Posts Tagged ‘Lai Qingde’

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.


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.

Appeals in the Tainan Race

April 14, 2010

The two leading candidates in the Tainan mayoral race are running on experience and change, just as one might expect.

Incumbent Tainan City mayor Xu Tiancai 許添財 is running on experience.  He compared himself to famous CEOs, such as Steve Jobs at Apple and Chang Chungmou at Taiwan Semiconductors, saying that at critical times, you need an experience hand at the helm.  He also noted that the Tainan City government has gotten excellent ratings from the Executive Yuan over the past eight years, the unemployment rate in Tainan City has been the lowest in the country for three straight years, and the number of companies moving into the Tainan Science Park has increased sixfold compared to eight years ago.  He also claimed that legislator Wang Xingnan 王幸男 and former Tainan County Executive Mark Chen Tang-shan 陳唐山 have thrown their support to him.

Legislator Lai Qingde 賴清德 is running on change.  He claims that widely understood democratic principals should limit any person to two terms in executive office.  While technically the new Tainan City direct municipality is a different government, in reality, Xu has already served two terms as mayor of Tainan City and it is time for a new face.

Attempt to change the rules

April 14, 2010

DPP Legislator (and member of the DPP Central Executive Committee) Chen Tingfei 陳婷妃 has proposed changing the rules for the DPP’s nomination telephone surveys.  Under the current rules, respondents are asked which of the various DPP contestants they prefer.  However, Chen noted that, by the time the DPP conducts its surveys in May, the KMT will have already formally nominated its candidate.  Chen proposes adding a series of questions pitting each of the DPP hopefuls against the KMT candidate.  If only one person beats the KMT candidate, that person should get the nomination.  If more than one person beats the KMT candidate, then the intra-party question should decide the winner.

Chen Tingfei is currently serving as Xu Tiancai’s 許添財 campaign manager 競選總幹事.  Lai Qingde’s 賴清德 camp quickly responded that the rules are clear and established, and they should not be changed at this late date.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Lai is still winning, and Xu’s camp is trying to figure out some way to change the game.  They have probably done some surveys of their own and figured out that there is a possibility that Lai might lose against at least one of the KMT possibilities (though this would be stunning).  Perhaps it is just desperation.