Posts Tagged ‘strategic voting’

DPP vote rationing in Taichung 10

November 23, 2010

The DPP has announced its vote rationing scheme in Taichung 10.   It is asking voters to pair up and have one person vote for each of its nominees.

This is interesting to me.  (Most things about elections are interesting to me.)

The DPP has two nominees running for three seats.  One nominee, Huang Guoshu 黃國書, is an incumbent and quite popular.  He won the party primary with an overwhelming majority and played a major role in publicizing the gangland shootings earlier this year.  The other candidate is Jiang Zhengji 江正吉, who looks far less popular.  Jiang served several terms in the city council in the 1980s and 1990s, but he lost the last two elections.  Jiang used to be in the KMT but then became an independent in the late 1990s, ran as the TSU candidate last time, and joined the DPP for this election.  So DPP voters might also have doubts about just how dedicated he is to the green cause.  In short, you have one very strong nominee and one very weak nominee.

From a strategic standpoint, Jiang would love to split all the DPP votes evenly.  Huang probably isn’t so sure about this.  If there are enough votes to go around, it’s fine.  However, every candidate’s first priority is his own victory.  The welfare of the overall party is always second.

Are there enough votes to go around for both DPP candidates?  Last time, the DPP plus TSU got 42.8% in this district.  In this wider election environment, that should either hold steady or go up this time.  The KMT has two candidates, plus there is at least one strong independent.  (Wang Yunlin’s 王允伶 mother is longtime incumbent Jiang Nai-hui 莊乃慧.)  So that means that three blue candidates will be splitting the rest of the pie.  Moreover, one of the KMT candidates, Zhang Hongnian 張宏年, is expected to be particularly strong.  Zhang is currently the speaker, and he wants to be speaker in the new city council.  One step in this is sometimes running up a high vote total to give yourself an image of high popularity.   So if the DPP splits its votes evenly, it looks like it might be hard for the blue camp to produce two candidates who get more votes unless either Wang or Hong Jiahong 洪嘉鴻, the other KMT nominee, get almost no votes.

However, it looks to me like Huang is still hedging his bets a little.  This particular vote rationing scheme is a little soft.  Rather than giving each voter a definitive set of instructions (eg: all men vote for Huang, all women vote for Jiang), this scheme gives voters a little leeway.  You can vote in pairs, but what if you don’t have a convenient person to pair with?  What if your family has three people?  This scheme makes it just a little easier for voters to rationalize voting for the candidate they prefer rather than splitting their votes evenly among the party nominees.

Most political agreements reflect carefully negotiated bargains.  Having a vote rationing scheme, any scheme, is better for Jiang than no scheme at all.  However, this might have been the worst scheme for him.  Still, it might be enough for him to win the third and last seat.

campaign flags and strategic voting

November 23, 2010

One of the most interesting things about the SNTV (single non-transferable vote) electoral system is the way it creates strange incentives for strategic voting.  A voter engages in strategic voting when she votes for a candidate other than her most favored candidate in order to get a better outcome.  For example, in the Kaohsiung mayoral race, many KMT supporters will likely not vote for their favorite candidate (presumably Huang), but will instead vote for their second favorite candidate (Yang) in order to decrease the likelihood of a victory by their least preferred candidate (Chen).  In single seat races, strategic voting diverts votes away from weak candidates to the top two candidates.

However, in the SNTV system used in the city council elections, strategic voting can siphon away votes from the strongest candidates.   Suppose there are ten seats, and the first place winner wins 25000 votes while the tenth place winner only wins 15000 votes.  The first place winner has 10000 extra votes that she could have done without.  If another candidate from her party lost by 3000 votes, the supporters of the first place candidate might not be terribly happy, even though their favorite candidate won.  For them, a better result would have been for the first place winner to get only 21000 votes, and for the loser to get an extra 4000 votes and thus become a winner.  Voters try to anticipate this sort of result by guessing which candidates will get too many votes, and then they divert support to candidates from the same party they think will be weaker.

In Taiwan, this is often called “the curse of first place.”  No one wants the media to suggest that they are in first place, because their votes might evaporate.  The best place thing is to be perceived as being (though not necessarily actually be) on the edge of victory and defeat, because voters give candidates in that position extra votes (to the degree that voters agree on who occupies these positions.)  Candidates know this, and so everyone tries to convince voters that they are in danger of losing.

This weekend, I drove around Greater Taipei taking pictures of flags.  As the campaign draws to a close, candidates often put up flags screaming for help.  In this post, I’m going to show a bunch of these flags.

Here’s a fairly classic example from Zhang Jinting (DPP, Xinbei 3).  The dark green characters in the middle are the critical ones.  They read qiang jiu 強救.  Jiu means to save, and qiang is an intensifier, so this roughly translates as “HELP!!  SAVE ME!!!”

Here’ s another one from Zheng Jinlong (DPP, Xinbei 2).  He has put the qiang jiu characters in bright red.

Here’s a fence with banners from three different candidates in Banqiao (Xinbei 4), all of whom are screaming for help.  The three are Xiao Guanyu (TSU) in the red and yellow, Wang Shuhui (DPP) in black and red, and Huang Junzhe (DPP) in green.

Sometimes you have to do more than just scream for help.  Zhao Yanzhao (KMT, Xinbei 4) is emphasizing his ties with the Taipei County volunteer firemen.  Presumably they save lots of peoples’ lives, and now it is time for them and their supporters to save Zhao’s career.

Black and red seems to have become the official color scheme of the cry for help.  This is a bit disorienting for me.  Back in the 1980s, black was a color with a very serious political message.  The only people who used black in their campaign flags were people who were victims of political prosecution.   I suppose it is a good thing that Taiwan is far enough removed from those days that black can now be used to indicate a very different and much less serious type of disaster.  Here is a black and red call for help from Jiang Zhiming (DPP, Taipei 2).

For some reason, Taipei 3 (Songshan, Xinyi) seems to the epicenter of the black and red cries for help.  This is Wang Zhengde (KMT, Taipei 3).

Xu Jiabei (DPP, Taipei 3). Come to think of it, her father is a former city councilor who has a court case hanging over him.  However, she isn’t using black in the old sense; this black and red color scheme is clearly just another cry for strategic voting.

Yang Shiqiu (KMT, Taipei 3).  Instead of “qiang jiu” 強救, Yang has substituted “gao ji” 告急, or emergency!

Hong Jianyi (DPP, Taipei 3).

It’s not just that district.  Here is a black and red help sign in Tucheng.  (Ou Jinshi, DPP, Xinbei 7).

Ouch, too bright!

Jian Wenliu (KMT, Xinbei 5) asks people not to split up their votes.  That is, he is asking families to give him all of their votes rather than giving one to each of the KMT’s candidates.

Everyone screams for help, not just those who we might think are weak.  This banner is for Chen Jinxiang (KMT, Taipei 6) who is the vice-speaker of the Taipei City Council.  Really?  The vice-speaker is in trouble?  Really?

I can do better.  This sign is for Chen Xingjin (KMT, Xinbei 2).  Chen is currently the speaker of the Taipei County Assembly.  Just for the record, I didn’t make it to the districts of the Taipei City speaker or the Taipei County vice-speaker, so I don’t know if they were using this kind of tactic too.

Here’s another candidate who everyone expects to win.  This is former legislators Qin Huizhu (KMT, Taipei 3).

We already saw another former legislator using this tactic.  Wang Shuhui (DPP, Xinbei 4)  was one of the three people on the wall in Banqiao.

(And if you are counting, this would be the fifth black and red sign from that Taipei 3 district.)

Some candidates have figured that voters are probably inured to the save me appeal, and so they try to phrase the appeal in a more convincing way that reflects their special circumstances.  Here, Wu Yuanhao (KMT, Xinbei 3) tells voters that survey results are not equal to election results.  In other words, he is pleading with his voters not to strategically desert him for someone else.

Perhaps no one has played the save me angle as intensely as Zhong Xiaoping (KMT, Taipei 5).  Every time I go into his district, I hear a sound truck screaming that he is facing imminent death and needs to be rescued.  Zhong has another angle to his appeal.  He has lost before, so when he screams that he is in trouble, it might be more credible.  He even adds Jason Hu as his celebrity endorser.

Lin Shuishan (DPP, Xinbei 4) has a similar strategy.  Last time he came in 10th in a 9 seat district.  He has a picture of Su Tseng-chang sighing “I am worried that Lin Shuishan will be the top loser again.”

Here, Tsai Ing-wen tells that Lin Shuishan was the top loser last time and asks everyone to encourage him.

Wang Xinyi (KMT, Taipei 6) also lost last time.  Her banner exhorts voters not to let her lose by only a few votes and cry tears of regret again.

The crux of the problem is that all these candidates are trying to divide up votes from the same pool of voters, and each one wants (more than) his fair share.  One way to deal with this is to redefine the group of candidates who can legitimately draw from the pool of voters.   In Zhonghe (Xinbei 5), the two official DPP nominees (Zhang Ruishan and Lin Xiuhui) pose with Tsai and say “we are all DPP nominees.”  To understand why this is controversial, you have to know that a third candidate is trying to make claims on the DPP voters as well.  Jiang Yongchang only recently joined the DPP, and since he has been in the party less than a year, he wasn’t eligible to be nominated.  The two DPP candidates are suggesting that Jiang doesn’t deserve any DPP votes.

Predictably, Jiang Yongchang (IND, Xinbei 5) screams for voters to save him, as the “new” green soldier needs your critical vote.

Usually I think of strategic voting as something that goes on within parties, not between them.  However, Xue Yonghua (PFP, Xinbei 7) is the only PFP nominee in his district.  He asks voters to save him and adds, don’t let the PFP disappear.  In other words, he is trying to convince voters to think about the blue camp, not just the KMT.

Finally, we get to the last two candidates, and there is something strange going on.  Yang Zonghan (IND, Xinbei 5) boasts that he is a monster, 100 battles and 100 victories.  In other words, he is an election juggernaut.

In the same district, Lu Wanyu (IND, Xinbei 5) has taped a sign to his sound truck telling people that he is in third place in a recent survey.  What?  Third place?  The district has seven seats.  He should be claiming that he is seventh or eighth.  What is he doing?  And why is Yang telling voters that he always wins?  Don’t these guys know how the game works?

In fact, Yang and Lu are guarding against the traditional kind of strategic voting, in which voters desert weak candidates to support viable candidates.  Both are independents and neither is an incumbent, and the first battle they have to win is to convince voters that they are viable.  Party nominees, especially from the two big parties, have a much easier time of this.  If they weren’t strong enough to win, they couldn’t have ever gotten a nomination.  Independents don’t have this kind of credible signal, so they have to send other signals.   It seems you have to convince voters you can win before you start screaming that you are going to lose.

“Everyone says I will win…”

November 12, 2010

As I was driving through Wanhua tonight, I heard a sound truck for Zhong Xiaoping 鍾小平, a KMT candidate for Taipei City Council.   His message was something to the effect of, “Everyone says that I will win easily, and my poll ratings have already dropped quite a bit.  Please don’t let the best candidate lose.”

In a previous post, I mentioned that Liang Wenjie 梁文傑 is claiming that he is the weakest DPP candidate in his district, so that he desperately needs your vote.  Zhong is coming from the other side of the “first place curse.”   In the past, lots of candidates who polls showed to be in first place have ended up very far down the list, sometimes even losing.  Zhong is telling people who might be considering defecting from him not to do so.

However, this might actually be even more interesting.  Zhong did not win the KMT’s telephone survey primary.   In fact, he came in third.  It is possible that he has since overtaken the original top two (Guo Zhaoyan郭昭嚴  and Ying Xiaowei 應曉薇), but I have my doubts.  What seems possible is that Zhong is trying to paint himself as desperately needing votes, and the first place curse is a widely known script.  It really doesn’t matter if he is actually in first place since there isn’t good public information on this anyway.    If his message inspires some people to throw a few extra votes his way, he will have succeeded.

campaign trail: Liang Wenjie rally

November 8, 2010

On Saturday night, I went to see a rally for Liang Wenjie 梁文傑, a DPP nominee for Taipei City Council in District 4 (Zhongshan, Datong).  This was the opening of his campaign headquarters, so this was his big event.  It was held at the Ningxia night market, right near the old traffic circle/snack bizarre.  They put up a stage in a small street going off the main street and had seating for about 200-300 people.  When we got there, they had a nice crowd, with all the seats full and a lot of people hanging around the outer perimeter.  I think that was the plan: for night market customers to walk by and linger a bit.  Unfortunately, it started drizzling about 30 minutes after the event started.  The seated area was covered, and so people either sat there or left.  If you were a passerby, you saw a clear demarcation between the political event and the night market.  Instead of attracting people from the night market, I saw a small event that couldn’t get anyone from the night market throngs to stop to listen.  It didn’t look good, even if it was just lousy luck.  (On the other hand, you have to plan on it raining in Taipei.  So it’s not entirely luck.)

Liang started his event at 6:30, which was probably too early.  I thought it was because he wanted to have an event going all evening to take advantage of the night market crowds.  There was a lot more entertainment than usual at a DPP event.  He had at least four musical performances, plus the obligatory drumming/lion dance to open the campaign.  I figured that he had so many performances because he was trying to stretch the event to fill all the time.  Most events start at 7:30 or so and go until nearly 10:00.  An extra hour is a lot of time to fill.  As it turned out, his event ended just after 9:00.  So I’m not sure why he didn’t just start an hour later.  It’s not as if the night market slows down that early.  Again, not great planning.

Liang is a member of the New Tide faction, so he had lots of New Tide figures speaking.  He also had a video message from Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, his boss for the last few years.  Liang’s biography is not the typical DPP background.  He is a “mainlander,” though in this case the Chinese term “person from other province” is perhaps more appropriate.  His family is from the Dachen islands, a little island chain along the Zhejiang coast.  Chiang Kai-shek withdrew from these islands in the 1950s, and Liang’s family was among the refugees.  Liang grew up in a military village, and his family members were (and apparently still are) loyal KMT supporters.  Liang, however, joined the DPP in 1990 while he was still a student.  He has been groomed by the New Tide faction; someone told me that they even funded his graduate program at LSE (he didn’t graduate).  In recent years, he has worked in the DPP central party office and in the Kaohsiung City government.

A few things from his speech stood out for me.  First, I’ve heard what a bright guy he is, but he isn’t a great public speaker.  He wasn’t boring, but whatever “it” is, he doesn’t seem to have much of it.  Second, he was pretty effective in contrasting the Flora Expo with the Kaohsiung World Games (which he helped plan), emphasizing the differences in costs and in long term benefits.  Third, while talking about his background, he pulled out the old line that Taiwanese are not prejudiced, it is the Mainlanders who are prejudiced.  It is a standard line among the DPP fundamentalists, but you don’t usually expect to hear it from someone as young as Liang.  Fourth, while talking about Hau’s corruption and choices in using people, Liang said something to the effect of: every government has corruption, heck, the DPP government had lots of corruption.  Ok, I didn’t expect to hear that.

As you might be gathering, I didn’t think the event was very successful.  Liang is a marginal candidate, and his inability to hold a nice event or to rally more than 300 or so core supporters does not impress me.  However, Liang is doing one thing very well, and that one thing might be enough for him to win the race.  Liang is playing the strategic voting angle very well.  There are five DPP nominees, and he is the fifth.  (In the primary, he beat out the 6th place candidate by a miniscule margin.)  So his strategy is to tell DPP supporters that if they want to elect all five DPP candidates, he is the critical fifth one.  But he is going one step further.  He is also making the argument that there are enough votes to go around, citing polls and past voting results in this city council district.  So the argument is thus: 1) the DPP should have a majority of votes in this district, 2) so the DPP should be able to win five seats (of eight total), and 3) Liang is the fifth candidate, so be sure to send votes his way.  Everything about this argument is sound, and candidates who make this argument convincingly typically end up closer to the first winner than to the last winner.

One other interesting think about this rally was that I picked up a flyer for Yao Wenzhi 姚文智, who is not a candidate in any of this year’s elections.  Rather, he is angling for the legislature.  Yao has targeted the Datong-Shilin district, which the DPP should win.  Yao is part of Frank Hseih’s 謝長廷 faction, and it is not surprising that Hsieh wants to take control of his old bailiwick.  Four years ago, Wang Shijian 王世堅, also in Hsieh’s faction, beat out Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴 for the nomination.  Wang then proceeded to lose the general election to a mediocre KMT candidate, not an easy task in this district.

I don’t think Yao will have an uncontested path to the nomination.  This seat is too much of a prize for that.  For now, I just wanted to note that the jockeying for the legislature has already started.