Posts Tagged ‘Su Zhenchang’

campaign trail: Su rally

November 22, 2010

On Sunday night, I went to Su Tseng-chang’s rally, held in the courtyard of a junior high school across the street from Da-an Park.  This rally was by far the best rally I have been to this year.

About 6000 packed the courtyard.  In absolute numeric terms, the crowd was only about half the size of the crowd at Hau’s rally, which I had just come from.  However, if I were a candidate, I would prefer this 6000 people to Hau’s 13000.  Su’s crowd was completely unmobilized, or perhaps I should say they were all self-mobilized.  (This is the first big event I have been to this year that had no large-scale mobilization.  I’ve written about events for Chu and Hau.  A couple of weeks ago, I also went to a very disorienting large scale indoor event for Tsai in which perhaps 80% of the audience was mobilized.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or the clarity in my thoughts to write about it at the time.)  Candidates don’t mind having mobilized people show up their events, but people who show up on their own are better.  Su might have had as many self-mobilized people at his event as Hau did at his.  Moreover, whereas Hau’s campaign had been building up for the parade for weeks, this was just another event for Su.  There was no special advertising saying that, if you only come out for one event this year, it should be this one.  Of course Sunday night before the election is a big deal, but for Su’s campaign, it probably ranks behind Saturday night and this coming Friday night (election eve), and there might be others as well.  So even though Hau “won” the numbers game on Sunday, Su has to be happier about the number of people who showed up for his event than Hau is about the turnout for his.

However, the most important difference between Su’s crowd and Hau’s crowd was energy.  There was more energy in this crowd than in the (much larger) Chu and Hau crowds combined.  Before the rally started, they showed a video about Su’s childhood and early adulthood.  When the video ended, the crowd applauded.  That was my first clue that this rally would be different.

The high point of the evening was when Su took the stage and led the audience in singing his campaign song.  They turned off the music, so that it was just Su (with a microphone) and the audience unplugged.  Most people were singing (I paid particular attention to that), and they were singing loudly enough that it reverberated off the school walls.  It was really cool.

It took a lot of guts for Su to do this.  Crowds are not nearly as enthusiastic as they were ten years ago, and it is hard to get audience to respond.  Most rallies don’t take this chance.  You almost always have two people with a microphone, and when the main speaker asks the crowd if the opponent has done well, should apologize, or whatever, the second person is always ready to jump in and give the “yes!,” “no!,” “they should!,” or whatever the appropriate response is.  They almost never leave it up to the audience to respond these days, because they aren’t sure that they won’t be met with a sickening dead silence of indifference.  So when Su asked the audience to sing with him, he was taking a big chance and it paid off handsomely.  I don’t know if the news programs chose to show this moment, but they certainly might have and it would have looked very good for the Su campaign.

I’m dwelling on this little moment because it didn’t happen by accident.  Right before Su took the stage, the musical group that wrote the campaign song performed.  They did a couple of rousing songs, and then they performed the campaign song.  They started by teaching the audience: this song only has four simple lines in the chorus, let’s try them.  So they went line by line, a capella but with the words on the video screen, and got the audience to practice or just hear the lyrics.  Then they performed the song, which had those simple four lines again and again.  Many people joined in and sang the chorus with them.  So before Su took the stage, the audience had already learned and practiced this chorus.  But, of course, this moment started long before Sunday night.  Six months ago, someone in the Su campaign had this vision and laid the groundwork by producing an appropriate song.  I can imagine them saying, we need a simple song with only a few lyrics, make it about change, and make it easy to sing.  In short, there was an immense amount of preparation that went into this one very cool moment.  Well-run campaigns like Su’s seem to have these moments all the time.


Su gave a very long speech, at least 30 minutes.  After the singing, he turned to more substantial content which inevitably sapped some of the energy from the crowd.  We never got back to the height of the singing.  However, I wouldn’t say that Su put the audience to sleep; they were still paying attention.  Su spoke on several themes.  He attacked Hau’s record as mayor, accusing him of poor planning and wasteful spending.  (When he talked about the very expensive and seldom used bus lane on Zhongxiao W. Rd., he flashed a bird’s eye picture of the other lanes jammed up and the bus lane completely empty up on the video board.  The video team, which is led by his son-in-law, is doing a fabulous job.)  He talked about some of the things he would do as mayor.  (One of these had to do with children’s welfare policies, and he spoke very movingly about how difficult it was for him and his family when his granddaughter was born three months premature.)  He spoke for quite a while about his philosophy of using talent, emphasizing that as Pingdong County executive, he had given the job of executive secretary (the #2 job) to a mainlander who was a lifelong KMT member.  They had already shown a video on this story, and the old man (now more than 80) spoke of how surprised he was that Su didn’t care about anything but ability.  (Frozen Garlic takes all of this with a grain of salt, but it was very well presented.)  Su also spoke about this as an election to improve the governance of Taipei City, asking voters to make their decisions based on their evaluation of the Hau administration’s performance rather than on some blue-green ideological divide.  Most of his speech was in Mandarin, not Taiwanese.  This was a very, very good message for Taipei City.


Let me try to put this rally into historical perspective.  It was far and away the best rally I have been to this year, but it was nowhere near some of the rallies from previous years, either in numbers or in enthusiasm.  Just off the top of my head, the Chen and Chao 趙少康 campaigns of 1994 easily outdid it, as did both the Chen and Ma campaigns in 1998.  I missed the 2002 and 2006 campaigns, so I can’t compare those.  However, I was at the election eve event for Su in 1997 (when Lu Hsiu-yi 盧修一 knelt down), and that was far, far more electric than last night.  We haven’t even started talking about the 2000 or 2004 presidential races.  In short, it was nice, but don’t let my praise make you think that Su’s campaign is white hot.  Su certainly has a chance to win this race, but the chill on Hau’s side is much more important than the warmth on Su’s side.


A Tale of Two Rallies

November 2, 2010

Mrs. Garlic and I went to two DPP rallies this past weekend, one in Taipei City and one in Xinbei City, and the differences between the two were quite interesting.

On Friday night, we went to the opening of Li Jianchang’s 李建昌 campaign headquarters.  (The opening of campaign headquarters is the traditional way to formally launch the final stage of your campaign.)  Li is a four-term city council member running in District 2 (Nangang, Neihu), so you might expect that he knows what he’s doing.  He is also a member of the DPP’s New Tide faction, as was quite clear through the evening.  There were New Tide figures all over.  The host was a New Tide city council member from another district (Wu Siyao 吳思瑤).  Some of the speakers included former legislators Lin Zhuoshui 林濁水, Hong Qichang 洪奇昌, and Duan Yikang 段宜康, as well as former Taoyuan County executive candidate Zheng Wencan 鄭文燦 (who is supposed to be spending all his time in Xinbei City on Cai Yingwen’s campaign).

The event was held in a park right outside one of the exits on the Mucha-Neihu MRT line.  It was drizzly, but there were perhaps 1000 people.  That is a pretty successful crowd for this type of event.  (They also had the best cultural event I have ever seen at one of these rallies.  They had an all-girl group of music students playing traditional Chinese instruments.  You don’t expect to hear traditional Chinese instruments at a DPP event, but it didn’t take long for them to win over the audience.  They were spectacular.  For once, I would have preferred a (second) encore to more political speeches.)

Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌 was the main speaker of the night.  He showed up at about nine and spoke for about an hour.  Two things were notable to me: the content and his speaking style.  Substantively, Su’s speech was notable for what was missing.  He did not say anything about the KMT, President Ma, China, Taiwan independence, ECFA, or anything else dealing with national politics.  Instead, his speech was entirely on local matters.  He spoke at length about the Mucha-Neihu MRT line and the Xinsheng Elevated Expressway scandal.

Stylistically, Su had the crowd involved the whole time.  He constantly wove humor into his stump speech, and he made the audience laugh every two or three minutes.  For example, when he was talking about the MRT line, he criticized the city government for putting lousy seats in the trains.  The seats slope forward a bit, and he described how he had to constantly fight to keep from sliding off and bumping his knees into the young woman standing in front of him.  As he described the awkward social situation (which was, of course, entirely the fault of the city government), we were rolling with laughter.

To hammer home the point that Mayor Hau should be responsible for his underling’s behavior in the Xinsheng Expressway case, Su told a story about drinking in the provincial government.  Back in the early 1980s, the governor was Lin Yang-gang 林洋港, a man famous for his ability to drink.  Lin loved to drink, and heavy drinking was common among the top officials in the provincial government.  When Lee Teng-hui replaced Lin as governor, there was a marked change in culture.  Lee could also hold his liquor, but he had stopped drinking because his son had recently passed away.  Since Lee didn’t drink, the entire drinking culture among the top officials disappeared.  As Su put it, whatever kind of leader you have, that’s the kind of subordinates you will have.  By implication, Hau is guilty as hell.

Maybe the most impressive thing to me was Su’s ability to get the audience physically involved.  As any teacher can tell you, an audience will retain content much more effectively if they are physically involved.  Su talked about how it was time to change the mayor before things got too bad just as you need to flip over a fish in the frying pan before it gets burned.  Then he had everyone hold out their hands, as if they were a spatula with a fish on them, and everyone flipped their hands over together.  Now this sounds hokey, and it is.  It is also a lot easier to ask people to do something like this than to get them to do it.  And even if they do it, they usually do it begrudgingly or sheepishly.  However, I watched the audience as he did this, and probably 90% of the people were flipping their hands and smiling.  They were involved.

Su was, of course, preaching to the choir.  And he was effective.  Those thousand people were almost certainly already his votes, but they left the event energized.  Because of this rally, they will expend more effort in trying to get Su elected.

The next night, we went to a Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 rally in Banqiao.  The rally was in a park near the Shulin train station, and I think it might have been organized by the local DPP party branch.  From 6:30 to 7:00, a few lizhang candidates spoke.  From 7:00 to about 7:45, each of the five city council candidates spoke, and from 8:00 to 8:20, Cai spoke.  The only political celebrity to speak was Zhuang Shuohan 莊碩漢, a former legislator from Banqiao.

The speakers were a lot less polished that those in Taipei City.  While Xinbei is being elevated to an equal rank as Taipei City and Taipei City Councilors have traditionally had fairly high profiles, it was clear to me that we shouldn’t expect to see many political stars emerging from the Xinbei City Council.

There was quite a good crowd.  It was a bit bigger than the one the previous evening.  I would estimate the Taipei City crowd at about 1000 people, and the Xinbei City crowd at about 1500.  One of the speakers claimed they had never been able to attract such a big crowd in this area in previous years.

Cai Yingwen’s speech was on a mixture of national and local issues.  She talked at length about President Ma’s failures, the significance of this election as a referendum on Ma, and how the DPP party image was better than the KMT party image (which was to her credit as party chair).  She also talked about housing prices and policies for senior citizens and young people.  And she criticized the United Daily News surveys that show her trailing by a lot.  (She seems overly sensitive about UDN surveys.  This makes me wonder if she doesn’t have a strain of Nixon-like paranoia.)

However, the strongest contrast between her and Su was in style.  Cai was calm, rational, quiet, logical, and boring.  A rally is not the time for a clinical lecture.  Everyone there already agrees with you; you don’t need to convince them.  What you need to do is fire them up so that they will go out and work for you as effective shock-troops.  The crowd was desperate to chant, cheer, and participate.  At one point, someone broke into her speech for a “Frozen Garlic” cheer (Cai Yingwen, Dong Suan!!).  The crowd momentarily erupted.  Then she cut them off and put them back to sleep.

At the ludicrously early hour of 8:20, she finished and the event ended.  She didn’t even stay around to shake hands.  (Most candidates shake a few hands as they leave the arena.  I wouldn’t think much of this except that Cai’s campaign seems to be founded on the notion that she should shake as many hands as possible.  Perhaps this only applies to scheduled events in traditional markets.)  I was stunned.

I wouldn’t call myself conservative, but I do have a healthy respect for tried-and-true methods.  In Su and Cai, we have a stark contrast.  This is Cai’s first time running for office, and she seems to be infatuated with the idea that she should do things differently.  Su is running in his eighth campaign (ninth if you count the 2008 vice presidential campaign), and he won seven of those campaigns (the winner of the eighth was eventually convicted of slandering Su during the campaign).  To me, Su looked like a master of his craft, while Cai looked downright amateurish.

Hao’s travails

September 14, 2010

Every day seems to bring worse and worse news for Mayor Hao.  If before I was shocked that I could see a reasonable path leading him to defeat, now I am finding it increasingly difficult to imagine a path to victory.

On Sept 2, I wrote that he could win the race by rallying the party faithful.  All he needed to do was to turn the race from a contest of personalities into one of parties.  I suggested that one effective way to do that would be to go negative.  I think Hao’s campaign might go negative, but I don’t know that it will work very well any more.

Everything changed a day or two after that post, when accusations that the city was wasting too much money on flowers turned into allegations that corruption was involved.   Hao tried to deal with this by firing the official in charge of the Xinsheng elevated expressway project, for which the flowers in question were purchased.  Yesterday, Hao basically admitted that the responsibility for those decisions went higher up by allowing his vice-mayor and two of his other top advisors to resign.  In fact, the DPP city councilors have argued that the mayor himself is required to approve purchasing decisions as large as this one.

In August, we were getting a picture of Hao as a mildly ineffective mayor.  Sure, he made some questionable decisions on how to allocate money and several of his policy initiatives seemed to suffer from sloppy execution, but mildly ineffective politicians in districts with favorable partisan balances get re-elected all the time.  Now we have a much different and far more corrosive image.  There are two possibilities.  Hao could be corrupt, and he is cynically trying to place the blame for these scandals on his underlings.  Alternatively, Hao could be incompetent, unable to control his underlings or too blind to see what they are doing.  Either of these images could be deadly.

The polls are reflecting these troubles.  I saw references in media stories to KMT internal polls that indicated Su was leading, and now we have a published poll from TVBS (Sept. 8) that shows Su leading 45-42.  (On Aug. 25, TVBS had Hao leading 45-42.)  Maybe more stunning are the changes in Hao’s image.  Whereas previous polls had shown that more people like Hao than disliked him by roughly a 40-32 margin, the new poll showed 34% liking Hao and 35% disliking him.  Likewise, his satisfaction/dissatisfaction numbers went from 37/45 to 34/52.  These are small changes, but given that Su has already consolidated all the easy votes (ie: all the voters who usually lean to or are willing to consider the DPP), it seems that he now is making headway into the harder votes.

I’m trying hard to imagine how Hao can right the ship.  I don’t think negative campaigning will work well any more.  Now Hao’s own image is so damaged that negative ads might simply backfire.  Hao still needs to turn the election into a contest of parties.  However, I think he has to repair his own image a bit first, so that voters who are inclined to vote for the KMT will feel ok about voting for him.

Therein lies the problem.  There are two big things that will happen between now and election day.  First, the Flora Expo will open.  Lots of things could still go wrong.  We could see traffic jams, leaky roofs, dirty restrooms, small crowds, poor staffing, sick flowers, and so on.  But let’s imagine that everything goes well.  Imagine there are larger than expected crowds, everything is organized impeccably, and everyone is entranced by the beauty of the flowers.  Even in this scenario, many people will think that it should have been possible to do this shindig for a lot less money and wonder about kickbacks.  In other words, no matter how well the actual Expo goes, I’m afraid Hao won’t get much credit because the well is already poisoned.

The other big event has a similar problem.  Hao will open a new MRT line.  We haven’t heard about cost overruns, accidents, or construction delays on the Xinzhuang/Luzhou line, much less corruption.  The problem is that another MRT line, the Wenhu line, has been plagued by all sorts of problems in the past few years.   In other words, even if voters change their focus from flowers to MRT lines, Hao still might not benefit very much.

I can’t think of any other potential game-changing events on the schedule.  On one of the talk shows the other night, Sisy Chen was trying to argue that voters simply aren’t giving Hao enough credit for other things that he is doing, and she listed several examples.  I think she is taking the right tack in trying to repair Hao’s image, but she just didn’t have much to work with.  Most of the things she was talking about are in the early stages of planning or construction or are simply very low profile.  Moreover, while she was trying to argue that Hao has done a good job, the media was reporting that Hao had been forced to fire his closest advisors, and the other blue-leaning talk shows were debating whether Hao should step aside and whether his woes would drag down Zhu Lilun in Xinbei City.

The only recent good news for Hao comes out of Su’s camp.  In a recent court case, eight current and former legislators were accused of accepting bribes from the Chinese Medical Association to push for a change in the law.  The case dated to 1996, when Su was in the legislature.  Su was not one of the eight on trial, but there were some documents connecting him to this case.  However, the story seems not to have had legs; I haven’t seen any mention of Su and this scandal since the first news cycle.

This election is not over by any means.  Taipei is still a blue-leaning city, and there are still two months to go.  I expect the KMT to make a big push to rally around Hao.  The rallies in the nights before the election will likely see emotional appeals, arguing that Su’s election would be a disaster and talking about all the wonderful things that Hao has done.  Hao could still win.  However, he, not Su, is now the one with the uphill fight.

What should Hao do?

September 2, 2010

From the perspective of the KMT, the Taipei mayoral race is currently a disaster.  Let’s recount the situation.  The KMT has an incumbent (that’s supposed to be an advantage!) running for re-election in a district that the KMT/pan-Blue side has never lost when it is not divided.  By all accounts, the DPP faces a hard ceiling at about 45%.  Here is some election history:

year race KMT DPP
1998 Mayor 51 46
2000 President 62* 38
2002 Mayor 64 36
2004 President 57 43
2006 Mayor 54 41
2008 President 63 37

*Lien + Soong

The only close race there is 1998.  Chen Shuibian was running for re-election after a transformative first term as mayor.  It’s hard to overstate just how good his performance was.  He still didn’t win.  Granted, the KMT nominated its own start that year in Ma Yingjeou, but 1998 has always been seen as the upper limit for the DPP.

A base of around 40% would not be an insurmountable obstacle in other areas.  In February, the DPP won a by-election in Hsinchu County starting from a much smaller base.  However the electorate in Taipei is much more politicized and polarized than anywhere else in Taiwan.  Party identification is stronger here, and candidates’ personal qualities matter a lot less.  Everything runs much more according to party lines here.  This makes elections a lot easier to understand, since you simply aren’t likely to get wild swings.   If the underlying electorate of Taipei City is basically a 55-40 split, it’s extremely difficult to envision that turning into a 49-51 result in any particular election.

However, at this point, we have to start imagining that such a result is, in fact, not only possible but increasingly probable.  Most polls still show Mayor Hao with a tiny lead, but he is getting hammered in the media every day.  If nothing changes, he is going to lose.

What’s going on?  Right now the election is all about Mayor Hao.  Every day brings new criticism for something he is not doing well.  It might be the condition of roads, public exercise centers that cause headaches for neighbors, rising property prices, his comical efforts to get people to lower their air conditioners to 26C, the Xinsheng Elevated Expressway, and, above all, the Flora Expo.  He just can’t seem to get credit for doing anything right.  Today’s news had a story about how his inner circle only has three people – he even gets criticized for the way he gets advice!  So right now, when voters think about the election, a large number are thinking in terms of what a lousy job Hao is doing.  In other words, this is fast becoming a nonpartisan election about good governance.

Where is Su in all this?  He’s barely a factor.  He says a few non-controversial things, sighs, and says he wishes Hao could do a better job.  Then he flies off to Singapore or Los Angeles.  Ok, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but Su’s strategy thus far has been to stay out of the way.   When your opponent is drowning himself, why get involved?  (Note: Su should get a bit of credit for this restraint.  Not all politicians can resist the lure to do something.)

What does Hao need to do to turn this around?  He needs to reorient this election as a choice between the KMT and DPP.   He needs to remind the electorate that the alternative to him is a DPP politician with clear presidential aspirations.  They can’t escape the partisan implications that this race has, so they need to vote for the party they like best.  In Taipei, that ensures a KMT victory.

Hao needs to go negative.

He should stop talking about flowers and start talking about Su’s presidential dream.  He should label Su as a Taiwan independence extremist.  He should start calling him Su Shuibian.  Attack his record as Taipei County Executive and Premier.  Revive the attack that Su spent wildly with a bit of sensationalism added.  If he spent NT600million a month every month he was in office, call him Su Liuyi (Su 600m).  Challenge him to a debate in English and ridicule his (perceived) lack of cosmopolitanism.  Lampoon his lousy ideas about the environment.   And then, I’d advise Hao to roll out the slander.  Comb through Su’s records in office and find something that either is or could be made to look suspicious.  Get the attack dogs of the blue media to start frothing.  Force Su to respond and call you a liar.  Turn this campaign into a nasty slushball fight.  Make sure that by the end of the campaign, voters have lost all sense of what is and what isn’t factual, so that all they have to go on is party label.  If both candidates are rats, all voters can do is vote for the rat from the better party.

Maybe you worry that this type of strategy would ruin Hao’s reputation, that even if he won, he would destroy himself in the process.  To this I answer, would it be better to lose?  One term mayors who lose in spite of overwhelmingly favorable partisan electorates don’t enjoy good reputations.  Historians, journalists, and the average person have to explain the loss somehow, and the only good answer is that the mayor did a lousy, lousy job.  If Hao loses, all people will remember is ineptitude and corruption.  (Case in point: How is Huang Dazhou 黃大洲 remembered?)  If Hao wins, the discourse will say he wasn’t great in office, but he wasn’t enough of a disaster to lose the election.  Moreover, he will have four more years to try to build a new, better reputation.

If you, dear reader, are repulsed by my advice, fear not.  There doesn’t seem to be any chance that Hao will follow my suggested course.  (I am not, after all, one of the three people who has his ear.)  In fact, Hao seems to be taking the exact opposite tack.  In the past week, he has stated a couple of times that the election is no longer important, the important thing is to have a successful Flora Expo.   In other words, he is going to continue to focus on governance instead of politics.  This means that the media will continue to focus on his performance in office.  Moreover, by stating his priorities thusly, it seems Hao is tacitly admitting that his performance so far hasn’t been great.  In other words, he is asking you to judge him on the basis of credentials that even he admits are not very appealing.

Meanwhile, Su stands by as the alternative, quite content for voters to think of him in the context of his long-established reputation as a good administrator rather than as the next DPP presidential candidate.

(Splash of cold water:  Hao is still leading in the polls.  Maybe I am over-reacting.  His strategy might still win.  I’m sure mine would.)

DPP Central Standing Committee election

July 22, 2010

I’ve been silent for nearly a month.  So sue me.  Nothing much has happened anyway, except for the ECFA signing, KMT city council nominations, a major judicial scandal involving a former elected official, and a few other things of equally minor importance.  Who wants to write about stuff like that?

Instead of stuff like that (that might have a real impact on the country’s future), I’m going to address something much more mundane today, the DPP’s recent Central Standing Committee (CSC) elections.

The DPP power structure is elected indirectly.  First, the party congress elects the 30 members of the Central Executive Committee (CEC), and then the CEC elects the 10 members of the CSC.  (Yes, this is exactly how the KMT does it too.  The DPP copied the KMT’s Leninist architecture.)  The voting is done according to the SNTV method.  There are also some ex-officio members of the CSC, including the party chair, the three leaders of the legislative caucus, any mayors of direct municipalities, and one county executive (chosen by the various DPP county executives).

The DPP formally abolished its factions a few years ago, and they persist in thinking that we are stupid enough to believe this fiction.  I will not cooperate by calling the factions “the former New Tide faction” and so on.  There are currently six factions to consider: the former New Tide faction, the Hsieh faction (centered around Frank Hsieh 謝長廷), the Su faction (centered around Su Zhenchang 蘇貞昌), the You faction (centered around You Xikun 游錫堃), the Grandparents faction (公媽派) (of older DPP leaders, such as Annette Lu 呂秀蓮 and Cai Tongrong 蔡同榮), and the Chen faction (centered around the former president).  Party chair Cai Yingwen 蔡英文 does not have her own faction; instead she is supported by other factions.  However, she is starting to develop her ties and you can see how a proto-Cai faction could emerge.

It is fashionable to say that these factions have no policy content, but I don’t think that is quite true.  Nowadays, you find the Taiwan fundamentalists mostly in the Grandparents and Chen factions.

So here is the result of the CSC election.  I recreated the voting from news stories, so I’m not 100% sure it is correct, but it seems to make sense.

Win? name name votes faction
謝長廷 Frank Hsieh 4 Hsieh
蔡同榮 Cai Tongrong 3 Grandparents
段宜康 Duan Yikang 3 New Tide
徐佳青 Xu Jiaqing 1 New Tide
顏曉菁 Yan Xiaojing 1 New Tide
林佳龍 Lin Jialong 3 You
余政憲 Yu Zhengxian 3 Chen/Chen Ju
蔡憲浩 Cai Xianhao 3 Su
何志偉 He Zhiwei 3 (Su)
陳明文 Chen Mingwen 3 ?
No 張宏陸 Zhang Honglu 3 Su
Total 30

There are a couple of widely reported stories.  First, most people were surprised that Annette Lu was not elected.  Apparently she made a serious miscalculation.  The DPP rules guarantee that the ten CSC spots will have at least two women.  Lu first communicated with the other factions to determine if other women were running.  According to the China Times, she persuaded the other factions to withdraw all but one of their female candidates so that she would be guaranteed victory.  However, she then tried to exploit this concession.  Since only one other woman was angling for a position, Lu decided to throw her support to Cai Tongrong.  With one unfilled seat for women, the party would hold a second round of voting and Lu calculated that her overall prestige in the party would enable her to win that seat.  That way, the Grandparents would win two seats.  (If she had a vote or two to give away, Cai Tongrong certainly needed it.  If he had only gotten one or two votes, he would have lost.)  However, the New Tide faction caught wind of her stratagem, and quickly decided to add a female candidate and give each of its two women one vote.  Thus, Lu had zero votes, and two New Tide female candidates each had one, and no second round was needed.  (Oh, the joys of good organization!)  Of course, Lu has since denied that she was interested at all in running for the CSC.  Well, that’s what I would expect her to say instead of admitting to such an embarrassing blunder, but we have to at least store away (however skeptically) the possibility that she is telling the truth.

The other interesting story concerned the one loser.  Hsieh (with four votes) and the two women were clear winners.  The other eight candidates for seven seats all tied with three votes.  According to DPP rules,[i] ties are broken by drawing lots.  Chen Mingwen drew the short straw and should have been the loser.  Chen, as you will recall, is the former Chiayi County executive and is now a member of the legislature.  He isn’t really associated with a faction, though the various newspapers said that he is close to Cai Yingwen, and he was elected to the CEC with the support of the New Tide faction and Chen Ju.  Most sources copped out and simply listed him as belonging to the Chiayi faction, which doesn’t really exist as far as I know.  At this point, Su Zhenchang stepped in and instructed his footsoldier, Zhang Honglu, not to draw a lot, thereby yielding the last seat to Chen.

From one point of view, Su has gone mad.  The CSC has a two year term, so this is the body that will be making the important decisions about how the 2012 presidential candidate is nominated.  We all expect that to be a contest between Su and Cai.  Su just traded out a sure vote on the CSC for one who might side with Cai.  On the other hand, Su might be trying to expand his coalition.  Zhang Honglu is a minor Taipei County politician.  He doesn’t bring any independent support.  Chen Mingwen, with all of his support in Chiayi, brings something to the table that is worth wooing.  Now Chen owes him a favor, though we don’t know just how far Chen will feel obligated to go in repaying that favor or whether this will shift Chen into Su’s orbit.

As far as the balance of power goes, the most important trend is the decline of the Chen and Grandparents factions.  In particular, many news sources reported that the Chen faction has been shut out completely.  You’ll notice that I have classified Yu Zhengxian as being part of the Chen faction, but his victory was supposedly due more to the efforts of Chen Ju than to the former president.  (Chen Ju needs Yu for his family’s network in Kaohsiung County; she is clearly not part of the former president’s faction.)  Since these two factions are considered to be the redoubt of the Taiwan fundamentalists and the former president, their decline is significant.  It seems clear that the DPP is continuing its transition out of the Chen Era.

On the other hand, it would be optimistic to say, as the Taipei Times did, that this election marked the consolidation of Cai’s leadership.  Both Taipei Times and TVBS asserted that she could claim the support of six elected members of the CSC: the three New Tide members, Lin Jialong, Chen Mingwen, and Yu Zhengxian.  The China Times suggested that Cai lobbied to get Lin Jialong, Yu Zhengxian (via Chen Ju), and Chen Mingwen elected (supposedly, she asked Su to intervene on Chen’s behalf).  Going through the roll call this way makes it painfully obvious how tenuous Cai’s support is.  Cai’s current strength lies in a balance of power.  None of the factions are strong enough to control the party, and all of them are worried about other factions gaining too much strength.  Since she does not have her own army, Cai is not as much of a threat.  She is a comfortable umbrella for everyone.  And recall that everyone is supposed to be on the same side here – the New Tide faction might want more influence, but it doesn’t want the Su faction to be totally shut out of power to the extent that it might leave, and thus diminish, the party.

So who runs the party?  Well, we’re not sure.  It might be Cai, as Taipei Times and TVBS suggest.  On the other hand, a story from the Central News Agency suggests that the “New-Su-Alliance” (New Tide, Su Faction, plus He Zhiwei, who is associated with Su but is claiming an independent faction named the Green Friendship Alliance) was the big winner.  Did they mean that such an agglomeration exists or simply that the New Tide and the Su factions were the big winners?  Other media outlets, such as zhongguang radio, picked up this story and gave it the former interpretation.  Personally, I doubt there is a clear ruling faction.  Cai Tongrong is probably going to be in the opposition most of the time, but the other members will move in and out based on the question at hand and the shifting sands of power.  If she is a reasonably talented politician, Cai Yingwen should generally be able to form coalitions to suit her purposes.

I almost forgot to list the ex-officio members:

name name position
蔡英文 Cai Yingwen Party chair
柯建銘 Ke Jianming Legislative caucus leader
官碧玲 Guan Biling Legislative caucus leader
潘孟安 Pan Meng’an Legislative caucus leader
陳菊 Chen Ju Kaohsiung mayor
蘇志芬 Su Zhifen Yunlin County executive

No news article bothered to speculate on these people’s factional status.  I’m not sure at all, but if you forced me to guess, I think Ke gets along with and is trusted by everyone, Guan and Su are part of the Hsieh faction, and Pan belongs to the New Tide faction.  Chen Ju and Cai Yingwen head their own small power centers, though they are loosely allied with one another.

I was curious how things have changed since 2008, so I looked up a story in the China Times on the 2008 election.  Here’s how they described the CSC then.

name name faction My comments
蔡同榮 Cai Tongrong Taiwan independence fundamentalist
陳勝宏 Chen Shenghong Father of He Zhiwei, so probably close to Su faction
陳明文 Chen Mingwen Supported by New Tide
許添財 Xu Tiancai Chen
羅文嘉 Luo Wenjia Chen
段宜康 Duan Yikang New Tide
徐佳青 Xu Jiaqing New Tide
蘇志芬 Su Zhifen Hsieh Elected, not ex-officio
蔡憲浩 Cai Xianhao Su
方昇茂 Fang Shengmao You
蔡英文* Cai Yingwen Ex-officio, party chair
柯建銘* Ke Jianming Ex-officio, caucus leader
賴清德* Lai Qingde New Tide Ex-officio, caucus leader
張花冠* Zhang Huaguan Ex-officio, caucus leader
楊秋興* Yang Qiuxing New Tide Ex-officio, Kaohsiung County executive
陳菊* Chen Ju Ex-officio, Kaohsiung City Mayor; close to New Tide

The biggest change from two years ago is the decline of the ex-president’s faction.  Then, the Chen faction was still strong enough to put two of its members into the CSC.  The other thing that hits me is just how well the New Tide did two years ago.  They were described as one of the winners this year, but they arguably did better two years ago with claims on three of the ex-officio members.

Finally, I’m amused by statements that this election shows that the DPP’s intra-party democracy is a sham.  These statements are coming from both the KMT and from losers in this election, such as Annette Lu and Luo Wenjia.  They point to the organization involved, with people voting based on the instructions of their factions instead of listening to the appeals of various candidates as evidence that there is no democracy involved.  To that, I say pshaw!  Or maybe phooey!

The voters involved in this election are highly politicized and have strong opinions.  You simply aren’t going to change their minds about where they stand with a few speeches.  In the context of American politics, I consider myself to be what used to be called a “yellow-dog Democrat,” because I’ll vote for any candidate, even a yellow dog, as long as he’s a Democrat.  Does that mean that I am a mindless, brainless voter?  Of course not!  I understand the role that political parties play in the American system means that, based on my values, I always want the Democrat to win.  Even if there were an individual Republican who I preferred to the Democrat in a particular race, that Republican is sufficiently constrained by the other Republicans and by Republican voters that he or she will probably end up acting in ways that I don’t like as often as not.  So I have an easy vote decision: I vote straight ticket Democrat without needing to think very much.  Now, DPP internal factions are not the same as political parties, but the point is that these voters can make very good decisions about what is best for them and their values even when they are blindly voting according to instructions from their faction leaders.  In fact, one might go so far as to argue that by cooperating in this kind of organization, they are maximizing their influence.  Elections are, after all, a test of power.  Claiming an election is undemocratic is often the last refuge of losers.

As for the KMT, well, their last Central Standing Committee election featured so much vote-buying that the party chair cancelled the election.  If they are looking for an example of an election with questionable democratic credentials, they might start there.

[i] I’m always shocked that they can’t come up with a better tiebreaking system.  With so few votes, there is always a tie to break.  There has got to be a better way.


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.

UDN Poll: Ma is doomed!

March 19, 2010

This headline was inspired by a headline in the pro-Royalist Bangkok Post: “Anti-Government Protests Turn Bloody.”  (For comparison, the New York Times headline was something like, “protesters dump blood”.)  Since this is a blog about Taiwanese politics, and not Thai politics (and my mother sometimes mixes them up), I’ll stop the (morbidly fascinating) Thai tangent now.

So President Ma is not necessarily doomed, but he did get a bit of bad news.  The United Daily News published a poll on its front page showing that, if the election were held tomorrow, he would lose to Su 38-29, and he would tie with Cai, 33-33.  Let’s not pretend this is any kind of prediction about what will actually happen exactly two years from now.  (If this were an election year, election day would be tomorrow.  By the way, today is the sixth anniversary of 3-19, the assassination attempt against Chen Shuibian, or, if you prefer, the faked assassination staged by Chen.)  A TVBS poll published today found nearly the same amount of dissatisfaction with Ma, but instead of asking how voters intend to vote in the next election, they asked how they would vote in the 2008 election if they could do it over today.  Ma beat Hsieh by 41-31 in that item.

The significance of this poll is that provides more dramatic evidence of how far President Ma has fallen in his two years.  Just over 50% of people who said they voted for Ma in 2008 say they will vote for him again; over 20% expressed support for Su.  Ma satisfaction ratings have fallen to a new low of 27%, while 53% are dissatisfied.  (The TVBS poll released today had these numbers at 27% and 51%, respectively.)  Among blue identifiers, 36% are dissatisfied.  Moreover, they are dissatisfied for a whole host of reasons, such as China policy, economic performance, failure to implement reform, failure to carry out campaign promises, rising health care premiums, and so on.  There is no easy fix when there are so many different problems.

Yesterday at the KMT central standing committee meeting, Chairman Ma expressed his determination to carry out real reform, even if it cost him votes and popularity.  (He was referring primarily to health care, and secondarily to black-gold politics, bureaucratic reform, ECFA, and so forth.)  One wonders if Ma will follow Chen’s path.  After accomplishing very little with a moderate approach to China in the first two years of office, Chen’s administration took a sharp turn toward national identity issues in the second two years.  Ma might likewise opt for a radically different policy agenda in the next two years.

The other significant thing about the UDN poll is its impact on the DPP side.  Su is still the most popular candidate, but he is not the only viable presidential candidate.  Cai is in the same league.