Posts Tagged ‘Hau Long-bin’

Speculation on Hau’s big victory

December 9, 2010

Like many people, I was a bit surprised at the Taipei City mayoral election results.  I wasn’t terribly surprised that Hau won, but I was surprised by the margin of victory.  A couple of days before the election, Mrs. Garlic and I kicked around the question of what results we would have found surprising.  In the Taipei race, I thought I would be surprised if Hau won by more than 10% or lost by more than 2%.  The national swing toward the DPP that I expected did, in fact, materialize.  And remember, 44% is a very good result for the DPP in Taipei City.  However, I expected more.  The KMT had an incumbent with a shaky to lousy record, depending on your viewpoint, and the DPP was running a proven administrator.  With a national swing toward the DPP, it looked like the perfect storm.  I fully expected Su to set a new benchmark for the DPP in Taipei City.

So what happened?  While the popular explanation is the shooting incident, I have my doubts about how much influence that had.  (I have backed off my original stance that it most likely had zero influence.  Enough people have told me that it changed their own behavior now that I have to believe that it mattered a little.  However, I doubt that it was sufficient to sway either Taichung or Xinbei, and it almost certainly couldn’t have been enough to produce Hau’s big victory.)  I think it is more likely that partisanship simply asserted itself.  I have a couple of ideas in mind.

First, I think that after months of polling showing Su close or even leading and the disastrous march/carnival/parade the weekend before the election, no pan-blue supporter could delude themselves into thinking that Hau would win easily.  In short, they all sensed danger and eventually came out to vote.  Anyway angry or disillusioned blue voters would have had to think twice before “sending a message” or trying to give Hau a black eye.  Sending a message is one thing; causing him to lose is another.

Second, while Su spent the whole campaign in his pink shirt talking about good government and non-ideological local issues, he is after all a former premier, prospective presidential candidate, and one of the most senior leaders of the DPP.  You simply can’t ignore the political ramifications of a Su victory.  With months to mull over this (instead of only a few days as in Taichung), pan-blue voters might have decided to stick with their party.


Many green supporters were disappointed that the Taipei City electorate would choose a lackluster blue candidate over an effective green one.  As one complained to me, how can you talk about democracy when voters mindlessly vote their party and don’t pay any attention to the incumbent’s performance in office?   Doesn’t democracy demand that voters punish bad politicians by voting them out of office?

Well, yes.  But also, not necessarily.

Most of us support one party or another for good reason: that party fights for things we want.  Put it this way, would you rather have a candidate who tries to do things that you like but does them badly, or a candidate who tries to do things that you don’t like and does them well?

Now it happens that, given the overriding dominance of the unification-independence (UI) cleavage, there isn’t a whole lot of disagreement about specific city policies.  We all want smoother traffic, better schools, less corruption and so on.  So you could argue that the previous question is irrelevant in the context of Taipei City.  However, the person sitting it the mayor’s chair eventually does matter for the  UI cleavage as well.  A DPP mayor would help DPP candidates for the presidency and the legislature.  A DPP mayor would divert city contracts to firms friendly to the DPP, and some of that money might find its way back into other campaigns.  And think about all the young political talent that has come through the Kaohsiung City government over the past 12 years.  A DPP mayor with a mini-cabinet would be an important cultivator of political talent.  (Perhaps I should say “could” be.  Ma and Hau haven’t taken much advantage of this opportunity.)  President Ma might also take the election as a signal that his policy of faster integration with China should be curtailed.  In short, putting a DPP politician in the mayor’s chair would probably help the DPP nationally.  If I am a pan-blue voter, I have to think carefully about whether that price is too high to pay for voting out an incumbent with a lackluster performance.

E.E. Schattschneider, a former president of the American Political Science Association and an important theorist of democracy, once wrote that democracy is unfathomable save in terms of political parties.  I think this represents the mainstream opinion of political science, especially those of us who study democratization and new democracies.  So if this election was a triumph of partisanship above everything else, that is probably a good thing.

campaign trail: Chu in Yonghe

November 26, 2010

Last night, I went to see Su Tseng-chang in Wanhua, right next to the Longshan Temple.  There was not too much available space, but it was all completely packed.  It is hard to estimate crowds in irregular spaces; my best guess is 3000, give or take 500.  The crowd was pretty enthusiastic, which was not terribly surprising.  There wasn’t a lot of speaking; most of the evening was filled by musical performances.  Su Tseng-chang was the only person to give a full-fledged speech.  He didn’t say much new, so I won’t bother to report on it.

Tonight I went to Yonghe to see Eric Chu.  Well, technically I think we were in Zhonghe.  The event was in the 823 Park, which is right on the border between the two cities.  The site was extremely small, but it was filled to capacity.  Since President Ma was coming, they established a security perimeter.  I think there were probably 1000 people inside the perimeter and 500 outside.  Again, I couldn’t see the whole crowd from one single angle, so this estimate is not very precise.

The crowd was equal to DPP crowds in its level of enthusiasm.  This is the first time I have seen that from a KMT crowd this year.  Also, I really like events held in Yonghe for one simple reason: everything is in Mandarin!

The speakers were really slamming Tsai for her divided attention.  As one speaker put it, she wants to be mayor, party chair, and run for president.  Chu spent several minutes stressing how important the first mayor of Xinbei will be in establishing all the precedents.  He concluded: a mayor has to focus all his attention on these problems, and he can’t afford to divide his attention.  It’s a good point; I think Chu could have made it much more forcefully.  At any rate, Wu Nai-ren 吳乃仁 didn’t do Su or Tsai any favors by suggesting that they could still run for president.

Ma Ying-jeou was the most interesting speaker tonight.  He spent about 80% of his speech talking about national issues.  First, he talked about the KMT’s record on economics.  He gave the economic growth stats again (GDP growth of 9.98%, unemployment rate of 4.92%), but he also talked about the KMT’s record in managing the economic crisis.  He was particularly proud of the fact that not one bank failed.  Next, he spoke about diplomacy, concentrating on the EU’s recent decision to allow Taiwanese enter without a visa.  Taiwanese can now visit 96 countries visa-free, and this is a big improvement over the Chen era.  Finally, he spoke about his record in national security.  Ma said that there are two powderkegs in East Asia: the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait.  The Korean Peninsula is as volatile as ever, as we have seen in the past few days.  However, Ma stressed that he has successfully lowered tensions across the Taiwan Strait so that a similar event is highly unlikely here.  (There were other points, but those are the three that I remember most clearly.)  He ended this by asking the crowd which political party had performed better.  “I can’t hear you.  Louder!!”

He eventually said a few things about Chu, but he never talked about local issues for Taipei County.  I was a bit surprised by this focus on national and party issues.  I’ve heard Ma speak several times this year, and he has never been so focused on national issues.  I’m really not sure why he shifted gears tonight or whether that will help or hurt Chu.  But it clearly is a different message.

The event ended at 8:20.  They had another event, but that is still quite early to end.

When a campaign thinks they are going to win, they give off a different vibe than when they think they are going to lose and are just putting on a brave act.  Right now, it looks to me like the Su, Tsai, and Chu camps all think they are going to win.  The Hau camp isn’t so sure, though I don’t think he thinks he is clearly going to lose.  But he doesn’t exude the confidence that the other three do right now.  (Don’t ask me to justify this feeling; it’s just a feeling I have.)