan and raised in a military community in Hsinchu city by their aunt. Unlike Chiang’s legitimate children, the twins grew up in relative anonymity. By most accounts, Chang Hsiao-yan (John) 章孝嚴 and Chang Hsiao-tsu (Winston) 章孝慈 had a modest upbringing, interrupted only by occasional visits by surprisingly high-ranking KMT figures who wanted to make sure the Chang family’s needs were taken care of. Of course, they knew of their lineage as did many other connected people, but it was a taboo topic during the authoritarian era. The legitimate heirs were extremely protective of their Chiang Fang Liang’s 蔣方良 legacy, and would brook no discussion of the existence of other CCK children. The legitimate members of the third generation grew up in power and privilege, and there was a period of time when it seemed possible that CCK would pass power dynastically to his son Chiang Hsiao-wu (Alex) 蔣孝武. It was a major milestone when CCK instead publicly declared in 1983 that there would be no third generation of Chiangs and sent Alex to Singapore. No one considered the possibility that John or Winston were suitable heirs to power; indeed they were not even publicly acknowledged as part of the family. Perhaps because of their grounding in normal society, the twins eventually went on to have far more distinguished careers than their half-siblings. Winston went into academia, and eventually rose to become President of Soochow University. He was renowned for his dedication to liberal ideals, and people from both sides of the political spectrum mourned when he died suddenly of a stroke in 1994.

John Chang entered politics, coming up through the diplomatic corps. His family connections, which became public when Taiwan democratized, probably guaranteed that he would not be stuck in the lower levels of the foreign service. However, he would not have risen quite so high without the patronage of Lee Teng-hui, who appointed him to Foreign Minster, Vice Premier, and KMT Secretary-General. In early 1998, Ma Ying-jeou was equivocating about whether he would run for Taipei Mayor. Lee did not want Ma to re-enter politics, and he set out the word that the KMT had plenty of other suitable candidates, notably John Chang and Jason Hu. Eventually, Ma declared his willingness to run, and Chang was put on the back burner. He never again reached the same level of influence.

In 2005, Chang and his family members changed their surname to Chiang, taking the imperial surname and all the symbolism and baggage that went with it.

Chang went into the legislature in 2001. While he was one of the more famous members of the legislature, he wasn’t really a legislative leader. Still, he seemed fairly well entrenched in Taipei 3, so it was a shock to everyone when he unexpectedly lost the primary to Lo Shu-Lei in 2012.

Originally an accountant, Lo Shu-lei entered the legislature in 2004 on the PFP’s party list. In 2008, all the PFP legislators joined the KMT. As part of this deal, the KMT put Lo in a good spot on its 2008 list. During Ma Ying-jeou’s first term, Lo repeatedly spoke out criticizing the government. She was on TV talk shows nearly every night, and if you didn’t know better you might have thought she was from the opposition, not the government, camp. This behavior grated on the nerves of the more loyal party soldiers, and many KMT members started calling on party leaders to muzzle her. At one point, party leaders ordered her to go out into society and listen to KMT voices to see how they felt. The implication was that if her statements didn’t start reflecting mainstream party views, she would face party discipline. Of course, if her party membership were revoked, she would also lose her seat in the legislature. This threat seemed to work, as she was decidedly more orthodox in the last months of her first term.

Of course, it could have been that she was moving toward standard party positions because she was worried about re-election. There was no way the KMT was going to give her another party list seat in 2012. If she wanted to stay in the legislature, she would have to win a district seat. She chose to challenge John Chiang in Taipei 3. Chiang was not widely considered to be vulnerable, but Lo unexpectedly won the polling primary by a razor-thin 0.58%. In retrospect, there are two common explanations for Lo’s upset win. First, Chiang had become complacent. He may not have done enough constituency service, attended enough weddings and funerals, or whipped his ground network hard enough. Second, Lo may have won considerable cross-party support. This is speculation, but many suspect that many DPP sympathizers supported Lo in the polling primary because they liked her willingness to criticize the KMT and because they wanted to deal a blow to the Chiang family.

Lo started out the current term by going back to her critical ways. Once again, she was a regular guest on the TV talk show circuit, and she never hesitated to criticize her own party. However, about halfway through the term she once again shifted to a more orthodox stance. This was most notable during the mayoral campaign. Lo was the spokeswoman for Sean Lien’s campaign, and, true to form, she was always quick to speak her mind. However, now the incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric was aimed at the Ko campaign and the opposition camp. This may have been a strategic move to shore up her support in the KMT, but it probably had the effect of alienating any cross-party support she may have enjoyed.

So now the Chiang family is challenging Lo in an attempt to retake the Taipei 3 seat. From what I can glean in the newspaper accounts, Chiang Wan-an doesn’t seem to have any particular qualifications to be a legislator other than his family background. His campaign doesn’t seem that organized. No one seemed aware that he was planning to challenge Lo until the day the KMT accepted applications. I go to that district quite often, and I’ve never seen any of his banners or billboards. His name recognition must be extremely low.

Chiang’s best hope is that KMT supporters are unhappy with Lo. Moreover, assuming that Lo had considerable cross-party support in 2012, she probably won’t do as well with non-KMT sympathizers in 2016. Her scorched-earth performance in the 2014 campaign probably dashed any illusions that green voters had of her being a “reasonable” or half-green voice.

If voters are unhappy with Lo and unfamiliar with Chiang, they have a credible third choice. Wang Hung-wei is a city councilor. She won her first two terms as a representative of the New Party before joining the KMT and winning a third term in 2014. As an established politician, she has sufficient name recognition and local organization to mount a significant challenge to Lo.

The three candidates are all positioned in the deep blue end of the spectrum. Wang is a former New Party member, Lo is a former PFP member who has spent the past year blasting everything to do with the opposition camp, and Chiang is, well, a direct descendent of the ROC imperial family. If Lo has an advantage, it might be that she is perhaps a little less clearly identified with that corner of the spectrum. Alternatively, everyone might be mad at her, while Wang and Chiang probably have some enthusiastic supporters.

We should probably stop to consider the rules of the game. According to the KMT’s latest rules, the contest proceeds in two rounds. First, the party will do a survey to determine if a primary is necessary. If the incumbent wins the survey by at least 5%, he or she will be renominated. (Technically, the incumbent’s performance in the legislature also has to be approved by the committee; I’m still waiting to see the first time they reject someone.) If the incumbent doesn’t win or wins by less than 5%, a full-blown primary is necessary. Unlike the first round (which the KMT does not consider a “primary”) which is a telephone survey, the second round (the “primary”) is a telephone survey. Wait. That is exactly the same thing. Why do we need two rounds again?

Actually, there is a reason. The two-round design protects incumbents. First, there is a quick first survey. If the challenger is not organized and hasn’t done much advertising (like Chiang right now), the incumbent can win the nomination before a full-blown challenge is mounted. Second, if the incumbent loses the first round, he or she gets another chance to regroup and mobilize. If this system had been in force four years ago, John Chiang would have had a second chance to beat Lo, and he would probably still be in the legislature. Now Lo has those advantages. This system doesn’t guarantee that she will win the nomination, but it gives her an advantage.

Wang is probably the most disadvantaged. I suspect she will beat Lo in the first round, but Wang cannot be nominated simply by winning the first round. If there is a second round, Chiang will be allowed to participate no matter how poorly he does in the first round. What Chiang needs more than anything right now is time so that he can get his name out and convince KMT sympathizers that he is their ideal representative. It is plausible that he might overtake Wang in the second round.

The DPP has an uphill fight in this district. They seem to have settled on city councilor Liang Wen-chieh 梁文傑, though this has not yet been finalized. For now, let’s assume that Liang is the DPP candidate. Liang would love to face Chiang. For one thing, Liang has a solid political resume, whereas Chiang is a complete novice. Both Lo and Wang have longer resumes than Liang, but experience would be a winning issue against Chiang. For another, Chiang would be easy to paint into the deep blue corner of the political spectrum. Liang’s strategy would be to define Chiang as a representative of the old regime and to try to win all the independent and some light blue voters. Most significantly, Liang has experience fighting political aristocracy. As head of the DPP’s policy research division, Liang spearheaded the investigation into the Lien family assets. He spent 2014 railing against Sean Lien, a fourth-generation heir of a prominent political family. He could easily transfer that campaign over to the Chiang family.

(I’m pretty sure that if one of the three has to win, the DPP would prefer Chiang as well. On the one hand, Chiang might turn out to have different political views from his forefathers. On the other, it could be very useful to have a Chiang in the legislature to kick around as a symbol of Chinese nationalism and the reactionary KMT history.)

Lo and Wang would be harder for Liang to defeat. The deep blue voters might be upset with Lo, but they aren’t going to vote for Liang. It will be harder for him to define her to the public, since she has already defined herself. With her past, it will be hard to call her an extremist deep blue figure. She has been many things at various times. Wang is a deep blue figure, but she has a much lower profile. For many voters who don’t pay close attention to politics, she will be a generic KMT candidate. In Taipei 3, the generic KMT candidate almost always beats the generic DPP candidate. Of course, neither Lo nor Chiang is what anyone would call “generic.”

The race in Changhua 1

November 27, 2011

If you are the type of person who thinks that democratic politics should be about a clean and pure competition between differing sets of lofty ideals, with a good dose of soaring rhetoric infused with impeccable logic, please cover your eyes.  Democracy in Changhua 1 is not like that at all.  This is the sort of place that we educated and urbane intellectuals tend to look at condescendingly, wondering if those people understand the basic principles of democracy at all.  If you want to win an election here, you need to have extensive personal networks, attend a lot of weddings and funerals, do a lot of favors, and be more than happy to ignore the finer points of the law while doing so.  It’s hard to have a long political career if you don’t have some money flying around.  That’s not to say that the voters here don’t care about high politics; of course they do.  However, their ideals are deeply embedded within a system of personal politics, and it isn’t always easy for outsiders to understand what’s going on.  All this is a long way of saying, no matter who wins this district, don’t expect that legislator to become one of the more eloquent spokesmen for judicial reform, integration into the international system, a more extensive social welfare system, or anything else.  None of these people are that type of politician.

Changhua 1 is centered on Lugang and Homei Townships, and the voters are overwhelmingly Min-nan.  In 2008 the KMT won the seat, but they will have a difficult time hanging on to it this year.  There are two different stories to tell, one on the green side and one on the blue side.  The green side is simpler, so let’s start there.

Changhua has never been one of the DPP’s better markets.  They have won control of the county government a couple of times (1989, 2001), but both times they lost it after only one term.  The DPP has never done very well in assembly elections.  They have never been able to play the game of traditional politics as well as the KMT’s candidates, and they always seem to be a little disappointed on LY election nights.  Unlike Chiayi or Kaohsiung, the traditional candidates have mostly remained in the KMT, so the DPP hasn’t made that much headway here.  It isn’t impossible to imagine a similar transformation happening in Changhua.  Underneath the regular politics you sometimes get a glance of what could happen if local factions were married to a Taiwan nationalist ideology, but Changhua generally remains in its old patterns.  That’s why 2012 appeared at first to be heading for a repeat of 2008, when the KMT easily swept all four seats.  There is potential for the DPP here, but they just don’t have the kind of politicians who can exploit that potential.  In Changhua 3 and 4, they are running the same old candidates who have repeatedly shown that they won’t be the ones to break through.  Expect easy KMT victories there, even if Tsai Ing-wen wins the presidential vote in those districts.

The 2012 race in Changhua 1 seemed to be developing along this familiar script.  Two things have derailed that train.  First, Chen Chin-ting 陳進丁 joined the DPP.  Chen entered politics relatively late in life, running for the National Assembly in 1996 after he was already 50.  Chen won that race and then won three straight terms in the legislature.  For this whole time, he was an independent.  In the legislature, he was one of the mainstays of the Non-Party Alliance, whose other prominent members were “outstanding” people like Lo Fu-chu 羅福助, Yen Ching-piao 顏清標, Lin Ping-kun 林炳坤, and Tsai Hau 蔡豪.  As a non-ideological alliance, the Non-Party Alliance followed the money and almost always cooperated with the blue camp.  On occasion they were willing to play the dirty cop role, sponsoring legislation that the KMT wanted but didn’t want to be too closely associated with.  So that’s the kind of person we’re talking about.

In 2008, Chen’s career hit a major roadblock with electoral reform.  He had hoped that the KMT would treat him like Yen Ching-piao or Lin Ping-kun and yield the district to him.  However, the KMT insisted on nominating its own candidate.  Chen ran as an independent and darn near won.  He got 34% of the vote, and pushed the (very weak) DPP candidate all the down to 21%.  However, the KMT nominee got 45%, and Chen’s stint in the legislature was over.  He apparently didn’t want to abandon his political career, but he seems not to have been sure about how to extend it.  There was some speculation that he might run for Lugang mayor in 2009, but he eventually decided against that.  Instead, he concentrated on getting his daughter elected to the county assembly.

The 2009 elections were an important marker on the national political scene.  This was the first test of the post-Chen Shui-bian era, and the DPP announced its comeback with strong performances all over the island.  These continued in the by-elections in early 2010.  I’m guessing here, but it is quite easy to imagine that a consummate political speculator like Chen Chin-ting could see an opportunity unfolding.  In July, he (and his daughter) joined the DPP.  He immediately announced his willingness to run for legislator if his party needed him.  And just like that, the DPP had a politician capable of playing in the big leagues of Changhua politics.

Chen had some competition for the DPP’s nomination, but he seems to have beaten the field fairly convincingly.  I have not seen any reports of discord in the DPP camp since the nomination was finalized.

 

What about the KMT’s side?  It starts with Lin Chin-chun 林進春.  Lin was elected to the County Assembly in 1986 and then served two terms in the Provincial Assembly.  In 1998, the Provincial Assembly was abolished, so he moved to the legislature where he won two more terms.  In 2004, he stepped aside and let his wife Chen Hsiu-ching 陳秀卿 have some of the fun.  Her election to the legislature went smoothly.  If you are counting, that’s six straight victories.  2008 would be the seventh, as Chen Hsiu-ching beat Chen Chin-ting and the (lousy) DPP candidate in a three-way race.  This is one of the more impressive records in Taiwanese politics.  In a nutshell, the Lin family is very, very good at the election game as it is played in Changhua.

Chen Hsiu-ching was not unopposed for the KMT nomination for the 2012 election.  Three other politicians also registered, including the Wang Hui-mei 王惠美, the mayor of Lugang, Ruan Hou-chueh 阮厚爵, a county assembly member and relative of former county executive Ruan Gang-meng 阮剛猛, and Yang Yu-chen 楊玉珍, the vice-county executive.  One has to imagine that Chen would have been able to defeat this field, but we’ll never know.  There were rumors that she was sick, and she suddenly died after the registrations were complete.  Almost immediately the Lin family announced that her son Lin Yi-pang 林益邦 would represent the family in the election, but the KMT refused to start the primary over to let him participate.  Instead, they conducted telephone surveys with only the three other candidates, and Wang Mei-hui won.  The KMT immediately announced her as the party’s nominee.  The Lin family responded by announcing that Lin Yi-pang would run as an independent.

The KMT has clearly mishandled this situation.  For some reason, they decided that the registration deadline was inviolable, even in clearly extenuating circumstances.  My guess is that the powers within the local party office really wanted Wang to get the nomination.  When they had the opportunity to eliminate the Lin family, they took it.  This is all in marked contrast to the KMT’s behavior in Taipei 4, my local district.  In Taipei 4, the incumbent was ineligible for the KMT’s nomination due to a court case.  However, a few days after the party primary was finished (and the winner was known), the previous ruling was overturned.  The KMT immediately stopped the whole process, and eventually decided to completely rerun the primary.  Eventually, the incumbent won the nomination.  It sure looks like the people in the Taipei party office wanted the incumbent to get the nomination, and they were willing to bend, even break, the rules to obtain that outcome.  So you might understand the Lin family’s unhappiness that the Changhua party branch insisted that rules were rules, and they were out.  That’s not how it worked in other places.

 

So now there is a three-way race, between Wang (KMT), Chen Chin-ting (DPP), and Lin Yi-pang (IND).  I have to think that this is one of those rare cases that the KMT will come in third.  Lin Chin-chun is still around running the show, and he is a master of his art.  Moreover, Lin Yi-pang will be able to play the sympathy card, asking voters to show their love, respect, and gratitude to his deceased mother while also complaining that the KMT and Wang treated them shabbily.  However, it is unlikely that the KMT will be completely marginalized.  It is very rare for a KMT nominee to be pushed under 20%.  This is a problem for the blue camp.  Chen Chin-ting is a very strong politician in his own right, and he will be adding a large chunk of DPP votes.  Moreover, Tsai Ing-wen figures to do reasonably well in this district, and the green camp could break even with the blue camp on party list votes.  In short, the DPP will probably end up with a sizeable victory in Changhua 1.  I’m guessing that the result will be something like Chen 45%, Lin 35%, Wang 20%.

 

 

KMT telephone primary rules

April 19, 2011

The KMT recently announced rules for its telephone surveys.  85% of the result will be based on comparisons between each of the KMT candidate and the DPP nominee.  Green camp supporters will be included in these calculations.  The other 15% will be determined by a direct comparison among the KMT contestants.  In this section, green camp supporters’ opinions will not be considered.

This controversy is being reported in the context of  Taipei City 3 (Zhongshan-Songshan), and I’m not sure if it applies to all races, only races in Taipei City, or just this race.  Luo Shu-lei 羅淑雷 expressed satisfaction with these new rules.  She expects to do better among the undecideds and green supporters, and was against any efforts to exclude their opinions.

manipulation and DPP telephone surveys

April 15, 2011

Right now there is a controversy stewing over the DPP’s telephone polls for the presidential primary.  It seems that some people (and most people are pointing at Tsai Ing-wen’s supporters) are telling their supporters to only support Tsai.  Other people seem to think that this is a betrayal of democratic ideals.  I think there are (at least) two ways to think about this.

But first, let’s look at the rules.  According to the DPP rules, presidential nomination polls must compare the DPP contestants to the KMT candidate, not to each other.  So each respondent is asked for his or her preference on Su vs. Ma, Tsai vs. Ma, and Hsu vs. Ma.  The respondents are not asked which of the three DPP contestants they like the best.  If only one DPP contestant beats Ma, that person wins the nomination.  If more than one beats Ma or if no one beats Ma, then the person with the highest percentage of supporters wins.  If there are two people tied, then the person with the largest advantage (or smallest deficit) over Ma wins.  However, ties are extremely unlikely since they will figure each person’s support out to four decimal places.

Let’s think about this from a DPP supporter’s point of view.  You prefer Su to Ma, and you prefer Tsai to Ma.  Essentially, your response has no impact at all on the result of the nomination contest because you have raised both candidates’ support by an equal amount.  However, what if you strongly prefer one to the other?  Without loss of generality, let’s suppose you strongly prefer Tsai to Su, but you also prefer Su to Ma.  The only way you can help Tsai to win the nomination is to not express support for Su.  Is this unethical?  I don’t think so.  Every election has strategic voting, and this is just another form of strategic voting.  Moreover, these strategic voters don’t have to actually support Ma.  They merely decline to answer the Ma vs. Su question.  This is sufficient to make their preferred outcome more likely.

From the DPP’s point of view, things are a bit murkier.  The DPP rules are set up to privilege moderate swing voters, not their core party supporters.  That is, the DPP made a strategic choice to let swing voters choose their party nominee because that should maximize their chances of winning the general election.  However, their core supporters might not appreciate effectively being told that they don’t matter, and those supporters might respond strategically, as described above, in an effort to play a more decisive role in the nomination process.  So party supporters are effectively subverting the party’s strategic decision to marginalize them.  This does not seem surprising to me.  Why should the people who care most passionately about the DPP not be intensely interested in who it nominates?  I think the DPP rules create incentives that most supporters should not be terribly happy with.

There is something else going on that I find much more interesting.  One DPP member is accusing another of instructing supporters not only to answer that they only support Tsai, but also to misrepresent their age.  Why would you want to misrepresent your age?  This has to do with survey methodology.  Your goal is to infer from the survey respondents what the general population looks like.  Unfortunately, your survey sample (the people you actually interview) rarely looks exactly like the general population.  On some variables, such as age, sex, and geographical distribution, we have very good statistics about what the population looks like.  So we have a pretty good idea if there are too many men or too many senior citizens in the sample.  The usual way to deal with this is to weight the sample.  Suppose people 60 and over are 10% of the total population and you interview 1000 people.  Your sample should have 100 respondents aged 60 and up.  However, suppose you actually only interview 80 such people.  The idea behind weighting is to inflate these 80 people so that they represent the 100 people you should have.  So you multiply each of them by 1.25.  Likewise, if you are supposed to have 200 people aged 30-40 and your sample actually includes 250 such people.  You would multiply each of them by 0.8.  So the devious strategy is to lie about you age and put yourself into one of the chronically underrepresented categories (which if memory serves me correctly are almost always 20-30 and 60+) so that your answer gets inflated, not deflated.

Well, now this is blatant manipulation.  However, there really isn’t much the DPP can do about it.  Once the public learns this trick, the only thing the DPP can do is to stop weighting, which makes the overall results less accurate.  Eventually, I wonder if this (as well as the feeling that strategic voting is immoral or otherwise undesirable) won’t be the eventual catalysts for the DPP (and maybe the KMT) to move away from telephone surveys.

Tsai announces

March 13, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen has announced that she will run for president, and everyone expects Su Tseng-chang to follow suit in the near future.  This ends a couple of weeks during which many DPP leaders seemed to be trying to come to some consensus about who should be the nominee without going through a messy primary process.  I am not surprised that Tsai effectively ended that pressure with her announcement.  As the more junior of the two viable candidates, any negotiated solution would almost certainly have ended with her yielding to Su.

More to the point, I am a little uncertain why so many people in the DPP seem to think that avoiding a primary is desirable.  The DPP has always been an election driven party.  That is, the most powerful people in the party are powerful because they were able to grab power through electoral victories.  The natural way for them to decide who the nominee will be is through a test of strength.  This idea that conflict should be avoided at all costs reminds me of the authoritarian era KMT who were constantly trying to consolidate power around the leadership 鞏固領導中心, because any struggle among leaders might tempt one of them to reach out for popular support – and that might lead to something terrible, such as democracy.  The DPP should not get caught up in these sorts of debates.  Democratic parties fight all the time about who will lead them and which direction they will go in.  This is a healthy process.

Moreover, the DPP has an important discussion that it needs to hold.  In her campaign last year and in her announcement, Tsai spoke extensively about her vision of building a social welfare state.  If she becomes the nominee and especially if she wins the election, she will take the DPP in a very different direction.  They need to decide right now if they are willing to go in that direction.  If they don’t want to shift in the direction of social welfare, then they should stay with Su, who will probably maintain traditional DPP economic policies.  If most of the party wants to radically shift in the direction that Tsai wants to go in, they need to forge an internal consensus within the party.  Otherwise, the DPP risks a crisis later down the road when they find that their leader is going in strange and unexpected directions.  As a commentator, I’m not taking a position on whether building a comprehensive social welfare state is a good idea or not.  I’m just saying that if the DPP wants to go in that direction, they need to forge a political consensus first.  Politics must come first if the public policy is to have any chance of success.

So I think it is a very good thing for the DPP that it will have an intensely fought primary.  Taking the politics out of politics is usually a bad idea.

 

In a previous post, I wrote that the DPP revamped its nomination rules for the legislative nominations to give the party leader(s) the power to decide nominations for the party list and for “difficult” districts, and that this represented a power-grab by Tsai Ing-wen.  I should have written that it “looked to me” like a power grab by Tsai.  Any time a party votes to give a lot more power to its leader, I am inclined to assume that the leader (1) wanted more power, and (2) was working to get more power.  I tend to put less weight on what everyone is actually saying since people don’t always speak sincerely in such situations.  Moreover, there are lots of ways to make such decisions (ie: contested primaries of some sort) without having to resort to decisions by the central leadership.  So it looked to me like a power grab.  (Note: Power grabs are not always bad.  One of the biggest problems of Ma’s first year as president was that he refused to seize power within the KMT so that Lien Chan 連戰, Wu Po-hsiung 吳伯雄, and others could go around acting as if they were in charge.)

I’m re-evaluating that judgment in light of Tsai’s announcement that she is stepping aside as chair to contest the presidential nomination.  I did not assume that she would step aside since she didn’t bother to do so last year when she was running for New Taipei City Mayor.  However, she presumably knew that she would step aside a month ago, and so she may have realized that the nomination power would accrue to someone else.  If that is the case, then the decision perhaps was not aimed at strengthening herself within the party as a means of winning the presidential nomination.  Or perhaps it was.  She may have felt confident enough that she would leave her allies in charge of the party that this decision would work in her favor even if she weren’t personally chairing the meetings.  At any rate, I think it is a lot more fruitful to think about all these decisions in terms of whose power was increased or decreased than in terms of statements to the press.

 

Three years ago, DPP candidates got obliterated in most districts.  Perhaps one lesson that DPP politicians learned is that it doesn’t do much good to win a nomination in a lousy district.  Of course, they already knew this, but it seems to really have sunk in this time.  We see all the DPP candidates desperately trying to seize a nomination in a good district, and no one seems remotely interested in the swing districts, much less the difficult ones.   Nowhere is this more evident than in Taipei City.  Taipei City has one district that the DPP should win (Datong-Shilin), one district that it has a weak but real chance of winning (Beitou-Tianmu), three districts that it has an outside chance of winning if everything goes right (Zhongshan-Songshan, Nangang-Neihu, Wanhua-Zhongzheng), and three districts that it has absolutely no chance in hell of winning (Da-an, Wenshan-Zhongzheng, Xinyi-Songshan).  Right now everyone is piling into the one good district.  Currently there are four strong candidates (Tuan Yi-kang 段宜康, Yao Wen-chih 姚文智, Kuo Cheng-liang 郭正亮, and Luo Wen-chia 羅文嘉) and another (Chuang Rui-hsiung 莊瑞雄) has announced but withdrawn.  I haven’t heard of anyone expressing interest in any of the other seven districts.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this is going to unfold.  One of these four will win the nomination, and the other three will start looking for a new district.  Perhaps they will suddenly discover a burning passion to serve the voters of Beitou or Zhongshan.

Of course, this has all been facilitated by the DPP’s decision to designate 40 districts as “difficult.”  By leaving these 40 districts empty and available for losers, the DPP is basically inviting all strong candidates to take a shot at winning one of the “good” nominations.  There are always lots of consolation prizes.  Moreover, many of these so-called difficult districts are ones that the DPP should plan on trying to win.  Given the swing in popular opinion that we have consistently witnessed over the last year and a half, several of these should be considered tossup districts and many others are in the realm of possibility.

So the dilemma that the DPP faced was this.  On the one hand, it has the current system in which many politicians will end up as nominees in a district they did not really want to be in.  There is the risk that the KMT opponent will hammer them with this.  “My opponent really wants to be in Xinzhuang City.  I have always wanted to represent the people of Danshui and no one else.  He’s only here in Danshui because they didn’t want him in Xinzhuang.  Well, we don’t want their rejects!”  It might be far better if the DPP required everyone to choose a district from the beginning so that some of the stronger politicians might strategically decide that they have no chance of winning the nomination in the good district and just go straight to the weaker district.  This is what the DPP has always done in the past.  For example in 2001, they required members to choose whether they wanted to contest the county magistrate, district legislator, or list legislator nominees.  They didn’t hold county magistrate nominations first and then let the losers run for legislator.  On the other hand, the DPP might calculate that, regardless of their nomination system, the strongest politicians are overwhelmingly going to try for one of the good districts.  If they were to force everyone to choose at the very beginning, the result would be that a lot of strong candidates were effectively ruled ineligible and you would have a field of really weak candidates running in tossup districts.

Interestingly, they did not decide to have a second round of primaries in the difficult districts.  That is, they could have settled the nominations for the 33 strong districts in April and then started the whole process over for the other 40 districts with primaries being held in June or July.  If no one wanted to contest them, they would still have the option of drafting someone.  Instead, they decided to have all those nominations decided by the central party headquarters.  I don’t know why they went this route.  Maybe they worried that candidates who had already lost one primary would be financially or organizationally too exhausted to contest a second primary.  Maybe those candidates simply wouldn’t have any credibility in a new district so soon after losing in a different district.  Or maybe the people in control of the party headquarters wanted a bit more power in their hands.

 

catching up

February 28, 2011



It’s been a while since I have written anything on this blog because (a) I’ve got other stuff to do and (b) not much is happening in the world of elections right now.  In the past two and a half month, the major election related news has been about the very early presidential race.  Apparently President Ma is going to run for re-election.  Shocker.  It looks like Speaker Wang will remain Speaker Wang.  The KMT’s “rule” that people on the party list can only serve two terms may not be written in stone.  And Premier Wu is still rumored to be the most likely Vice Presidential candidate.  None of this is much of a surprise.  (Frozen Garlic’s mad genius suggestion: Ma should choose CEC Chair and former Chiayi City Mayor Chang Po-ya as his running mate.  It will never happen, but it would be genius.)

On the DPP side, there also hasn’t been anything that significant.  Annette Lu has announced her candidacy to a resounding yawn.  The race is between Su and Tsai, something we have been aware of for over a year.  Tsai is probably ahead now, but I think she damaged herself by overplaying her hand in the battle for the nominations process.  The DPP will have its presidential nomination in late April. (Why the rush?  The election isn’t for another 11 months.  Of course, as the leader, Tsai wants this decision made as soon as possible before anything happens to change the race.)  Tsai also got her way in the legislative nominations.  She wanted the district nominations to be decided by telephone survey, with no party member voting component, and she wanted the party chair (herself!) to completely decide the party list.  The latter, especially, is where I think she went a bit too far.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, the DPP announced that it would forgo any nomination process in “difficult” districts, and the party would simply draft candidates for these districts.  The problem is that their definition of “difficult” is so broad that it encompasses 40 of the 73 districts.  In some of these, the DPP should probably be favored to win.  This is ridiculous and simply a clear power grab.  So much for the institutionalization of the rules of competition.

Unlike last year, we haven’t heard a whole lot about the by-elections.  There is a good reason for this.  Unlike last year, when the DPP was winning amazing victories on the KMT’s turf, this year’s contests are being fought on DPP turf and should be fairly easy victories for the DPP.

One of the races is in Tainan City.  This is the KMT’s strongest district in all of Tainan.  In the 2008 KMT wave, the DPP was barely able to win this race even with a strong candidate.  In this election cycle, with things swinging toward the DPP and in a by-election (which seems to play to the DPP’s strengths), it shouldn’t be as close.  Moreover, the DPP has a clear edge in candidates.  The DPP candidate is the former mayor, Hsu Tain-tsair 許添財, while the KMT is running an incumbent party list legislator, Chen Shu-huey 陳淑慧.  The KMT made a big deal about the fact that it’s preferred two candidates both declined to run in this race.  Both were forced out of their minor cabinet positions, as party leaders (esp King Pu-tsung 金溥聰) grumbled that the soldiers the party had spent the last few years cultivating refused to fight when the party needed them.  In their defense, it isn’t really Wang Yu-ting’s 王昱婷 district, and Kao Su-po’s 高思博 family (he is Eric Chu’s 朱立倫 brother-in-law) just finished a grueling campaign.  I wouldn’t have run either if I were them.  So instead, the KMT turned to Chen Shu-huey, who is currently on the party list and the wife of former legislator and mayoral candidate Lin Nan-sheng 林南生.  She should be a competent candidate, though I doubt Lin still has as much support as he enjoyed at his apex about 15 years ago.  On the other hand, this is the first time an incumbent party list legislator has run in a district by-election, and one can imagine that this makes for an awkward argument.  Vote for me, though win or lose, I’ll stay in the legislature.  Really, you need to vote for me so that the next person on the party list can win office.  So the choice is between having one more representative from Tainan and one more representative from … Yunlin (where the next person on the party list is from, I think).

In Kaohsiung, the race is between the DPP’s Lin Tai-hua 林岱華, a former two-term legislator and Hsu Ching-huang 徐慶煌, the son of former DPP legislator Hsu Chih-ming 徐志明.  The father was an old-time member of the Kaohsiung County Black Faction.  The Black Faction was led by the Yu family, and it occupied a strange position between opposition politics and good old-fashioned money politics.  I don’t know how closely the son hews to the father’s political style, but it wasn’t all that uncommon for Black Faction politicians to change sides.  Anyway, Hsu has been nominated by the KMT.  Apparently they think their best shot is with a politician who seems to have a foot in the other camp.  In this district, it may well be.  For what it’s worth, Hsu did win about 13000 votes as an independent in 2008.  That’s not nothing, but I don’t think this election is about him.  This district clearly leans to the green camp, and if they close ranks and vote along party lines, they should win easily.  With a compelling candidate in Lin, I really don’t think this race should be close.