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March 9, 2017

A few days ago, Mrs. Garlic looked up from the newspaper and said, “Here’s the story you keep blathering on about.” Liu I-chou 劉義周, head of the Central Election Commission, had said something about the upcoming legislative redistricting. Now, I’ve been chattering about redistricting for months (ok, a few years), so I eagerly picked up the story. My glee quickly turned to horror when I read that Tainan and Hsinchu County would get an additional seat and Kaohsiung and Pingtung would lose a seat each. Um, that’s not what I’ve been telling people for the past few months.

My initial reaction was to contact Dr. Liu, who I know better as a political scientist and my masters thesis advisor, to warn him that he had made a mistake. Hey, I just published one paper on redistricting and another on malapportionment, and I have been through those rules in excruciating detail. If anyone knows the rules, it should be me. However, doubt began to creep in, and I thought maybe I’d better check the rules one more time. So I looked up the documents and found a table (look on p 107) showing exactly how the apportionment had been done.

Well, isn’t this embarrassing. I’ve been doing it wrong. I omitted one step. I shouldn’t have doubted the excellent civil servants at the CEC. I really shouldn’t have doubted Dr. Liu. I guess the student isn’t the master just yet.

Taiwan uses a largest remainders system. You take the total population (minus the indigenous population) and divide by the number of seats to get a quota. In our case, the quota is 22,986,588/73=314,885. (These numbers are from December 2016. The apportionment will be done with August 2017 numbers, but it is highly unlikely that anything will change between now and then.) Every city or county with fewer than 314,885 people automatically gets one seat. There are six such places. Then take the remaining 16 cities and counties and get a new quota. ****This is the step I skipped.**** The new quota is 22088100/67=329673. For each full quota, a city gets one seat. New Taipei City can thus buy 11 full quotas (see column S2). We have now accounted for 66 seats. What about the remaining seven? To apportion those, you take what is left over for each city or county and give the seven largest remainders the last seven seats.


City pop S1 Pop2 S2 Remain S3 S
Total 22986588 6 22088100 60   7 73
新北市 3924326   3924326 11 297922 1 12
台北市 2679523   2679523 8 42138   8
桃園市 2077867   2077867 6 99828   6
台中市 2734190   2734190 8 96805   8
台南市 1878508   1878508 5 230142 1 6
高雄市 2745749   2745749 8 108364   8
宜蘭縣 440708   440708 1 111035   1
新竹縣 526274   526274 1 196601 1 2
苗栗縣 547911   547911 1 218238 1 2
彰化縣 1281569   1281569 3 292550 1 4
南投縣 476289   476289 1 146616 1 2
雲林縣 692532   692532 2 33186   2
嘉義縣 509510   509510 1 179837 1 2
屏東縣 776900   776900 2 117554   2
台東縣 141930 1         1
花蓮縣 238432 1         1
澎湖縣 102789 1         1
基隆市 362819   362819 1 33146   1
新竹市 433425   433425 1 103752   1
嘉義市 268826 1         1
金門縣 134109 1         1
連江縣 12402 1         1


Why did I take you through all that mess with such an emphasis on my stupid mistake? Hold on, there’s a point to this. But first, let’s see what would have happened in my alternate, error-ridden fantasy world. When you don’t calculate new quota but simply use the original quota (314885) to apportion seats, we get a different result. Pingtung, Nantou, and Chiayi County all lose a seat, and Tainan, Taichung, and Hsinchu County all gain a seat. Also, Kaohsiung gets to keep its 9th seat. The difference with the correct reapportionment is that two small counties (Chiayi and Nantou) would have lost a seat while two large cities (Taichung and Kaohsiung) would have gained a seat. Calculating a new, larger quota favors small counties.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate what could have been. (This still isn’t the big point.) I may have told a few Taichung politicians that they should start preparing for a ninth district. I even started drawing up some maps of what might happen. This is my favorite one. It meets all the formal criteria (all legislative districts are within 15% of the mean population and it doesn’t even need to split any administrative districts) and even a few of the evil political calculations. (Check out what it would do to Yen Kuan-heng!) Of course, if you have any local knowledge of Taichung, you will see in an instant that there is no way in hell this plan would ever be adopted. The deputy speaker, for one, might have some objections. (I promise this post wasn’t just a flimsy pretext to show everyone this picture that I spent a lot of time making and will never be able to use again. Well, maybe a little…)

Taichung 9D plan E

So after sulking for a while over my stupid error, I thought I’d go back and see what would have happened in previous elections if they had used my erroneous apportionment method. This is my idea of fun. Don’t judge me. Guess what I found. THEY CHANGED THE METHOD IN 2008!!!! In 2004, they used my method! Using the new method, Taipei County should have had 27 seats and Taoyuan should have had 14. But Taipei County actually got 28 seats and Taoyuan only had 13. My method yields the actual result.

Why did they change the formula? There were all sorts of little indications that the Chen administration had tried to influence the CEC’s decisions, so maybe the CEC was manipulating things for the DPP’s political advantage! Or maybe the CEC was stuffed full of career bureaucrats sympathetic to the KMT. Maybe it was a KMT plot! There’s only one way to find out. Which side benefited from the change? Who would have done better in 2008 using the original formula?


The answer is: no one. The 2008 apportionment would have been exactly the same using the old formula. The change had zero effect. Moreover, it isn’t as though 2008 was an aberration. The two formulae yielded exactly the same results in 1998 and 2001. 2004 was the only year it made a difference, and that difference was modest, to say the least. It’s a big deal if Nantou goes from one seat to two seats – it has doubled its clout. It’s not such a big deal for the largest county to get one more seat and the second largest county to get one less seat. In the old SNTV system, it is impossible to say if that helped the KMT, the DPP, or a small party.

I doubt the CEC made the change in 2006 or 2007 because it could foresee the effects in 2017. A lot has changed in the meantime. It’s hard to predict exactly how fast Hsinchu will grow or how fast Pingtung will lose population. Moreover, they would have had to guess that Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Taichung Cities and Counties would merge. To put it another way, if I were given the opportunity to change the formula now to help one party in 2029, I’m not sure what I would do. Who can even say what the party system will look like then?

So why did they change the rule? My guess is that it was entirely apolitical. Some bureaucrat thought it would be fairer to apportion the last 67 seats according to their population rather than by taking into account the population of the six small counties. That bureaucrat probably had to propose a change, they probably held some meetings in which they discussed fairness and disproportionality, and they eventually rewrote the rule thinking it would probably never matter very much.

Only it has mattered. This year, two rural counties will double their representation. Because every county gets a seat and indigenous voters are given about 2.3 times as many seats as their population would merit, rural and agricultural areas are already overrepresented. This rule change furthers that overrepresentation. Sorry urban residents.


Let’s change gears and think like philosophers about fairness. Scratch that, let’s ask a question that economists would love. Is it fairer to have fixed prices or to allow competitive bidding?

Go back up to the table and look at Pingtung and Nantou. Pingtung has 776900 people, while Nantou has 476289. Even though Pingtung has far more people, both counties will get two legislators. Is that fair? Suppose the country only had these two counties. Should Nantou really get equal representation?

The CEC formula essentially uses fixed prices. Our new country, “Pingtou,” has 1253189 people, so a quota is 313297. Pingtung can afford two full quotas, and Nantou can afford one. After paying those prices, Pingtung has a remainder of 150306, while Nantou has a remainder of 162992. Nantou thus gets the last seat.

However, what if they could bid? Nantou could offer 476289 people for one seat or 238144 each for two seats. Pingtung, however, can offer 258966 each for three seats. Since Pingtung can offer more for the fourth seat, maybe it should get three seats and Nantou should only get one. Wait, now Pingtung gets three times as much power even though it has less than twice Nantou’s population? This is clearly unfair, and I’m not just saying that because I used to live in Nantou and my wife used to live in Pingtung.

I don’t have an answer to which system is fairer. Largest remainders systems, like the CEC method, tend to favor smaller areas. The divisor method used above is called the D’Hondt system, and it favors bigger areas. Before you put on your urban hat and decide that the D’Hondt method is clearly more progressive / pro-industry and therefore more desirable, please remember that these methods are most commonly used for allotting seats to party lists in PR elections, not apportioning seats to different regions. Hey Green Party apologist / Faith and Hope League zealot who can’t stand the sellouts in the establishment, now you probably think the largest remainder system, which is good for your crazy fringe party, is the best way to go.

Since I know you are dying to know, if we used the D’Hondt method to apportion the 73 seats, the big cities would do much better. New Taipei would get a 13th seat, and Kaohsiung, Taichung, and Taipei would all get a 9th seat. The mid-sized cities and counties including Taoyuan (6), Tainan (6), Changhua (4), Yunlin (2), and Pingtung (2) would be unaffected. The rest would only get one seat, which is not good news for Hsinchu County, Miaoli, Chiayi County, or Nantou. Power to the (urban) people!


As you’ve been reading along, I’d be willing to be that in each scenario, you judged whether something was reasonable or not by whether it helped or hurt your side. Maybe you thought about it intentionally or maybe it was just an involuntary reflex, but I’ll bet you did it. We all do. It’s not an accident that my crazy map of Taichung with nine districts shows how well Tsai Ing-wen did in each of them. When I realized that the CEC had changed the apportionment formula, my heart sank. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be able to conclude that there was no obvious partisan motive behind that change. Whether or not one system is objectively slightly fairer than another is really beside the point. We have one system right now that wasn’t designed with obvious partisan motives. This year, it might advantage one side or the other. However, it matters that it was not intended to produce this result. It matters a lot. It is better to have a slightly imperfect but nonpoliticized electoral system than to chase perfection and risk politicization. This apportionment system is just fine.


Redistricting, on the other hand, is already a problem, and it is probably about to get worse.


Note: This post was written at 37000 feet. If it seems a bit loopy, I’m blaming altitude sickness.

Effort to recall Ker

November 30, 2016

Hey, there’s a bit of election news in Taiwan. As part of the current battle over marriage equality, there are efforts to recall DPP floor leader Ker Chien-ming 柯建銘.

[As an aside, I haven’t paid particularly close attention to Taiwanese politics over the past ten months. Rather, I have watched developments in Europe and America, often rapt in horror. We seem to be on the cusp of a fundamental shakeup in the international order, and, in my darkest nightmares, I worry that a democratic implosion is right around the corner. I’m not sure if it is reassuring or terrifying that Taiwan is preoccupied with “normal” political controversies, such as how to schedule vacation days, blissfully unconcerned that the rest of the world looks like it might be about to go up in flames. Is this oasis of calm one of the few sane spots in the world right now, or is it sticking its fingers in its ears and willfully ignoring the looming storm?]

The Taiwan Law Blog speculates that I do not support the efforts to recall Ker Chien-ming. That is correct, even though I support marriage equality. I explained my general dislike of recalls in the post the Taiwan Law Blog links to, and I stand by that reasoning. When the votes are counted, the election should stop. The battle over who occupies the seat should be settled until the next regularly scheduled election.

Recalls have a role, but they should only be used as a last-ditch resort when an elected official has fundamentally violated the implicit contract with the voters. I do not believe Ker Chien-ming has fundamentally violated his contract with his voters. When he ran, I do not remember him ever taking a public stance on marriage equality. His campaign was about representing the DPP and supporting Tsai Ing-wen’s agenda in the legislature. Marriage equality was merely one, very small part of that agenda. No matter what he does on this issue, it is hard to imagine it constituting a fundamental betrayal of his positions.

What do I think would be justifiable grounds to launch a recall? To give one example, I think South Korean President Park has fundamentally violated her contract with the voters. Massive corruption, allowing an unelected and unappointed spiritual advisor to make major decisions, and all the rest of it were clearly not what the Korean voters had in mind when they voted for her.

To go back to Ker’s case, since Ker’s central appeal was being a good party soldier, if he suddenly emerged as an intransigent opponent of Tsai’s agenda and plotted with the KMT to thwart her proposals, a recall would be justifiable. If we confine the hypothetical to the issue of marriage equality, if Ker had made support for marriage equality a central issue in his campaign but then had decided to throw his support behind a separate law that did not grant full equality, I think that would probably still be defensible and not justify a recall. After all, it is eminently defensible to compromise for 50% or 75% of your original goal. If he did all that, and then we further learned that he had accepted a massive bribe from an opponent of marriage equality to change his position, then a recall would probably be justified. In that case, Ker would have ignored his voters’ demands in favor of the briber’s demands. Ker’s current behavior is nowhere near these thresholds, and I hope the recall effort fizzles out.

The Taiwan Law Blog suggests that, instead of trying to recall Ker, perhaps marriage equality activists should campaign for him to lose his spot as the DPP party whip. I think he and many others are making the same mistake that President Ma made when he tried to purge Speaker Wang in 2013. They are imagining that the party floor leader is pursuing his own agenda.

In fact, what successful floor leaders do is to help the party rank-and-file get what they want. Sometimes, this means that the floor leader has to take some public heat in order to shield the backbenchers from criticism. In the American case, the classic example is from budgetary politics. A house member knows that a particular spending item should be cut but it is also very popular back home. The backbencher needs the speaker to arrange the agenda so that he can tell his voters that he fought hard to keep the item in the budget but he just couldn’t overcome opposition from everyone else. Sometimes, the legislator will even single out the speaker for criticism, and a good speaker understands what is happening and facilitates it. In 2013, President Ma blamed Speaker Wang for not pushing the Services Trade Agreement strongly enough. Ma should have realized that Wang was protecting KMT legislators who did not want to defend support for particular clauses to their voters.

In today’s case, Ker is probably protecting DPP legislators as well. Most DPP legislators have publicly come out in support of marriage equality, probably because they cannot afford to alienate progressive activists and voters. They certainly do not want to alienate young people. (Ask Hillary Clinton if alienating young voters has any costs.) However, Taiwanese society has hardly reached a consensus in support of marriage equality. The surveys I have seen suggest that support and opposition are about evenly split. I am a bit skeptical of these support levels. While elites and young people have mostly come to a consensus on gay marriage, I suspect the rest of society has not. To put it simply, I doubt that Taiwan has wrestled with this issue enough yet. To too many people, homosexuality is simply an idea rather than an everyday reality of many friends and family. There are still a lot of moms and dads my age or older who grew up with the unchallenged assumption that homosexuality was weird and/or wrong, and you can’t simply tell them that they have been prejudiced all their lives. They will need some time and a lot of discussion before they come around. Moving too quickly could cause a backlash, and I suspect that many DPP legislators intuitively grasp that not everyone in society is comfortable with rewriting the social rules just yet. If there were actually overwhelming support for marriage equality in the DPP caucus, Ker would make it happen quickly. He hasn’t been re-elected party whip time and time again because he ignores the rank-and-file’s wishes. If he is stalling or pushing some compromise package, it is almost certainly because they are asking him to do it. Moreover, like any good floor leader, he is taking the public criticism so that they won’t have to.

So what do I suggest for marriage equality activists? Ker Chien-ming is not your problem. Your problem is that you haven’t yet thoroughly sold Taiwanese society on the idea of marriage equality. To put it another way, the DPP caucus looks like it would like to change the law, but activists haven’t done enough work changing minds among ordinary voters to make DPP legislators feel comfortable taking this step. Rather than bullying or threatening Ker Chien-ming, activists should be focusing on broader society, explaining why marriage equality is a good idea that everyone can support. The good news is that the marriage equality side has good arguments and, with a lot of discussion and persuasion, should be able to produce a stronger consensus in society. When that happens, resistance in the legislature will melt away.

Zero-sum Trump

November 11, 2016

Among the mountains of articles I read over the previous ten months on Donald Trump, this one stands out as particularly important for understanding how Trump will approach relations with China and Taiwan. Vox, a left-leaning website, read through all 12 of Trump’s books to see what they could learn about his core philosophies. It is a long article, and some of the books are more informative (or relevant to Taiwan) than others. Fortunately, the introduction gets right to the point. If you don’t want to wade through the whole piece, I strongly recommend reading the introduction carefully.

It isn’t reassuring. Trump is not philosophically predisposed to worry about whether the rest of the world is democratic, stable, or prosperous. International relations are a zero-sum game, and Trump’s goal is to make sure the USA “wins” every relationship by benefiting more than the other side. He also gets tremendous satisfaction out of making deals, the bigger the better. From our perspective here in Taiwan, it hardly needs to be said that a deal with China would be the biggest of all.

Perhaps this is a completely inaccurate portrayal of Trump and his values. I certainly hope so. However, it is consistent with the Trump I have observed over the past ten months. Until he demonstrates otherwise, we should probably take him at his word and believe that he really means the things he says.

The American election has plunged Taiwan into an uncertain environment fraught with danger.

What does Trump mean for Taiwan?

November 9, 2016

Several times over the past ten months, I have thought about writing something about the crazy American election for this blog. Each time, I have decided against it. This is, after all, a blog about elections in Taiwan, not elections worldwide. Now, a few hours after watching the shocking election result come in, I feel the need to grapple with the idea of President Trump.

As an American, I am a solid blue partisan. I strongly prefer the Democratic Party over the Republican Party. The fact that the Trump and the Republicans will now reverse much of what Obama and the Democrats put together is very painful to me. The thought that national health care will probably be gutted and the Supreme Court will continue to be dominated by conservatives makes me sick to my stomach. %$#@%#!

However, these are the ordinary partisan pains of victory and defeat in democracy. Elections are supposed to have consequences, and the only thing worse than President Trump and the Republicans implementing (stupid) Republican policies would be if there were no elections so that (wrong-headed) voters didn’t have the opportunity to put (cartoonishly misguided) people in office. We Americans can survive another cycle of (fundamentally flawed) policy missteps.

I am much more worried about two other things. As a Taiwanese and as an American, I worry about Trump’s understanding and commitment to democratic norms. During the campaign, he attacked various minorities and the media, both with tacit invitations for other actors to bully and attack them and also with explicit threats to use the courts to cow them into submission. His threat to put Hillary Clinton in jail is not reassuring.

The other big thing I worry about is Trump’s commitment to maintaining American alliances around the world. He seems to view foreign relationships as zero-sum trading equations. If you run a trade surplus, you are winning. If you run a trade deficit, you are losing and the other side is probably playing you for a sucker. He does not seem to think in terms of mutual gains from trade. In this zero sum economic view of the world, he does not seem to value security relationships as highly as previous presidents have. At least in his campaign rhetoric, he did not see the mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, or NATO as non-negotiable. Quite the contrary, he sees these as questions of cash. If the USA is paying a lot of money to maintain these military positions, Trump sees a problem. They are playing the USA for suckers; they should pay their own way. This is a position that no American president has taken since WWII, and it is a fundamental threat to us here in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s continued existence as an independent political entity depends on the American protective umbrella. Unlike Korea, Japan, or NATO, Taiwan does not have a formal mutual defense treaty with the USA, so this umbrella is more tenuous. If Trump doesn’t think it is worth it to clash with Russia over NATO, I shudder to consider how he might feel about a clash with China over Taiwan. Over the past 25 years, Taiwan has been able to point to its democratic system, its close economic ties with the USA, and its fiercely pro-American public opinion, and Washington has always seen the relationship as a vital American interest. This has been a bipartisan position: both Democrats and Republicans shared fundamental assumptions about the need for American leadership in the world, both to maintain stability and to maintain alliances of friendly democratic allies with similar values. Trump is challenging those fundamental underpinnings.


Make no mistake: Trump’s election does not mean – as many experts here in Taiwan seem to think – we will have business as usual between Taiwan and the USA. The common wisdom seems to be that foreign policy depends on large bureaucracies, dense relationships based in government, think tanks, and businesses, so Trump won’t be able to single-handedly upend them. The problem is that the president has enormous freedom in foreign policy. Trump has just completed a hostile takeover of the American establishment, so he owes very little to all those elite networks. We do not yet know who he will put in charge of the State Department, but I do not expect President Trump to simply hand over all decisions to a standard Republican. Republican elites seem to be gambling on the idea that they can control or guide Trump, but that hasn’t worked yet. So far, Trump has seemed quite capable of pushing back and bending the Republican elites to his will. If Trump wants to do something, he won’t be easily dissuaded by experts at Brookings, CSIS, the American Enterprise Institute, or even the State Department.

We could hope for benign neglect. Trump apparently knows very little about Japan or Korea, much less any of the smaller countries in Asia. His (cursory) knowledge of the outside world seems to be focused on Europe and the Middle East. I’ve never heard him mention Taiwan. Of course, he has mentioned China, but only in very shallow terms. (Their leaders are very smart, they outcompete Americans, they take away American factories and jobs, and they brilliantly manipulate their currency.) As with most countries, he seems to think that what is needed are new terms of trade: he is going to negotiate a better deal. The vision of China as a place that steals American jobs is not comforting to me. I am terrified of a possible deal. As long as Trump doesn’t see democracy as fundamentally important, Taiwan might easily become a bargaining chip that Trump could dangle in front of China.

I wish I didn’t have to write that previous sentence. It is terrifying and nauseating to me. However, this is now a concrete danger. Taiwan could become a bargaining chip. (Scenario: China slows down the exports of manufactured goods to the USA, and America might quietly inform the Taiwanese government that military support might not be forthcoming so Taiwan might want to negotiate a peace treaty with China.)


What is Taiwan to do? First, Taiwan needs to watch the new Trump administration very closely over the next few months to see just how far Trump will follow his campaign rhetoric in designing his foreign policy. However, while we might hope for the best, we should probably be preparing for the worst.

Second, Trump doesn’t like the idea of anyone free-riding off the American military budget. If that is the trigger, then Taiwan has to demonstrate that it is not a free-rider. For years, the USA has been pushing its allies to spend 3% of GDP on military budgets. Now is the time for Taiwan to reach for that goal. As I understand, Taiwan currently spends about 2.3% of GDP on the military. It might not be efficient to shower the military with new equipment, higher salaries, more personnel, or better facilities. (In fact, I have been told several times in recent months that American diplomatic and military no longer stress the 3% goal since other uses of precious budget funds may do more to strengthen allies’ economies and militaries.) However, it might be good strategy to spend 3%, even if it is somewhat wasteful, just as a means of preventing Trump from singling Taiwan out as a free-rider. Taiwan must not give him an excuse to make an example of Taiwan to the rest of the world.

Third, Trump has repeatedly lambasted the Washington elites, especially those from the Bush administration, for trying to create democracy in the Middle East. The Iraq war was a colossal mistake because it was always going to be impossible to miraculously transform Iraq into a democratic society. “Promotion of democracy” is proof that the Washington elite are completely out of touch. The challenge for Taiwan is to separate itself from Iraq in the American political discourse. Taiwan should cooperate with other democratic countries to stress that there is no need to create or build democracy. Taiwan is already a thriving democracy. Taiwan already shares American values. Taiwan is already a natural friend and ally for the United States. It might be folly to try to create democracy where none exists, but it would also be folly for the USA to abandon friendly democratic allies that already exist. This is about defending democracy.

Finally, Taiwan may have to be more conciliatory toward China for the next few years. Trump is not predisposed to want to actively project American power around the world. The hard truth is that the USA is now less likely to support Taiwan in a clash with China. Taiwan may have to work a little harder to prevent such a clash from happening. I am not suggesting a unilateral surrender to China. Rather, I am suggesting that Taiwan might not want to scream so loudly about international diplomatic indignities, and it might even want to explore some alternate fuzzy formulations of the relationship between China and Taiwan. What Taiwan does not want to do is the sorts of overt, aggressive nationalist acts that Chen Shui-bian engaged in toward the end of his term. That was important yesterday; it will be even more important tomorrow.


Donald Trump has been elected president of the USA. This marks an enormous upheaval in American politics. Many ideas that were previously considered sacrosanct are about to be challenged. Very few Americans cast their votes with foreign policy in mind, but foreign policy will (probably) nonetheless experience some fundamental shifts. Friendly people in the Washington establishment might reassure Taiwanese that they still value the American relationship with Taiwan and hope to maintain its stability, but those people may suddenly have far less influence than they did yesterday. The worst thing we in Taiwan could do is to ignore the new reality, however unpleasant it may be. Changes are afoot, and we had better be prepared for them.


Taipei LY districts

July 10, 2016

For the KMT, it was a dismal legislative election. Even many seemingly entrenched incumbents were swept aside in the enormous DPP wave. For almost all KMT challengers, it was beyond hopeless. Amidst all this ruin and rubble, there were a couple of KMT newcomers who bucked the trend. In particular, Lee Yan-hsiu 李彥秀 and Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安 Wayne Chiang) managed to push their way into the legislature. Assuming it can’t get worse for the KMT and the pendulum will probably swing back toward the blue camp,[1] Lee and Chiang survived the harshest test and should be set up for long careers in the legislature. They both have districts that should be solidly blue in most years, so defending that turf should be less challenging than winning it in 2016.

I’ve got some bad news for Lee and Chiang. They are about to lose their districts. More precisely, Taiwan is due to redraw legislative districts before the 2020 election, and their districts are almost certainly going to change in ways that they will not like. To make things worse, they really can’t do much to stop the process. The DPP, by virtue of controlling both the legislative and executive branches, has the final say. If the DPP wants to screw Lee and Chiang over, it can.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has ruled that legislative districts within any given city or county must be within 15% of the mean population. Here’s the problem. Lee’s District 4 is no longer within that range. It was barely under the 15% limit when the districts were drawn in 2006, and it had grown to 21% over the mean by the 2016 election. It has to be redrawn.

    2006   2016  
    Pop. % of mean Pop. % of mean
1 Beitou, Tianmu 334363 1.03 332274 0.99
2 Shilin, Datong 325598 1.00 342977 1.02
3 Zhongshan, Songshan 345086 1.06 361907 1.08
4 Nangang, Neihu 371665 1.14 405507 1.21
5 Wanhua, Zhongzheng 307665 0.94 304815 0.91
6 Da-an 311626 0.96 311718 0.93
7 Xinyi, Songshan 308313 0.95 304577 0.91
8 Wenshan, Zhongzheng 300300 0.92 323189 0.96


Let’s take a step back and discuss some of the basics of redistricting. In principle, administrative districts are supposed to be respected. That simply is not practical in Taipei, with its eight legislative districts and only twelve administrative districts. Some of them will need to be split. However, that does not give designers carte blanche to go crazy and draw Americans-style districts. Take a look at the official map of the current districts. No administrative district is divided into more than two legislative districts. Moreover, the lines don’t look like they go around particular neighborhoods. The Tianmu 天母 neighborhood is put into D1. In Songshan 松山區, the dividing line between D3 and D7 is Nanjing E. Rd. 南京東路, a major thoroughfare. The only one that seems somewhat arbitrary is the line between D5 and D8 in Zhongzheng 中正區, though even that line roughly corresponds to the old Guting area 古亭區. It turns out that the first two of these were somewhat strategic, helping the KMT (who dominated the process in Taipei City in 2006) to ensure that D1 and D4 would be good KMT districts. However, the point for us is that the strategic aims are not obvious at first glance. They weren’t too brazen. (In fact, the DPP might not have even recognized they were being played.)

The Taipei City Electoral Commission (TCEC) gets the first crack at drawing the new districts. Someone in the city government (usually a deputy mayor) will likely chair the TCEC, and they should be able to nudge things in the directions that they prefer. The TCEC plan is sent to the CEC, which can alter it if there is a problem. Unless the TCEC violates the 15% rule, the CEC will probably respect the TCEC recommendation. The CEC then submits the plans to the legislature. The legislature cannot revise the plans. It can only pass them. If it does not pass the plan, the speaker and premier jointly decide what the final electoral districts will be. This means that the speaker and premier can throw away the CEC plan and substitute anything they like. Since both the speaker and premier are DPP members, the DPP can pass anything it likes.

The DPP’s priorities will be to (1) protect the two DPP incumbents in D1 and D2 and the NPP incumbent in D5, (2) create more winnable districts, (3) cause problems for the KMT incumbents, and (4) even out the population differences across districts.


I originally thought that D1 and D2 might be ripe for redrawing. D2 has more than enough DPP voters who might be redistributed to other districts to make them more competitive. However, there are a couple factors that make this unlikely. First, D1 and D2 are almost exactly the right size. There is no obvious reason to redraw the lines. Any change would be attacked as being made solely for the DPP’s political benefit. Second, these are the two DPP incumbents, and incumbents generally don’t like changes. The DPP incumbent in D1 might not mind giving away some of Tainmu (a relatively blue neighborhood) and getting better areas of Shilin 士林區, but the DPP incumbent in D2 would probably resist this. So I’m going to assume that D1 and D2 will be unchanged.

D5 is the other green camp seat. It is slightly undersized right now (9% under the mean), but that is still within the 15% range. Moreover, there are no good neighborhoods to add to it. Everything to the south and east is heavily blue. Keeping the current district is defensible, so that is probably what they will do.

If D5 is unchanged, D8 should probably be left alone as well. One of the informal guidelines is that no administrative district should be broken in more than one place. Since the other part of Zhongzheng is almost exactly the right size when combined with Wenshan 文山區 and D8 is so blue that there is almost no hope that the DPP could ever win it, there is little reason for green designers to want to change D8.


That leaves the other four districts, and this is where it gets fun. Let’s start with the current D4, which includes Nangang 南港區 and Neihu 內湖區. This district is too big and will have to be split up. At first glance, one might think about splitting one of the two administrative districts, but I have a better option. Neihu plus the Dazhi 大直 area of Zhongshan District 中山區 is almost the perfect size. (On the map, Dazhi is the area of Zhongshan north of the Keelung River 基隆河. Roughly, connect the northern borders of Songshan 松山區 and Datong Districts 大同區 in your mind and take the area north of that.) Dazhi and Neihu run together, so this is a natural fit.

This new D4 is also politically devious. Dazhi is a fairly blue area, so taking it out of D3 and putting it into D4 will be a minor disaster for the KMT’s D3 incumbent, Chiang Wan-an. For D4, replacing Nangang with Dazhi will make Lee Yan-hsiu’s district bluer, but there is another problem for her. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

What to do with Nangang? It turns out that Nangang and Xinyi 信義區 can fit together nicely to form a new D7. Since the actual boundary between the two administrative districts are small streets and it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, this is another fantastic (read: defensible) combination.

What are the political effects? Lee Yan-hsiu is from a Nangang family. We have now divided her Nangang base from the majority of her electoral district. (Her old city council district was also Nangang and Neihu, so she has spent decades working these voters.) She can either go with 70% of her district into the new D4, or she can try to keep her core areas but contest a completely new set of voters in Xinyi. If she chooses D4, she might well lose a primary fight to a Neihu politician. If she chooses D7, she will either have to beat the incumbent or convince him to retire. Neither way is very appealing for her or for the KMT.

This leaves two districts in the middle of the city. D3 now includes the southern part of Zhongshan and all of Songshan. This D3 should be a competitive district. D6 is Da-an, and it is solidly blue. But wait, we have one final trick. This D3 is 19% over the mean, a bit too big. Meanwhile, Da-an is 7% below the mean. We can shift a few neighborhoods from D3 into D6. Since Zhongshan has already been divided, the neighborhoods should come from Songshan. Which neighborhoods? That depends on how daring you want to be. There is a square in the middle of Songshan district that is very blue (the Minsheng Community 民生社區), while the border areas of Songshan are all greener. If you just take the southwest corner of Songshan, there isn’t much political effect on D3. However, if you stretch that up a bit into the center of Songshan, you start to remove some of the KMT’s best areas. This could be deadly to Chiang Wan-an. However, it would also be patently obvious to anyone looking at a map. This is not a natural line. I decided to split the difference, taking only one extra neighborhood on the southern border of the Minsheng Community. This probably won’t be the actual final district. The DPP will either take the high road and not include that extra neighborhood or go ahead and take one or two more neighborhoods on the logic that, since there are going to be screams anyway, they might as well go ahead and transfer 10000 more deep blue votes from D3 to D6.


What does that leave us with? This table shows I’m going to use eligible voters as a substitute for population since the CEC election database doesn’t report population for each neighborhood. The two rarely differ by more than 2%, so the difference is negligible. All of these districts are within 10% of the mean of eligible voters, so I am confident that they are also within 15% of the population mean. (* indicates no change in district boundaries.) I’ve also included a column with Tsai Ing-wen’s (DPP) presidential vote in each of the proposed districts. If these numbers look high, remember that Tsai won 52.0% citywide.[2]


  Proposed districts 2016   2016
    Eligible % of mean Tsai
1 Beitou, Tianmu* 275449 1.02 54.9
2 Shilin, Datong* 268464 1.00 61.3
3 S. Zhongshan, Songshan 287040 1.07 52.8
4 Neihu, Dazhi 256018 0.95 50.1
5 Wanhua, N. Zhongzheng* 248868 0.93 53.1
6 Da-an, SW Songshan 278852 1.04 47.0
7 Xinyi, Nangang 283372 1.05 49.7
8 Wenshan, S. Zhongzheng* 252360 0.94 43.9


Here’s a map of the central parts of the city (excluding most of the northern two and the southern administrative districts). You can see that the district lines appear to be fairly reasonable looking. There aren’t any crazy and unnatural shapes, with the exception of that one little bump going up near the Minsheng Community.

TGPIS 2016 Taipei downtown v2

The green side currently holds D1, D2, and D5, and these are the three districts in which Tsai got the highest vote share. In my new plan, D3 has been redrawn so that it is almost as green as D5. In the original D3, Tsai won 51.9%, so the DPP has gained 0.9% (and the KMT lost 0.9%). If Chiang Wan-an runs for re-election in 2020 in this district, he will be fighting on significantly tougher turf. The new D4 is actually a bit bluer than the old D4 (Tsai: 51.9%), but I’m fairly sure Lee Yan-hsiu would rather have her old district than have to choose between the new D4 or D7. The DPP has a slightly better chance to win in the new D7 (old D7 Tsai: 49.3%) and D6 (46.6%), but these are going to be tough targets.

What’s my advice to Lee and Chiang? They probably have no way of avoiding these districts (or whatever other districts the DPP wants to impose on them). They have three choices. First, they can put their heads down and try to win re-election in the new, less friendly districts. Second, they can avoid the problem by trying to move up the ladder. The conventional wisdom is that they are too young and inexperienced to be viable mayoral candidates, but successful politicians often climb the ladder faster than expected.[3] The KMT doesn’t have an obvious nominee already in place, so why not Chiang or Lee? Third, they could try to change the game. If the electoral system is changed to a German-style MMP system,[4] these lines won’t matter so much. Chiang and/or Lee could publicly call for electoral reform, which would both give them a national reputation as a forward-looking reformer and also resolve their impending re-election challenge.


There is still one other possible twist to the redistricting story. There exists a fifth possible winnable district for the DPP. However, producing that district would require them to violate all the established norms of fair play. They could do it, and it will tempt them. There are several ambitious DPP city councilors who will probably never get into the legislature without this district. Best of all, it barely overlaps at all with the DPP’s current four winnable districts. I could draw this district with minimal disruption to DPP concerns. Do the DPP leaders have the moral fiber to resist this temptation?

Since I love a good moral conundrum, here is the district. If you take most of the neighborhoods along the Keelung River (the border between Nangang and Neihu) and then also add in the northeastern corner of Xinyi and the southeastern corner of Songhan, you can draw a district that would have just enough population (eligible voters: 251411; 6.5% below the mean) and would be roughly as green as D1 (Tsai: 54.4%). Of course, it would cut up four administrative districts, look terrible, and it would require all the neighboring districts to look terrible as well. Some of the areas south of this district would only be connected to the next district only by mountain hiking trails. I could draw this district and satisfy the letter of the law, but I’d have to step all over the spirit of that law. In the USA, they would do this without a second thought. At least in 2006, Taiwanese designers showed some restraint and eschewed this type of district.

TGPIS 2016 Taipei downtown v3

Does this post make you queasy about Machiavellian partisan machinations? It’s only going to get worse each redistricting cycle as the parties learn how to game the system and knock down norms of restraint one by one. The long-term solution is electoral reform (MMP!) so that the district boundaries do not have such a dramatic effect on winning and losing.

[1] The way the KMT is going these days, this may not be such a reasonable assumption.

[2] 52.0% for the DPP presidential candidate in Taipei City??? Are you kidding me!! I’m still not used to the idea that the DPP can win a straight party to party fight in Taipei.

[3] Barack Obama is a classic example.

[4] In mixed-member proportional systems, the party list ballot determines the total number of seats a party will win. Winning an extra district seat doesn’t increase the party’s total number of seats, so there is little reason to violate norms of fairness to draw friendlier districts.

The evolution of Taiwan’s media

July 4, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a conference at the University of Nottingham on Taiwanese politics. (For the record, I left two days before the referendum. Don’t blame me for Brexit. Everything was still in working order when I left the UK!) Among the many fantastic papers was one on Taiwan’s media by Chien-san Feng, Ming-yeh Rawnsley, Jon Sullivan, and James Smyth. Inspired by this paper, I thought I would go back to the survey data to see how respondents have reported consuming media over the years.

These data are from Taiwan Elections and Democratization Study surveys (after 2001) and Election Study Center surveys (before 2000). I only report the results from the quadrennial presidential face-to-face surveys. (1992 was a legislative survey; the 2016 face to face survey data has not yet been released so there is only data on one of the questions from a pre-election telephone survey.) There are two questions that have been asked with relatively few changes in question wording, though the answer response categories have changed quite a bit.

Which newspaper do you read most often?

Which TV station do you watch most often for the news?

Here are the results:

TEDS newspapers

The newspapers are relatively simple. There has been a long and steady decline for the two old authoritarian-era mainstays. I don’t have data for 2016 yet, but my impression is that the United Daily News has steadied itself while the China Times has continued to lose market share (and credibility). The Liberty Times broke through the old duopoly in the mid-1990s and has consistently outsold the two old papers. Nowadays, it has as many readers as the CT and UDN combined. Apple Daily burst on the scene early in the Chen Shui-bian era, and it quickly outstripped the others in terms of circulation. However, its political impact is not quite as large as its circulation. As a pseudo-tabloid, it simply isn’t the place for serious discussion of society’s great questions that the other three majors aspire to be. Finally, there is the black line representing all the other papers. When I first started reading newspapers in the mid-1990s, I had about ten choices every time I went to the newsstand. 首都早報 was gone by then, but we still had 自立早報,民眾日報,台灣時報,中華日報,台灣日報,中央日報,台灣新聞報 in the morning as well as three evening papers 聯合晚報,中時晚報,自立晚報 two financial papers 經濟日報,工商時報 and two tabloid/entertainment papers 民生報,大成報。Only two of the papers in that list (聯合晚報,經濟日報) are still publishing a daily print edition. (Every now and then, I see something called 民眾日報 or 台灣時報 and get really excited, but these are more ad inserts than real newspapers.) It was the golden age of newspapers in Taiwan — martial law had ended and the internet had yet to begin destroying print media. The black line probably underestimates the fragmentation of the media market since respondents could only give one answer. Many of the people who read one of the three major papers also read a smaller one. At any rate, these smaller papers have largely disappeared from the scene. These days, new startups such as go straight to the internet.

To sum up, the newspaper market has undergone massive changes since the early 1990s. The United Daily News is arguably the only constant.

TEDS TV stations

Compared to the TV market though, the newspaper market has been a paragon of stability. There is not a single TV station that is recognizable from 1992. When I came to Taiwan in 1989, there were exactly three TV news sources. All of them had the same political stance. TTV was owned by the provincial government; CTV was owned by the KMT; and CTS was run by the military. Cable TV had existed for over a decade at that point, though it was technically illegal and it certainly did not do anything as daring as produce a news program. In the early 1990s, some of the local cable companies started airing local political talk shows, which quickly became labeled as “democracy TV stations” 民主電台. However, these had a very limited reach. Real change came with the establishment of TVBS, the first national station to present the news without an overt-KMT slant. A few years later, several DPP politicians banded together to start the fourth terrestrial station, FTV. By the early 2000s, several other channels had set up 24 hour news channels. In the face of this intense competition, the old three stations’ grip on the news collapsed. These days, they are all minor players. (CTV, the most resilient of the three, was bought by the Want Want group which also owns cti and the China Times. In other words, CTV isn’t even the most influential media organ or even TV station in that conglomerate.)

Today, there is no single dominant TV news station. TVBS, FTV, SET, and cti are perhaps the four most influential, but even TVBS has less than 15% of the market. Moreover, there is a partisan balance, with TVBS and cti having a blue slant and FTV and SET favoring the green side. (TVBS switched sides in 2005 after being bought by Hong Kong capital. It was recently purchased by HTC boss Cher Wang, but this does not seem to have influenced its partisan stance as yet.) NEXT had been owned by Apple and had usually taken an anti-KMT stance. However, it was recently purchased by ERA, which seems to have an itch for James Soong. We’ll see if their anti-KMT stances change to an anti-DPP stance now that President Ma has left office.


Gosh, this post makes me feel old. The 1992 media world is so far from today’s. It’s as if I’m discussing a world with ticker-tape stock prices, telegraphs, and carrier pigeons.

KMT security deposits

January 18, 2016

I’ve been inputting election numbers for years, so I’ve seen lots of cases of hopeless races where the main challenger loses by a huge margin. What’s different this year is that the hopeless challengers are KMT candidates. You can’t imagine how disorienting it is to me to see a result like DPP 146,414, KMT 35,742. This does not compute. However, that’s a real result from Tainan 2. I think the best way to illustrate just how badly a few KMT candidates got beaten is to point out that a few of them won’t get their security deposits back. To discourage frivolous candidacies, candidates pay a security deposit when they register. As long as they can get at least one-third as many votes as the winner (or one-half in a multi-seat district) they get the deposit back after the election. Of course, the major candidates ALWAYS get the deposit back. Except not this year.

Pingtung 3: KMT nominee Hsu Chin-ju 許謹如 got 12.8% of the vote. DPP winner Chuang Jui-hsiung 莊瑞雄 got 4.18 times as many votes.

Tainan 2: KMT nominee Huang Yao-sheng 黃耀盛 got 18.7% of the vote. DPP winner Huang Wei-che 黃偉哲 got 4.10 times as many votes.

Kaohsiung 4: KMT nominee Kuo Lun-hao 郭倫豪 got 23.2% of the vote. DPP winner Lin Tai-hua 林岱樺 got 3.25 times as many votes.

Tainan 1: KMT nominee Huang Jui-kun 黃瑞坤 got 22.2% of the vote. DPP winner Yeh Yi-chin 葉宜津 got 3.21 times as many votes.

There were also seven other districts in which the DPP nominee got more than twice as many votes as the KMT nominee. Those KMT nominees got their security deposits back, but some of these cases were very close, including Tainan 5 in which the DPP candidate got 2.97 times as many votes as the KMT candidate.

It’s just strange to see districts in which the KMT is not merely the minority, but is actually no longer competitive.


Update: Bob Kao from the fantastic Taiwan Law Blog has pointed out (correctly) that I’m a big, fat, stupid idiot. According to the Article 32 of the Election and Recall Law, the threshold for getting one’s security deposit back is one-tenth of all eligible voters, not one-third of the winner’s total.

According to my (new) calculations,Hsu Chin-ju in Pingtung 3, who got 8.0% of the eligible votes was the only KMT candidate who fell below the threshold. The candidates in Tainan 2 (12.0%) and Tainan 1 (13.2%) just barely cleared the threshold. So sorry, almost all of the KMT candidates will get their security deposit back.

So what is the one-third thing that my lousy memory told me was the threshold for security deposits. According to Article 43 of the Election and Recall Law, any candidate (in a single seat district) getting at least one-third of the votes of the winner is eligible for a subsidy of NT30 per vote. The four candidates listed above will not be getting that subsidy.

This is perhaps not as big a blow as you might think. Since they didn’t get many votes, the subsidies wouldn’t have been very large anyway. While all money is useful, these subsidies would have only covered a fraction of campaign costs. Here is the amount they won’t be getting:

Pingtung 3: KMT nominee Hsu Chin-ju 許謹如: NT 482,910

Tainan 2: KMT nominee Huang Yao-sheng 黃耀盛: NT 1,072,260

Kaohsiung 4: KMT nominee Kuo Lun-hao 郭倫豪: NT 1,131,330

Tainan 1: KMT nominee Huang Jui-kun 黃瑞坤 NT 1,100,520

Anyway, the general point I was trying to make still stands. To put it in the type of legalese that Bob will appreciate: Holy shit, there were some KMT candidates who got totally destroyed!

A victory for diversity

January 17, 2016

I’m really too exhausted to write anything in depth about the election results. So instead of a full recap, let me just touch on diversity and pluralism. Taiwan has set new highs in both the proportion of women and indigenous legislators.

By my count, 43 of the 113 legislators will be women. That makes 38.1%. Around the world, the top three countries for percentage of women in the national parliament are Rwanda, Bolivia, and Cuba. Um, how do I say this politely? Those are not exactly the countries we want to emulate. Let’s restrict the comparison to only countries that are rated as “free” in the latest Freedom House report. Of these, Taiwan now places 10th in the world in the proportion of women in its national legislature. Moreover, of the top 20 countries, only Norway, Germany, and now Taiwan also have a female head of government. This places Taiwan as a world leader for gender equality in the political realm. Moreover, it is notable that Tsai is not from a political family. Unlike almost all other Asian female leaders, Tsai did not inherit her power. In fact, Tsai is not unique among female politicians in Taiwan. Former VP Annette Lu, Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, and vice-speaker and erstwhile KMT presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu also rose to very powerful positions in the political structure, and none of them came from a political family.


Rank Country % Female Female Head of Government
1 Sweden 43.6
2 Senegal 42.7
3 South Africa 42.0
4 Finland 41.5
5 Iceland 41.3
6 Spain 41.1
7 Norway 39.6 Yes
8 Andorra 39.3
8 Belgium 39.3
10 Taiwan (post-election) 38.1 Yes
11 Denmark 37.4
12 Netherland 37.3
13 Slovenia 36.7
14 Germany 36.5 Yes
15 Serbia 34.0
16 Costa Rica 33.3
16 Grenada 33.3
18 El Salvador 32.1
19 Switzerland 32.0
20 New Zealand 31.4
United Kingdom 29.4
Canada 25.8
United States 19.4
Korea 16.3 Yes
Japan 9.5


This has been a gradual process. Women have slowly built their share of seats over the past 25 years. This gives me confidence that women are winning real power and that those gains are sustainable.


district list all women total seats % women
1992 12 5 17 161 10.6%
1995 19 4 23 164 14.0%
1998 35 8 43 225 19.1%
2001 39 11 50 225 22.2%
2004 32 15 47 225 20.9%
2008 17 17 34 113 30.1%
2012 20 18 38 113 33.6%
2016 25 18 43 113 38.1%


This year is also a milestone for indigenous representation. In addition to the six legislators elected from indigenous districts, two others were elected on the DPP and NPP party lists. Eight indigenous legislators is not a record in the absolute sense, but does mark a new high in the percentage of seats held by indigenous legislators.

district list all indigenous total seats % indigenous
1992 6 0 6 161 3.7%
1995 6 1 7 164 4.3%
1998 8 1 9 225 4.0%
2001 8 2 10 225 4.4%
2004 8 1 9 225 4.0%
2008 6 1 7 113 6.2%
2012 6 0 6 113 5.3%
2016 6 2 8 113 7.1%


In most countries, if there are seats reserved for indigenous people, the goal is to allow them to be represented in numbers proportional to their share of the overall population. In other words, the goal is to prevent them from being underrepresented. Taiwan has made a different choice. In Taiwan, voters with indigenous status make up about 1.5% of the population, but they now hold over7% of the seats in the national legislature. Taiwan has chosen to significantly over-represent indigenous people.

This effort to give voice to women and minorities speaks to the pride that Taiwanese have in their diverse and pluralistic society.



On a related note, the DPP has set a party record for performance in indigenous districts, and by quite a margin.

DPP valid vote share seats won
1992 3769 113164 3.3% 0
1995 3555 130769 2.7% 0
1998 9676 136387 7.1% 0
2001 10048 155888 6.4% 0
2004 14149 144827 9.8% 1
2008 10130 149880 6.8% 0
2012 9968 214843 4.6% 0
2016 33710 207572 16.2% 1

Since we’re talking about DPP records, they set a new high for presidential elections in all of the 22 cities and counties. In fact, they beat their previous high for any type of election (presidential, mayoral, legislative) in 11 of the 22 cities and counties.

prez % Any race % 2016
Taipei 2004 43.5 1998 mayor 45.9 52.0 **
New Taipei 2004 46.9 2001 mayor 51.3 54.8 **
Taoyuan 2004 44.7 1997 mayor 56.2 51.0 *
Taichung 2004 50.0 2014 mayor 57.1 55.0 *
Tainan 2004 62.0 2014 mayor 72.9 67.5 *
Kaohsiung 2004 56.9 2014 mayor 68.1 63.4 *
Yilan 2004 57.7 2014 mayor 64.0 62.1 *
Hsinchu County 2004 35.9 1989 mayor 51.1 42.5 **
Miaoli 2004 39.3 2004 prez 39.3 45.5 **
Changhua 2004 52.3 2014 mayor 53.7 56.5 **
Nantou 2004 48.8 1995 LY 50.7 52.2 **
Yunlin 2004 60.3 2009 mayor 65.4 63.4 *
Chiayi County 2004 62.8 2014 mayor 63.1 65.4 **
Pingtung 2004 58.1 2014 mayor 62.9 63.5 **
Taitung 2004 34.5 2009 mayor 47.4 36.9 *
Hualien 2004 29.8 1997 mayor 43.2 38.4 *
Penghu 2004 49.5 2014 mayor 55.3 50.8 *
Keelung 2004 40.6 2014 mayor 53.2 48.2 *
Hsinchu City 2004 44.9 1997 mayor 56.1 51.2 *
Chiayi City 2004 56.1 2004 prez 56.1 59.9 **
Kinmen 2012 8.2 2012 prez 8.2 18.0 **
Matsu 2012 8.0 2012 prez 8.0 16.5 **

*DPP record high for presidential races; ** DPP record high for any election


I’ll dig more into the results over the next few days. For now, let me just say that this was a tremendous electoral victory for the DPP and a devastating defeat for the KMT.





Dear KMT: Don’t challenge the internet

January 13, 2016

So this showed up as sponsored content on my Facebook feed. It’s a good old-fashioned challenge from KMT legislator Lin Yu-fang who is running for re-election in Taipei 5. Who will you vote for: the respectable looking fellow or the outlandish rocker?

There were 362 responses, many of which provided a clear answer to Lin’s question. By my quick and dirty count, Freddy Lim (the New Power Party challenger on the right) is winning 140 to 17. Some of the commenters criticized Lin for his record in office, many pointedly said they liked long hair (Lin previously said that people with long hair have psychological problems), some sarcastically thanked Lin for reminding them which number the rock star is, one or two sarcastically thanked Lin for paying for Freddy’s advertising content, and a few lonely souls said they supported #1. Remember, this is on Lin Yu-fang’s Facebook page; he should have one or two followers, shouldn’t he?

Taipei 5 is going to be a close race, but this is a good reminder of just how dominant the green side is on the internet. It’s also a good reminder of the gap between an older generation that thinks people should look and act certain standard ways and a younger generation that embraces diversity and pluralism.

The cost of the sunflowers for KMT legislators

January 12, 2016

I’d like to take a moment to think back to the various controversies of the past four years and think about some of the KMT legislators involved in them. Almost without exception, these legislators are facing serious threats to their careers. Even though their political foundations didn’t seem shaky at the time, here we are looking at the possibility that very few of them will be back in the next legislature.

Alex Tsai 蔡正元 was probably the most reviled KMT legislator. He had a knack for saying just the right thing to inflame students. At one point, he drove his car a considerable distance with a protester hanging on. He also ran Sean Lien’s disastrous mayoral campaign. Tsai was one of the three targets of the Appendectomy Project, an effort to recall legislators who had spearheaded the effort to pass the Services Trade Agreement. Tsai decided not to run for re-election in Taipei 4, even though most people thought he would have been able to win another term in this deep blue district. He originally announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in order to run for mayor. When that didn’t work out, there were widespread rumors that he was trying to arrange a seat on the KMT party list. However, that list turned out not to have any space for him. Tsai will not be in the next legislature.

The other main target of the sunflower movement was Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠. Chang was the legislator who rammed the Services Trade Agreement through the committee hearing using, how shall we say, dubious methods. For this, the protesters named him “30 second Chang” 半分忠. He was also one of the three targets of the Appendectomy Project. Chang is running for re-election in New Taipei 8, which has always been a reliably deep blue district. However, all the polls and media reports have showed Chang in trouble. I still can’t quite bring myself to believe that the KMT could possibly lose this district, but merely being in an intense fight is an indication of how much political damage has been done to Chang.

The third target of the Appendectomy Project was Wu Yu-sheng 吳育昇, in New Taipei 1. Wu was originally elected in 2004 as one of Ma Ying-jeou’s personal soldiers, and he loyally supported Ma’s agenda for the next decade. However, now that Ma is leaving office in a blaze of unpopularity, Wu has tried to distance himself from Ma. Earlier this year, he made several gestures in support of Eric Chu and asked reporters not to refer to him as being part of the Ma faction. This year, Wu seems to be in real trouble. The DPP had real trouble settling on a single candidate and ended up with an inexperienced 27 year old to challenge Wu in a district that has always had a clear blue advantage. Nevertheless, most evidence suggests that Wu is losing by a significant margin.

Chiu Yi 邱毅 isn’t an incumbent legislator, but this list wouldn’t be complete without him. Chiu lost his re-election bid in 2012 and has spent the last four years going on talk shows and spewing the wild accusations that no one else has the brass to say out loud. Chiu tried to re-enter the legislature by running for Alex Tsai’s seat in Taipei 4. However, he could not even come close to winning the primary, finishing behind three city councilors. He apparently then set his sights on a KMT party list seat, but he didn’t get that either. He is now running on the New Party list, a much less promising way to get back into the legislature. At least his old buddy Alex Tsai is publicly asking voters to vote for the New Part list.

Lin Hung-chih 林鴻池 was the KMT party whip during the sunflower movement. Lin was never a particularly strident ideological diehard, but he was a loyal soldier trying to implement party positions. This meant that he was on the front lines trying to push the Services Trade Agreement through. It also meant that Lin was one of the people Ma tried to empower after his attempted September 2013 purge of Speaker Wang. In an attempt to hollow out Wang’s power, Ma tried to work through Lin and the KMT party caucus. After the sunflower movement subsided, Lin resigned as party whip, complaining about being put under tremendous amounts of political pressure. He then announced he would not run for re-election in New Taipei 6. Lin was personally popular with his constituents and had always won easily. However, his district is greener than most people think, and he probably would have faced a serious challenge if he had run for re-election. I originally thought that New Taipei 6 would be one of the highest profile races this year. Instead, Lin just gave up. Lin might have been in line to succeed Eric Chu as New Taipei mayor, but it seems that his once promising career has become a casualty of Ma’s insistence on ramming the Services Trade Agreement through the legislature without any changes.

Lu Hsueh-chang 呂學樟 was one of the KMT legislators who led the effort to settle accounts after the dust had settled. One of his attacks was focused on Academia Sinica, where he investigated the behavior of academics who had supported the sunflowers. Lu wanted to run for re-election in Hsinchu City, but he unexpectedly lost in the primary. He is out.

Lo Shu-lei 羅淑蕾 was another of the KMT’s mouthpieces who seemed willing to say anything, regardless of whether there was clear evidence. She was a harsh critic of the sunflower demonstrators, and she was one of the main attack dogs in Sean Lien’s mayoral campaign. She wanted to run for re-election in Taipei 3, but, like Lu, she suffered a defeat in her primary contest. She was also rumored to be trying to secure a position on the KMT party list, but she also failed to do this. She will be leaving the legislature soon.

I could probably include others on this list, but the point is that the legislators on the front lines of Ma’s agenda have incurred a tremendous amount of damage to their personal careers. Perhaps this will serve as a warning to future politicians to think twice about blindly following misguided orders from the top or stubbornly pushing forward with an unpopular agenda.