Posts Tagged ‘Su Tseng-chang’

catching up

February 28, 2011

It’s been a while since I have written anything on this blog because (a) I’ve got other stuff to do and (b) not much is happening in the world of elections right now.  In the past two and a half month, the major election related news has been about the very early presidential race.  Apparently President Ma is going to run for re-election.  Shocker.  It looks like Speaker Wang will remain Speaker Wang.  The KMT’s “rule” that people on the party list can only serve two terms may not be written in stone.  And Premier Wu is still rumored to be the most likely Vice Presidential candidate.  None of this is much of a surprise.  (Frozen Garlic’s mad genius suggestion: Ma should choose CEC Chair and former Chiayi City Mayor Chang Po-ya as his running mate.  It will never happen, but it would be genius.)

On the DPP side, there also hasn’t been anything that significant.  Annette Lu has announced her candidacy to a resounding yawn.  The race is between Su and Tsai, something we have been aware of for over a year.  Tsai is probably ahead now, but I think she damaged herself by overplaying her hand in the battle for the nominations process.  The DPP will have its presidential nomination in late April. (Why the rush?  The election isn’t for another 11 months.  Of course, as the leader, Tsai wants this decision made as soon as possible before anything happens to change the race.)  Tsai also got her way in the legislative nominations.  She wanted the district nominations to be decided by telephone survey, with no party member voting component, and she wanted the party chair (herself!) to completely decide the party list.  The latter, especially, is where I think she went a bit too far.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, the DPP announced that it would forgo any nomination process in “difficult” districts, and the party would simply draft candidates for these districts.  The problem is that their definition of “difficult” is so broad that it encompasses 40 of the 73 districts.  In some of these, the DPP should probably be favored to win.  This is ridiculous and simply a clear power grab.  So much for the institutionalization of the rules of competition.

Unlike last year, we haven’t heard a whole lot about the by-elections.  There is a good reason for this.  Unlike last year, when the DPP was winning amazing victories on the KMT’s turf, this year’s contests are being fought on DPP turf and should be fairly easy victories for the DPP.

One of the races is in Tainan City.  This is the KMT’s strongest district in all of Tainan.  In the 2008 KMT wave, the DPP was barely able to win this race even with a strong candidate.  In this election cycle, with things swinging toward the DPP and in a by-election (which seems to play to the DPP’s strengths), it shouldn’t be as close.  Moreover, the DPP has a clear edge in candidates.  The DPP candidate is the former mayor, Hsu Tain-tsair 許添財, while the KMT is running an incumbent party list legislator, Chen Shu-huey 陳淑慧.  The KMT made a big deal about the fact that it’s preferred two candidates both declined to run in this race.  Both were forced out of their minor cabinet positions, as party leaders (esp King Pu-tsung 金溥聰) grumbled that the soldiers the party had spent the last few years cultivating refused to fight when the party needed them.  In their defense, it isn’t really Wang Yu-ting’s 王昱婷 district, and Kao Su-po’s 高思博 family (he is Eric Chu’s 朱立倫 brother-in-law) just finished a grueling campaign.  I wouldn’t have run either if I were them.  So instead, the KMT turned to Chen Shu-huey, who is currently on the party list and the wife of former legislator and mayoral candidate Lin Nan-sheng 林南生.  She should be a competent candidate, though I doubt Lin still has as much support as he enjoyed at his apex about 15 years ago.  On the other hand, this is the first time an incumbent party list legislator has run in a district by-election, and one can imagine that this makes for an awkward argument.  Vote for me, though win or lose, I’ll stay in the legislature.  Really, you need to vote for me so that the next person on the party list can win office.  So the choice is between having one more representative from Tainan and one more representative from … Yunlin (where the next person on the party list is from, I think).

In Kaohsiung, the race is between the DPP’s Lin Tai-hua 林岱華, a former two-term legislator and Hsu Ching-huang 徐慶煌, the son of former DPP legislator Hsu Chih-ming 徐志明.  The father was an old-time member of the Kaohsiung County Black Faction.  The Black Faction was led by the Yu family, and it occupied a strange position between opposition politics and good old-fashioned money politics.  I don’t know how closely the son hews to the father’s political style, but it wasn’t all that uncommon for Black Faction politicians to change sides.  Anyway, Hsu has been nominated by the KMT.  Apparently they think their best shot is with a politician who seems to have a foot in the other camp.  In this district, it may well be.  For what it’s worth, Hsu did win about 13000 votes as an independent in 2008.  That’s not nothing, but I don’t think this election is about him.  This district clearly leans to the green camp, and if they close ranks and vote along party lines, they should win easily.  With a compelling candidate in Lin, I really don’t think this race should be close.


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.)