Posts Tagged ‘re-election’

City council incumbents

September 20, 2010

When they announced the numbers of seats in each of the direct municipalities, it was clear that the elections would be very different in terms of degree of difficulty.  Xinbei City is essentially our control case.  The number of seats in Xinbei, 66,  is the same as the number of seats elected in the old Taipei County in 2005.  So winning a seat this year is roughly as easy as it was before.  (Ok, if you want to be a stickler, Taipei County only had 65 seats in 2005.  They added one more aboriginal seat this year.)

The formulae converting population to seats were not quite the same for counties and direct municipalities.  So in order to hold Xinbei City constant, they had to adjust the law for direct municipalities.  As a result, even though there has been no administrative change in Taipei City, it increases from 52 seats to 63 seats.  This makes a seat in the Taipei City Council easier than ever to win.

The other three direct municipalities are much more difficult.  Because they smashed together two independent administrative units, each of which had its own council, the resulting councils are relatively small.  Taichung goes from 103 seats to only 63; Tainan is reduced from 91 to 57 seats, and Kaohsiung goes from 98 to 66 seats.  In short, it is much harder to win a seat this year than it was last time around.

You can see this reflected in whether incumbents decided to run for re-election.  I put together a data set of 410 winners last time around.[1] 342 (83%) have registered to run for re-election.  What of the other 68?  Conventionally, we would say they “retired.”  However, that term holds a lot of possibilities, and I’m really interested in what happened to them.

Quick Google searches turned up quite a bit of interesting tidbits.  7 of the 68 were ineligible.  2 died in office, and 5 were stripped of their seats by the courts for various offences.  8 others had court cases or other scandals reported in the news.  (My favorite was Tainan City Council member Li Qingxin, who went out to a KTV, met a prostitute, and brought her back to the lounge in the city council where he and his new friend were spotted by his son and daughter who he employed on his staff.  They quickly called their mother, and she and the daughter confronted him while the son took pictures on his cell phone.)  3 others won seats in the legislature.

There are also people who retire in order to pass the seat to the next generation.  I found news stories of 7 such cases, including one Taichung City Councilor took a post in the city government and is trying to elect his wife to his old seat.  There is also a case of a councilor who died and whose son is running for the seat, but I don’t want to double count that case.

This accounts for 25 of the 68 “retirees.”  14 more lost primaries and did not register for the general election.  That makes only 29 of 410 incumbents who “willingly” yielding their seats.  That is a very low number, and even that still hides some people who really wanted to run for re-election but were convinced or pressured to step aside.  And, of course, I might have missed some scandals or children.

Geographically, there is a clear difference between Taipei and everywhere else.  In Taipei, one person is now in the legislature, two are running their children, and the other 49 are ALL running for re-election.   Of Xinbei’s 65 incumbents, one is running his son, 57 are running for re-election, and there are 7 unexplained retirements.  In the other three cities, retirement rates are much higher (56 of 292).  On the other hand, once you correct for all the stripped seats, scandals, and so on, the proportion (22 of 292) who willingly stepped aside is, if anything, lower than Xinbei.

So, let’s talk about incumbents in party primaries.   179 incumbents competed for KMT nominations.  149 won.  (148 registered for the general election.  The other dropped out.)  We really care most about the losers.   Of the 30 losers, 7 accepted the results and retired.  23 registered for the general election as independents.

On the DPP side, 114 incumbents contested the primaries, and 12 lost.  Of those 12, 7 accepted the loss.  5 did not.  1 is running as a TSU nominee, and the other 4 are running as independents.

Incumbents losing primaries are interesting because this is one measure of party strength and cohesion.  Parties want primaries to be binding, for losers to accept losing, so that there aren’t too many candidates drawing from the same pool of votes in the general election.  From this perspective, the KMT’s primaries look like a colossal failure, with 23 of 30 losers not accepting the result.  However, we are only halfway through the game.  Losers don’t accept losing because they have strong commitments to party ideals, they accept losing because they don’t think they can with the general election without the party nomination.  In other words, voters can enforce party discipline by not voting for primary losers.  We can’t tell how strong the party is or how successful the primary process was until after the general election.

[1] There were only 409 seats.  I added Lin Guocheng in Taipei City.  Cai Kunlong was stripped of his seat, and the seat was awarded to Lin.  There were four other people I know of who were stripped of their seats, but I don’t know who, if anyone, replaced them.

legislators and re-election

June 25, 2010

I was thinking about the re-election incentive[1] for a paper I am planning to write, and I realized I’ve never put together numbers on how many people run for re-election.  So I put together a dataset of all legislators from the 2nd to 6th terms (1993-2007), looking at whether they ran for and/or won re-election.  Each legislator in each term counts as a separate case (ie: there are five separate cases for Wang Jinping since he had to decide whether to contest re-election each time).  Also, this data set includes everyone who served in the legislature, including people who won by-elections and people who were substituted in for party list legislators who quit or were kicked out of their party (and therefore forfeited their seats).  A legislator is considered to seek re-election if s/he is a candidate in the next general election.   So here are some cuts of the data.

First, the big picture.  About a fourth of legislators don’t run for re-election, and another fifth run and lose.  So three-fourths of legislators seek re-election, and a fourth of those who do seek re-election lose.  This looks like the re-election incentive is very strong.  Of the quarter who do not seek re-election, probably a very high percentage of them would have liked to be re-elected but simply saw that it was not very likely and chose not to fight.  Many of them sought but did not get nominations and chose not to run.[2] Another chunk of them sought election to other offices, generally county executives.  It is hard to know exactly what percentage of the retiring legislators were forced out and what percentage retired willingly, but my guess is that at least half were unwilling.  All in all, re-election looks very desirable.

It also looks very hard.  Lots and lots of incumbents lose.  This is nothing like the 90% re-election rates in the USA or Japan.  In Taiwan, losing is a very realistic possibility for everyone every time.  (In fact, I wrote a paper a couple of years ago in which I demonstrated that strategic voting makes the most popular candidates the most vulnerable.  There are no safe seats in Taiwan’s SNTV elections.)  If re-election is desirable and difficult, then it seems safe to assume legislators will respond to the re-election incentive in predictable ways.  (Hooray!)

count %
Did not run for re-election 276 26.7
Ran and lost 225 21.8
Ran and won 531 51.5
Total 1032 100.0

We can break down the data in other ways.  There are big differences between district and list legislators.  80.4% of legislators elected in districts ran for re-election, while only 50.4% of list legislators did.  However, there wasn’t much difference in their winning percentage, given the decision to enter the race.

Didn’t run Ran and lost Ran and won N
District legislators 19.6% 23.5% 56.9% 786
List legislators 49.6% 16.3% 34.1% 246

You might wonder about party differences.  Fantastic!  Here’s a breakdown by party affiliation (at the time of the original re-election.)

Didn’t run Ran and lost Ran and won N
KMT 26.4 15.5 58.1 458
DPP 28.4 24.7 46.9 373
NP 18.6 46.5 34.9 43
PFP 21.7 22.9 55.4 83
TSU 33.3 41.7 25.0 24
IND 29.4 25.5 45.1 51

It looks like politicians from all parties seek re-election at about the same rate, and they all have a strong possibility of losing, especially those from small parties.

But wait a minute, what about legislators who are elected as member of one party, don’t get re-nominated, and run as independents in the general election.  Don’t they lose at a higher rate?  Perhaps they are the ones driving these re-election rates down.  Ok, let’s consider people to be KMT only if they won the original election as a KMT member AND contested re-election as a KMT member.  (Since they have to have a party affiliation at time two, this rules out all the people who didn’t run for re-election.)

Ran and lost Ran and won N
KMT 19.8 80.2 308
DPP 31.9 68.1 254
NP 50.0 50.0 30
PFP 30.0 70.0 40
TSU 50.0 50.0 12
IND 42.3 57.7 26
Changed parties 45.3 54.7 86

Party switchers don’t do well as expected, but after we get rid of them, KMT members still lose once in five times and DPP candidates lose once every three times.

Why are those DPP re-election rates so low?  One big reason is that we are including incumbents from the 6th term who ran for re-election in the new mixed member system.  As we all know, the DPP was massacred in that election.  However, if we confine our data to the old SNTV/closed list system, the difference between the two big parties is not as marked.

term Ran, Won% N Ran, Won% N
2nd 81.2 69 70.0 40
3rd 90.2 61 79.1 43
4th 60.8 74 88.2 51
5th 91.3 46 74.2 62
6th 84.5 58 34.5 58
Total 80.2 308 68.1 254

One of the most well-known lessons from the American context is that if you want to beat an incumbent, you had better do it the first time they come up for re-election.  After they win the first re-election, they are basically bulletproof.  That is not true here.

Number of terms served Didn’t run Ran and lost Ran and won N
1 26.0 21.0 53.0 523
2 26.0 24.9 49.1 281
3 29.6 20.8 49.6 125
4 34.0 22.0 44.0 50
5 16.0 16.0 68.0 25
6 30.8 23.1 46.2 13
7 28.6 14.3 57.1 7
8 50.0 0 50.0 4
9 0 0 100.0 2
10 50.0 0 50.0 2
total 26.7 21.8 51.5 1032

It is striking just how little this table changes as legislators gain seniority.  The number of cases decreases in an almost perfect pattern: each row has half the cases of the previous row.

The final thing I did was to look at people who switched districts.  For example Hong Qichang ran in Taichung City in 1992, the party list in 1995, Taipei City South in 1998, and the party list again in 2001, 2004, and 2007 (he originally was elected to the legislature in 1989 from Tainan City, but that isn’t in this data set).  So in my data set, the first three re-elections are coded as district changes while the last two are not.  Somewhat surprisingly to me, people who changed districts didn’t do a whole lot worse than people who stayed in the same place.

Ran and lost Ran and won N
Same district 28.7 71.3 624
Changed districts 34.8 65.2 132
total 29.8 70.2 756

I don’t think this means that politicians can run anywhere and have about the same probability of winning.  Rather, legislators are very strategic about changing districts.  The ones who do actually change districts have good reason to believe they might find success in the new districts.  The ones who can’t foresee anything good happening from a change simply stay put.

All in all, this was a fun exercise for me.  More importantly, I managed to convince myself that the re-election motive should be very powerful in Taiwanese elections.  No matter how you cut the data, legislators want re-election and have difficulty in securing it.  If American legislators are, as Gary Jacobson famously put it, “running scared,” then Taiwanese legislators must be positively terrified by the possibility of losing.

[1] One prominent tradition in political science suggests that we can understand quite a lot about why legislators act the way they do if we assume that they are entirely motivated by re-election.

[2] The only group I have good data for on nomination contests is the DPP in the 6th term.  Of the 39 DPP legislators who did not run for re-election in 2008, 10 sought a nomination but lost out in the telephone survey stage.