Posts Tagged ‘Hao Longbin’

campaign trail: Hau parade and rally

November 22, 2010

On Sunday afternoon, I went to Hau Long-bin’s parade and rally.  I didn’t start with the marchers or join them on their trip from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial to the Presidential building.  Instead, I showed up to the former new KMT party headquarters by the East Gate at about 4:00.  Probably about a third of the marchers had already arrived.  I watched as the remaining marchers went passed and entered Kaidagelan Ave., where they had a stage erected.

The parade started out as an election mobilization parade, and then morphed into a protest against “corruption” (read: Chen Shui-bian) when Chen was found not guilty.  After Chen was found guilty in another case, the KMT was left without a theme, so they decided the parade would be a festive carnival.  And then a few days ago, in the wake of the Yang Shujun incident at the Asian Games, they decided that this should be a demonstration in support of Yang Shujun. (Or maybe it was against unfair treatment by international sporting authorities.  I’m confused).  As you might expect from this mishmash, all of these ideas showed up a little.  There was a signature petition against Chen and a truck supporting judicial reform.  Several legislators showed up in Tai Kwon Do uniforms.  And they had big balloon floats and people dressed up in lots of fun costumes.  It was all quite fun.

I must dedicate an entire paragraph to the single most spectacular participant, who I encountered about 10 minutes after the battery in my camera died.  There was a man on stilts.  The stilts were the least interesting thing.  He was wearing a clown wig, a halter top (like a bikini top), and bright green Sinbad the Sailor pantaloons.  Colorful, yes?  Did I mention that he was about 75 years old, with wrinkly, saggy old person’s skin?  Don’t forget, he was wearing a bikini top.  Actually, I’m not completely sure it was man.  And he was missing a few teeth, so he had a snaggly smile.  The best part was that whenever someone saw him and stared in disbelief (which was everyone), he would shake his booty like a sexy go-go dancer at them.  New Orleans would have been proud to have this character prowling Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras.  All I can say is, well done sir.  This was far above and beyond the call of duty.

However, somewhere about 15 minutes after I started watching, I became aware that I was missing an important aspect of the march.  There weren’t that many people.  There were big gaps in the line of marchers.  Sometimes you had 50 meters with only one or two people.  And after those first few groups, I started paying more attention to the expressions on people’s faces.  They weren’t happy or angry.  They were mostly just tired.  Now this could have been from walking for two hours.  But this isn’t my first parade.  Usually, people rely on each other to keep their energy up.  They yell slogans, cheer for each other, and have a good time.  There wasn’t much of that at all.  There were very, very few spontaneous chants.  Every once in a while, someone (usually working for a city council candidate) would try a frozen garlic cheer, but they faded out pretty quickly.  Mostly, the marchers just quietly (grimly?) finished their task of marching to the rally site.

The crowd at the rally stretched back to the front of the East Gate (though not behind it).  That sounds like a lot of people, right?  Well, Kaidagelan runs from the presidential building to the East Gate.  Halfway between them, it is crossed by Guanqian Rd.  Normally, the stage is right in front of the presidential building, but today it was placed after Guanqian Rd. (on the side closer to the East Gate).  In other words, they only choose to use about 40% of the available space, and they just barely filled even that.

13000 people is a lot, but the KMT has been building to this event for weeks.  A very large percentage of those 13000 people were working (holding signs for a city council candidate, in charge of carrying balloons, and so on) or otherwise mobilized.  My guess is that about half of the crowd was completely unmobilized.  That is not very good for something with this much buildup.  And remember, the people who did show up were not very energetic.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this event was a disaster.  So what?  Well, no one quite knows what this means for the hundreds of thousands of usually blue voters who didn’t show up.  My guess is that there is something like a ladder, and everyone is one step below their normal position.  These people who showed up today with no energy would normally be enthused.  The people who would normally show up but not necessarily cheer wildly stayed home.  The people who would normally stay at home but pay close attention on TV might not be so concerned this year.  At the end of this ladder, the people who might normally vote without much enthusiasm just might not bother to turn out this year.

The part of my brain that pays attention to past election results says it is almost impossible for Hau to lose this election.  The part of my brain watching the campaign keeps insisting that he is in real trouble.

I’m not a great photographer, so I apologize for the quality of these pictures.

Floats!  Isn’t this fun!

A whole battalion of superheroes.

City Council candidate Wang Xinyi 王欣儀 dressed as a fairy.

City Council candidate Zhong Xiaoping 鍾小平 ready to kick ass!

They were filling this hot air balloon when I arrived at 4:00.  It looks fantastic.  One of Hau’s slogans is “Taipei taking off” 台北起飛 and they had a lot of airplanes ready to take flight.  This fit the theme perfectly.  When I left the rally nearly two hours later, the balloon was still in the same place.  The rally wasn’t quite over, so they might have been saving it for a grand finale, but it was already dark and it wouldn’t have had much effect.  If Hau loses the election, this balloon that didn’t take off while there was still daylight (if at all) might be a good metaphor for his campaign.

This sign announces a petition drive to protest the corruption of Chen Shui-bian and the judge who protected him.  It is sponsored by city council candidate Li Qingyuan 李慶元。

This guy is warning us about pink wolves (Chen and Su) who will betray the country.  Pink is a reference to all the pink Su has been wearing in this campaign in an effort to de-emphasize his green affiliation.

Not many marchers.  There were lots of gaps like this one.

These marchers just look tired.  I saw this again and again.

campaign trail: Hau rally

November 13, 2010

[author’s note June 16, 2015: Now that Hung Hsiu-chu seems likely to become the 2016 KMT presidential nominee, I suspect the internet will rediscover this post. For my current thoughts about this post, please read this.]

I went to a rally for Hau Long-bin last night that was a bit surprising to me in several respects.

For one thing, I was starting to wonder if he was ever going to bother running a race.  In the 1976 American presidential election, Gerald Ford famously followed the rose garden strategy.  He eschewed the campaign trail and instead stayed in the White House and tried to look presidential and above petty politics.  At the beginning of the race, he trailed Jimmy Carter by a whopping 33%.  He ended up losing by only 2%.  Hau has been following a somewhat similar tact in the past couple weeks, spending nearly all his time and energy opening the Flora Expo.  We’ll call it his rose (and other flowers) strategy.  So far, it doesn’t seem to have worked as well as Ford’s strategy did.

Hau had an event last night at the Da-an Park.  Over the years, I’ve been to dozens of rallies in this venue, and I had high hopes for this one.  The park is surrounded by neighborhoods that tend to vote solidly blue, have lots of mainlanders, and have the highest education levels in Taiwan.  During its heyday in the mid-1990s, the New Party had a series of spectacular events in this park.  They had huge, enthusiastic, self-mobilized crowds, and these were the most participatory audiences I have seen in Taiwanese politics.  As a result, I expected last night to be a lot of fun.

It was not at all what I expected.  The theme of the event was military veterans and their families.  There were about 2000-2500 people, and probably at least three-fourths had been mobilized.  It wasn’t hard to tell; you only had to look at all the identical red caps that most of the crowd was wearing.  So they weren’t the usually neighborhood crowd, and, not coincidentally, they weren’t very enthusiastic or spontaneous either.  They weren’t bored, but they weren’t fully involved either.

The first speaker I saw was legislator Hong Hsiu-chu 洪秀柱.  She gave a stunningly radical speech.  It went something like this:

In 2000, we lost governing power, and it was painful.  We had eight years of hate.  Hate.  Then in 2008, we won back governing power, and we were very happy about it, but we were still unhappy about some things.  These two years, we have been dissatisfied.  You know why.  But we finally got some relief yesterday.  Even though many of us still aren’t satisfied, and we think the penalty should be heavier, I guess we can accept it.

She never once called Chen Shui-bian by name; instead, she called him “that person.”  (It was as if by refusing to say his name, she could more deeply convey her disgust.)  She repeated the word for hate (恨) several times, just to make sure we all got the point.  To put it simply, it was just a vengeful speech.  Lots of politicians like to talk about “love.”  I still don’t have any idea what love means, but I’m pretty sure that this speech was just about as far from love as you can get.  She wanted pain, not simple punishment.  You got the idea that if it were up to her, she might settle on some medieval torture (flaying the skin, burning flesh, breaking bones, all while the victim is still alive) as an appropriate sentence.

Frankly, I was a bit stunned that the KMT would let her on the stage with that message.  Even for people who want to see Chen convicted, this was too harsh.  It is one thing to think that punishment needs to occur to prevent future corruption.  It is another to take glee in seeing that punishment administered.

Interestingly, the audience didn’t seem too enthused by her message.  It wasn’t an overly energetic crowd, but it seemed much more interested in cheering for Hau than in jeering Chen.  I didn’t expect that either.

There were a couple of musical performances, including a trumpet performance.  As a very, very lousy former trombonist, I feel the need to comment on anything brass.  It didn’t go very well.  The guy fracked a note in the opening lines of Gonna Fly Now (theme from Rocky), and you could tell it wasn’t going to be his night.  He had a very nice full tone, but technically, he made several mistakes.  After the first blip, you could sense his throat tightening and his nerves jingling.  Most of Rocky (which, by the way, isn’t the hardest piece in the world) was played in a lower register, and the glamour for all brass performers, especially trumpeters, is in the high notes.  He was going to go up an octave, and it wasn’t going to work.  I kept telling him not to do it, knowing full well that the lure of the upper register would be irresistible.  He tried, his throat constricted, and he got a mouthful of frack.  Thankfully, he went back down to the easier range and finished the song with some dignity.  The second song he played was extremely easy and went by uneventfully.  I wonder if the crowd realized that his performance was so rough.  Maybe I’m just an unrealistic critic.  I’m sure there is a metaphor in all this, but I don’t know what it might be.

Hau Long-bin’s speech wasn’t as good as the trumpeter’s performance.  From a technical perspective, he doesn’t seem to know when to raise his voice and when to lower it.  He isn’t very good at building a point to a climax, and he never gives the audience any hints that he is about to ask them to answer his rhetorical questions.  But these weren’t the real problems.

Hau’s content was atrocious.  His main message seemed to be that people don’t appreciate all his hard work.  At one point, he just repeated a few times that he was doing things.  He neglected to give any specifics though, which made me think that he hadn’t done anything and was trying to cover with empty yelling.  And his logic was awful.  At one point he complained about the DPP/Su campaigns attacks on the Flora Expo.  He cited two or three very specific charges (ie: wasting money on a certain type of vegetable).  Then he “refuted” these charges by saying that what they had forgotten was that the Flora Expo was not his or Taipei City’s, but all of Taiwan’s Flora Expo.  Great, but it could be that without wasting money.

In general, Hau never seems to have grasped that the Flora Expo is not, in fact, the equivalent of the Olympics, or even the World Expo.  At one point, he said we have waited for decades for the Flora Expo.  We’re 40 years behind Japan, 24 years behind Korea, 12 years behind the Mainland, and 4 years behind Thailand.  Hmm.  I guess I never thought of it that way.  All those years when I had never even heard of the International Flora Expo, I should have been pining away for the Flora Expo to bring its glory to Taiwan.  Apparently the head of the international flower association is thrilled with the Flora Expo and is going to hold this event up as a model for all future hosts to copy.  It doesn’t surprise me that he is happy that Taipei spent half a billion USD on his association’s event and that he would like future hosts to lavish similar budgets on them.  (Note: As you might guess, I’m not a big fan of the Flora Expo.  Perhaps this is because I don’t particularly like flowers.  Maybe I’d feel differently if it were the International Election Campaign Exposition.  Sorry, I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked.)

To me, Hau’s tone was reminiscent of Huang Dazhou and Chou Hsi-wei.  You don’t appreciate all my hard work, you aren’t giving me enough credit, can’t you see that my opponent is just a good talker.  (Barack Obama was projecting a bit of this tone in the recent campaign.)  This tone is the hallmark of someone losing a campaign that they don’t think they should be losing.  I think Hau thinks he is in trouble.

The last speaker was President Ma.  He was fantastic.  Granted, he still isn’t technically very good.  He still doesn’t control his volume appropriately, he doesn’t do a good job of getting the crowd involved, and he doesn’t speak very smoothly.  However, his content was fabulous, and he almost undid all of the damage from Hau’s speech and convinced me that Hau has been a good mayor.

Ma spoke for about 20 minutes and went into quite a bit of detail about the things that Hau has done.  Several times, Ma discussed a program that he had started, and that Hau had continued and improved dramatically.  Some examples include connecting homes to the sewerage system, leveling sidewalks, the Flora Expo, the MRT smart card, and so on.  Ma spouted statistics showing how much better Hau had been than Su (in Taipei County) or himself.  In sum, Ma painted Hau as a hard-working and extremely effective executive.

I wonder if Ma is finding himself as a politician.  Hau is flailing about wildly under the pressure of losing.  In one of my favorite novels, Primary Colors, one of the characters asks why it took them two weeks to figure out how to deal with a problem in their campaign.  His answer is that it’s nearly impossible to think straight when your campaign is going down the tubes.  Well, Ma is under pressure, too.  He might not be a candidate in this race, but he is the party leader and it won’t be good for him if Hau loses.  Yet, in contrast to Hau’s verbal lashing out, Ma was confident enough to talk about the things he hadn’t done very well as mayor.  He messed up a Taiwanese phrase (Hau jumped in and corrected him), but instead of acting nervous or defensive, he laughed it off easily.  Maybe I simply haven’t appreciated Ma’s strengths sufficiently, but since the ECFA debate, Ma’s stock as a political leader has risen quite a bit in my personal accounting.

Hao’s travails

September 14, 2010

Every day seems to bring worse and worse news for Mayor Hao.  If before I was shocked that I could see a reasonable path leading him to defeat, now I am finding it increasingly difficult to imagine a path to victory.

On Sept 2, I wrote that he could win the race by rallying the party faithful.  All he needed to do was to turn the race from a contest of personalities into one of parties.  I suggested that one effective way to do that would be to go negative.  I think Hao’s campaign might go negative, but I don’t know that it will work very well any more.

Everything changed a day or two after that post, when accusations that the city was wasting too much money on flowers turned into allegations that corruption was involved.   Hao tried to deal with this by firing the official in charge of the Xinsheng elevated expressway project, for which the flowers in question were purchased.  Yesterday, Hao basically admitted that the responsibility for those decisions went higher up by allowing his vice-mayor and two of his other top advisors to resign.  In fact, the DPP city councilors have argued that the mayor himself is required to approve purchasing decisions as large as this one.

In August, we were getting a picture of Hao as a mildly ineffective mayor.  Sure, he made some questionable decisions on how to allocate money and several of his policy initiatives seemed to suffer from sloppy execution, but mildly ineffective politicians in districts with favorable partisan balances get re-elected all the time.  Now we have a much different and far more corrosive image.  There are two possibilities.  Hao could be corrupt, and he is cynically trying to place the blame for these scandals on his underlings.  Alternatively, Hao could be incompetent, unable to control his underlings or too blind to see what they are doing.  Either of these images could be deadly.

The polls are reflecting these troubles.  I saw references in media stories to KMT internal polls that indicated Su was leading, and now we have a published poll from TVBS (Sept. 8) that shows Su leading 45-42.  (On Aug. 25, TVBS had Hao leading 45-42.)  Maybe more stunning are the changes in Hao’s image.  Whereas previous polls had shown that more people like Hao than disliked him by roughly a 40-32 margin, the new poll showed 34% liking Hao and 35% disliking him.  Likewise, his satisfaction/dissatisfaction numbers went from 37/45 to 34/52.  These are small changes, but given that Su has already consolidated all the easy votes (ie: all the voters who usually lean to or are willing to consider the DPP), it seems that he now is making headway into the harder votes.

I’m trying hard to imagine how Hao can right the ship.  I don’t think negative campaigning will work well any more.  Now Hao’s own image is so damaged that negative ads might simply backfire.  Hao still needs to turn the election into a contest of parties.  However, I think he has to repair his own image a bit first, so that voters who are inclined to vote for the KMT will feel ok about voting for him.

Therein lies the problem.  There are two big things that will happen between now and election day.  First, the Flora Expo will open.  Lots of things could still go wrong.  We could see traffic jams, leaky roofs, dirty restrooms, small crowds, poor staffing, sick flowers, and so on.  But let’s imagine that everything goes well.  Imagine there are larger than expected crowds, everything is organized impeccably, and everyone is entranced by the beauty of the flowers.  Even in this scenario, many people will think that it should have been possible to do this shindig for a lot less money and wonder about kickbacks.  In other words, no matter how well the actual Expo goes, I’m afraid Hao won’t get much credit because the well is already poisoned.

The other big event has a similar problem.  Hao will open a new MRT line.  We haven’t heard about cost overruns, accidents, or construction delays on the Xinzhuang/Luzhou line, much less corruption.  The problem is that another MRT line, the Wenhu line, has been plagued by all sorts of problems in the past few years.   In other words, even if voters change their focus from flowers to MRT lines, Hao still might not benefit very much.

I can’t think of any other potential game-changing events on the schedule.  On one of the talk shows the other night, Sisy Chen was trying to argue that voters simply aren’t giving Hao enough credit for other things that he is doing, and she listed several examples.  I think she is taking the right tack in trying to repair Hao’s image, but she just didn’t have much to work with.  Most of the things she was talking about are in the early stages of planning or construction or are simply very low profile.  Moreover, while she was trying to argue that Hao has done a good job, the media was reporting that Hao had been forced to fire his closest advisors, and the other blue-leaning talk shows were debating whether Hao should step aside and whether his woes would drag down Zhu Lilun in Xinbei City.

The only recent good news for Hao comes out of Su’s camp.  In a recent court case, eight current and former legislators were accused of accepting bribes from the Chinese Medical Association to push for a change in the law.  The case dated to 1996, when Su was in the legislature.  Su was not one of the eight on trial, but there were some documents connecting him to this case.  However, the story seems not to have had legs; I haven’t seen any mention of Su and this scandal since the first news cycle.

This election is not over by any means.  Taipei is still a blue-leaning city, and there are still two months to go.  I expect the KMT to make a big push to rally around Hao.  The rallies in the nights before the election will likely see emotional appeals, arguing that Su’s election would be a disaster and talking about all the wonderful things that Hao has done.  Hao could still win.  However, he, not Su, is now the one with the uphill fight.

Flowers, part 2

August 31, 2010

A commenter on a post about the Flora Expo on Michael Turton’s blog pointed out that the decision to host the Expo and the date were determined way back in the Ma administration, not in the Hao administration.  (Thanks M)  So I searched a bit on the Taipei City government website, and, lo and behold, there are news releases in early 2006 listing November 2010 as the date the exhibition would open.  I had not known this.  And the wheels in my head started turning…

I wondered why in the world Hao would schedule such a high-risk event to open right before the election.  In fact, he didn’t do any such thing.  Ma did it to him.  Why would Ma do such a thing?

Ma was certainly aware of the timing, but I doubt he would have worried about it so much.  After all, he wasn’t going to be running for re-election during the Expo.  Hao would be (and by early 2006, he could be reasonably sure that Hao would be the next mayor), but that was Hao’s problem.  Anyway, the KMT candidate should be able to win in Taipei City, right?

Maybe this was just good public policy.  For one thing, Taiwan doesn’t host many international events, so this could be one way to raise Taiwan’s international profile.  Well, I guess no one is against raising Taiwan’s international profile, but I am skeptical about whether this (or the World Games in Kaohsiung or the Deaf Olympics etc.) will have much impact.  Can you tell me who the last country to host the International Flora Expo (or the World Games etc) was?  What about all the tourism money that this will bring in.  Again, I’m skeptical.  Even in really high profile international events such as the Olympics or the World Cup, most of the tickets are sold to citizens of the host country, not international tourists.  Are you aware of many groups of international flower lovers who have circled these dates on their calendars and are planning to make a special trip to Taiwan to see all the flowers?  I’m not.  I could be wrong on this, but I’m guessing that the overwhelming majority of tickets will be bought by ROC nationals.  Well, what about the cultural aspect to this?  Isn’t it nice that the city government is holding a flower festival?  Who hates flowers?[1] This will be nice for the residents of Taipei City.  I don’t disagree on this, though this seems like an awful lot of money for a flower festival aimed primarily at city residents.  If that were the purpose, they could do this much more frugally.

On the other hand, there is one group that has to be thrilled with the city’s decision to host the Flora Expo.  This group is the Taiwan flower industry.  Taiwan’s flower industry is quite large, and is the world leader in orchids.   In fact, flowers are one of Taiwan’s more important export agricultural products.  For a few months, Taiwan will be the center of the world’s flower industry, and Taiwanese growers will be able to show off their wares and make valuable business contacts.  The domestic boost in flower popularity should also be a boon to the industry.  And of course they will sell lots of merchandise to the Flora Expo itself.  There’s just one thing: not much of the flower industry is based in Taipei.  To my knowledge, the center of the Taiwanese flower industry is in southern Changhua County.  Why in the world would the Ma city government want to spend enormous amounts of money to curry favor with an industry based in central Taiwan?

Asking the question that way makes the answer obvious: to the extent that the decision to hold the Flora Expo was politically motivated, the goal was the 2008 (and perhaps 2012) presidential election, not the 2010 Taipei City mayoral election.  Central Taiwan is the great battleground that decides presidential elections.  Southern Changhua, in particular, is currently the place where the map turns from green to blue.[2] More generally, Ma needed to shore up his credentials with agricultural Taiwan.  In 2006, no one doubted that Ma could speak to urban sophisticates.  It was less clear that he would be able to get through to farmers.  Currying favor with the flower industry was a very smart move.  It may continue to pay dividends in 2012.

By the way, this doesn’t get Hao off the hook for the problems the Flora Expo is currently experiencing.  If the decision to hold the Expo in November had already been taken, the decisions to (a) fund it so generously, (b) treat it as his administration’s showpiece achievement, and (c) to award contracts in particular ways are entirely Hao’s.

[1] Uh, Frozen Garlic isn’t crazy about flowers.

[2] Yes, I know that geography doesn’t matter in presidential elections.  Votes count the same whether they are cast in Jinmen or Tainan.  Still, this can be a useful way of thinking about how to build a winning coalition.


August 31, 2010

Back at the beginning of the year, when the mayoral races were just starting to develop, I thought that Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 was very likely to win another term as Taipei Mayor.  Even though his term in office has been unremarkable, the electorate of Taipei City is sufficiently Blue that, as long as the Blue vote isn’t split, the KMT candidate should always win.  Even though Su Chenchang 蘇貞昌 is a formidable opponent, the hill he would be trying to climb was just too steep.  Realistically, I could only see two scenarios that would end in Hao’s defeat: a major scandal or a disastrous International Flora Expo.  Here we are in August with the race too close to call, and Hao’s worst nightmare seems to be unfolding.

Over the last few weeks, the DPP city councilors have unleashed a barrage of attacks on Hao, and most of these have dealt with the Flora Expo.   They charge that the city government is spending exorbitant amounts on advertising.  It is neglecting normal government functions and diverting all resources to the Expo.  The Expo buildings are flawed; the roofs leak whenever it rains.  The souvenir contracts went to Chinese companies.   Most damningly, the city government is paying too much for the flowers.[1] This last problem, the DPP councilors say, is due to either corruption or incompetence.  Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on Hao.  The city government’s defense hasn’t been very helpful.  One spokesperson said that they would provide a full report on flower purchases within two months.  Great, by that time, you won’t be able to remove the stain of corruption with mere facts.

[edit: For a more detailed summary of the Flora Expo woes, see here.  Be sure to note the budget numbers presented in the comments.]

Why is the Flora Expo so important?[2] It is important because the Hao administration has made it the showcase event for Hao’s first term.  The city has spent copious amounts of money, invested lots of time and energy, and played up the importance of such an international event.  They also scheduled it to open right before the election, almost guaranteeing that voters would be thinking about the Flora Expo when they went to vote.  From my vantage point as an elections analyst, this is irresponsible high-stakes poker.   If you don’t have the Expo, you win.  If you have the Expo and everything goes well, you win.  If something goes horribly wrong, suddenly you can lose an unloseable election.  Well, maybe they had other considerations for scheduling it this way.  Maybe Hao really likes flowers.

To be honest, these were not the problems that I thought might derail Hao’s campaign.  Back when I was trying to come with a scenario in which Hao might lose, I envisioned facilities not being completed on time and the anticipated stampede of international visitors failing to materialize.  Purchasing scandals might be even worse.

The next three months will be critical for Hao’s image.  He needs to develop some sort of convincing defense, or he could (gulp!) lose this election.

[1] City councilors have also charged that there were improprieties in the purchase of flowers for the Xinsheng Elevated Expressway.  The city government responded that this case was completely unrelated to the Flora Expo.  Sorry, the linkage of flowers is too strong to ignore.  Most people will just remember “flowers” and “corruption” together.

[2] The only other potential policy failure I could think of with such devastating repercussions was the MRT line not opening as planned.  However, I have had no hints that anything is going awry with that.


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.

UDN county executive poll

May 18, 2010

Yesterday the United Daily News published a massive poll (466<n<749 for each county) in which it assessed satisfaction with the performance of Taiwan’s local county executives.   Most of us have no hard data to determine which local executives have done a good job, so we go on much less obvious and much less reliable cues, such as what the taxi drivers tell us, the tone of media reports, your friend’s uncle’s story, and so on.  The UDN is a hard piece of data.  It is an aggregation of a lot of people’s feelings, rather than a single person’s feelings.  As such, this is the type of poll that gets cited in election campaigns, either to crow about one’s fantastic performance or to attack the incumbent for a dismal job.

The media (and lots of media outlets are commenting on this poll, not just the UDN) focus has been on two things.  First, the headline was the individual winners (Chen Ju) and losers (Huang Zhongsheng).  Second, the DPP executives did better as a group than the KMT executives.

Methodologically, I have a small question.  Today, the UDN published another question from this same poll on whether residents in the various cities and counties think their locality is a suitable place to live or not.  The Greater Taipei area graded out much lower than anywhere else.  I wonder which of these questions they asked first.  That is, which question polluted the other one?  It is probably no coincidence that Hao Longbin, Zhou Xiwei, and Zhang Tongrong all got fairly low marks and also that Taipei City, Taipei County, and Jilong City were all deemed relatively unlivable.

Here are the results of the poll:

county name name status party satisfied dis-satisfied
…………………………… ………………..…… …………. …………….…. ……… ……….. ……………
Kaohsiung City Chen Ju 陳菊 direct DPP 75 10
Miaoli County Liu Zhenghong 劉政鴻 re-elected KMT 73 7
Kaohsiung County Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 direct DPP 72 7
Chiayi City Huang Minhui 黃敏惠 Re-elected KMT 67 13
Changhua County Zhuo Boyuan 卓伯元 Re-elected KMT 64 8
Taichung City Jason Hu 胡志強 direct KMT 63 20
Tainan City Xu Tiancai 許添財 direct DPP 62 16
Pingdong County Cai Qihong 曹啟鴻 Re-elected DPP 61 10
Hualian County Fu Kunqi 傅崑萁 new IND 61 8
Yunlin County Su Zhifen 蘇治芬 Re-elected DPP 61 10
Penghu County Wang Qianfa 王乾發 Re-elected KMT 53 21
Jinmen County Li Wotu 李沃土 new KMT 53 7
Taidong County Huang Jianting 黃健庭 new KMT 52 11
Jilong City Zhang Tongrong 張通榮 Re-elected KMT 51 21
Tainan County Su Huanzhi 蘇煥智 direct DPP 51 21
Taipei City Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 direct KMT 50 28
Nantou County Li Chaoqing 李朝卿 Re-elected KMT 50 18
Lianjiang County Yang Suisheng 楊綏生 new KMT 50 23
Chiayi County Zhang Huaguan 張花冠 new DPP 49 6
Ilan County Lin Congxian 林聰賢 new DPP 46 6
Taipei County Zhou Xiwei 周錫瑋 direct KMT 44 27
Taoyuan County Wu Zhiyang 吳志揚 new KMT 44 8
Hsinchu City Xu Mingcai 許明財 new KMT 42 10
Hsinchu County Qiu Jingchun 邱鏡淳 new KMT 38 20
Taichung County Huang Zhongsheng 黃仲生 direct KMT 37 25

UDN classified executives into three different statuses.  Newly elected executives were elected last November, so they have only been in office for about six months.  They typically have low satisfaction but also low dissatisfaction ratings, as voters are still forming opinions about their performance in office.  There are two exceptions.  Both Yang Suisheng in Lianjiang County and Qiu Jingchun in Hsinchu County have high dissatisfaction ratings.  The KMT blew a by-election in Hsinchu a couple of months ago, and KMT supporters might still be mad at Qiu for that there.  In Lianjiang, I have no clue what is going on, but Lianjiang only has a few thousand residents, so they probably all know through the gossip networks if Yang has done anything bad.

The second group of executives includes those who were re-elected last November, while the third group includes executives from counties and cities that already are or will become direct municipalities later this year.  Most of these executives have been in office for 4.5 years (four have been in for 8.5 years), so opinions have already had time to form on them.

Note the discrepancies in satisfaction ratings by party.  Among the direct municipalities, DPP members Chen Ju and Yang Qiuxing were the best.  Jason Hu and Xu Tiancai had roughly equivalent ratings, but the KMT eagerly nominated Hu for another term while the DPP dumped Xu in favor of a better candidate.  Likewise, Hao Longbin is roughly in the same ballpark as Su Huanzhi, but the former will be running as a KMT candidate while the latter could not make it as a DPP candidate.  Bringing up the rear are the two miserable KMT executives, Zhou Xiwei and Huang Zhongsheng.  Of course, there is more to performance than satisfaction ratings, but this certainly doesn’t make the KMT look good.

KMT telephone survey results

April 26, 2010

The KMT finished its telephone surveys for the Taipei City,  Tainan City, and Kaohsiung City mayoral nominations last week.  They did not release the numbers, but here are the general results.

Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 won in Taipei City and will be nominated soon.  This surprises no one.

In Tainan City Guo Tiancai 郭添財 beat Li Quanjiao 李全教, but only by about 3%.  Xie Longjie 謝龍介 was a distant third.  Since this is so close, the KMT will try to negotiate a compromise between the two leaders.  If the negotiations yield no results, it may try another round of surveys with just these two candidates.

In Kaohsiung, Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順 won.  Lin Yishi 林益世 trailed by about 5%, and Su Yinggui 蘇盈貴 was third.  The KMT will try negotiations or a second round among the top three.

So Tainan and Kaohsiung remain unresolved.

To me, the most interesting comment was from one of the losers in Kaohsiung.  Hou Caifeng 侯彩鳳 remarked that the results were basically what she expected.  After all, Huang is the only candidate who is actively campaigning.  Which makes me ask: Why?  Why aren’t any of the others campaigning?  The DPP candidates are trying like hell, and have been doing so for several months.  In contrast, two of the KMT candidates only announced they would run a week or two before the surveys, and Lai Fengwei 賴峰偉 even announced his candidacy while he was in Penghu.  Of course there are close ties between Penghu and Kaohsiung, but he couldn’t even be bothered to travel to Kaohsiung?  Why didn’t the KMT candidates (other than Huang) exert any effort?

KMT nomination contestants

April 6, 2010

The KMT finished accepting applications for its mayoral nominations on April 3, and it will hold telephone surveys on April 14.  These surveys are not decisive; the KMT can choose to ignore the results or nominate someone else entirely.

In Xinbei City, only Zhu Lilun 朱立倫 filed for the nomination, so there will be no survey.  Technically, the party could still draft someone else, but they won’t.  The contestants in the other cities are as follows:

Taipei City:  Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 (incumbent mayor), Yang Shiqiu 楊實秋 (city council).

Taichung City:  Jason Hu 胡志強 (incumbent Taichung City mayor, former foreign minister), Liu Quanzhong 劉銓忠 (legislator, brother of former speaker, Taichung County Red faction), Ji Guodong 紀國棟 (legislator, Taichung County Black faction).

Tainan City:  Guo Tiancai 郭添財 (former legislator), Li Quanjiao 李全教 (former legislator), Xie Longjie 謝龍介 (Tainan City council).  Both Guo and Li are based in Tainan County.

Kaohsiung City: Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順 (legislator), Hou Caifeng 侯彩鳳 (legislator), Zhang Xianyao 張顯耀 (legislator), Su Yinggui 蘇盈貴 (former Taipei City Labor Affairs Bureau Chief), Lai Fengwei 賴峰偉 (deputy secretary general of presidential office, former Penghu County executive), Lin Yishi 林益世 (legislator, Kaohsiung County Red faction).  The first five are based in Kaohsiung City, and Lin Yishi is from Kaohsiung County.

In Taipei City, Hao will win easily and Yang will end his quixotic campaign and turn his focus back to retaining his city council seat.  This was probably his purpose anyway.  By spending his money now, he doesn’t have to compete for attention with a dozen other candidates.

I have no idea who will “win” in Tainan City.  They all look weak to me.  The prize is the right to get slaughtered in November.  I’m not sure any of these three can manage 35%, much less a majority.

In Taichung, one possibility is that Liu and Ji will drop out before they get to the polling stage.  I think what they are doing is negotiating the best deal possible for their respective factions.  They don’t have a lot of leverage right now because there is no way either can win the telephone survey segment.  However, an independent campaign by one of them that splits the KMT vote is the most realistic scenario for a KMT loss in this race, so look for the KMT to buy them off.  I expect this to happen earlier rather than later.

In Kaohsiung, the two stage polling plan seems to have disappeared.  Five of the six candidates are from Kaohsiung City, so it would be rather awkward to have a Kaohsiung City poll to determine who would meet the Kaohsiung County winner.  However, they do seem concerned that six candidates is too many.  They might try to convince someone to withdraw, or they might only take the polls as advisory.  If I were them, I’d eliminate three or four candidates, perhaps with a first round of polling, and then use a survey to figure out who the strongest finalist is.  I still think Lin Yishi is the best of the field.  But they don’t ask me.