Posts Tagged ‘台北市’

Turkey season

March 13, 2010

In the political science literature on elections, we have a term for candidates who have no chance of winning.  We call them “turkeys.”  This year’s brood of turkeys is starting to gobble.  (Is that the appropriate verb for turkeys making noise?)

Taipei City has a whole family of turkeys.  It is 99% certain that the KMT nominee will be incumbent Hao Longbin 郝龍斌, and the DPP nominee will be Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌.  However, city council member Yang Shiqiu 楊實秋 is still running hard for the KMT nomination.  Legislator Ding Shouzhong 丁守中 was a little more realistic.  He announced a couple of days ago that he would agree not to run this time and to support Hao, but he would certainly run four years from now.  On the DPP side, city council member Zhou Boya 周柏雅 has announced his intention to run.  Even more fun, Chen Shui-bian’s 陳水扁 former deputy mayor Chen Shimeng 陳師孟 has announced that he will be contesting the nomination.  At the press conference, Chen explained himself thusly: Su Zhenchang has lots of connections and resources in Xinbei City, so Su should run there.  Also, Chen thought that, unlike Su, his chances of winning the election were pretty good, since he actually has experience in governing Taipei City.  Of course, Chen doesn’t have any survey data to support his contention that he has a good chance of winning because, as he happily admitted, he doesn’t have enough money to commission polls.  Hmm.  Low levels of funding are usually a pretty good hint that one is a turkey.

In Taichung City, the KMT is going to nominate Jason Hu 胡志強.  However, there are a lot of turkeys challenging him for the nomination.  The common thread here is that Hu is the incumbent mayor of Taichung City, and all of the challengers are from Taichung County.  Former Taichung County executive and Red Faction honcho Liao Liaoyi 廖了以 is still trying to win.  Legislator Ji Guodong 紀國棟 (of the Black Faction) showed up at a KMT meeting to discuss how the party would unify behind one candidate and announced that he wasn’t interested in discussing or negotiating.  Instead, he announced that he is running.  Then there is Taichung County deputy executive Zhang Zhuangxi 張壯熙.  To my knowledge, Zhang has never won any election at any level.  The current county executive is from the Black Faction, so I assume Zhang is also from the Black Faction.  However, now that a real politician (Ji) from the Black Faction is in the race, I don’t know if Zhang even has that to lean on.  On the other hand, today he got an endorsement from three-term former Taichung City mayor Lin Borong 林柏榕.  Either way, he’s not going to get the nomination.

There are a couple of others.  In Xinbei City, former DPP county executive You Qing 尤清 has declared that he wants to return to his former position.  I’m pretty sure no one cares very much what he wants.  Former legislator Zhuang Shuohan 莊碩漢 has also expressed interest.  In Tainan City, legislator Ye Yijin 葉宜津 has announced her candidacy.  I thought she quit a few months ago.  The only polls I’ve seen show her with almost no support.

Why do turkeys run?  There are a few reasons.  First, they can be trying to make the leader into a loser.  If the turkey hates the leader strongly enough and they have some overlapping support, even though the turkey might not win, he might take enough votes away to cause the leader to lose.  Second, they can be trying to blackmail the leader.  In the first scenario, they actually run the race all the way to the bitter end.  In the second scenario, they threaten the leader with the first scenario but are willing to withdraw in return for some side-payment.  (Note: Side-payments can include anything of value, such as a job, a contract, support for my nephew’s political career, instructing the fire department not to enforce the building code in my KMT, and so on.  Cash is also an option, but not the only one.)  Third, they can be trying to build support for a future campaign, as Ding Shouzhong seems to have been trying to do in Taipei City.  In return for withdrawing this year, he will expect support four years from now from Hao and from the KMT.  (I doubt he’ll get it, but it’s worth a try.)  Fourth, they can be trying to win.  Politicians are often great at self-deception, convincing themselves that they have a chance when no one else thinks they do.  They also have the Bill Clinton model as inspiration.  In 1991, George Bush had a 90% approval rating, and most people assumed he would be re-elected easily.  Several leading Democrats, the A-team if you will, declined to run.  So instead of Al Gore and Richard Gephart, the Democrats only had Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Bob Kerry, and a few other uninspiring choices.  In 1991, they were clearly the B team.  The unimpressed media nicknamed them “the seven dwarves.”  However, Bush’s popularity nosedived in late 1991 and the first half of 1992, and the Democratic nominee was left as the only realistic alternative.  Bill Clinton started out as a turkey, but this was actually the key to his victory.  If Bush hadn’t been such an overwhelming favorite, some other Democrat would have gotten the nomination.  That said, I think most of this year’s turkeys are either blackmailing or delusional.

mayoral races

March 8, 2010

A few thoughts on the mayoral races:

Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌 announced last week that he will run for Taipei City mayor.  However the most significant part of the announcement is that he promised that, if elected, he would serve the entire four-year term and not run for president.  He’s going to have to repeat this time and time again over the next nine months, because right now everyone is a bit skeptical.  He’s going to have to work hard to convince people he’s sincere about that.  However, it does make Su a much better mayoral candidate if people think he really wants to win and govern Taipei City rather than simply use the race/job as a stepping stone to the presidency.

I think this also affects candidates in the other races.  If Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 and/or Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 ends up as the DPP nominees in either Xinbei City and/or Taichung City, they will face enormous pressure to make a similar promise.  In fact, since the 2012 DPP presidential is almost certain to be Su, Cai, or Hsieh, this points us to a slightly ludicrous situation.  Suppose all three run this year, all three make the “I will serve out my term” promise, the DPP has a smashing victory, and all three somehow win.  That would leave the DPP with no one to face a horribly weakened Ma Yingjeou 馬英九.  Somehow, I think one of them would break the promise.

At any rate, this is highly unlikely because Cai Yingwen doesn’t seem to want to run.  She seems to want to remain party chair, and she claims her big task is laying out the DPP’s big blueprint for the next five years.  This is precisely the kind of hard mental work that you have to do before becoming the president.  Su is running for mayor instead.

(This is one of the reasons I thought he should skip 2010 – you have to do homework before becoming president.  Chen tried to cram, but he only had a few spare months after the 1998 election before he started the 2000 campaign.  He really wasn’t ready.  Su doesn’t seem worried about this.  Cai does.  My opinion of Cai is rising.)


Zhu Lilun 朱立倫 seems reluctant to jump into the Xinbei City race.  A report a couple of days ago suggested that he would do it next month.  I’m starting to wonder if we have overestimated him.  He hasn’t really ever had to fight a hard election.  He won one term as legislator with heavy party backing, and he won two terms as Taoyuan County executive, hardly a difficult task in such a blue-leaning county.  One could argue that his career path has been handed to him; he hasn’t earned much himself.  On the other hand, I’m sure that he has impressed someone to get the unified support of his party in a county with lots of other ambitious KMT politicians.  Yet, let’s not forget that he has powerful patrons, particularly his father-in-law Gao Yuren 高育仁.  Gao was Tainan County executive, speaker of the Provincial Assembly, a four-term member of the legislature, and has been a member of the KMT central standing committee for 25 years.  He also has lots of money connections.  Zhu’s father, Zhu Zhangxing 朱樟興, was also a minor politician in Taoyuan County, having served as a member of both the county assembly and the National Assembly.

Another thing that makes me wonder about Zhu is that I don’t know of anything he has done.  That’s not surprising, since the Taoyuan County government doesn’t make the news very much, and I was out of the country for most of Zhu’s tenure as county executive.  However, we keep hearing what an outstanding job he did, and it bothers me that no one is saying anything concrete about that job or his current performance as Vice-Premier.  When his opponent tries to rip apart his record, I wonder whether it will be easy or hard.

Finally, there is Zhu’s reluctance to join the fray this year.  He seems to want to spend as much time as possible as Vice-Premier before he has to start the campaign.  Perhaps this is because he is actually using the resources of his current office to set up a more effective campaign.  But I wonder if he doesn’t simply like being in a high post in the central government and doesn’t want to leave just yet.  You can run an effective campaign for mayor of a huge district like Xinbei City in eight months, but you would be better off spending nine months.  There are so many people that you need to meet and forge relationships with, so many groups to curry favor with, and so many little impressions to be made.  I would just feel better about his chances if he seemed to relish the idea of jumping into the fray.

Is Zhu Lilun a paper tiger?  Probably not, but I’m less sure about that today than I was a month ago.


Some of the stories the media has to invent to fill airtime and column space are so unrealistic as to be comical.  One day the question was whether Jason Hu 胡志強 should move from Taichung City to Kaohsiung City.  The idea was that Taichung City is pretty firmly in the KMT’s grasp, so they should take their best candidate and move him to a harder district.  Yeah, then instead of having an easy win in Taichung, they could have a contested race with a real possibility of losing there, and Hu probably wouldn’t win in Kaohsiung anyway.  That’s genius!

Another day, the media was asking if KMT voters should strategically vote for Su so that he would win the Taipei City mayorship and wouldn’t be able to challenge Ma in the presidential election.  In Taiwanese parlance, that would be “dump Hao, save Ma” 棄郝保馬.  Again, a masterstroke!  I’m sure that if the DPP wins Taipei City, they would be so depressed by their victory in one of Ma’s strongest areas that they wouldn’t even bother to nominate a presidential candidate.

Can I suggest one?  I think the best way for Ma to stop Su would be for him to do it personally.  Ma should resign the presidency and run for Taipei City mayor.  (It’s not that much stupider than the other two ideas, is it?)

Musings on Mayoral Nominations (part 2)

February 23, 2010

In which I continue with baseless speculation…

Hau Longbin 郝龍斌 (KMT) is going to be renominated in Taipei City.  Taipei City should be a cakewalk for the KMT any time the party is not split.  The best the DPP has ever done in any election in Taipei city is 46%, in Chen Shuibian’s re-election bid in 1998.  There is no serious challenger to Hau, and he should waltz to another term.  Well, he should, but he might not.  He hasn’t exactly been a superstar in office.  In fact, I’d say that the net effect of his first term has been to definitively remove him from the list of possible KMT presidential nominees in 2016.  A recent poll even had Su Chen-chang beating him by three points.  Don’t put too much faith in that, though.  Right now, I’d give Hau a 99% chance to get the nomination and an 80% chance to win the general election.

In Sinbei City, the KMT is in the process of settling on Zhu Lilun 朱立倫.  Current county executive Zhou Xiwei 周錫瑋announced yesterday that he would not seek re-election.  Immediately there was an outpouring of sympathy for Zhou, with everyone conveniently forgetting that before yesterday, the only people who wanted Zhou to run for re-election were members of the DPP.

Zhu hasn’t publicly announced his willingness to accept the nomination, but he’s the only one in the running.  Like Jason Hu 胡志強 in Taichung, this is a good move for Zhu on the presidential career path.  Unlike Hu, Zhu will face a tough election this year, but if he wins, he will be on the short list for the KMT nomination in 2016 or 2020.  He’ll only be 55 in 2015, so he could wait another term or two.  However, two terms of governing Taoyuan and six years of Sinbei City would be a very nice resume for 2016.

It is by no means assured that Zhu will pass this year’s hurdle.  Taipei County is a battleground region.  It usually leans slightly blue, but the DPP won four of the previous five county executive races.  Given prevailing national trends, I think that with generic candidates, the DPP would probably win by about 5% this year.  Of course, the candidates are not generic.  Zhu has a good reputation, but he hasn’t spent years building up ties in Taipei County.  He’ll be relying entirely on other people’s electoral machinery.  Because of this, I can’t rate him as anything higher than “good.”

A China Times poll today had Zhu trailing Su Chen-chang 蘇貞昌 by a 40-29 margin.  However, he led Tsai Ying-wen 蔡英文 40-27 and Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 by “even more.”[1]

I haven’t yet mentioned the DPP candidates in Taipei City and Sinbei City.  This is because we don’t yet know who they are.  Everyone is waiting for Su Chen-chang to announce his intentions.  I don’t know what Su is going to do, but allow me to indulge in a little speculation about what I think his, and the DPP’s, considerations should be.

Su is going to be the DPP nominee for president in 2012.  Oh, there are a couple of other people such as Lin Yi-hsiung 林義雄 and perhaps Annette Lu 呂秀蓮 who have illusions of being nominated, but they aren’t really serious challengers.  The only serious challenger is Frank Hsieh, who lost the 2008 election.  Hsieh doesn’t seem to be pushing for the nomination this time, and I don’t think there is a lot of enthusiasm for a rematch.  Su is the guy that everyone is focused on.

Unlike in 2008, the presidential nominee will not simply be a sacrificial lamb.  2012 is going to be a close race, and the DPP has a fairly good chance of winning it.  I was shocked when I realized about a month ago that every time I saw Su on TV, I was thinking about him as the future president, not as the future losing presidential candidate.  It’s hard to believe President Ma has squandered the seemingly limitless stores of political capital he had two years ago, but here we are.  So Su’s choice has to be made with the primary goal of winning in 2012, not of winning in 2010.

Su has three choices for this year.  He can run in Taipei City, Sinbei City, or not at all.  (Either of the nominations is his for the asking; no DPP figure is demanding a primary.)  As I mentioned above, he is the DPP’s strongest candidate in both cities.  In fact, he is the only DPP candidate who even has a chance in Taipei City, and he is the only DPP candidate who would “probably” win Sinbei City.  (Someone else might be able to win in Sinbei City, but it won’t be easy.)

The United Daily News ran an editorial yesterday explaining that, now that the KMT has arranged for Zhu Lilun to be their candidate, Su has no choice but to run in Sinbei City.  They argued that Su could not afford to show weakness, and if he didn’t run, he would be seen as shirking from the battle.  This is nonsense.  The real assumption is that the resources of the Sinbei City government can be deployed to affect a significant number of votes in the presidential election.  I suppose holding city hall can’t hurt, but I don’t know that it would actually sway a lot of votes in a national election like this.  In my experience, clientelism is most powerful at the local level, not the national level.

I think that Su should not run in Sinbei City.  There are several reasons.  First, he could lose.  Sinbei City is not a sure thing.  Even though Su served as county executive for eight years, is viewed as having done a very good job, and has a vast network of local ties to draw on, the underlying partisan structure still leans blue.  When Su ran for re-election in 2001, he faced Wang Jianxuan 王建煊, an outsider who started his campaign rather late.  Still, Su barely won.  Victory in 2010 is not a given.  If he loses, this could cause irreparable damage to his presidential campaign.  And given the field of alternative nominees, that would nearly be akin to handing a second term to Ma.  From the DPP’s standpoint, this is a nightmare scenario.  The DPP needs to protect Su.  If having a viable presidential candidate means sacrificing Sinbei City, I think they must sacrifice Sinbei City.

Second, the voters in Sinbei City also know that Su will be running for president in 2012.  This will open several avenues of attack for Su’s opponent.  Zhu will accuse Su of blocking younger talents because he is greedy and wants every post for himself.  Zhu will ask Su how he plans to govern a very complex territory, given that he will be spending all his time, from day 1, running for president.  (Remember, the presidential election is a mere 16 months, not 24 months, after the mayoral election.)  Zhu will ask voters if they really want an executive who is thinking of voters in other areas and not looking out for their best interests.  Do Sinbei voters want the best public policy for people in Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Changhua, or do they want public policies that are in the interests of Sinbei residents?  Do Sinbei voters really want to wait until after the by-election after the presidential election for mayor who is focused on their city?  Is the city government supposed to just drift aimlessly until then?  Isn’t this, when the ugly stepchild has just been upgraded to a direct municipality, the most critical period and the need for hands-on leadership the greatest?  Or will Su simply delegate everything to a trusted lieutenant, such as Lin Xiyao 林錫耀 or Wu Bingrui 吳秉瑞?  Maybe voters should think of this as a choice between Zhu and one of those two.  Zhu will undoubtedly suggest that voters who really like Su should vote for Zhu in this election and then vote for Su in the presidential election.  After all, there is the possibility that Su would feel an obligation to Sinbei voters and decide not to run for president at all.  Wouldn’t they feel bad if they lost a chance for their champion to be president?  What’s that?  That couldn’t happen because Su wouldn’t feel such an obligation to Sinbei voters?  Oh, I see.

Third, supposing Su wins the mayoral race and the DPP presidential nomination.  The KMT will hammer him for abandoning his constituents and/or being lax in his obligations to Sinbei City.  It is not as if he has already governed Sinbei for 6 years and has everything under control.  His mayoral campaign will inevitably accuse Zhou of doing a lousy job and point to a wide array of problems that need to be fixed.  However, he won’t have enough time to be able to credibly claim that he fixed anything.  In other words, this seat will be a millstone during the presidential race, just as the presidential race will be a millstone during the mayoral race.

Fourth, during the 16 month interlude, he might be too distracted to do a good job in office.  Wait, this is not relevant.

Fifth, if Su doesn’t run, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the DPP would lose Sinbei City.  This is going to be a hard-fought race no matter who runs.  With nine months still to go, it’s impossible to say that Tsai or Hsieh couldn’t win.  After all, it still looks like this is going to be a green year.

So I think Su should pass on Sinbei.  I also think he should pass on Taipei City.  However, if he has to run, I think it should be in Taipei.  There are a couple of differences.  First, he is far less likely to win in Taipei.  This makes a loss acceptable, as long as it is reasonably close.  If he does lose, then he doesn’t have to worry about being accused of abandoning his duties during the presidential election.  Second, I don’t think voters in Taipei would be as sensitive at his leap to a higher office.  The last two mayors have gone on to the presidency.  It’s Taipei’s birthright to select the president.  If Sinbei has an inferiority complex, Taipei is simply arrogant.  If Su actually wins in Taipei, he will take on the air of invincibility, and he can just congratulate the wise voters of Taipei for catapulting him into the presidency.  Third, I think this gives Su a claim to generosity.  Instead of taking the winnable option, he would be leaving that to someone else and be taking the hardest task for himself.  (This, however, is bull.  Su wasn’t shy about horning in on the winnable option when he moved to Taipei County in 1995 and pushed Lu Xiuyi 盧修一 aside.)

Still, I think that Su’s best option is to sit out this election altogether.  By not running in any single race, he can run hard in all the races.  Su will turn into the national campaign chair.  The evening news will juxtapose Su with Ma every night, talking about where they went, what they said, and how they were received.  Su won’t have to waste time talking about Zhu Lilun or Hau Longbin; he will be able to go directly after Ma for two solid years.  He’ll also be able to spend these two years developing white papers and other policy positions for the presidential campaign rather than for Taipei or Sinbei alone.  This factor alone, being better prepared for the presidential campaign, should outweigh any losses that come from the potential loss of the resources of Sinbei or Taipei.

Well, that’s what I think.  Su undoubtedly sees it differently.

So, other than Su, who does the DPP have for Taipei City and Sinbei City?  Party chair Tsai Ying-wen will probably run in one of the races.  Tsai has done a magnificent job of leading the party’s out of the darkness of the Chen era.  There is some thought that she quite likes being party chair and will try to stay there.  However, if she wants to move up and eventually take a shot at the presidency, she needs to make a move now.  Party chair is traditionally not a spot of power.  She doesn’t lead her own faction, and she has never won an election.  She doesn’t have a long history within the party, and there are people who resent her current popularity or think that she’s a lightweight.  She needs to win an election, put together a loyal team, govern effectively for a while, hand out a few contracts, and prove that she has real staying power.  Sinbei City makes a lot of sense for her.  She could try Taipei, but she would almost certainly lose and confirm her critics’ suspicions that she is just a wishy-washy intellectual who doesn’t understand real politics.  If she can win Sinbei City and govern it effectively, she sets herself apart as the first real post-Meilidao 美麗島[2] leader of the DPP.

I don’t know who the other nominee might be.  Frank Hsieh is the obvious person, but I wonder if we might not get someone completely different.  This is complicated by the fact that the DPP got wiped out in the Taipei area in the 2008 legislative elections, so there aren’t many candidates from the usual source.  In Sinbei City, Zhao Yongqing 趙永清is perhaps the best positioned to make a run at mayor.  He lost in 2008, but his district, Zhonghe 中和, is a very tough one for a DPP candidate.  He and his family have been running in county-wide races for thirty years, so he has some ties to draw on.  He also has a very good image, with a specialty in environmental policy.  In Taipei City, I can’t think of anyone local who is not too radical (Yeh Chu-lan 葉菊蘭), too inexperienced (Duan Yikang 段宜康), too old and unacceptable to his party (Shen Fu-hsiung 沈富雄), or too tainted by association with Chen Shuibian (Luo Wen-chia 羅文嘉) to mount a serious challenge to Hau.  The only person that I can think of as a reasonable candidate other than Su Chen-chang, Tsai Ying-wen, or Frank Hsieh is Su Jiaquan 蘇嘉全, the current party secretary-general.  He doesn’t seem very interested in running for anything right now.   However, the DPP nominations won’t be decided until May, so there’s plenty of time for other candidates to announce their willingness to serve if Su Chen-chang passes.

[1] I’m not putting China Times polls in my survey section because I can’t find their official reports.  They don’t seem to have a website in which they officially release these result.  They don’t even have stories on the China Times website about these polls.  I only find reference to these polls through other media.  I heard about this poll driving home tonight, saw it referenced on the TV news, and I’m quoting the actual figures from a story on the Liberty Times website.  I also know nothing about how China Times polls are produced.  When I knew something about the world of polling in Taiwan ten years ago, I could be pretty sure about the quality of United Daily News, TVBS, and ERA polls.  I never had the same level of confidence about China Times polls.  Maybe the situation has changed, but I’d feel better if I could read a report.

[2] Most of the top DPP figures were involved in the Meilidao (Kaohsiung) Incident in 1979, including Chen Shui-bian, Frank Hsieh, Su Chen-chang, Annette Lu, and Chen Chu.

Musings on Mayoral Nominations (Part 1)

February 21, 2010

The races for mayoral elections at the end of this year are starting to take shape.  While we don’t know for sure just who the nominees will be yet, we’re starting to get a pretty good idea.

One thing that is looking increasingly likely is that all five races will have only two serious candidates.  None of the smaller parties look to be girding themselves for a battle, and it seems less likely by the day that one of the nominations will go so badly that the loser will launch an independent bid.  Of course, there will be a couple of turkeys, such as Fang Jingjun 方景鈞 in Taipei City and Lin Jingyuan 林景元in Kaohsiung City.  (Fang has run in everything for as long as I can remember.  I wonder if he thinks he gets to count his cumulative votes.  He’s probably well over 10,000 for his career.)  Overall though, these are looking like they will be straight one-on-one slugfests.

So there are ten nominations to be had.  Let’s look south to north.

In Kaohsiung City, there is a monster battle going on between two strong candidates for the DPP’s nomination between Chen Chu 陳菊, the incumbent mayor of Kaohsiung City, and Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興, the incumbent executive of Kaohsiung County.  Both are considered to have done very well in office, but the polls say that Chen is significantly more popular.  TVBS put out a poll on Jan. 25 that had Chen leading Yang 45-21.  She led in every important category, including in Kaohsiung County.  This has not been a dirty fight, as both are running on their very strong records.   They also have pledged that the loser will serve as the winner’s campaign manager, so it looks very unlikely that the loser will launch an independent bid.  I expect them to campaign hard until the telephone polls are held in May (the DPP determines its nominations by telephone surveys), and I expect Chen Chu to win a clear victory.  I also expect Chen to win the general election.  Kaohsiung is not an unwinnable race for the KMT, as many analysts seem to assume.  The two parties are fairly even in Kaohsiung City, and the DPP has a slight edge in Kaohsiung County.  Overall, the DPP would have a slight edge in a generic election in a generic year, but only a very slight edge.  This year, however, the national trends are in the DPP’s favor, and either Chen or Yang is better than anything the KMT has to offer (with the possible exception of Wang Jinping 王金平, who is not running).  So odds are good that Chen will win the election, but don’t put it in the bank just yet.

Who will the KMT’s nominee in Kaohsiung be?  Lots of names have floated around.  Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順 has been the most active in seeking the nomination.  Huang is a six-term legislator whose father was a member of the Control Yuan way, way back in the 1980s.  (I have a pencil holder on my desk with her picture on it, a souvenir from her 1998 campaign.  According to the Jimmy Carter theory of campaigning, now I have to support her.)  Another KMT legislator, Hou Caifeng 侯彩鳳, announced that she was ready to fight for the KMT nomination a few days ago.   My initial reaction?  Landslide!  The KMT has made inquiries to Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jinping 王金平 as to whether he would run.  He would have the best chance of anyone, but he’d still be fighting an uphill battle.  Besides, his current position is arguably better, and he is firmly ensconced there.  There is no risk for him.  (A lot of people think that Ma is trying to remove Wang and replace him with a more compliant Speaker.  To which I ask, is there anyone else who can forge compromises as well as Wang?  And, more compliant???)  There are a couple of legislators in Kaohsiung County, Zhong Shaohe 鍾紹和 and Lin Yishi 林益世, who I have a fairly high opinion of.  Both won their seats fairly easily in tough districts, and I think both would put up a competent, if not winning, campaign.  However, neither seems to be getting much airplay.  The latest person to float up is former Penghu County executive Lai Fengwei 賴峰偉.  Having a Penghu politician is not such a stretch since Kaohsiung traditionally views Penghu as part of its hinterland.  On the other hand, I don’t know that Lai has any more support than any of the others.

The TVBS poll used Premier (and former mayor) Wu Dunyi 吳敦義as a stalking horse in their poll, even though there’s no way he is running.  He beat Huang Zhaoshun 29-25.  Both of them lost head to head with either Chen or Yang by a lot.  The closest pairing was Yang over Wu, 47-30.  The biggest landslide was Chen over Huang 60-20.

So what do I think?  There are currently five realistic names (Huang, Hou, Zhong, Lin, Lai).  Other than Hou, I think they are fairly interchangeably.  Any of them can get 40%, but not much more.

Everyone expects Tainan to be a DPP landslide, and with good reason.  The DPP has a small but clear edge in Tainan City and a huge edge in Tainan County.  This year, when everything is trending toward the DPP, Tainan is a steep, steep climb for the KMT.  To make matters worse, they really don’t have anyone capably of making the climb.  The names that keep floating up here aren’t members of the B team, they’re much lower than that.  Two former Tainan County legislators, Li Quanjiao 李全教and Guo Tiancai 郭添財, have announced their availability.  Guo lost his re-election bid in 2004, and Li tried but failed to win a spot on the party list in 2008.  I read somewhere that Minister of Education Wu Qingji 吳清基 is outpolling both of them, but he still loses by large margins to any DPP candidate.  Today, the TV told me that the KMT leadership’s favored candidate is Xie Longjie 謝龍介, to which I asked my TV, who the hell is Xie Longjie?  Turns out he is a former member of the Tainan City Council who won the nomination for Tainan City mayor last May before the election was cancelled (due to its being upgraded to direct municipality).  This is not impressive.  From the KMT’s side, there are no reasons to expect anything other than a DPP landslide.

From the DPP’s side, there is one.  The DPP nomination is far from settled, and there is a chance that the losers won’t agree to lose.  I don’t think it is a big chance, but a divided DPP is the KMT’s only realistic scenario to win Tainan.  Promising races attract candidates like flies, and six local heavyweights announced that they would make all the heavy personal sacrifices necessary to ensure the protection of the people’s welfare.  Three have since dropped out, but three remain.  The youngest, Lai Qingde 賴清德 leads the polls.  Lai is a legislator elected from Tainan City.  He has been a solid, though perhaps not spectacular legislator.  Su Huanzhi 蘇煥智 is the Tainan County executive.  Su came up through the New Tide Faction, and made his name by refusing to compromise on several environmental issues.  It is this stubborn streak that makes me wonder if he will not accept defeat.  Hsu Tiancai 許添財 is currently mayor of Tainan City.  Hsu has a history of flouting party discipline.  He was lured back to Taiwan from the USA in 1992 to run in the legislature.  When he was not re-nominated in 1995, he ran anyway and caused the defeat of Zhang Canhong 張燦鍙,[1] one of the DPP nominees.  In 1997, Zhang ran for mayor as the DPP nominee, and Hsu ran against him.  Zhang won, but Hsu pulled a lot of votes.  After Zhang’s corruption-ridden term ended in 2001, the DPP pulled Hsu back into the fold and nominated him for mayor where he has served since.  Su and Hsu have both been good in office, but where I think of Chen and Yang in Kaohsiung as roughly A and A-, my impression of Hsu and Su is more like B+ and B.[2]

On Jan 5, TVBS published a poll on the DPP nomination.  (They didn’t bother asking about the KMT nominees.)  The result was Lai 22%, Hsu 15%, Chen Tangshan 陳唐山 11%, Su 10%, Li Junyi 李俊毅 3%, and Ye Yijin 葉宜津 1%.   They used Vice Premier Zhu Lilun as a KMT stalking horse, and all three of the remaining candidates beat him handily.  Lai and Hsu won 46-30, while Su won 42-34.  I don’t know how the polls have changed in the last month and a half, but I’m pretty sure that the KMT isn’t going to be putting up anyone nearly as good as Zhu.  May is still a long way away, and the three are close enough in the polls that any of them could win.  As long as the others agree to lose, it really doesn’t matter which one actually does win.

The Taichung race is officially over.  Jason Hu 胡志強 has agreed to run.  Taichung is a blue-leaning area that can only go green when everything goes right for the DPP.  The national trends are in place, but they can’t beat Hu.  One amusing poll found that Hu was the KMT’s best candidate not only in Taichung, but also in Tainan and Kaohsiung.  In Taichung, the only other candidate being seriously mooted is Liao Liaoyi 廖了以.  Liao was Taichung County executive from 1989-97 and has been working in various high-level party and government positions since then.  He is also a leader of the Red Faction in Taichung County.  The current county executive is Huang Zhongsheng 黃仲生, who is a member of the Black Faction, but I haven’t heard much about him running.  I think the Black Faction is probably throwing their lot in with Hu.  A TVBS poll of Jan 8 gave Hu an overwhelming 59-11 edge over Liao.

The DPP does not have a good candidate for Taichung.  The most active candidate has been Lin Jialong 林佳龍.  Lin is a Yale PhD in political science.  His advisor was Juan Linz.  He specializes in semi-presidential systems and … oops, I drifted back into my other life there.  Besides Lin effectively left academia about five years ago and is now a professional politician.  He has already gotten trounced once by Jason Hu, losing the Taichung City mayoral race in 2005 by a 58-39 margin.  The one thing I’m pretty sure about is that no one in the DPP is very enthusiastic about a rematch.  The only other name that I’ve heard is Qiu Taisan 邱太三.  Qiu also lost in 2005, losing the Taichung County executive race by an equally embarrassing 59-39 margin.  Well, someone has to represent the DPP, right?  The TVBS poll used Frank Hsieh as its DPP stalking horse.  Hsieh beat Lin 31-21, but both lost to Hu by wide margins (57-22 for Hsieh, 62-17 for Lin).  Maybe Hsieh will actually run; he’s developing into the DPP’s designated candidate in hopeless races.

For me, the more interesting question is about Jason Hu’s future as a presidential candidate.  Hu was born in 1948, and the KMT nominee in 2012 will be Ma.  In 2016, Hu will be 68 years old, so that is his last shot at the presidency.  The question is whether Taichung City is a suitable platform from which to launch a presidential bid.  In the past, I would have said that it is not.  However, the new and expanded Taichung City is a different animal.  It has roughly the same population as Taipei City.  It won’t have as big a budget as Taipei, but Hu will have a significantly larger amount of money to throw around than he has now.  Most importantly, mayors of direct municipalities have broad appointment powers, and Hu will be able to put together a team that can work toward the presidency.  The importance of putting together a team cannot be underestimated.  Both Chen and Ma brought lots of people from the Taipei City government into the national government.  Lian Chan built his network of cronies as governor and then premier.  Soong did the same as governor.  Taichung is also the prime battleground, the place where the-DPP dominated south and KMT-dominated north meet.  Whoever wins Taichung will almost certainly win the election.  The one are in which Taichung is really deficient is in media.  Taipei, as the center of everything, gets a lot more media attention than anyone else.

Taipei City, however, will probably not be producing the KMT’s nominee in 2016.  The current mayor, Hau Longbin 郝龍斌, has probably eliminated himself from contention with his lackluster performance.  Hau will certainly contest and probably win another term, but the Taipei City mayor in 2015 will almost certainly be someone who has just started a term and is not ready for a run at the presidency.  As things currently stand, it similarly seems unlikely that a KMT presidential candidate would come from either Tainan or Kaohsiung.  That leaves either the mayor of Sinbei City or someone in the central government as the only other possibilities.  Vice-President Siew is too old, and Premier Wu doesn’t look like he’s going to make it to the end of Ma’s first term, much less to 2016.  Ideally, I think Hu’s best bet is to serve most of this term as mayor of Taichung, and then move up to premier two or three years before the election.  You don’t want to become premier too early, since premiers tend to have short shelf lives.  In other words, another term in Taichung seems like an entirely reasonable path to the presidency to me.

[1] Zhang Canhong 張燦鍙, one of the godfathers of the overseas Taiwan movement in the 1970s and 1980s, would probably be horrified at my use of the (PRC) pinyin system to romanize his name.  I think he preferred George Chang.  Too bad, I’m in a pinyin mood today.

[2] Just for reference, I’d give Hau (Taipei City) about a C+, Zhou (Taipei County) a D, and Hu (Taichung City) an A-.  Not that I have anything objective to base these grades on.  Giving out grades is just a hard habit to break.

New municipal council sizes

February 20, 2010

With the passing of the amended Local Government Act 地方制度法 last month, we know the sizes of the new city councils for the five direct municipalities.  Since these are the highest level SNTV election left in Taiwan, I’m enthralled by them and will be paying far more attention to them than anyone else of the course of the next year.

But first, a bit of background info.  Taiwan used to have a four, maybe five tier system of government.  Under the central government, all territory was separated into provinces.  After the ROC lost mainland China, all that was left was Taiwan Province 台灣省 and a teeny slice of Fujian Province 福建省.  Under the provinces, territory was separated into counties and county-level cities.  So Taichung City 台中市 and Taichung County 台中縣 were of equal status underneath Taiwan Province.  Fujian Province had two counties, Jinmen County 金門縣 and Lianjiang County 連江縣.  Actually, most of Lianjiang County is still on the mainland and the ROC governs only a couple of islands with about 5000 people, but it still counts as a full county in ROC organizational terms.  Under the counties, territory was separated into township-level governments.  Depending on how urbanized it was in the 1950s, it was classified as either a city 市, town 鎮, or village 鄉.  So Nantou County 南投縣 has 13 townships, including Nantou City 南投市, Caotun Town 草屯鎮, and Mingjian Village 名間鄉.  The county level cities also have township-level entities, called districts 區.   However, unlike cities, towns, and villages, which elect their own mayors, district heads are appointed civil servants.  Finally, underneath the cities, towns, villages, and districts, you have cun 村 and li 里 (which are often translated as wards, boroughs, and/or villages).  Cun and li are usually have 1000-5000 people, and don’t have any real independent powers.  Rather, they are organizational units that the higher level governments use to implement policy.  Their heads are elected, however.  Villages have cun, and the other three have li.  (English simply doesn’t have enough words to translate all these terms well, so in the previous sentence I might as well have written, “villages have villages underneath them.” Sigh.)  Oh, and the provincial government was gutted in 1998.

Are you still awake?  Well, in 1967, the government decided to elevate Taipei City 台北市 to a direct municipality, with status equal to a province.  In 1976, Kaohsiung City 高雄市 was also elevated.  Direct municipalities are different from county-level cities in several respects.  First, under the old non-democratic regime, municipality mayors were, like the Provincial Governor, appointed rather than elected.  That, however, changed in 1994, so now all are elected.  Second, direct municipalities have much better funding.  They get a different set of tax revenues and end up with a much larger budget than county governments.  As such, direct municipalities have much better public infrastructure.  Third, mayors of county governments can only appoint about four people.  Everyone else is a civil servant.  In contrast, mayors of direct municipalities can appoint lots of people, including the heads of all the city government departments and districts.  So life is much better as mayor of Taipei City than as mayor of Hsinchu City 新竹市 (county-level city).

This year, after years and years of political wrangling, three more direct municipalities will be created.  Taipei County 台北縣 (which has a larger population than Taipei City) will be elevated.  It is also changing its name to 新北市, which the Taipei Times (my favorite source for translations) is rendering as Sinbei City.  I would have preferred New Taipei (a la New Delhi).  The new Taichung City is being created combining the old Taichung City with the old Taichung County.  Similarly, the new Tainan City combines Tainan City and Tainan County.  Finally, the new Kaohsiung City will expand the old Kaohsiung City (which was already a direct municipality) to include the old Kaohsiung County.

New entity Old entities Eligible voters

(2008 LY list tier)

% of electorate
Taipei City Taipei City 2037601 11.8
Sinbei City Taipei County 2870678 16.6
Taichung City 1900142 11.0
Taichung City 767549
Taichung County 1132593
Tainan City 1430245 8.3
Tainan City 576785
Tainan County 853460
Kaohsiung City 2114221 12.2
Kaohsiung City 1161599
Kaohsiung County 952622
Rest of Taiwan 6935664 40.1

Maybe now I’m finally ready to get to the actual post.

The Local Government Act also set the guidelines for determining the sizes of the direct municipalities.  (All this is preliminary, since the final determinations will be based on populations in June 2010 (I think), but we don’t expect too much change between now and then.)  So here’s what I think we have (updated June 17):

current new
台北市 Taipei City 52 63
北投士林 10 12
南港內湖 7 9
信義松山 9 10
大同中山 7 8
萬華中正 7 8
大安文山 11 13
平地原住民 Plains Aborigines 1 1
山地原住民Mountain Aborigines 0 1
新北市 Sinbei City 65 66
板橋 9 9
中和 7 7
永和 4 4
土城樹林鶯歌三峽 9 10
三重蘆洲 10 9
新莊五股泰山林口 10 10
淡水三芝石門八里 3 3
汐止金山萬里 4 4
瑞芳平溪雙溪貢寮 1 1
新店深坑坪林石碇烏來 5 5
平地原住民Plains Aborigines 2 3
山地原住民Mountain Aborigines 1 1
台中市 Taichung City 103 63
中西區 6 3
東南區 8 4
北屯區 10 6
北區 7 3
西屯區 8 5
南屯區 6 4
后豐區 8 5
潭雅神區 9 6
東勢石岡新社和平區 4 2
大甲大安外埔區 5 3
清水沙鹿梧棲區 7 5
烏日大肚龍井區 7 5
大里霧峰區 9 6
太平區 6 4
平地原住民Plains Aborigines 2 1
山地原住民Mountain Aborigines 1 1
台南市 Tainan City 91 57
東區 10 6
南區 7 4
中西區 5 2
北區 7 4
安南區 9 5
安平區 3 2
新營鹽水柳營 6 4
白河後壁東山 4 2
麻豆下營六甲官田 5 4
佳里西港七股 5 3
學甲將軍北門 3 2
大內新化山上 3 2
善化安定 3 2
玉井楠西南化佐鎮 2 1
仁德歸仁關廟龍崎 8 5
永康新市 11 7
平地原住民Plains Aborigines 0 1
山地原住民Mountain Aborigines 0 1
高雄市 Kaohsiung City 98 66
鹽埕鼓山旗津 5 4
左營楠梓 10 8
三民 10 8
新興前金苓雅 8 6
前鎮小港 10 8
鳳山 14 8
大樹大社仁武鳥松 7 4
林園大寮 7 4
岡山橋頭燕巢梓官彌陀永安 10 5
田寮阿蓮路竹湖內茄萣 6 4
旗山美濃六龜甲仙杉林內門茂林三民桃源 6 3
平地原住民Plains Aborigines 2 1
山地原住民Mountain Aborigines 3 3

So the new law means that Taipei County essentially retains the same number of seats, and everyone else adjusts to that standard.  I haven’t heard how Sinbei City will be apportioning its seats to individual districts, but I don’t see any reason for changes.  The only difference is that they get one more seat for Plains Aborigines.  (I don’t know if this is because the population has increase or because the apportioning rules are different.)

The Taipei City Council will actually be increasing in size from 52 to 63.  This means that each district is going to get one or two extra seats.  Hooray!  It’s a great time to be a candidate there.  Incumbents have a little more breathing room, and new candidates will be able to get nominations.

Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung are exactly the opposite.  They will be bloody.  The number of seats will be reduced by anywhere from a third to a half.  A newspaper article gave the plan for the new districts in Taichung City.  They were debating on whether to use the legislative districts, each of which would have around eight seats or keep the old districts and simply cut the number of seats in each.  As of now, they have decided to keep the old districts.  As you can see, a lot of incumbents are going to become unemployed at the end of the year.  For new candidates, it will be next to impossible to get a nomination.  It will be hard enough for the incumbents to get nominated.  I don’t have the district by district breakdown for Tainan and Kaohsiung yet.  Tainan will almost certainly have to redraw its districts, since the current ones are fairly small.

This certainly was a long-winded way to say Taipei—easy; Sinbei—normal, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung—meat grinders.