Posts Tagged ‘Tsai Ing-wen’

Tsai announces

March 13, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen has announced that she will run for president, and everyone expects Su Tseng-chang to follow suit in the near future.  This ends a couple of weeks during which many DPP leaders seemed to be trying to come to some consensus about who should be the nominee without going through a messy primary process.  I am not surprised that Tsai effectively ended that pressure with her announcement.  As the more junior of the two viable candidates, any negotiated solution would almost certainly have ended with her yielding to Su.

More to the point, I am a little uncertain why so many people in the DPP seem to think that avoiding a primary is desirable.  The DPP has always been an election driven party.  That is, the most powerful people in the party are powerful because they were able to grab power through electoral victories.  The natural way for them to decide who the nominee will be is through a test of strength.  This idea that conflict should be avoided at all costs reminds me of the authoritarian era KMT who were constantly trying to consolidate power around the leadership 鞏固領導中心, because any struggle among leaders might tempt one of them to reach out for popular support – and that might lead to something terrible, such as democracy.  The DPP should not get caught up in these sorts of debates.  Democratic parties fight all the time about who will lead them and which direction they will go in.  This is a healthy process.

Moreover, the DPP has an important discussion that it needs to hold.  In her campaign last year and in her announcement, Tsai spoke extensively about her vision of building a social welfare state.  If she becomes the nominee and especially if she wins the election, she will take the DPP in a very different direction.  They need to decide right now if they are willing to go in that direction.  If they don’t want to shift in the direction of social welfare, then they should stay with Su, who will probably maintain traditional DPP economic policies.  If most of the party wants to radically shift in the direction that Tsai wants to go in, they need to forge an internal consensus within the party.  Otherwise, the DPP risks a crisis later down the road when they find that their leader is going in strange and unexpected directions.  As a commentator, I’m not taking a position on whether building a comprehensive social welfare state is a good idea or not.  I’m just saying that if the DPP wants to go in that direction, they need to forge a political consensus first.  Politics must come first if the public policy is to have any chance of success.

So I think it is a very good thing for the DPP that it will have an intensely fought primary.  Taking the politics out of politics is usually a bad idea.


In a previous post, I wrote that the DPP revamped its nomination rules for the legislative nominations to give the party leader(s) the power to decide nominations for the party list and for “difficult” districts, and that this represented a power-grab by Tsai Ing-wen.  I should have written that it “looked to me” like a power grab by Tsai.  Any time a party votes to give a lot more power to its leader, I am inclined to assume that the leader (1) wanted more power, and (2) was working to get more power.  I tend to put less weight on what everyone is actually saying since people don’t always speak sincerely in such situations.  Moreover, there are lots of ways to make such decisions (ie: contested primaries of some sort) without having to resort to decisions by the central leadership.  So it looked to me like a power grab.  (Note: Power grabs are not always bad.  One of the biggest problems of Ma’s first year as president was that he refused to seize power within the KMT so that Lien Chan 連戰, Wu Po-hsiung 吳伯雄, and others could go around acting as if they were in charge.)

I’m re-evaluating that judgment in light of Tsai’s announcement that she is stepping aside as chair to contest the presidential nomination.  I did not assume that she would step aside since she didn’t bother to do so last year when she was running for New Taipei City Mayor.  However, she presumably knew that she would step aside a month ago, and so she may have realized that the nomination power would accrue to someone else.  If that is the case, then the decision perhaps was not aimed at strengthening herself within the party as a means of winning the presidential nomination.  Or perhaps it was.  She may have felt confident enough that she would leave her allies in charge of the party that this decision would work in her favor even if she weren’t personally chairing the meetings.  At any rate, I think it is a lot more fruitful to think about all these decisions in terms of whose power was increased or decreased than in terms of statements to the press.


Three years ago, DPP candidates got obliterated in most districts.  Perhaps one lesson that DPP politicians learned is that it doesn’t do much good to win a nomination in a lousy district.  Of course, they already knew this, but it seems to really have sunk in this time.  We see all the DPP candidates desperately trying to seize a nomination in a good district, and no one seems remotely interested in the swing districts, much less the difficult ones.   Nowhere is this more evident than in Taipei City.  Taipei City has one district that the DPP should win (Datong-Shilin), one district that it has a weak but real chance of winning (Beitou-Tianmu), three districts that it has an outside chance of winning if everything goes right (Zhongshan-Songshan, Nangang-Neihu, Wanhua-Zhongzheng), and three districts that it has absolutely no chance in hell of winning (Da-an, Wenshan-Zhongzheng, Xinyi-Songshan).  Right now everyone is piling into the one good district.  Currently there are four strong candidates (Tuan Yi-kang 段宜康, Yao Wen-chih 姚文智, Kuo Cheng-liang 郭正亮, and Luo Wen-chia 羅文嘉) and another (Chuang Rui-hsiung 莊瑞雄) has announced but withdrawn.  I haven’t heard of anyone expressing interest in any of the other seven districts.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this is going to unfold.  One of these four will win the nomination, and the other three will start looking for a new district.  Perhaps they will suddenly discover a burning passion to serve the voters of Beitou or Zhongshan.

Of course, this has all been facilitated by the DPP’s decision to designate 40 districts as “difficult.”  By leaving these 40 districts empty and available for losers, the DPP is basically inviting all strong candidates to take a shot at winning one of the “good” nominations.  There are always lots of consolation prizes.  Moreover, many of these so-called difficult districts are ones that the DPP should plan on trying to win.  Given the swing in popular opinion that we have consistently witnessed over the last year and a half, several of these should be considered tossup districts and many others are in the realm of possibility.

So the dilemma that the DPP faced was this.  On the one hand, it has the current system in which many politicians will end up as nominees in a district they did not really want to be in.  There is the risk that the KMT opponent will hammer them with this.  “My opponent really wants to be in Xinzhuang City.  I have always wanted to represent the people of Danshui and no one else.  He’s only here in Danshui because they didn’t want him in Xinzhuang.  Well, we don’t want their rejects!”  It might be far better if the DPP required everyone to choose a district from the beginning so that some of the stronger politicians might strategically decide that they have no chance of winning the nomination in the good district and just go straight to the weaker district.  This is what the DPP has always done in the past.  For example in 2001, they required members to choose whether they wanted to contest the county magistrate, district legislator, or list legislator nominees.  They didn’t hold county magistrate nominations first and then let the losers run for legislator.  On the other hand, the DPP might calculate that, regardless of their nomination system, the strongest politicians are overwhelmingly going to try for one of the good districts.  If they were to force everyone to choose at the very beginning, the result would be that a lot of strong candidates were effectively ruled ineligible and you would have a field of really weak candidates running in tossup districts.

Interestingly, they did not decide to have a second round of primaries in the difficult districts.  That is, they could have settled the nominations for the 33 strong districts in April and then started the whole process over for the other 40 districts with primaries being held in June or July.  If no one wanted to contest them, they would still have the option of drafting someone.  Instead, they decided to have all those nominations decided by the central party headquarters.  I don’t know why they went this route.  Maybe they worried that candidates who had already lost one primary would be financially or organizationally too exhausted to contest a second primary.  Maybe those candidates simply wouldn’t have any credibility in a new district so soon after losing in a different district.  Or maybe the people in control of the party headquarters wanted a bit more power in their hands.


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.


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.)

Campaign trail: Tsai in Wugu

November 23, 2010

Last night I went to a rally for Tsai Ing-wen in Wugu Township.  This was a much smaller event than the ones I went to over the weekend, which was not surprising.  It was Monday night, after all.  The rally was outside a parking garage, and the irregular space made it much harder than usual to estimate the crowd.  The area on the ground was not rectangular.  The parking garage had three overhang levels, all with some people in them.  And there were even people standing on the other side of the street.  It wasn’t a really big space, but it was extremely full.  I would estimate around 1500 people, give or take 500.  The crowd was not mobilized, and it was quite enthusiastic.

I haven’t written a lot about Tsai in this blog, given the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about her campaign.  Everyone else is much easier to grasp, but I never seem to be able to reach a clear thought about Tsai.  She is terrible at public speaking and bores crowds to death, yet people seem to genuinely like her.  She spends an inordinate amount of time shaking hands for that personal touch, yet when she gets around to making a speech, it is full of policy details and short on emotion.  Everything about her campaign is a mess, her opponent is quite good, the partisan terrain is disadvantageous to her, and yet I wouldn’t be shocked if she won the race.  She just isn’t like any other candidate I’ve seen.  (Maybe that’s exactly the appeal.)

Having said that, last night highlighted the lousy-on-the-campaign-trail aspect.  When Tsai got to the stage, she was incoherent, uninteresting, spoke in platitudes, and couldn’t manage much Taiwanese.  She even apologized for her worse than normal speaking.  As we say, her brain was completely fried.  Apparently she had been in a motorcade all day, which is extremely tiring.  You have to stand and wave on a moving car, which is tiring enough, but in addition there are fireworks constantly going off right near you.  Six hours of that would be exhausting.  When she entered our event, she worked her way from the back, through the middle of the crowd, all the way to the front.  Candidates like to do this because the crowd loves it.  However, as she passed by me, I stood a few feet back and got up on a stool to watch her.  She was being pushed and pulled by the mob, and she was not enjoying it.  She was not at all happy, or shaking hands.  Instead, she was covering her head with her hands to try to protect herself a bit.  When she finally got to the stage, she held up a few sheets of paper that were all crushed and dirty and sheepishly told the audience, this is my speech.  After that, it just isn’t surprising that she gave a terrible speech.

This all reflects poor planning and inexperience.  When they were planning out the schedule two weeks ago, no one asked if Tsai was going to be too brain dead after six hours in a motorcade to give a speech.  Since Tsai has never been a candidate before, she probably couldn’t have answered that question herself.  It takes a tremendous amount of physical stamina to campaign, and very few people appreciate this until they have been through the process.  Even if they decided that both the motorcade and the rally were necessary, they should have thought about ways to reduce the physical toll on Tsai.  Being unmarried, she is at a disadvantage.  Married candidates can take a break for a half an hour and put their spouse in their place in the motorcade.  But there are other things she could have done.  They could have given her a chair for at least part of the route.  They could have used fewer fireworks or quieter fireworks or shot them off further away from her.  They could have shortened the route.  And when they got to the rally, she didn’t have to go through the middle of the crowd.  If they really wanted to do that, they needed to have a group of big, strong young men clearing a path and holding back the crowds so that she could reach through the human wall and shake hands but wouldn’t feel physically threatened.  These are all things that experienced campaigns and candidates know how to do.

The miracle of it all was that, as bad as she was on stage, her crowd stayed with her.  The beginning of her speech was awful as she stumbled around, improvising and then going into really dry (and vague) policy ideas.  This would have alienated most crowds.  However, whenever she suddenly asked them a question, they immediately roared back the answer.  Usually when you have lost a crowd, there is no answer the first time.  You have to ask it a second time before they realize they are expected to respond.  This crowd wanted badly to support Tsai, even if she wasn’t helping them at all.

In the midst of all this lousy political communication, both last night and over the past few weeks Tsai has somehow communicated a few very important messages.  One of them has to do with her vision for the DPP’s future.  Currently, as everyone knows, partisan competition revolves around the question of Taiwan’s relationship with China.  Tsai is trying to reorient politics around a new axis of competition (or at least add another axis to the current single dimension).  Tsai is trying to add a left-right cleavage.  She is talking about creating a welfare state.  She is not just pushing one policy, such as old-age pensions, but a whole range of policies from public housing to childhood welfare.  She is also attacking the KMT’s economic policy as focused entirely on the aggregate numbers, such as GDP.  These numbers don’t distinguish between additional wealth that goes to already rich people and wealth that goes to poorer people.  In short, I think she is trying to reorient the DPP as something more like a European social democratic party.  (Lots of candidates make these sorts of promises, but Tsai is the party chair and might be defining the DPP’s path for the next few years.)

Dafydd Fell has studied the attempts by different parties to add new issues to the dominant unification-independence cleavage.  He concludes that these attempts to reorient politics have always failed.  You might talk about environmental politics or anti-corruption for a while, but when push comes to shove, you always line up with your allies on the UI cleavage.  Eventually something will replace the UI cleavage, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon.  The question of Taiwan’s future is just too basic to ignore.  However, there might be room for a left-right cleavage to supplement the dominant UI cleavage, especially as the gap between rich and poor grows.

Coming back to the immediate campaign, we see the paradox of Tsai Ing-wen.  The DPP will probably do very well in this year’s election.  Even if they only win two of the mayoral seats, they will almost certainly get more votes this year than they have in the past.  Tsai is person most responsible for this surge in DPP support.  Her ability to convince people to put the Chen era behind them and focus on the performance of the Ma government and her vision for the future have been instrumental in the DPP’s recovery from the disasters of 2008.  Yet, it is conceivable that she herself will be the candidate who benefits the least from this surge.

Partisan balance in Xinbei City

November 16, 2010

Last month, I spent two days interviewing people in Xinbei City while preparing to write a column for the United Daily News.  One of the themes I heard again and again from people on both sides is that the partisan balance basically favors the blue camp.  However, when you pressed people, they didn’t have a really clear idea of exactly how large the blue camp’s advantage is.  Perhaps the most common estimate is that it is now somewhat smaller than when Chou Hsi-wei 周錫瑋 won in 2005.


I wonder if we can do better than that.  (Spoiler alert: Not really.)


There are a couple of approaches to this kind of question.  One is to look at surveys, which give you an up to the minute snapshot of public opinion.  On the other hand, there are lots of problems with surveys.  For one, most of the sample sizes are too small to say anything about subsets of the data.  (So when you see a report about a survey claiming that one candidate is leading in areas A, B, and C while the other candidate is ahead in area D, feel free to laugh.  The sample size for each of these areas is almost always too small to get a useful estimate.)  The other approach, which I’m going to look at here, might be called the political map approach.  Basically, we look at old election results to get some idea of how this election might turn out.  This approach also has problems.  It assumes that this election will be like previous elections.  If there has been any realignment of political forces, old political maps might be completely irrelevant.  That said, let’s jump in.


There have been six county-wide single-seat elections since 1997, three county executive elections and three presidential elections.


KMT DPP blue green
2008 president 61.1 38.9 61.1 38.9
2005 executive 54.9 44.3 54.9 44.3
2004 president 53.1 46.9 53.1 46.9
2001 executive 48.2 51.3 48.2 51.3
2000 president 22.4 36.7 62.6 36.7
1997 executive 38.7 40.7 54.3 40.7
average 46.4 43.1 55.7 43.1
standard deviation 13.9 5.4 5.4 5.4


As you can see, the 2005 county executive race was a fairly typical result, with the blue camp winning by about 10%.  The only time the DPP cracked 50% was in Su Tseng-chang’s 蘇貞昌 re-election campaign in 2001.  The KMT’s best performance was in the 2008 presidential election, when it broke 60%.

Suppose we assume that the cumulative effect of the Tsai 蔡英文 and Chu 朱立倫 campaigns is that Tsai is one standard deviation above normal.  In other words, if you simulated the election an infinite number of times, Tsai (Chu) would be better (worse) than about 83% of the DPP (KMT) candidates.  To put it another way, we are assuming that Tsai is a really strong DPP candidate, though perhaps not quite a spectacular one.  In this case, the result would be 50.3 to 48.6 in favor of Chu.

If that doesn’t convince you that Tsai is fighting an uphill battle, let’s look at things from the township level.  The following are DPP votes:


    08P 04P 00P 05M 01M 97M ave s.d.
  overall 38.9 46.9 36.7 44.3 51.3 40.7 43.1 5.4
板橋市 Banqiao 42.0% 50.5% 40.2% 47.4% 54.5% 45.1% 46.6% 5.4%
三重市 Sanchong 47.0% 55.8% 44.4% 53.4% 60.5% 49.3% 51.7% 5.9%
新莊市 Xinzhuang 43.4% 52.7% 33.9% 50.1% 57.7% 47.1% 47.5% 8.2%
蘆洲市 Luzhou 47.2% 55.8% 39.2% 53.0% 60.8% 50.3% 51.0% 7.4%
中和市 Zhonghe 32.2% 38.7% 30.4% 36.7% 42.0% 34.1% 35.7% 4.3%
永和市 Yonghe 27.9% 34.2% 27.3% 31.8% 37.0% 30.6% 31.4% 3.7%
新店市 Xindian 27.7% 33.7% 41.6% 30.9% 35.8% 29.8% 33.2% 5.0%
樹林市 Shulin 42.8% 52.1% 39.7% 49.1% 56.9% 48.6% 48.2% 6.2%
鶯歌鎮 Yingge 42.2% 51.9% 51.9% 48.4% 59.8% 44.9% 49.8% 6.2%
三峽鎮 Sanxia 40.7% 49.8% 38.0% 45.5% 56.5% 42.7% 45.5% 6.7%
土城市 Tucheng 39.5% 47.6% 37.4% 44.6% 51.3% 44.7% 44.2% 5.1%
淡水鎮 Danshui 37.3% 46.1% 35.5% 43.2% 54.1% 32.5% 41.4% 8.0%
五股鄉 Wugu 44.2% 51.7% 39.8% 49.4% 57.2% 37.1% 46.6% 7.6%
泰山鄉 Taishan 40.5% 49.9% 37.5% 47.0% 54.6% 40.0% 44.9% 6.7%
林口鄉 Linkou 39.0% 48.1% 36.1% 45.5% 56.4% 42.3% 44.6% 7.2%
八里鄉 Bali 40.0% 48.1% 35.4% 46.3% 54.3% 38.7% 43.8% 7.0%
汐止市 Xizhi 35.4% 42.9% 34.3% 40.2% 44.1% 25.5% 37.1% 6.9%
瑞芳鎮 Ruifang 36.4% 45.1% 32.8% 41.9% 52.2% 40.4% 41.5% 6.8%
深坑鄉 Shenkeng 37.6% 44.3% 27.1% 43.0% 48.1% 37.9% 39.7% 7.3%
石碇鄉 Shiding 52.8% 58.9% 44.8% 56.1% 65.5% 47.3% 54.2% 7.6%
坪林鄉 Pinglin 58.6% 64.4% 50.8% 60.6% 77.4% 55.1% 61.1% 9.2%
平溪鄉 Pingxi 46.6% 53.1% 41.6% 49.0% 64.1% 41.0% 49.2% 8.6%
雙溪鄉 Shuangxi 42.6% 50.2% 43.9% 46.5% 56.6% 45.2% 47.5% 5.2%
貢寮鄉 Gongliao 55.0% 61.6% 31.8% 55.9% 64.6% 58.8% 54.6% 11.7%
烏來鄉 Wulai 31.0% 37.1% 51.9% 34.9% 52.4% 32.4% 39.9% 9.7%
三芝鄉 Sanzhi 34.5% 44.3% 24.5% 41.2% 61.4% 21.5% 37.9% 14.6%
石門鄉 Shimen 35.5% 43.3% 29.8% 40.8% 59.6% 31.1% 40.0% 10.9%
金山鄉 Jinshan 41.0% 50.2% 38.1% 44.1% 60.6% 42.2% 46.0% 8.2%
萬里鄉 Wanli 38.5% 45.3% 40.5% 40.8% 54.7% 36.8% 42.7% 6.5%


A good place to start is with the biggest city, Banqiao.  Historically, Banqiao has been a pretty good bellwether for Taipei County.  If you win in Banqiao, you’ll probably win the whole race.  In these recent years, it seems to favor the DPP slightly more than the rest of the county, so if Tsai is going to win, she probably needs to win Banqiao by at least 5%.  I don’t know why, but getting 53% in Banqiao seems more daunting to me than winning the whole county.

I sorted the townships in this order for a specific reason.  You can think of these as distinct clumps.  The weights are based on the number of eligible voters in the 2008 presidential election.  So, for example, Banqiao had 14.5% of the eligible voters in Taipei County in that election.

The averages and standard deviations are simple averages from the table above; they are not weighted for the size of the township.  This makes them a little wrong, but hopefully not by too much.


clump Includes weight Ave. S.D.
1 Banqiao 14.5 46.6 5.4
2 Sanchong, Xinzhuang, Luzhou 25.1 50.1 7.2
3 Zhonghe, Yonghe, Xindian 25.6 33.5 4.3
4 Shulin, Yingge, Sanxia, Tucheng 14.8 46.9 6.1
5 Danshui, Wugu, Linkou, Taishan, Bali 9.9 44.2 7.3
6 Xizhi 4.9 39.4 7.0
7 Ruifang, Shenkeng, Shiding, Pinglin, Pingxi, Shuangxi, Gongliao, Wulai 3.2 48.5 8.3
8 Sanzhi, Shimen, Jinshan, Wanli 2.1 41.7 10.0


Let’s start from group 3.  This group of townships south of Taipei City is the DPP’s worst area.  Moreover, it has the smallest standard deviation.  The DPP has never had the odd candidate who was able to win large numbers of votes in these three townships.  The game here is for the DPP to lose by as little as possible, except that they don’t seem to ever be able to increase their vote here by very much.  If Tsai can get anywhere near 40% in these townships, it will be a triumph for her.  35% probably won’t be enough.  One way to think about the election is that Chu will take a big lead in these areas, and Tsai will have to make up that deficit everywhere else.

She has to try to offset most of her losses from group 3 in group 2, which is the DPP’s best area.   Group 2, which has another quarter of the electorate, is just north of the Dahan River and west of the Danshui River.  These areas have a pretty large standard deviation, indicating that there are a lot of swing voters.  Tsai has to win close to 60% here; 55% probably won’t be enough.

This makes groups 1 and 4 the decisive battlegrounds.  Whatever Tsai can’t make up in group 2, she has to win in these two.  Groups 1 and 4 are west of Taipei City and to the south of the Dahan River.  Banqiao experienced fast population growth in the 1980s and 1990s and is now basically saturated.  The townships in group 4 are a little further out and are currently growing quickly.  While historically these lean a little blue, Tsai would have to win them by about 53% or so to have a chance at winning the whole election.

Areas 7 and 8 are perhaps the most interesting.  These townships, which only comprise about 5% of the total electorate, are the most rural parts of Taipei County.  Area 7 includes the mountainous areas to the southeast of Taipei City which used to have a coal mining industry and still grows lots of tea.  Area 8 includes the northern coast.  These townships have the highest standard deviations in the county.  Sometimes they swing heavily to one side, and sometimes they lurch violently the other way.

I have a notion that this is probably generalizable to the rest of Taiwan.  I am guessing that rural areas have larger swings.  I think this has something to do with more clearly defined party politics in more urban areas, perhaps because rural people have stronger party identification or perhaps because personal connections (which often work against party politics) are easier to build in rural areas.

Populations with strong party IDs might confuse this trend.  The most obvious groups is mainlanders, who tend to have stronger negative party ID toward the DPP than the population at large.  So groups 1, 2, and 3 are roughly at the same level of urbanization.  In terms of mainlanders, 3>1>2.  Not coincidentally, the standard deviations are 2<1<3.

At any rate, some of Su Tseng-chang’s in 2001 most impressive results were in small townships.  Of course, he had spent four years building those ties.  Even if Tsai were to match Su’s results everywhere else in Taipei County, she almost certainly will not be able to match his performance in these two groups.  In a very close race, this might be the difference.


So let’s sum up.  The DPP historically gets about 43% in Taipei County, and a swing of more than 5% is relatively difficult.  Moreover, we’re pretty sure that Tsai hasn’t built up the sorts of local ties that are helpful in winning over some parts of the electorate.  In short, you have to make some very optimistic assumptions in order to conclude that she is likely to win.

That doesn’t mean that she can’t win.  If you did this analysis in Taipei City, you would conclude that there is absolutely no way for Su to win.  Polls are currently telling a different story.  In 1997, I stared at these political maps and concluded there was no way the DPP could produce winning campaigns around Taiwan.  Then they did.  The 1997 numbers looked entirely different from everything that had come before them, but they materialized all the same.  The point is simply that history says it is more likely that the KMT will win this election.  Since the polls are not telling an unambiguously different story, it’s probably wise to err on the side of history.