Posts Tagged ‘Chen Shuibian’

Chen’s alliance

November 27, 2010

Chen Shui-bian’s One Country One Side Alliance won 30 of 37 city council races.  That’s pretty good.


OSOCA City Council candidates

district Name name party Win
Taipei 1 陳碧峰 Chen Bifeng DPP Y
Taipei 2 江志銘 Jiang Zhiming DPP Y
Taipei 3 許家蓓 Xu Jiabei DPP  
Taipei 5 童仲彥 Tong Zhongyan DPP Y
Taipei 6 柯景昇 Ke Jingsheng DPP  
Xinbei 3 陳啟能 Chen Qineng DPP Y
Xinbei 4 王淑慧 Wang Shuhui DPP Y
Xinbei 5 林秀惠 Lin Xiuhui DPP Y
Xinbei 6 許昭興 Xu Zhaoxing DPP Y
Xinbei 7 吳琪銘 Wu Qiming DPP Y
Xinbei 10 周雅玲 Zhou Yaling DPP Y
Taichung 3 劉淑蘭 Liu Shulan DPP  
Taichung 7 何文海 He Wenhai DPP Y
Taichung 10 江正吉 Jiang Zhengji DPP  
Taichung 11 邱素貞 Qiu Suzhen DPP Y
Taichung 13 劉錦和 Liu Jinhe DPP Y
Tainan 2 賴惠員 Lai Huiyuan DPP Y
Tainan 4 郭秀珠 Guo Xiuzhu IND Y
Tainan 5 陳朝來 Chen Chaolai DPP Y
Tainan 7 林志聰 Lin Zhicong DPP Y
Tainan 8 王峻潭 Wang Juntan DPP Y
Tainan 9 施重男 Shi Chongnan IND Y
Tainan 10 黃永田 Huang Yongtian IND  
Tainan 11 唐碧娥 Tang Bi’e DPP Y
Tainan 12 邱莉莉 Qiu Lili DPP Y
Tainan 13 李文正 Li Wenzheng DPP Y
Tainan 14 王定宇 Wang Dingyu DPP Y
Tainan 16 曾王雅雲 Zeng Wang Yayun DPP Y
Kaohsiung 1 鍾盛有 Zhong Shengyou IND  
Kaohsiung 2 張文瑞 Zhang Wenrui DPP Y
Kaohsiung 3 陳政聞 Chen Zhengwen DPP Y
Kaohsiung 4 黃昭星 Huang Zhaoxing DPP  
Kaohsiung 5 林芳如 Lin Fangru DPP Y
Kaohsiung 7 鄭新助 Zheng Xinzhu IND Y
Kaohsiung 9 陳慧文 Chen Huiwen DPP Y
Kaohsiung 10 陳致中 Chen Zhizhong IND Y
Kaohsiung 11 韓賜村 Han Sicun DPP Y


One Side One Country Alliance Roster

September 30, 2010

I found a list of members in Chen Shui-bian’s current political vehicle, the One Side One Country Alliance (OSOCA, 一邊一國連線, my translation).  I’m not sure how this list was compiled.  My guess is that it was released to the media by Chen’s people.  Lists like this are invariably flawed.  The people issuing the list want to make their organization look as impressive as possible, so they put lots of names on it.  People named on these types of lists, by contrast, are sometimes surprised to see themselves listed as members of something that they just attended a few functions for.  In other words, don’t take this list as established fact.

On the other hand, everyone on this list should more or less have good relations with the former president.  One of the things we will want to know when this election is over is whether Chen’s influence is waning or not.  The electoral fate of these candidates will be a good indicator.  If all of them win, you can bet that he will try to put together something similar for the next legislative elections.  If they fail miserably, it will be one more sign that Taiwan is moving on from the Chen era.

My first impression is that this is a really impressive list.  Chen has managed to put together a group of candidates that covers most districts in the five municipalities.  Moreover, many of the ones he is missing are small.  Most voters will have an opportunity to express support for Chen if they wish.  Of course, it is debatable whether a vote for Chen Bifeng or Zheng Xinzhu should be understood as a vote for Chen.  Those two and several others are long term incumbents with their own constituents, and it is arguable that Chen is piggybacking on their popularity.  But after all, that’s usually true of political coalitions.

OSOCA City Council candidates

district name name party
Taipei 1 陳碧峰 Chen Bifeng DPP
Taipei 2 江志銘 Jiang Zhiming DPP
Taipei 3 許家蓓 Xu Jiabei DPP
Taipei 5 童仲彥 Tong Zhongyan DPP
Taipei 6 柯景昇 Ke Jingsheng DPP
Xinbei 3 陳啟能 Chen Qineng DPP
Xinbei 4 王淑慧 Wang Shuhui DPP
Xinbei 5 林秀惠 Lin Xiuhui DPP
Xinbei 6 許昭興 Xu Zhaoxing DPP
Xinbei 7 吳琪銘 Wu Qiming DPP
Xinbei 10 周雅玲 Zhou Yaling DPP
Taichung 3 劉淑蘭 Liu Shulan DPP
Taichung 7 何文海 He Wenhai DPP
Taichung 10 江正吉 Jiang Zhengji DPP
Taichung 11 邱素貞 Qiu Suzhen DPP
Taichung 13 劉錦和 Liu Jinhe DPP
Tainan 2 賴惠員 Lai Huiyuan DPP
Tainan 4 郭秀珠 Guo Xiuzhu IND
Tainan 5 陳朝來 Chen Chaolai DPP
Tainan 7 林志聰 Lin Zhicong DPP
Tainan 8 王峻潭 Wang Juntan DPP
Tainan 9 施重男 Shi Chongnan IND
Tainan 10 黃永田 Huang Yongtian IND
Tainan 11 唐碧娥 Tang Bi’e DPP
Tainan 12 邱莉莉 Qiu Lili DPP
Tainan 13 李文正 Li Wenzheng DPP
Tainan 14 王定宇 Wang Dingyu DPP
Tainan 16 曾王雅雲 Zeng Wang Yayun DPP
Kaohsiung 1 鍾盛有 Zhong Shengyou IND
Kaohsiung 2 張文瑞 Zhang Wenrui DPP
Kaohsiung 3 陳政聞 Chen Zhengwen DPP
Kaohsiung 4 黃昭星 Huang Zhaoxing DPP
Kaohsiung 5 林芳如 Lin Fangru DPP
Kaohsiung 7 鄭新助 Zheng Xinzhu IND
Kaohsiung 9 陳慧文 Chen Huiwen DPP
Kaohsiung 10 陳致中 Chen Zhizhong IND
Kaohsiung 11 韓賜村 Han Sicun DPP

Remembering Mayor Chen

September 5, 2010

Over the past few weeks, I have seen a few comments about former President Chen that made me want to relive a little history.  Some people wonder how he could have ever been elected president, some wonder whether Taipei City changed during his term as mayor, some think that Su Zhenchang’s current campaign is roughly comparable to Chen’s 1998 campaign, and so on.  Besides, it doesn’t take much to set me off on a nostalgic rambling.

I was living in central Taiwan during the 1994 campaign.  I was able to make it up to Taipei for a few campaign events to catch some of the flavor.  I moved to Taipei in the summer of 1995 and lived there for the rest of the 1990s.  I didn’t live in Taipei prior to Chen’s administration, but every foreigner spends a bit of time in Taipei, so I had some familiarity with it.  As a result, I was in position to view the way the city changed during Chen’s term.

Instead of writing today about what Taipei was like then, I have gone back into the depths of my hard drive to find something I wrote in December 1997.  This is an excerpt of a longer piece, so it doesn’t start or finish very smoothly.  Except for correcting grammatical errors, I have not changed anything in the original essay.  All of my current comments are relegated to the footnotes.

From the time Chen and Hsieh[1] were in the Taipei City Council together, there were comparisons of the two.  As the two progressed in their careers at roughly the same pace, and entered the legislature together, increasingly these comparisons transformed into competition.  This intensified after the 1992 elections, when the two were seen as the leading candidates for the DPP‘s 1994 Taipei City mayoral nomination.  The two were often compared with the rivalry between the two leading strategists of the Three Kingdoms Period (around 220-260 AD), Chou Yu and Chuko Liang.  And as in that rivalry, where Chou Yu was a brilliant strategist who just happened to be going up against the only person more brilliant than him, Hsieh was clearly losing out in public opinion to Chen.  In Chinese, the newspapers often referred to 長扁之爭。  But as poll after poll showed Chen to be the top choice, Hsieh occasionally showed irritancy and hints that he didn’t believe and wouldn’t accept that result.  In the 1993 county magistrate elections, Chen campaigned heavily all over Taiwan and was warmly received everywhere (although nothing like what would happen four years later).  For a while, Chen considered running for governor of Taiwan Province instead of Taipei mayor.  Hsieh, needless to say, encouraged this.  However, Chen took a realistic look at the situation and made the right choice.  He had a reasonable choice of winning in Taipei City, but not much chance in Taiwan Province.  In Taipei City, the New Party would split the KMT‘s vote; in Taiwan Province this would not be the case.  Chen decided to stay in the Taipei City race, much to Hsieh’s disappointment.

The party primary finally took place in mid-1994.  To no one‘s surprise, Chen won by a good margin.  The question was how Hsieh would take the news.  At the time, there was still speculation that he might run anyway, or at the very least, force the primary into the second stage, a series of debates and then voting open to the public.  Party insiders feared that this would be a highly divisive process (as indeed it was when it finally occurred in the next year’s presidential primary).  However, Hsieh averted this by announcing that 長扁之爭 would now become 長扁之盟 (minus the poetry, this roughly means that the competition between Hsieh and Chen would be replaced by an alliance between the two.)  Officially, Hsieh would also serve as Chen‘s campaign chief.

In truth, Hsieh worked hard for Chen’s election, but the campaign was run by two political youths, Luo Wen-chia and Ma Yung-cheng.  Both under 30 at the time, these two had gained Chen‘s trust during their tenure as legislative assistants, and he delegated enormous amounts of power to them.  Together, they were tagged with the nickname 羅罵軍 or “The Roman Army” (the Chinese transliteration is luo-ma, exactly the same two characters as the surnames of Chen’s leading generals.)  They ran a brilliant campaign, and after they won, were both brought into the Taipei City government.

The 1994 Taipei City mayoral campaign is important not just because it brought about a change in political power and gave the DPP its first real chance to control resources, it also defined the New Party and brought about a realignment in the voting patterns of the capital city that persisted through the 1995 LY and 1996 NA elections.  While the 1996 presidential elections didn‘t follow this pattern, that should be no surprise — that election didn’t follow previous patterns anywhere.  The tone of the campaign was set early, in Taiwan‘s first TV debate.  In this debate, coming nearly two months before the election, the three candidates set out the positions from which their campaigns would be run.  Chen spoke of corruption in the city government, quality of life, and what he would do to improve the way the city was run.  Huang Ta-chou, the KMT incumbent, spoke of his incompetence.  Well, that wasn’t the content of what he said, but that is what came across very clearly.  Huang was incompetent.  He couldn’t express a thought, he couldn‘t defend himself when the other two accused him of incompetence or corruption, he couldn’t even use all the time allotted him.  It was the worst performance I have ever seen a politician turn in.[2] He took a thrashing from the other two candidates and gave the voters no reason to believe all the attacks weren‘t true.  The English newspaper was being kind to him the next day when it described the debate as what “must have been an incredibly difficult and embarrassing experience for Huang.”  The NP candidate, Chao Shao-kang, made the most enduring contribution to the debate.  He defined his campaign as a campaign to save the ROC.  His strategy was to turn the election into a referendum on independence and to define himself as the most pro-unification candidate.  Up to this point, the NP hadn’t defined itself to be so stringently anti-independence, but after this, the NP came to be seen as an increasingly extremist party.  It also got tagged with the label “mainlanders‘ party”.  Chao’s call to save the ROC effectively mobilized the mainlanders to support him and the NP.  Unfortunately, mainlanders make up less than 15% of the population in Taiwan, and maybe twice that in Taipei City.  Chao won the battle.  The NP beat the KMT and established a firm foothold in Taiwan politics.  Up to that point, it wasn‘t clear that the NP would be a viable party; after the 1994 campaign, it was clear that it would.  However, Chao may have lost the war.  By identifying his party so clearly with mainlanders, he may have alienated too many Taiwanese to ever win more than 15% of the total vote.  And as it becomes clear that the NP faces a very clear ceiling, its members play zero-sum infighting games and voters desert the party for candidates who might have better prospects.

It was an electric campaign.  DPP forces were highly mobilized behind Chen, and his rallies were all packed and noisy.  NP voters are notable for their participation.  They go to events, and they chant and cheer, though in a much more orderly fashion than DPP supporters.  The KMT had very little in this regard, but, hey, what‘s new?  As for the polls, Chen Shui-pien showed a consistent lead until a couple of weeks before the election when Shih Ming-teh[3] made his stupid comment about pulling troops out of Chinmen and Matsu.  Suddenly Chen’s numbers took a dive.  However, the polls showed Huang, not Chao, as taking over the lead.[4] The outcome of the voting was different.  Chen won easily with 43%.  Chao came in second with 30%.  And Huang Ta-chou, Lee Teng-hui‘s handpicked candidate, could only manage 25%.

Chen took office in an atmosphere I have seldom seen.  It was a genuine honeymoon.  Whatever Chen did, he could do no wrong.  Something like my impression of Camelot.  The first thing Chen did went right to the heart of public doubts about the DPP‘s ability to govern.  Chen used a lot of career public servants, academics, and KMT members.  Something like two thirds of the people he appointed were KMT members.  It was, in effect, an admission that all the critics were right, but that Chen intended to govern anyway.  However, none of these outsiders were actually given much political power.  Nearly all political power and responsibility for major decisions was restricted to a group of about five or so people.  This group roughly included Chen himself, the vice mayor Chen Shih-meng (borrowed from the NTU Dept of Economics), the two campaign generals Luo and Ma, head of the Department of Civil Affairs Chen Che-nan and head of the Department of Social Affairs Chen Chu.

In office, Chen has definitely governed, as opposed to merely occupying the position.  I rarely have any clue what local governments do (and if I have no clue, imagine what the average citizen who cares very little about politics knows); however, I can run off a list of things that Chen has done.  They can even be subdivided into various categories.

The first is traffic.  During the Huang administration, we often heard of “The Dark Ages of Taipei Traffic”.  No more.  Chen has taken several measures to improve the flow of traffic and has been astonishingly successful.  The first thing concerns the MRT line.  This in itself was enough to defeat Huang.  The MRT had massive costs overruns, massive corruption, massive delays, and massive disputes with the French contractor, Matra.  (A great campaign line referred to the cost of the line after all the budget overruns:  444,400,000,000 NT.  In Taiwanese, four sounds exactly like death, and Chen used this over and over: “death, death, death, death”.)  In addition, there was serious speculation that, after all this trouble, the system wasn‘t safe and might have to be buldozed.  When Chen took office, he appointed a committee to do a thorough review of the line, and they concluded that some supporting columns needed reinforcement.[5] The reinforcement was done and the line was opened one year after Chen took office.  Regardless of the actual needs (which I am in no position to judge), politically it was brilliant.  After all the focus on the problems, no one would have believed that nothing was wrong.  On the other hand, they couldn’t possibly bulldoze it after investing so much money.  This was a compromise which satisfied nearly everyone.  This was just the beginning of straightening up the MRT mess.  The line in question, the Mucha Line, is merely the first in a whole network.  But Chen has resolved many of the other questions as well.  Corruption, which was rampant, has disappeared.  During the Huang administration, two MRT chiefs were indicted for corruption.  The contrast could not be more evident.  This, by the way, is not only the case in the MRT bureau.  The entire Taipei City government has turned over a new leaf.  The MRT is merely the most notable case.  The MRT delays have also been greatly reduced.  A year after opening the Mucha Line, Chen opened the Tanshui Line, and set a goal of opening the next line on the same day in 1998.  The dispute with Matra was also resolved, although in a much less neat fashion.  Chen terminated their contract.  For a while, observers wondered whether Taipei could run its MRT without Matra, but it hasn‘t collapsed yet.  There have been frequent breakdowns (a flat tire, a stopped train), but these breakdowns have all been minor irritants rather than major incidents.  It might be that there is a time lag between Matra’s departure and the collapse of the Mucha Line, but the collapse hasn‘t happened yet.

While the MRT is the highest profile traffic project, in reality it only serves a small portion of Taipei‘s population.[6] The real improvements in traffic have been made elsewhere.  One of the first things Chen did upon taking office was to greatly increase the number of traffic police.  Now, there are policemen at every intersection which could remotely be described as “major” assuring that traffic flows smoothly during rush hour.  Chen also pioneered the “bus only” lanes to ensure that public transportation would not be bogged down along with the rest of the cars and trucks.  This program is very effective.  The busses can get to their destinations faster than private cars or even taxis, so more people take busses, which in turn reduces the total number of cars on the road, thus alleviating traffic congestion.  He has also undertaken an initiative against parking on the streets of Taipei.  The towtruck armies have been expanded and are much more active.  Chen has even repainted the legal parking spaces to make them smaller and thus less convenient for big cars.  (This particular action could be viewed skeptically, as a common image is the DPP voters ride scooters; KMT and NP voters drive cars.  However, I am not convinced by this argument.  Chen has his fair share of car owning supporters.)  These were not difficult or expensive actions, they required only a little imagination and the will to experiment.  This is also another good contrast between the current and previous city governments.  When faced with this type of problem, the approach of past administrations was to do something big and spend a lot of money.  So they planned a MRT system and lots of new roads.  Truth be told, the planning capability of the Huang administration was excellent,[7] their problem was that they were terrible at execution.  Chen‘s approach has been the opposite.  While he continues Huang’s large scale construction, he has not launched any of his own grandiose projects.  Rather he has focused on using what he has more effectively.  The result has been striking.  Not only is it cheaper, the effect is much more immediate.  He gets the political credit.[8]

A second major “good government” type of initiative has been to revamp the city government.  Before Chen took office, the common image of the city government was of a hulking, immobile bureaucracy.  Chen served notice almost immediately.  He took office at the end of December 1994.  Chen informed officials that the old custom of long New Years holidays was history.  Their job was to serve the people, and his city government would be open and functioning as soon as the holiday was over.  The first day after the Chinese New Year vacation ended (Jan-Feb 1995), Chen held an inspection of all government offices at 9:00am sharp.  He toured the city government with a TV camera crew in tow and bawled out unit after unit when he found that a large proportion of city officials were still on vacation.  This worked.  Chen hurt a lot of feelings, but the general opinion is that the Taipei City government has transformed from one of the least efficient government bodies in Taiwan to one of the most efficient.  (This may just be image.  I‘m not an expert on the actual workings of government.  However, for our purposes, image is what’s important.  Most citizens won‘t dispute the idea that Chen runs a much tighter ship than Huang or his predecessors ever did.)[9]

A third initiative involved what I would refer to as the morality campaigns.  This involves two separate campaigns striking directly at the heart of organized crime.  One was against video gambling; the other against the sex industry.  On both counts, Chen has been impossibly successful.  I used to believe that these were phenomena which could not easily be eradicated, and I still do to a certain degree.  But they have both been largely eradicated in Taipei City.  One day, Chen announced that he was closing down all unlicensed video gambling arcades (which means all of them).  I laughed.  In past experience, that meant the arcades would take a one week vacation and then continue normal operations, if they even deigned to do that much.  But not this time.  This time they really did close down, and they haven‘t reopened for the most part.  The crackdown on the sex industry was even more remarkable.  Chen has driven perhaps 95% of these businesses out of the city, or at least the ones that operated with huge neon fronts and barkers in the door front twisting the arms of every male passerby to come in and try out the wares.  These businesses have folded.  I am particularly impressed by the number of “for rent” signs on brothel storefronts.  They aren’t just waiting for this campaign to blow over before reopening.  They are closed for good.  (Of course, what has really happened is that many have moved across the river to Taipei County.  Should Su Chen-chang try to emulate Chen, he would probably face far stiffer resistance, as capitulation there would mean surrender of the entire greater Taipei marketplace.  Su, in addition, has far fewer resources with which to fight the organized crime industry.)  These two morality campaigns have to have earned Chen the respect of large amounts of middle class voters, especially female voters.

Chen has also been true to his opposition roots in many symbolic actions against the KMT.  One friend of mine described Chen as being like the first Irish mayor of Boston.  The KMT spends millions of dollars on a new party headquarters[10] facing the presidential palace to remind citizens that it is the premier (and perhaps only legitimate) political party, and then they run into Chen.  Chen finds numerous fire and building code violations and refuses to issue a license to open the building.  The KMT wanted to open it two or three years ago.  Today, the steel gate is still pulled down tight and is beginning to rust and there are no signs that it will open soon.  The road in front of the presidential palace used to be called “Jieshou Rd” which meant literally “long life to Chiang Kai-shek”.  Chen renamed the road Kaidagelan Boulevard, after the tribe of aborigines that lived in the Taipei Basin before Han settlers arrived.  This completely changed the tone of the road from symbolizing links with China to symbolizing Taiwan‘s own history.  Independence factions laughed with glee while old veterans tried not to vomit in disgust.  The same type of petty partisan politics was in evidence when Chen refused to renew a lease to provincial government owned Taiwan TV for a transmitter.  Chen instead chose to lease it to the upstart and DPP friendly Formosa TV.  Another example occurred when Chen ordered the demolition of Chiang Wei-kuo’s residence in Shihlin on the grounds that it was an illegal structure.  Chiang Wei-kuo was the adopted brother of Chiang Ching-kuo, a fact that probably contributed somewhat to the singling out of this particular building among Taipei‘s thousands of illegal structures.  It should be noted that Chen has been careful to keep these initiatives to the symbolic level where nobody but the hardliners on both sides give them much weight.  Chen consolidates his support among the independence faction (and so can afford to ignore them on more important issues), and was never going to get the unification votes anyway.  Chen changed the name of the road in front of the presidential palace, but this is a short road with about three or four actual addresses, most of which are government buildings.  He never even entertained the thought of changing more offensive road names which run through residential districts.  That kind of action would inconvenience thousands of voters.

The last major series of initiative involves popular activities.  At various times, the city government has held large scale activities to commemorate various occasions.  These activities have been mostly the responsibility of the Information Office, and its former head Luo Wen-chia.  The first of these activities was a large scale dance for students the night after the joint college entrance exam.  They closed off a major road and went the whole nine yards, with light shows, pop stars, of course, lots of teenagers.  (This is also the event where Chen dressed up as a mixture of Micheal Jackson and Superman, a picture which the KMT loves to circulate.)  There was a lot of controversy over whether the city government should be doing this type of thing, but I think overall it was a positive action.  If nothing else, it was a way for students to blow off steam.  Other large scale events included a Lantern Festival extravaganza, a Retrocession Day blast, and numerous other smaller activities on most holidays.  It was at one of these smaller activities that the tug-of-war incident took place.  (How did your political career end?  In a bizarre tug-of-war accident. [11] )  The incident cost Luo Wen-chia his job,[12] but the activity was representative of a larger strategy.  Unlike other local governments, this local government was active, always doing things for its people.

If it sounds like I am impressed by the Chen administration, that‘s because I AM impressed.  He has done an incredible job.  He ran on a promise of good government and has delivered far beyond what anyone expected.  It might be argued that Chen’s “accomplishments” are really a reflection of his media savvy.  He is in the capital and the media spotlight and he is an expert at spinning the news to his advantage.  This is true.  The tug-of-war incident is a case in point.  He turned that disaster into a positive by good crisis management practices.  However, this is not the whole story.  It‘s easy for him to spin the news because there is meat present.  He is not inventing stories about good government.  The efficient government exists; Chen merely finds ways to persuade the media to report it.  During the Huang administration, corruption was rampant, so the media reported that.  There is plenty of media hostile to Chen, and they would love a juicy corruption story, but they haven’t found one yet.  To write Chen off as a media creation would be naive.

To provide a balanced picture of Chen‘s short tenure (only three years at this point), I should also point out some of his setbacks.  The most constant source of conflict has been with the city council.  The city council is split between the three parties: the KMT has the most, the DPP has exactly one third, and the NP has the least number of seats.  However, no party has a majority, or to put it another way, an alliance of any two parties will produce a majority.  Unfortunately for Chen, the KMT and NP have formed a fairly solid alliance based on opposition to Chen and have badgered him mercilessly throughout his tenure.  At one point they even slashed the gasoline budget for Chen’s car.  This backfired when Chen started taking taxis to work, accompanied by camera crews (of course), thus exposing the tactic as petty and mean.  (This is, by the way, exactly the type of tactic DPP politicians, including Chen, had engaged in over and over in the past.  The KMT/NP coalition probably thought they would just give Chen a taste of his own medicine.  What they didn‘t consider was the fact that the DPP generally aimed its actions against unelected, unpopular, and unaccountable government figures who there was often no other way to attack, while this action was aimed at a popularly elected and media savvy opponent.)  A more crucial setback occurred when a DPP councilor broke ranks with Chen.  This particular councilor, Lin Rui-tu, is an expert on the MRT system.  He wanted to demolish the whole thing.  When Chen showed pragmatism by choosing to reinforce the structure, Lin bolted.[13] This is critical because without Lin, the DPP caucus no longer has the one-third necessary to uphold a mayoral veto.  Chen cannot impose his will on the council.  Fortunately for Chen, the council doesn’t have much power.  Like the Provincial Assembly, it passes the budget and interrogates ministers, and not much else.  However, these interpolation sessions are rarely civil, and violence has broken out.  Predictably, this has hurt the council‘s prestige more than the mayor’s.  The campaign against the mayor has been led by the speaker of the Taipei City Council, Chen Chien-chih.  Mayor Chen is lucky to have an antagonist of Speaker Chen‘s quality; most politicians have to face competent opponents.  For the most part, the mayor has been able to ignore the city council.  However, his party’s minority status there has probably necessitated his focus on small scale projects aimed at improving efficiency.  Any large scale projects would probably be doomed in attempts to get funding bills through the city council.

One of Chen‘s efforts to improve relations with the city council resulted in a setback for both the council and himself.  The issue was a very generous pension plan for councilors based on tenure in the council.  The proposal was rammed through by the speaker (who has the longest tenure in the council and would thus get the most money) via some very questionable legislative tactics.  It should be noted that it was generally supported by senior councilors (regardless of party) and opposed by more junior members.  This was not a partisan plan, though it was highly associated by the media with the KMT speaker.  The media immediately dubbed the plan the “self fattening bill” and gave it intense coverage.  The council backed down quickly, repealing the bill just days after it passed.  Then the blame game started.  The council tried to blame the mayor, who they said had initiated this bill.  (This always struck me as a stupid argument: We never wanted this pork; he forced us to put our snouts in the trough.)  The mayor‘s version was different, of course.  He claimed that a group of senior councilors demanded this bill.  He told them that he didn’t think they could digest it, but if they thought they would be able to swallow, they were welcome to take a bite.  Regardless, it was a media disaster for both the mayor and the city council.

Another setback occurred over the condemnation of some residences for the building of a park.  There is a prequel to this story that must be related.  During the Huang administration, the city government decided to build a huge park in the Da-an district.  They condemned the land and told the people to move out.  The people protested.  Politicians, especially DPP politicians, made a huge issue out of it.  They claimed to represent the people against an oppressive government, etc etc.  The result was (yet another) loss of political capital for the Huang administration.  When the bulldozers went in, the cameras were solidly focused on all the lives they were disrupting, and not a few people refused to leave.  (A footnote: this is now the best park in Taipei City.  As usual, the Huang administration did a great job of planning and a lousy job of execution.)  The park became a symbol of bad government, and both the Chen and Chao campaign headquarters were located across the street from it.

Time passes.  Chen takes office.  Another park[14] is to be built.  In this case, not only are there numerous residents in mostly illegal structures, they are almost all mainlanders.  This area was built up when the KMT was desperately trying to find housing space for all its new arrivals in the early 1950‘s.  So they built shanties.  The result was that Chen faced a potential political mess in addition to the potential social mess.  Any forcible evictions would almost certainly be interpreted as petty bullying of old soldiers.  For the most part, the Taipei City government convinced the residents to move out.  However, there was a small number who didn’t want to move, or didn‘t think the terms of compensation were fair.  The media focused on these.  Eventually, Shih Ming-teh turned up to “mediate”.  (The choice of Shih Ming-teh, arch enemy of the KMT and noted rabble rouser to represent old army veterans was, to say the least, strange.[15])  He ended up denouncing the city government.  (Relations between Chen and Shih were never good, but until then they at least kept their differences under the table.)  Chen’s reaction was swift and effective.  He used the DPP party machinery to silence Shih.  This all made for fertile media fodder.  Overall, this condemnation went much more smoothly than the earlier one, but there was plenty of coverage of Chen playing the role of bully.  I don‘t know if the public interpreted this case as an example of determination to build a better city, or as authoritarian tendencies on Chen’s part.  However, it was a major media event, and will probably be revived in the 1998 campaign. [16]

Overall, this is a very strong record.  If you asked me to say what Lien Chan or Song Chu-yu have done in office, I wouldn‘t be able to come up with anything nearly as comprehensive, and certainly not as favorable.  Chen has been under intense scrutiny for the past three years and has performed beyond expectations.

Chen is also riding high at the moment.  The KMT made a huge mistake in trying to attack him before the 1997 elections.  The move backfired and made Chen into a hero.  He has always been a big draw on the stump, but nothing like in this last campaign.  This time, he got crowds numbering in the tens of thousands nearly every night.  And where before, he could pick who he wanted to campaign for; now he is viewed almost as a resource to precious to not be used on everyone.  He had to make appearances for every candidate.  The official DPP campaign group led by the party chaiman didn‘t get nearly as much attention.  The campaign also elevated speculation about a run for the presidency into practically a done deal.  Where before there were lots of pundits saying Chen should wait until 2004, this opinion has just about disappeared.  And within the DPP, no one would dream of opposing a Chen presidential bid.  Recently there has been speculation as to whether Chen would run for party chairman as well.  (Currently, he seems to be leaning against it.)  It is instructive that the only people coming out against this were members of Chen’s own faction.  When Chang Chun-hung, a leader of the Formosa Faction, urged Chen to choose between the chairmanship and the mayorship, he was met by rebellion within his own ranks.  Very quickly, Chang was clarifying his remarks.  If Chen wanted to run for chairman, they would certainly support him, and Chang personally wasn‘t even considering running for chairman at that time (a patent lie).  DPP members see a chance to win power, and they don’t dare do anything which would damage that chance.  If Chen wants the chairmanship, they will give it to him.  Only his own faction can speak out without being accused of hurting the cause.  It‘s almost like Nixon in China.

Can Chen win?  Maybe.  But it‘s too early for that question.  He still has to win re-election in December and govern Taipei City for another two years.[17]

[1] Frank Hsieh (謝長廷 Xie Changting), later Kaohsiung City Mayor, Premier, and presidential candidate.

[2] 13 years later, I still haven’t seen any worse performance than Huang’s.

[3] Shih was DPP party chair at the time.

[4] I’ve tried to go back and verify this, but my quick and dirty search isn’t revealing clear patterns.  For the last month of the election, all three candidates were at about 20% in the polls, usually with Chen a couple points ahead of the other two.  This represented a boost in Huang’s fortunes, but Huang’s numbers seemed to have started rising about a week before Shih’s gaffe.  Prior to that, I can’t get a clear read on the state of the race, but it seems clear that Chen was closer to 30% and Huang lagged behind, often in the single digits.  Chao was anywhere from 10% to 25%.  Well, polling was not very accurate back then.  People didn’t always answer sincerely (martial law was still a clear memory), and the KMT often arranged for fake polls designed to confuse to be published.

[5] These are the steel jackets on the concrete pillars on Fuxing South Road.

[6] Wow.  I can’t believe I thought that.  The MRT has fundamentally transformed the way people live in Taipei.  Of course, the blue and orange lines still hadn’t opened yet.

[7] The Mucha line was not well planned.  The trains are too small, and it doesn’t go through the most populated areas of Mucha.  I have a vague impression that the awkward route was connected to some land speculation schemes.  The other lines were much better planned, as was Civic Blvd and Huangdong Expressway.

[8] Chen also managed the impossible by requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets.  Through the early 1990s, almost no one wore a helmet anywhere in Taiwan.  The government would periodically announce that it was going to start enforcing helmet laws, but no one ever paid attention.  I think no one ever had the political will to hand out lots of tickets.  When Chen announced that he would enforce helmet laws, I expected the same thing to happen.  On February 28, no one wore helmets.  On March 1, everyone did.  It was astounding.  (There was no change across the river in Taipei County.)  This mayor was really different: when he announced a change, people not only expected that things would change, things really did change.

[9] Another aspect of this was the focus on customer service.  Chen tore out the old service windows, which forced people to look over a high counter and allowed the official to close the window.  He replaced them with low tables.  This allowed the citizen to sit down at an equal level with the official.  This was symbolic of the effort to make officials respond to the needs of citizens rather than to expect citizens to jump at the commands of imperious officials.  Regular citizens loved this initiative; public servants hated it.   They groused for years about the loss of prestige and respect.

[10] The building was finally allowed to open, and the KMT enjoyed its palatial headquarters for a few years.  The KMT later sold this building.  It is now the Chang Yung-fa Foundation.

[11] [Note: Unlike the body of this post, this footnote is produced entirely from my memory 13 years later.  Memories are famously unreliable, so this might not be exactly how everything happened.]

Taiwan was going through a strange tug-o-war fad at the time.  Several groups held contests all over the island, and the twist was that each contest tried to include more people than the previous ones.   So instead of having ten or twelve people on each side, they were getting hundreds of people on each side.  I think some of them were trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.  Now, you can’t just line up three hundred people on each side of a rope and start pulling; that would require a really long rope.  Instead, they used one main rope that had many smaller ropes attached to it.  So you might have a dozen or two people on each smaller rope, angled away from the main rope at 20 degrees.  Imagine 10-30 of these smaller ropes on each side, angling away from the main rope in pairs.  This produced tremendous amounts of tension, and as the contests got bigger and bigger, they didn’t realized just how much force was being produced.  In the ill-fated Taipei City tug-o-war, the main rope snapped.  Of course, everyone fell backward.  However, the real problem was that the ropes were also flung backward at tremendous speeds, and the smaller ropes were thin enough that they were like knives, cutting through anything they encountered.  Unfortunately, this included some of the participants.  Several were injured, and two people were seriously injured.  One of them had his arm completely severed.

The contest was sponsored by the Bureau of Information, headed by Luo Wenjia.  Luo and the rest of the city government  reacted as if this were a major disaster.  Luo instantly apologized and resigned, and Mayor Chen similarly publicly took full responsibility and allowed the criticism to be heaped on him.  There was no effort to talk about bad luck or spin the news as not so bad.  There was also no scapegoat; they didn’t blame some lower-level official.  Instead, the blame went right to the top, with Chen sacrificing his most trusted aide and facing the media himself. They also didn’t try to deflect the news by talking about something else.  Instead, Chen (and Luo)  spent quite a bit of time at the hospital with the injured people.  I remember the man with the severed arm, in particular.  The doctors were able to reattach the limb, and the guy regained use of it within a few days.  But what I remember most clearly was that he was a die-hard DPP supporter, and he kept telling Chen and Luo not to worry and the media what wonderful people they were.  I don’t care how much I liked a politician, if my arm had just been cut off, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be worrying about how he felt.

By about a week after the event, it had become clear that Chen and Luo had handled the accident quite well.  The people involved weren’t screaming for justice, and the media applauded Chen’s crisis management and refusal to duck responsibility.  The latter, in particular, contrasted sharply with what people had come to expect from the KMT government.  In retrospect, this also contrasts sharply with the way Chen mishandled the Bazhang Creek tragedy in the first few months of his presidency.

[12] Luo’s career did not end there, to say the least.

[13] Lin has been one of Chen’s most strident critics ever since.  He is still at it.  Lin was one of the people behind the recent accusations that Chen’s son hired prostitutes.

[14] These are the Number 14 and Number 15 parks, located at the corner of Linsen North Road and Nanjing East Road.

[15] Today, after Shih’s political reincarnation as leader of the Red Shirt Army, this seems less incongruous.  At the time, it seemed like poking a thumb in the old veterans’ eyes.

[16] The KMT’s 1998 campaign against Chen was centered on the idea that he was authoritarian and stubborn.  This theme resonated, probably because it was based in reality.

[17] Funny, but in late 1997 I seem not to have been aware that there might be a timing problem between the two elections.  That is, there were only 16 months between the December 1998 mayoral election and the March 2000 presidential election.  The thought that Chen was going to make a serious run in 2000 must have been so new that no one had yet raised this issue.

why is Xu Tiancai stalling?

August 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, it was widely expected that Xu Tiancai 許添財 would follow Yang Qiuxing’s 楊秋興 lead and launch an independent bid for Tainan Mayor.  He has instead postponed making an announcement again and again, to the point that it is starting to look doubtful that he actually will run.  So while I don’t know what Xu will eventually decide, I’d like to address the reasons that this is not an easy decision for him.  Why is Tainan different from Kaohsiung?  Why not run?

Let’s start with the parallels.  In both Tainan and Kaohsiung, the DPP is expected to easily win a two-way race.  Both are in the south, both have been governed by the DPP for over a decade, and both featured divisive primaries in which a two-term incumbent executive lost.  From the Taipei-centric vantage point that most observers share, they are almost identical.

Of course, they are actually quite different.  Kaohsiung is much more urbanized and industrial.  Tainan is much more rural.  The urban areas are less urbanized and make up a smaller percentage of the total population than the corresponding urban areas in Kaohsiung.  In contrast, the “rural”[i] towns in Tainan are smaller, more rural, more farming, have lower education levels, and have less population mobility.  Tainan is much more homogenously Min-nan.  Kaohsiung, by contrast, has significant populations of mainlanders (including many affiliated with the military), Hakkas, and aborigines.  Politically, the current Tainan County is overwhelmingly pro-DPP, Tainan City and Kaohsiung County are moderately pro-DPP, and Kaohsiung City is about even.  As such, the new Tainan City is much more solidly pro-DPP than the new Kaohsiung City.

The races, as revealed in the polls, are shaping up differently, too.  In Kaohsiung, the KMT candidate is stunningly weak.  The KMT should be able to muster a decent showing there; I’d say that any respectable KMT candidate should be able to defend 40% of the vote.  Huang Zhaoshun’s黃昭順 polls (below 15%) suggest that she is far, far below that number.  In Tainan, the KMT candidate is doing much better.  Guo Tiancai 郭添財got 19% in a recent poll.  Since the KMT base is smaller, with a minimally acceptable target being perhaps 35%, Guo is much closer to respectable among the KMT electorate.  From Hsu Tiancai’s point of view, this difference is critical.  Yang’s strategy in Kaohsiung is to raid the KMT’s pot of votes; the KMT pot in Tainan is (a) much smaller and (b) less vulnerable.  Moreover, while Yang is clearly in second place in Kaohsiung, the polls in Tianan show Xu to only be tied with Guo for second place.  In other words, while Yang can tell KMT voters that he is the only viable option to defeat the DPP, Xu can’t quite make that argument.  In fact, he has to worry about that argument being used against him.

Organizationally, Xu is not in as good of shape as Yang.  Xu has wavered for so long about whether he will run that potential allies have already drifted over to the DPP candidate.  Of course, his inner circle is still there, but the next layer of the campaign team might have to be rebuilt significantly.  With only three months to go, that is a daunting task.  Financially, Yang is probably also in better shape.  A recent magazine cover featured Yang’s five most important backers.  Two were very rich.  One was Terry Gou, the richest person in Taiwan.  (Increased reliance on this connection might also have something to do with Yang’s recent epiphany about the benefits of closer economic relations with China.)  Xu Tiancai probably doesn’t have these kinds of financial resources to draw on.  Tainan, after all, isn’t quite the economic powerhouse that Kaohsiung is.

We also have to think about the former president.  Xu has been very close to Chen Shuibian since the early 1990s, when Xu was one of the core members of Chen’s Justice faction within the DPP.  Chen sent out very strong and clear signals during the primary that Xu was his preferred candidate.  While that wasn’t enough to win the primary, Chen is still a major pillar of support for Xu.  This is another reason that Yang’s strategy of raiding KMT votes won’t work for Xu.  There is far too much animosity among KMT supporters toward Chen to ever think of building a coalition encompassing both.  Xu would have to run on the other side of the DPP, positioning himself as the candidate most wary of China (or as the candidate who “loves Taiwan” the most).  There might be enough voters in that part of the spectrum in Tainan for a viable campaign, but it’s not obvious that these voters, presumably the most anti-KMT crowd, would be willing to inflict such a blow on the DPP.   At any rate, Xu is looking at a very different type of campaign than Yang.

On the other hand, running this sort of campaign wouldn’t necessarily imply political suicide for him the way it does for Yang.  Xu would still be on the same side of the political cleavage.  While Yang is burning all his bridges to his former DPP supporters, Xu would still look to them like someone who is still “right” on the big issues, if somewhat misguided in how to get there.

If Xu did run, Yang’s presence might work against both of them.  Xu would be trying to label the DPP as wishy-washy moderates, while Yang would be trying to paint them as extreme ideologues.  They might both fail.

In sum, Xu might still decide to run, but his calculus is very different from Yang’s and there are very good reasons for his caution.

[i] Personally, I think it’s crazy to consider any township with a population density less than 1000 people/kmt2 or a population of less than 50,000 people to be “rural.” To me, there is very little in Taiwan that is actually rural, but that’s obviously subjective.

Thoughts on Tainan and Kaohsiung mayoral races

July 28, 2010

I’m starting to wonder if I should reassess the way I’ve been thinking about the two southern mayoral races, and especially the one in Tainan.  I’ve viewed these basically as easy DPP victories.  This is due as much to the weakness of the two KMT candidates as anything.  There enough KMT-leaning voters in both districts that, under the right conditions, either could be a close race.  However, neither of these KMT candidates looks even remotely capable of assembling a 50% coalition.  I’m quite impressed with Chen Ju 陳菊 in Kaohsiung and less so with Lai Qingde 賴清德 in Tainan, but Lai has a bigger margin of error to work with due to the larger percentage of DPP-leaning voters.  So I’ve been thinking of both races as roughly 60-40 wins for the DPP.

Both DPP nominees won hotly contested primaries, and it has become increasingly apparent that the losers in those primaries are not going to accept defeat.  Most people expect both Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 and Xu Tiancai 許添財 to announce that they will run as independents in the general election.  However, this has not inspired me to fundamentally change my opinion of the races.  I think both will get some votes, but neither will be strong enough to change the outcome.

Why will they get some votes?  Both have been in office for nine years and amassed a fair amount of political favors.  Both have reasonably good records, more so for Yang and less so for Xu.  Xu will enjoy strong support from former president Chen, and as a non-DPP nominee, will be the co-flagship candidate (Chen’s son being the other) of Chen’s alliance, to the extent that he decides to put one together.  Yang might join this alliance in order to gain some sort of national political backing, but his background is in the New Tide faction, so the fit is not quite as natural.  Regardless, neither one should prove to be an absolute turkey.

Nevertheless, I don’t think Yang and Xu will change the outcome of the races.  Many people who supported them in the primaries will not do so again in the general election.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Many of their supporters are really DPP supporters.  Within the DPP, they preferred Yang or Xu to Chen or Lai, but their first loyalty is to the party.  More importantly, the third candidates almost always get crushed in single seat elections.  Even if a voter still prefers Yang or Xu, he or she might have to face the possibility that they are mired in third place with very little chance to win.  Pre-election polls will make the horse-race widely known, so Yang and Xu have to establish themselves as credible candidates early on if they are to have any chance at all.  Since I haven’t seen any evidence that Yang and Xu are anything but distant third-place candidates, I think the most likely outcome is that their support will be reduced to only their die-hard supporters.  I’m guessing that will be somewhere in the 5-10% range.  In a 60-40 race, a 5-10% candidate will not affect the outcome.

However, let’s assume for a minute that I am fundamentally wrong about the strength of Yang or Xu.  Perhaps one of them could get 20-25% of the votes.  Even that might not be enough to change the outcome.  One of the basic mistakes that people make in thinking about splinter candidates is that they draw their support exclusively from one candidate or party.  This is incorrect.  Xu will draw his support disproportionately, but not exclusively, from Lai.  Some of his votes will come from people who would not have voted in a two-way race, and some of his votes will come from people who would have voted for the KMT candidate in a two-way race.  Remember that there are all kinds of personal networks that overlap party affiliations.  For example, Yang has done lots of work promoting agricultural products, so many farmers who might otherwise lean to the KMT, might support Yang (but never Chen Ju) in appreciation for Yang’s good agricultural policies.  There are probably some voters (not too many) who would vote for Xu based on his surname, who in the absence of a candidate named Xu would vote for the KMT.  Perhaps none of these groups has lots of members, but there are some.  And remember, shedding the DPP party label frees a candidate to court voters who would never consider supporting the DPP.

So let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that 80% of Xu’s or Yang’s votes would have gone to the DPP in a two-way race, while the other 20% would have gone to the KMT.  (80% is arbitrary, but 4 out of 5 seems reasonable to me.)  What would it take to change a 60-40 race?  If Xu gets 10%, this would become a 52-38-10 race.  At 20%, it is 44-36-20, still a comfortable 8% DPP victory.  At 30%, it is 36-34-30, still barely in the DPP’s favor.  In other words, if you start from a 60-40 cushion, the splinter candidate might have to win the election outright to change the result.  Admittedly, we are making lots of assumptions here, but the general point is that simply having a splinter candidate in the election does not mean that the DPP nominees should panic.  The KMT nominees are weak enough that the DPP should be able to withstand the pressure.

I started this post by saying that I might be reconsidering this vision of the Tainan race.  The reason has to do with a small news story a few days ago.  Lai’s campaign team announced that legislator Li Junyi 李俊毅 would be working for their campaign in some capacity.  Li immediately announced to the press that this was incorrect and that he had not agreed to work for the campaign.  He also complained that it had taken Lai two months to come and see him to ask for his support following the primary.

It is not unusual for losers such as Xu to be upset about losing and be unable to accept that outcome.  However, their campaigns rarely attract broad support.  Li’s reaction is something else entirely.  Li also contested the nomination, but he lost decisively.  This is the kind of politician who you would expect to fall into line and support the party nominee, even if he doesn’t really like the guy.  Li will probably be running for re-election as a legislator, and he will want to be seen as a good party soldier.  Even if he doesn’t actually do any work for the Lai campaign, it is strange that he wouldn’t accept the title, wave a flag at big events, and smile politely.

In short, Li’s actions make me wonder about Lai’s broader coalition.  If he can’t persuade people like Li to at least pretend they are all on the same team, does this forebode serious problems for Lai’s team?  Is there something about his personality that repulses outsiders and prevents them from becoming insiders?  I am probably making too much of this, but it is possible that I am vastly underestimating Xu and ex-president Chen, overestimating the value of a DPP nomination in Tainan, and completely in the dark about problems Lai is experiencing in trying to transform his primary campaign effort into a general election campaign team.

DPP Central Standing Committee election

July 22, 2010

I’ve been silent for nearly a month.  So sue me.  Nothing much has happened anyway, except for the ECFA signing, KMT city council nominations, a major judicial scandal involving a former elected official, and a few other things of equally minor importance.  Who wants to write about stuff like that?

Instead of stuff like that (that might have a real impact on the country’s future), I’m going to address something much more mundane today, the DPP’s recent Central Standing Committee (CSC) elections.

The DPP power structure is elected indirectly.  First, the party congress elects the 30 members of the Central Executive Committee (CEC), and then the CEC elects the 10 members of the CSC.  (Yes, this is exactly how the KMT does it too.  The DPP copied the KMT’s Leninist architecture.)  The voting is done according to the SNTV method.  There are also some ex-officio members of the CSC, including the party chair, the three leaders of the legislative caucus, any mayors of direct municipalities, and one county executive (chosen by the various DPP county executives).

The DPP formally abolished its factions a few years ago, and they persist in thinking that we are stupid enough to believe this fiction.  I will not cooperate by calling the factions “the former New Tide faction” and so on.  There are currently six factions to consider: the former New Tide faction, the Hsieh faction (centered around Frank Hsieh 謝長廷), the Su faction (centered around Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌), the You faction (centered around You Xikun 游錫堃), the Grandparents faction (公媽派) (of older DPP leaders, such as Annette Lu 呂秀蓮 and Cai Tongrong 蔡同榮), and the Chen faction (centered around the former president).  Party chair Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 does not have her own faction; instead she is supported by other factions.  However, she is starting to develop her ties and you can see how a proto-Cai faction could emerge.

It is fashionable to say that these factions have no policy content, but I don’t think that is quite true.  Nowadays, you find the Taiwan fundamentalists mostly in the Grandparents and Chen factions.

So here is the result of the CSC election.  I recreated the voting from news stories, so I’m not 100% sure it is correct, but it seems to make sense.

Win? name name votes faction
謝長廷 Frank Hsieh 4 Hsieh
蔡同榮 Cai Tongrong 3 Grandparents
段宜康 Duan Yikang 3 New Tide
徐佳青 Xu Jiaqing 1 New Tide
顏曉菁 Yan Xiaojing 1 New Tide
林佳龍 Lin Jialong 3 You
余政憲 Yu Zhengxian 3 Chen/Chen Ju
蔡憲浩 Cai Xianhao 3 Su
何志偉 He Zhiwei 3 (Su)
陳明文 Chen Mingwen 3 ?
No 張宏陸 Zhang Honglu 3 Su
Total 30

There are a couple of widely reported stories.  First, most people were surprised that Annette Lu was not elected.  Apparently she made a serious miscalculation.  The DPP rules guarantee that the ten CSC spots will have at least two women.  Lu first communicated with the other factions to determine if other women were running.  According to the China Times, she persuaded the other factions to withdraw all but one of their female candidates so that she would be guaranteed victory.  However, she then tried to exploit this concession.  Since only one other woman was angling for a position, Lu decided to throw her support to Cai Tongrong.  With one unfilled seat for women, the party would hold a second round of voting and Lu calculated that her overall prestige in the party would enable her to win that seat.  That way, the Grandparents would win two seats.  (If she had a vote or two to give away, Cai Tongrong certainly needed it.  If he had only gotten one or two votes, he would have lost.)  However, the New Tide faction caught wind of her stratagem, and quickly decided to add a female candidate and give each of its two women one vote.  Thus, Lu had zero votes, and two New Tide female candidates each had one, and no second round was needed.  (Oh, the joys of good organization!)  Of course, Lu has since denied that she was interested at all in running for the CSC.  Well, that’s what I would expect her to say instead of admitting to such an embarrassing blunder, but we have to at least store away (however skeptically) the possibility that she is telling the truth.

The other interesting story concerned the one loser.  Hsieh (with four votes) and the two women were clear winners.  The other eight candidates for seven seats all tied with three votes.  According to DPP rules,[i] ties are broken by drawing lots.  Chen Mingwen drew the short straw and should have been the loser.  Chen, as you will recall, is the former Chiayi County executive and is now a member of the legislature.  He isn’t really associated with a faction, though the various newspapers said that he is close to Cai Yingwen, and he was elected to the CEC with the support of the New Tide faction and Chen Ju.  Most sources copped out and simply listed him as belonging to the Chiayi faction, which doesn’t really exist as far as I know.  At this point, Su Zhenchang stepped in and instructed his footsoldier, Zhang Honglu, not to draw a lot, thereby yielding the last seat to Chen.

From one point of view, Su has gone mad.  The CSC has a two year term, so this is the body that will be making the important decisions about how the 2012 presidential candidate is nominated.  We all expect that to be a contest between Su and Cai.  Su just traded out a sure vote on the CSC for one who might side with Cai.  On the other hand, Su might be trying to expand his coalition.  Zhang Honglu is a minor Taipei County politician.  He doesn’t bring any independent support.  Chen Mingwen, with all of his support in Chiayi, brings something to the table that is worth wooing.  Now Chen owes him a favor, though we don’t know just how far Chen will feel obligated to go in repaying that favor or whether this will shift Chen into Su’s orbit.

As far as the balance of power goes, the most important trend is the decline of the Chen and Grandparents factions.  In particular, many news sources reported that the Chen faction has been shut out completely.  You’ll notice that I have classified Yu Zhengxian as being part of the Chen faction, but his victory was supposedly due more to the efforts of Chen Ju than to the former president.  (Chen Ju needs Yu for his family’s network in Kaohsiung County; she is clearly not part of the former president’s faction.)  Since these two factions are considered to be the redoubt of the Taiwan fundamentalists and the former president, their decline is significant.  It seems clear that the DPP is continuing its transition out of the Chen Era.

On the other hand, it would be optimistic to say, as the Taipei Times did, that this election marked the consolidation of Cai’s leadership.  Both Taipei Times and TVBS asserted that she could claim the support of six elected members of the CSC: the three New Tide members, Lin Jialong, Chen Mingwen, and Yu Zhengxian.  The China Times suggested that Cai lobbied to get Lin Jialong, Yu Zhengxian (via Chen Ju), and Chen Mingwen elected (supposedly, she asked Su to intervene on Chen’s behalf).  Going through the roll call this way makes it painfully obvious how tenuous Cai’s support is.  Cai’s current strength lies in a balance of power.  None of the factions are strong enough to control the party, and all of them are worried about other factions gaining too much strength.  Since she does not have her own army, Cai is not as much of a threat.  She is a comfortable umbrella for everyone.  And recall that everyone is supposed to be on the same side here – the New Tide faction might want more influence, but it doesn’t want the Su faction to be totally shut out of power to the extent that it might leave, and thus diminish, the party.

So who runs the party?  Well, we’re not sure.  It might be Cai, as Taipei Times and TVBS suggest.  On the other hand, a story from the Central News Agency suggests that the “New-Su-Alliance” (New Tide, Su Faction, plus He Zhiwei, who is associated with Su but is claiming an independent faction named the Green Friendship Alliance) was the big winner.  Did they mean that such an agglomeration exists or simply that the New Tide and the Su factions were the big winners?  Other media outlets, such as zhongguang radio, picked up this story and gave it the former interpretation.  Personally, I doubt there is a clear ruling faction.  Cai Tongrong is probably going to be in the opposition most of the time, but the other members will move in and out based on the question at hand and the shifting sands of power.  If she is a reasonably talented politician, Cai Yingwen should generally be able to form coalitions to suit her purposes.

I almost forgot to list the ex-officio members:

name name position
蔡英文 Cai Yingwen Party chair
柯建銘 Ke Jianming Legislative caucus leader
官碧玲 Guan Biling Legislative caucus leader
潘孟安 Pan Meng’an Legislative caucus leader
陳菊 Chen Ju Kaohsiung mayor
蘇志芬 Su Zhifen Yunlin County executive

No news article bothered to speculate on these people’s factional status.  I’m not sure at all, but if you forced me to guess, I think Ke gets along with and is trusted by everyone, Guan and Su are part of the Hsieh faction, and Pan belongs to the New Tide faction.  Chen Ju and Cai Yingwen head their own small power centers, though they are loosely allied with one another.

I was curious how things have changed since 2008, so I looked up a story in the China Times on the 2008 election.  Here’s how they described the CSC then.

name name faction My comments
蔡同榮 Cai Tongrong Taiwan independence fundamentalist
陳勝宏 Chen Shenghong Father of He Zhiwei, so probably close to Su faction
陳明文 Chen Mingwen Supported by New Tide
許添財 Xu Tiancai Chen
羅文嘉 Luo Wenjia Chen
段宜康 Duan Yikang New Tide
徐佳青 Xu Jiaqing New Tide
蘇志芬 Su Zhifen Hsieh Elected, not ex-officio
蔡憲浩 Cai Xianhao Su
方昇茂 Fang Shengmao You
蔡英文* Cai Yingwen Ex-officio, party chair
柯建銘* Ke Jianming Ex-officio, caucus leader
賴清德* Lai Qingde New Tide Ex-officio, caucus leader
張花冠* Zhang Huaguan Ex-officio, caucus leader
楊秋興* Yang Qiuxing New Tide Ex-officio, Kaohsiung County executive
陳菊* Chen Ju Ex-officio, Kaohsiung City Mayor; close to New Tide

The biggest change from two years ago is the decline of the ex-president’s faction.  Then, the Chen faction was still strong enough to put two of its members into the CSC.  The other thing that hits me is just how well the New Tide did two years ago.  They were described as one of the winners this year, but they arguably did better two years ago with claims on three of the ex-officio members.

Finally, I’m amused by statements that this election shows that the DPP’s intra-party democracy is a sham.  These statements are coming from both the KMT and from losers in this election, such as Annette Lu and Luo Wenjia.  They point to the organization involved, with people voting based on the instructions of their factions instead of listening to the appeals of various candidates as evidence that there is no democracy involved.  To that, I say pshaw!  Or maybe phooey!

The voters involved in this election are highly politicized and have strong opinions.  You simply aren’t going to change their minds about where they stand with a few speeches.  In the context of American politics, I consider myself to be what used to be called a “yellow-dog Democrat,” because I’ll vote for any candidate, even a yellow dog, as long as he’s a Democrat.  Does that mean that I am a mindless, brainless voter?  Of course not!  I understand the role that political parties play in the American system means that, based on my values, I always want the Democrat to win.  Even if there were an individual Republican who I preferred to the Democrat in a particular race, that Republican is sufficiently constrained by the other Republicans and by Republican voters that he or she will probably end up acting in ways that I don’t like as often as not.  So I have an easy vote decision: I vote straight ticket Democrat without needing to think very much.  Now, DPP internal factions are not the same as political parties, but the point is that these voters can make very good decisions about what is best for them and their values even when they are blindly voting according to instructions from their faction leaders.  In fact, one might go so far as to argue that by cooperating in this kind of organization, they are maximizing their influence.  Elections are, after all, a test of power.  Claiming an election is undemocratic is often the last refuge of losers.

As for the KMT, well, their last Central Standing Committee election featured so much vote-buying that the party chair cancelled the election.  If they are looking for an example of an election with questionable democratic credentials, they might start there.

[i] I’m always shocked that they can’t come up with a better tiebreaking system.  With so few votes, there is always a tie to break.  There has got to be a better way.


June 22, 2010

Lots of rumors are swirling around these days.  They are fun and frustrating at the same time.  I take them with a grain of salt, ready to disown them if they turn out to have no substance and equally ready to say “I already knew that” when they turn out to be correct.

So apparently former President Chen 陳水扁 announced that he will be running for the legislature.  Assuming that Lai Qingde 賴清德 wins the Tainan mayor election, Lai’s seat will become vacant and a by-election will be necessary.  Chen supposedly told someone that he would run for the seat.  Until his appeals are exhausted, Chen is legally not prohibited from running, and the seat is in Tainan, his home base.  On the other hand, no one has confirmed that Chen actually said or meant such a thing.  Also, my early handicapping is that Chen probably wouldn’t win.  The KMT is not that weak in this seat.  Lai won it by running ahead of the party list vote.  Former PFP legislator Gao Sibo 高思博 is primed to make another run at the seat.  Also, while Chen might get some sympathy votes from diehards, he would probably lose the swing voters who are disgusted with him.  This is the best case scenario, assuming that he either gets the DPP nomination or the DPP stands aside for him.  If he has to run against both a KMT and DPP candidate, forget it.  All in all, if Chen does choose to run, it will not end well for him.

The DPP is having major problems in Tainan, where both of the losers in the primary race are reportedly plotting to run in the general election.  Both Xu Tiancai 許添財 and Su Huanzhi 蘇煥智 have set of support organizations, a classic step one takes before running in an election.  (Perhaps the fact that they are only doing this now says something about why they lost the primary.)  Also, the TSU is reportedly interesting in offering one of them its nomination.  The TSU vehemently denies this and has accused the KMT of spreading vicious rumors.  I don’t know what to make of this except to note that Xu Tiancai has twice (1995, 1997) run against DPP nominees, so he has a track record.

Finally, mysterious polls say that the races in the north are tightening up.  Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 is only losing by five points, and Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌 has actually overtaken Hao Longbin 郝龍斌, though none of the leads are statistically significant.  These results are being widely reported by the media so the polls must exist somewhere, but the interesting thing is that I cannot find either who did the polls or what the exact numbers are.  One story referred to KMT internal polls, but others mention “media” polls.  Until I see a source, I will take this with a grain of salt.

So we are to believe that the DPP is falling apart in Tainan, while the KMT’s lead is evaporating in the north.  If you combine this with recent events in Taichung, it seems that Kaohsiung City is the only race that is still going according to script.  …if you believe everything you hear, that is.

Update:  Sorry about that Kaohsiung thing.  I should have known better.  Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 (loser of DPP primary) is now threatening to run as an independent in the general election.  So throw out the script altogether.

Tainan Mayoral Race Set

May 13, 2010

In the past week, both parties have finalized their nominations for the Tainan mayoral race.  The DPP has nominated Lai Qingde 賴清德, while the KMT will nominate Guo Tiancai 郭添財.  The early polls (and all other indicators) make Lai a prohibitive favorite to win the general election in November.

The DPP released the results of its nomination surveys last Friday.  Here are the results:

Lai Qingde Xu Tiancai Su Huanzhi Li Junyi Ye Yijin
賴清德 許添財 蘇煥智 李俊毅 葉宜津
Shanshui 46.27 29.84 19.60 2.62 1.66
Guanchajia 43.52 33.17 18.63 2.78 1.90
Jingzhan 43.05 34.80 18.70 1.65 1.80
Average 44.28 32.60 18.98 2.35 1.79

As you can see, Lai won by a comfortable 12% margin, well above the margin of error for a single poll.  Moreover, the three polls yielded nearly the same results.  While the Shanshui poll was a bit more favorable to Lai, the difference was only about 3%, not an unreasonable result for a random sample.  Like the Kaohsiung surveys, the DPP got a clear and clean result here: Lai was clearly the winner.

It’s probably a good thing that Lai did win by so much, because comments from Xu’s camp lead me to believe that he was looking for an excuse not to accept the results.  On the one hand, he doubted the fairness of the polls because he didn’t think he should have lost by that much.  (Had he lost by less, you can bet that he would have thought he should have won; politicians are like that.)  On the other hand, he doubted the fairness of the polls because he wondered if there was some sort of sampling problem.  His argument was roughly as follows.  He was particularly strong in two townships in Tainan County, Dongshan 東山鄉 and Madou 麻豆鎮, and his support organizations (後援會) there reported that none of them had received a telephone call.  He concluded that there must have been something wrong with the sampling.

Ok, lets do a little math to see how likely that is.  In the 2008 presidential election, there were 1432399 eligible voters in Tainan County and City.  Of those, 55353 lived in Dongshan and Madou.  How many of those could be in Xu’s support organization?  Let’s assume (optimistically) that 80% of the eligible voters are politically active enough to potentially participate.  Then assume (again, optimistically) that 65% of those lean green, and 50% of the green leaning voters supported Xu.  Finally (and most unreasonably), let’s assume every single one of those people is in Xu’s support organization.  That’s 14392 people, or roughly 1% of the total electorate.  (In fact, I’d be shocked if his support organization in those two towns were even one tenth that size.)  Assuming the sample sizes were 1000 for each of the surveys, or 3000 total, about 30 of those people should have been sampled.  If (and here we assume perfect reporting from every member of the organization back to the top) none of them were in fact sampled, we might be a bit suspicious.  On the other hand, if it turns out that Xu’s support organization is only one twentieth that size, roughly 700 people, then only 1.5 of them should have been sampled.  There are lots of sets of random samples that would not include any of these people.  In short, Xu’s complaint is only reasonable under the most heroic of assumptions.  Frankly, if Xu Tiancai, a supposed expert in financial matters, doesn’t understand basic notions of probability, (I probably shouldn’t finish this sentence).

In the day or two after the results were announce, Xu succumbed to better judgment and indicated he would not split the party by running as an independent.

Why did Xu and Su lose?  I have heard two good explanations.  The first is that both Xu and Su were two-term incumbents, and voters wanted a change.  Lai certainly hammered this point throughout his campaign.  If he didn’t think it was working, he probably would have stopped saying it.  However, I’m not completely convinced that this was the real key.  Voters in Taichung City seem to have few qualms about giving Jason Hu (another two-term incumbent) four more years.  One might argue that Hu is a KMT member, and DPP voters take notions of rotation of power more seriously.  Ok, but Taipei County voters didn’t seem too worried about sending Su Chenchang back into power which would have made it three of the past four years for him in that office.  I think this probably helped Lai, but I doubt it was decisive.

The other explanation is that this primary (as well as the Kaohsiung primary) was a rejection of Chen Shuibian.  Of all the candidates in the Tainan race, only Lai did not personally go and visit Chen in prison.  In fact, Chen publicly complained that Lai had not visited him.  Chen’s favored candidate was Xu, who was a member of Chen’s Justice Faction going back to the 1992 election.  In fact, Chen’s support was a central theme of Xu’s campaign (though perhaps not as important as Xu’s record as mayor).  It may be true that Lai’s victory really represents a desire to move away from the Chen era (and Lai is much closer to party chair Cai Yingwen).  However, remember that this was a multi-candidate election.  If we are going to interpret Lai’s support as a rejection of Chen, we must also remember that 55% of the Tainan electorate supported candidates who actively curried favor with Chen.  So let’s not get carried away speculating on the national implications of this primary.

I don’t know much about Lai Qingde, and voters usually know more about their executives than their legislators.  I have a feeling this was really more of a rejection of Xu and Su than a victory for Lai.    My guess is that both of the above factors mattered, but that dissatisfaction with the performance of the two incumbents was probably the decisive factor.  Of course, I have no evidence for this line of speculation.

Today’s newspaper brings reports of the KMT side of the race.  After weeks of trying desperately to find someone else, the KMT finally admitted that it was stuck with the declared candidates (just as in Kaohsiung).  Four waves of surveys all showed that Guo Tiancai 郭添財was slightly more popular than Li Quanjiao 李全教, by margins of between 1% and 3%.  Now, 1-3% is not significantly different in a single poll, but if you find those differences again and again over several polls, eventually you can determine that one is, in fact, higher.

Li has accepted the decision and expressed support for Guo, though let’s not imagine he was swayed by my argument about repeated polls.  He would probably be fighting a bit harder if this were a winnable race.  However, the “prize” is to waste a lot of money and energy in what is almost certain to be a humiliating defeat.

The UDN has an interesting article on the decision between Guo and Li.  (Well, interesting to me: it has the smallest headline and the least space on the entire page.)  Guo, it seems, was the safe choice.  Li had much more grassroots support and much better organization.  However, Li also has a court case pending and is considered much more controversial and attackable.  Guo, in contrast, is a former education bureaucrat who is now serving as vice-president of a technical college.  He hasn’t cozied up to grassroots power brokers; in fact, they complain that he is a cold fish.  However, this race is really about setting the table for 2012, and it wouldn’t do Ma Yingjiu any good to win a few more votes this year while sullying the party image.

So, how is the horse race looking?  A UDN poll from last Friday says Lai 57, Guo 15, undecided 27.  (The same poll had Lai 59, Li 15, undecided 26.)  I don’t think Lai will win by a 4-1 margin, but a 2-1 victory is not out of the question.