Posts Tagged ‘蔡英文’

Nastiness in Kaohsiung

March 16, 2010

The DPP primary for Kaohsiung City Mayor has turned nasty.  Kaohsiung County executive Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興, who everyone thinks is trailing by a significant margin, has launched a barrage of attacks on Chen Ju 陳菊.  The main thrust of these attacks is that Chen has been using her control of the Kaohsiung City government to keep tabs on Yang’s campaign and supporters and to subject his supporters to various sorts of pressure.  For example, Yang accused Chen of sending a policeman to a year-end banquet held by one of his supporters and reporting who showed up, how long they stayed, and whether they spoke.  In another case, Yang claimed that after he visited a temple and obtained their support, the Kaohsiung City government sent an inspector who found that the temple was in violation of various laws.  These are precisely the kinds of tactics the KMT used to use against the opposition during the authoritarian era, so DPP supporters are quite sensitive to these charges.

Chen, of course, denies all these charges.  She has answered them with a classic appeal to trust, “You know me, you know my history, and you know that I wouldn’t do those types of things.”  Chen, of course, has a long history in the democracy movement dating to the 1970s, and she spent several years in prison for this.  One would not expect to see her engaging in these types of dirty tricks.  On the other hand, her campaign has also said that she is governing according to the law, which is exactly what she would say if the charges were true.  (No one doubts that temples violate zoning laws and so forth.  If city officials were to suddenly enforce all the laws on the books, they would have quite a bit of business.  However, many laws are simply ignored.  The charge is that Chen is selectively enforcing laws based on who supports Yang.)

I don’t know what is actually happening, and I am trying hard to resist my initial instincts to assume that Chen is innocent.  After all, I have a professional obligation to consider the possibility that Yang might be telling the truth.

As I see it, there are three possibilities.  First, Chen might be doing exactly all the nasty things that Yang is accusing her of.  This seems unlikely.  The only way it would make sense is if Chen’s campaign is far more paranoid than us outsiders realize.  They would also have to have far different beliefs about how close this race is than everyone else, since everyone else thinks that Chen is winning comfortably and has no need to resort to dirty tricks.  (Of course, having an easy race didn’t stop Richard Nixon.)  I think this scenario is highly unlikely (but not impossible).  Second, Yang could be deliberately making everything up.  Yang is losing and needs to do something to dramatically change the race.  Going negative might be his only chance.  What would discredit Chen more in the eyes of DPP supporters than a story about how she uses secret police state tactics?  Moreover, Yang has a clean and honest reputation, so coming from him, the message has some believability.  My judgment: still unlikely, but a bit more possible than scenario one.  Third, Chen is not callously engaging in dirty tricks and Yang is not telling bald-faced lies.  In many hard-fought intra-party races, people who have been friends for years suddenly find themselves at each other’s throats.  Remember, their careers are on the line, so it’s easy (especially when you are losing) to see injustice, cheating, and backstabbing in small things that you normally would just ignore.  Both sides tend to overlook when they step a little over the line while the other side tends to exaggerate those infractions.  My money is on this one.

I think the best way to judge which of these three possibilities is the correct one is to look at the DPP’s response.  After all, the DPP central office should have very good information about what is going on among its members and supporters.  This weekend, party chair Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 went to Kaohsiung, met with Chen and Yang, and basically told them to cool it.  Secretary General Su Jiaquan 蘇嘉全 suggested that if the campaign looked like it might do serious damage to the party’s image, the party might simply hold the telephone surveys now instead of waiting until mid-May.  Neither Cai nor Su publicly sided with either Chen or Yang, but the threat of moving the primary date is clearly aimed at Yang.  Remember, Yang is losing right now and needs more time.  In essence, Cai and Su told the two to start playing nicely or we’ll do something that is bad for Yang.  They clearly do not have much sympathy for Yang’s claims of dirty tricks.

Yang is playing a dangerous game, and has probably already done considerable damage to his future prospects.  He is largely considered to have done a good job in his two terms as county executive, and he would likely have found a place somewhere.  If the DPP wins the presidency, he would have been on the short list for a cabinet post or some other plum job.  Even if they don’t, the DPP will win some direct municipalities this year, and he might have been able to get a top post in one of those.  Now, a president or mayor will have to think twice about appointing him.  After all, he’s either very paranoid or an outright liar.  Yang has put all his poker chips on winning this year, and it doesn’t look like a very good bet to me.

The most interesting thing about this case may have to do with national politics, not local Kaohsiung politics.  I am fascinated by Cai Yingwen’s response.  Under the guise of conciliation and negotiation, she went in and cracked some skulls.  The ability to find compromises and build coalitions is the most important attribute a political leader can have, but sometimes it helps to be tough as well.  I will be interested to see if the two candidates do actually back off, and, if they don’t, how Cai reacts.  She has made a threat, but I’m not sure she has the guts and/or power to enforce it.  I’m also not sure if it would be wise to break the rules of the game.  If candidates learn that there are ways to force an earlier primary date, this could cause headaches down the road for the party chair.  At any rate, this might be a crucial step in the evolution of Cai Yingwen as the DPP’s leader.  Only two years ago, she was seen as a transitional figure with no real power of her own.  Now I’m wondering if she is so powerful within the party that she can tell candidates (and powerful party leaders in their own rights) deep in a hotly contested campaign to back off.  As of today, she seems pretty powerful and pretty tough.

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.