Posts Tagged ‘Yang Qiuxing’

why is Xu Tiancai stalling?

August 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, it was widely expected that Xu Tiancai 許添財 would follow Yang Qiuxing’s 楊秋興 lead and launch an independent bid for Tainan Mayor.  He has instead postponed making an announcement again and again, to the point that it is starting to look doubtful that he actually will run.  So while I don’t know what Xu will eventually decide, I’d like to address the reasons that this is not an easy decision for him.  Why is Tainan different from Kaohsiung?  Why not run?

Let’s start with the parallels.  In both Tainan and Kaohsiung, the DPP is expected to easily win a two-way race.  Both are in the south, both have been governed by the DPP for over a decade, and both featured divisive primaries in which a two-term incumbent executive lost.  From the Taipei-centric vantage point that most observers share, they are almost identical.

Of course, they are actually quite different.  Kaohsiung is much more urbanized and industrial.  Tainan is much more rural.  The urban areas are less urbanized and make up a smaller percentage of the total population than the corresponding urban areas in Kaohsiung.  In contrast, the “rural”[i] towns in Tainan are smaller, more rural, more farming, have lower education levels, and have less population mobility.  Tainan is much more homogenously Min-nan.  Kaohsiung, by contrast, has significant populations of mainlanders (including many affiliated with the military), Hakkas, and aborigines.  Politically, the current Tainan County is overwhelmingly pro-DPP, Tainan City and Kaohsiung County are moderately pro-DPP, and Kaohsiung City is about even.  As such, the new Tainan City is much more solidly pro-DPP than the new Kaohsiung City.

The races, as revealed in the polls, are shaping up differently, too.  In Kaohsiung, the KMT candidate is stunningly weak.  The KMT should be able to muster a decent showing there; I’d say that any respectable KMT candidate should be able to defend 40% of the vote.  Huang Zhaoshun’s黃昭順 polls (below 15%) suggest that she is far, far below that number.  In Tainan, the KMT candidate is doing much better.  Guo Tiancai 郭添財got 19% in a recent poll.  Since the KMT base is smaller, with a minimally acceptable target being perhaps 35%, Guo is much closer to respectable among the KMT electorate.  From Hsu Tiancai’s point of view, this difference is critical.  Yang’s strategy in Kaohsiung is to raid the KMT’s pot of votes; the KMT pot in Tainan is (a) much smaller and (b) less vulnerable.  Moreover, while Yang is clearly in second place in Kaohsiung, the polls in Tianan show Xu to only be tied with Guo for second place.  In other words, while Yang can tell KMT voters that he is the only viable option to defeat the DPP, Xu can’t quite make that argument.  In fact, he has to worry about that argument being used against him.

Organizationally, Xu is not in as good of shape as Yang.  Xu has wavered for so long about whether he will run that potential allies have already drifted over to the DPP candidate.  Of course, his inner circle is still there, but the next layer of the campaign team might have to be rebuilt significantly.  With only three months to go, that is a daunting task.  Financially, Yang is probably also in better shape.  A recent magazine cover featured Yang’s five most important backers.  Two were very rich.  One was Terry Gou, the richest person in Taiwan.  (Increased reliance on this connection might also have something to do with Yang’s recent epiphany about the benefits of closer economic relations with China.)  Xu Tiancai probably doesn’t have these kinds of financial resources to draw on.  Tainan, after all, isn’t quite the economic powerhouse that Kaohsiung is.

We also have to think about the former president.  Xu has been very close to Chen Shuibian since the early 1990s, when Xu was one of the core members of Chen’s Justice faction within the DPP.  Chen sent out very strong and clear signals during the primary that Xu was his preferred candidate.  While that wasn’t enough to win the primary, Chen is still a major pillar of support for Xu.  This is another reason that Yang’s strategy of raiding KMT votes won’t work for Xu.  There is far too much animosity among KMT supporters toward Chen to ever think of building a coalition encompassing both.  Xu would have to run on the other side of the DPP, positioning himself as the candidate most wary of China (or as the candidate who “loves Taiwan” the most).  There might be enough voters in that part of the spectrum in Tainan for a viable campaign, but it’s not obvious that these voters, presumably the most anti-KMT crowd, would be willing to inflict such a blow on the DPP.   At any rate, Xu is looking at a very different type of campaign than Yang.

On the other hand, running this sort of campaign wouldn’t necessarily imply political suicide for him the way it does for Yang.  Xu would still be on the same side of the political cleavage.  While Yang is burning all his bridges to his former DPP supporters, Xu would still look to them like someone who is still “right” on the big issues, if somewhat misguided in how to get there.

If Xu did run, Yang’s presence might work against both of them.  Xu would be trying to label the DPP as wishy-washy moderates, while Yang would be trying to paint them as extreme ideologues.  They might both fail.

In sum, Xu might still decide to run, but his calculus is very different from Yang’s and there are very good reasons for his caution.

[i] Personally, I think it’s crazy to consider any township with a population density less than 1000 people/kmt2 or a population of less than 50,000 people to be “rural.” To me, there is very little in Taiwan that is actually rural, but that’s obviously subjective.

Yang’s transformation

August 22, 2010

Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 is continuing his transformation.  He apologized for his former ideology (whatever that was).  He now supports ECFA, and some in the government are suggesting that he should be one of their primary spokesmen for it.  He also said that he now sees President Ma in a new light.  Since deciding to run, many of his former allies have accused him of “not loving Taiwan” (because he is splitting from the DPP and indirectly helping the KMT).  Now he understands what it feels like to have that label pinned on him.

Apparently this transformation is working better than I anticipated.  A recent TVBS poll (Aug 10) shows his overall support holding steady (though still far behind Chen).  However the most interesting thing about that poll is that they also asked which city council candidate the respondent planned to vote for.  Among people supporting Yang, 32% planned to vote for a KMT city council candidate, and only 18% planned to vote DPP (the others were uncommitted).  I don’t have data on this from before (TVBS asked but didn’t report the crosstabs), but I can’t imagine that Yang’s previous supporters looked like this.  I hope TVBS continues to ask this kind of question; it will be interesting to see how things develop.

Yang’s decision

August 10, 2010

Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興formally announced that he will run for Kaohsiung mayor yesterday.  I’ve been meaning to write about his choices for a while, so this seems to be a good time to do it.

First, I think this is going to be a disaster for Yang.  I’ll get into the reasons that I don’t think he has much chance at all of winning later in this post, but let me just start off by stating that I think he is committing political suicide.  I wonder if he is suffering from lack of a competent consigliore.  Every politician needs a wise older person to tell him or her bad news.  Younger staffers often don’t have the experience to figure these things out, and they also don’t have the independent standing to deliver bad news.  If you are young and dependent on the politician for your own future, you have to hesitate to give too much bad news.  An older person who has already made their reputation doesn’t have to be worried so much about being kicked to the curb.  Given that all politicians overrate their chances to win (since most voters they meet in the market are either enthusiastic supporters or polite enough to fake support or at least keep quiet), they need someone who can throw cold water on them.  I’m wondering if Yang is lacking that person.  And let’s be clear: if Yang is, in fact, almost certain to lose this race, he is not doing anyone a favor by running.  He could serve his constituents and his own career far better by waiting for another opportunity which, given his record, almost certainly would be forthcoming.  By running, he makes himself persona-non-grata to the DPP and an untrustworthy political speculator to the KMT.  His career ends here.

If this is such a terrible mistake, why is Yang running?  I think there are two reasons.  First, he thinks he was unfairly treated during the primary.  Second, he thinks he might be able to win by co-opting KMT voters.

Yang has complained quite a bit about Chen Ju’s 陳菊behavior during the primary.  He thinks her campaign was playing dirty tricks by spying on and putting pressure on his supporters.  He has also made remarks since the end of the campaign about how she is allowing him no breathing space at all, which I interpret as an indication that he believes that she is still employing dirty tricks.

I also detect a sense that the voters owe him.  After all, his work as county executive has almost universally been praised.  Even the (KMT) central government gives him good marks for performance in office.  How could the voters turn him out after he has done so much for them?  It seems as if he can’t quite fathom or accept that he legitimately lost the primary.  They owe him; he deserves this.

To these, I would respond that (a) politics is a rough game, and (b) in a democracy, the voters never owe elected officials anything.  Hell, Churchill got voted out of office, and all he did was hold Britain together during the Bombing of London until the relief brigades arrived (and he had something to do with persuading the Americans to show up).  If voters are tired of Yang after nine years or they think they’ve found someone even better, that’s their prerogative.

In other words, that consigliore needs to tell Yang that life isn’t fair.  Too bad.

On the other hand, if he can win, then he should run.  Whether he is paranoid or has a sense of entitlement is irrelevant.  So why does he think he can win?

The polls say that he is in second place.  Two recent media polls show roughly the same picture.  A TVBS poll has the race at 43 (Chen, DPP), 26 (Yang), 16 (Huang 黃昭順, KMT), while a UDN poll has it at 44 (Chen), 23 (Yang), 13 (Huang).    This is a stunningly strong showing for Yang, since all the people who vote on the basis of political party are supporting one of the other two candidates.  The first battle that independents have to fight is to establish that they are viable candidates.  Yang has apparently accomplished that.  Moreover, since Yang is in second place by quite a comfortable margin over Huang, there is clearly potential for strategic voting that would benefit him.  Suppose that the polls on election eve still look basically the same.  Huang’s supporters will have to face the fact that her candidacy is hopeless, and they will have to ask themselves which of the two viable candidates they prefer.  Since Chen is the DPP candidate, most of them should prefer Yang.  If you add Huang’s supporters to Yang’s supporters, you get a very close race.  In other words, Yang has a clear shot at winning.

You can see that Yang is already starting to work at this strategy.  He has been suggesting (to KMT voters) that he is the only one who can beat Chen, he has been making overtures to the KMT, and he even endorsed ECFA the other day.

Well, that’s the optimistic scenario.  What’s wrong with it?  For one thing, unless the KMT central leadership openly announces that it is withdrawing support from Huang and endorsing Yang, there is a limit to how much of Huang’s support Yang can siphon away.  Some voters simply will not abandon the KMT’s official nominee to vote strategically, no matter how hopeless the race gets.  You also can’t assume that all Huang supporters prefer Yang over Chen.  Some will see no difference between the two, and there will also be some who prefer Chen.  So you can’t simply add the two numbers together to estimate how much Yang could get.

More importantly, Yang has to worry about keeping his current supporters.  Many of these supporters are DPP supporters, and for the next four months they will be hearing waves of DPP leaders (who we will assume they like, support, and trust) tell them how it is important for Taiwan’s overall future that they support Chen Ju and the DPP.  Almost certainly, the DPP will peel off some of Yang’s current support.  Indeed, there was a story in the news about some local people who claimed to have supported Yang in the past announcing that they will no longer do so.

This process will be intensified by Yang himself.  In order to cultivate KMT support, Yang is slowly repositioning himself toward the center of the political spectrum.  This might make him more palatable to KMT supporters, but it also might alienate his current supporters.  One has to wonder how his expression of support for ECFA went over with Kaohsiung farmers, a group that Yang considers his core constituency.  (I’m not suggesting that ECFA is bad for all farmers, but the strongest opposition to ECFA generally has come from farming interests.)  Many will also look at the new interests that Yang is bringing in and wonder if they belong in the same group with those people.

By election day, Yang will be a very different political figure than he is today.  He has to convince longtime supporters to stay with the new Yang while also convincing people who have spent most of the past two decades fighting him to join him.  This is an almost impossible tightwire act.

The KMT has a long history of members not winning the nomination but then running and winning as independents in the general election.  For whatever reason, this almost never happens in the DPP.  I can only think of a couple of DPP (or ex-DPP) politicians who have even tried this in an executive race (almost certainly many more considered trying and decided that it was hopeless), and only one who actually succeeded.  In 1997, Peng Baixian 彭百顯 won the Nantou County executive race as an independent.  Some other time, I will recount the details of that strange and fascinating story.  Here, let me just note that Peng won even more accolades as a legislator than Yang has won as Kaohsiung County executive.  More importantly, while Yang’s opponent is a highly respected executive in her own right, Peng was running against Lin Zongnan 林宗男, a locally-oriented politician who was surrounded by suggestions of financial improprieties.  Most of the national DPP figures thought that they had nominated the wrong person.  (The local party was dominated by people who hated Peng, though.)  Peng won in a squeaker.  That’s it, as far as I can remember.  No other DPP politician has managed this feat.  Given that Yang Qiuxing faces a formidable foe and is trailing in the polls by a hefty margin, I’d say the odds are against him becoming the second to pull it off.

What is the KMT’s strategy in all of this?  Several DPP politicians have accused the KMT of “selling hope” to Yang in order to get him into the race, and this seems a reasonable way of interpreting recent events.  However, there is a lot more to say.

For the KMT, the starting point has to be the stunning weakness of their own candidate, Huang Zhaoshun.  It has been evident for nearly a year that the KMT did not have a strong candidate to run in this race, but this is far worse that I would have anticipated.  After all, the KMT has a solid base of support to build on.  Even in a bad year, they should probably be able to hold 40% of the vote.  However, the polls say otherwise.  Huang is running a distant third.  If you only ask voters about Chen and Huang, Chen wins by 34% (TVBS) or 33% (UDN).  This is simply bleak.

There are three reasons that I see that the KMT might want Yang in the race.  First, they know Huang isn’t going to win, but they don’t want the DPP to do too well.  With Yang in the race, Chen is much less likely to run up a landslide.  In other words, the KMT might do terribly, but at least the DPP won’t have much to crow about either.

Second, there is a possibility that the KMT leadership is mulling over the option to dump Huang and openly support Yang.  I would be shocked if they did this since it would be a thumb in the eye of all their loyal party workers and volunteers.  And remember, for the national KMT, this race is already lost.  They are worried about preserving support for the 2012 presidential race.  They need that machine to be happy.  However, we should at least mention it as a possibility.

The third reason is the most interesting.  The KMT could see Yang as a vehicle to raise Huang’s support.  The logic goes something like this.  Chen is a very popular incumbent with very low negative ratings.  Challengers only beat incumbents when voters are persuaded that the incumbent has performed poorly, especially in a partisan context favorable to the incumbent.  Huang is not doing a very good job of convincing voters that Chen is lousy.  For whatever reason, her message is just not resonating.  If nothing dramatic happens in the race, there will be a landslide.  However, if Huang’s attacks are falling on deaf ears, Yang’s might carry more weight.  You can be sure that Yang will focus all of his vitriol on Chen.  Some of it might stick.  However, the KMT might be calculating, as I have, that Yang will have a hard time putting together a coalition that supports him.  (Remember, even if the attack sticks and voters find there is something they don’t like about Chen, that doesn’t mean that they will be disposed to support the attack dog.)  As the race progresses, you might have a pool of voters moving away from Chen.  The KMT’s ideal scenario is that these voters would gravitate to Huang, not Yang.  By the time election day rolls around, Huang would have overtaken Yang in the polls, and suddenly all the strategic voting flows in the other direction, towards Huang.  In other words, in this vision, we still end up with a two-horse race, but a third horse kicks up a lot of dirt in the leader’s eyes before fading in the stretch.

At the beginning of the general campaign, I’m guessing that Chen Ju will still win this race fairly easily.  That’s not too surprising.  What might be more surprising is that I think Huang will eventually overtake Yang for second place.    I’m guessing that this is slightly different from what Yang’s closest friends and advisors are telling him.

(Remember: I guarantee these predictions are right, or double your money back!)

Thoughts on Tainan and Kaohsiung mayoral races

July 28, 2010

I’m starting to wonder if I should reassess the way I’ve been thinking about the two southern mayoral races, and especially the one in Tainan.  I’ve viewed these basically as easy DPP victories.  This is due as much to the weakness of the two KMT candidates as anything.  There enough KMT-leaning voters in both districts that, under the right conditions, either could be a close race.  However, neither of these KMT candidates looks even remotely capable of assembling a 50% coalition.  I’m quite impressed with Chen Ju 陳菊 in Kaohsiung and less so with Lai Qingde 賴清德 in Tainan, but Lai has a bigger margin of error to work with due to the larger percentage of DPP-leaning voters.  So I’ve been thinking of both races as roughly 60-40 wins for the DPP.

Both DPP nominees won hotly contested primaries, and it has become increasingly apparent that the losers in those primaries are not going to accept defeat.  Most people expect both Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 and Xu Tiancai 許添財 to announce that they will run as independents in the general election.  However, this has not inspired me to fundamentally change my opinion of the races.  I think both will get some votes, but neither will be strong enough to change the outcome.

Why will they get some votes?  Both have been in office for nine years and amassed a fair amount of political favors.  Both have reasonably good records, more so for Yang and less so for Xu.  Xu will enjoy strong support from former president Chen, and as a non-DPP nominee, will be the co-flagship candidate (Chen’s son being the other) of Chen’s alliance, to the extent that he decides to put one together.  Yang might join this alliance in order to gain some sort of national political backing, but his background is in the New Tide faction, so the fit is not quite as natural.  Regardless, neither one should prove to be an absolute turkey.

Nevertheless, I don’t think Yang and Xu will change the outcome of the races.  Many people who supported them in the primaries will not do so again in the general election.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Many of their supporters are really DPP supporters.  Within the DPP, they preferred Yang or Xu to Chen or Lai, but their first loyalty is to the party.  More importantly, the third candidates almost always get crushed in single seat elections.  Even if a voter still prefers Yang or Xu, he or she might have to face the possibility that they are mired in third place with very little chance to win.  Pre-election polls will make the horse-race widely known, so Yang and Xu have to establish themselves as credible candidates early on if they are to have any chance at all.  Since I haven’t seen any evidence that Yang and Xu are anything but distant third-place candidates, I think the most likely outcome is that their support will be reduced to only their die-hard supporters.  I’m guessing that will be somewhere in the 5-10% range.  In a 60-40 race, a 5-10% candidate will not affect the outcome.

However, let’s assume for a minute that I am fundamentally wrong about the strength of Yang or Xu.  Perhaps one of them could get 20-25% of the votes.  Even that might not be enough to change the outcome.  One of the basic mistakes that people make in thinking about splinter candidates is that they draw their support exclusively from one candidate or party.  This is incorrect.  Xu will draw his support disproportionately, but not exclusively, from Lai.  Some of his votes will come from people who would not have voted in a two-way race, and some of his votes will come from people who would have voted for the KMT candidate in a two-way race.  Remember that there are all kinds of personal networks that overlap party affiliations.  For example, Yang has done lots of work promoting agricultural products, so many farmers who might otherwise lean to the KMT, might support Yang (but never Chen Ju) in appreciation for Yang’s good agricultural policies.  There are probably some voters (not too many) who would vote for Xu based on his surname, who in the absence of a candidate named Xu would vote for the KMT.  Perhaps none of these groups has lots of members, but there are some.  And remember, shedding the DPP party label frees a candidate to court voters who would never consider supporting the DPP.

So let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that 80% of Xu’s or Yang’s votes would have gone to the DPP in a two-way race, while the other 20% would have gone to the KMT.  (80% is arbitrary, but 4 out of 5 seems reasonable to me.)  What would it take to change a 60-40 race?  If Xu gets 10%, this would become a 52-38-10 race.  At 20%, it is 44-36-20, still a comfortable 8% DPP victory.  At 30%, it is 36-34-30, still barely in the DPP’s favor.  In other words, if you start from a 60-40 cushion, the splinter candidate might have to win the election outright to change the result.  Admittedly, we are making lots of assumptions here, but the general point is that simply having a splinter candidate in the election does not mean that the DPP nominees should panic.  The KMT nominees are weak enough that the DPP should be able to withstand the pressure.

I started this post by saying that I might be reconsidering this vision of the Tainan race.  The reason has to do with a small news story a few days ago.  Lai’s campaign team announced that legislator Li Junyi 李俊毅 would be working for their campaign in some capacity.  Li immediately announced to the press that this was incorrect and that he had not agreed to work for the campaign.  He also complained that it had taken Lai two months to come and see him to ask for his support following the primary.

It is not unusual for losers such as Xu to be upset about losing and be unable to accept that outcome.  However, their campaigns rarely attract broad support.  Li’s reaction is something else entirely.  Li also contested the nomination, but he lost decisively.  This is the kind of politician who you would expect to fall into line and support the party nominee, even if he doesn’t really like the guy.  Li will probably be running for re-election as a legislator, and he will want to be seen as a good party soldier.  Even if he doesn’t actually do any work for the Lai campaign, it is strange that he wouldn’t accept the title, wave a flag at big events, and smile politely.

In short, Li’s actions make me wonder about Lai’s broader coalition.  If he can’t persuade people like Li to at least pretend they are all on the same team, does this forebode serious problems for Lai’s team?  Is there something about his personality that repulses outsiders and prevents them from becoming insiders?  I am probably making too much of this, but it is possible that I am vastly underestimating Xu and ex-president Chen, overestimating the value of a DPP nomination in Tainan, and completely in the dark about problems Lai is experiencing in trying to transform his primary campaign effort into a general election campaign team.


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 county executive poll

May 18, 2010

Yesterday the United Daily News published a massive poll (466<n<749 for each county) in which it assessed satisfaction with the performance of Taiwan’s local county executives.   Most of us have no hard data to determine which local executives have done a good job, so we go on much less obvious and much less reliable cues, such as what the taxi drivers tell us, the tone of media reports, your friend’s uncle’s story, and so on.  The UDN is a hard piece of data.  It is an aggregation of a lot of people’s feelings, rather than a single person’s feelings.  As such, this is the type of poll that gets cited in election campaigns, either to crow about one’s fantastic performance or to attack the incumbent for a dismal job.

The media (and lots of media outlets are commenting on this poll, not just the UDN) focus has been on two things.  First, the headline was the individual winners (Chen Ju) and losers (Huang Zhongsheng).  Second, the DPP executives did better as a group than the KMT executives.

Methodologically, I have a small question.  Today, the UDN published another question from this same poll on whether residents in the various cities and counties think their locality is a suitable place to live or not.  The Greater Taipei area graded out much lower than anywhere else.  I wonder which of these questions they asked first.  That is, which question polluted the other one?  It is probably no coincidence that Hao Longbin, Zhou Xiwei, and Zhang Tongrong all got fairly low marks and also that Taipei City, Taipei County, and Jilong City were all deemed relatively unlivable.

Here are the results of the poll:

county name name status party satisfied dis-satisfied
…………………………… ………………..…… …………. …………….…. ……… ……….. ……………
Kaohsiung City Chen Ju 陳菊 direct DPP 75 10
Miaoli County Liu Zhenghong 劉政鴻 re-elected KMT 73 7
Kaohsiung County Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 direct DPP 72 7
Chiayi City Huang Minhui 黃敏惠 Re-elected KMT 67 13
Changhua County Zhuo Boyuan 卓伯元 Re-elected KMT 64 8
Taichung City Jason Hu 胡志強 direct KMT 63 20
Tainan City Xu Tiancai 許添財 direct DPP 62 16
Pingdong County Cai Qihong 曹啟鴻 Re-elected DPP 61 10
Hualian County Fu Kunqi 傅崑萁 new IND 61 8
Yunlin County Su Zhifen 蘇治芬 Re-elected DPP 61 10
Penghu County Wang Qianfa 王乾發 Re-elected KMT 53 21
Jinmen County Li Wotu 李沃土 new KMT 53 7
Taidong County Huang Jianting 黃健庭 new KMT 52 11
Jilong City Zhang Tongrong 張通榮 Re-elected KMT 51 21
Tainan County Su Huanzhi 蘇煥智 direct DPP 51 21
Taipei City Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 direct KMT 50 28
Nantou County Li Chaoqing 李朝卿 Re-elected KMT 50 18
Lianjiang County Yang Suisheng 楊綏生 new KMT 50 23
Chiayi County Zhang Huaguan 張花冠 new DPP 49 6
Ilan County Lin Congxian 林聰賢 new DPP 46 6
Taipei County Zhou Xiwei 周錫瑋 direct KMT 44 27
Taoyuan County Wu Zhiyang 吳志揚 new KMT 44 8
Hsinchu City Xu Mingcai 許明財 new KMT 42 10
Hsinchu County Qiu Jingchun 邱鏡淳 new KMT 38 20
Taichung County Huang Zhongsheng 黃仲生 direct KMT 37 25

UDN classified executives into three different statuses.  Newly elected executives were elected last November, so they have only been in office for about six months.  They typically have low satisfaction but also low dissatisfaction ratings, as voters are still forming opinions about their performance in office.  There are two exceptions.  Both Yang Suisheng in Lianjiang County and Qiu Jingchun in Hsinchu County have high dissatisfaction ratings.  The KMT blew a by-election in Hsinchu a couple of months ago, and KMT supporters might still be mad at Qiu for that there.  In Lianjiang, I have no clue what is going on, but Lianjiang only has a few thousand residents, so they probably all know through the gossip networks if Yang has done anything bad.

The second group of executives includes those who were re-elected last November, while the third group includes executives from counties and cities that already are or will become direct municipalities later this year.  Most of these executives have been in office for 4.5 years (four have been in for 8.5 years), so opinions have already had time to form on them.

Note the discrepancies in satisfaction ratings by party.  Among the direct municipalities, DPP members Chen Ju and Yang Qiuxing were the best.  Jason Hu and Xu Tiancai had roughly equivalent ratings, but the KMT eagerly nominated Hu for another term while the DPP dumped Xu in favor of a better candidate.  Likewise, Hao Longbin is roughly in the same ballpark as Su Huanzhi, but the former will be running as a KMT candidate while the latter could not make it as a DPP candidate.  Bringing up the rear are the two miserable KMT executives, Zhou Xiwei and Huang Zhongsheng.  Of course, there is more to performance than satisfaction ratings, but this certainly doesn’t make the KMT look good.

Chen Ju wins Kaohsiung nomination

May 6, 2010

The DPP announced the results of its first telephone surveys today.  Chen Ju beat Yang Qiuxing by a margin of 59-41 to win the DPP’s nomination.  More precisely, the results are as follows:

Chen Ju Yang Qiuxing
DPP survey center 0.5988 0.4012
Guanchajia 0.5739 0.4261
Jingzhan 0.5950 0.4050
Average 0.5892 0.4108

Reporting survey results to the hundred of one percent is a bit ridiculous since the sampling error is roughly three percent each way, but we’ll ignore that this time.  The good news for the DPP is that all three organizations came up with the same result, so there is little doubt about Chen Ju’s clear victory.

Yang Qiuxing responded by saying he would accept the results, so the contest is effectively over.  In this sense, the system has worked very well.

To Americans (like me), primaries seem natural.  How else could you pick a candidate?  In fact, in most of the world’s democracies, candidate selection is a purely internal party matter.  Twenty years ago in Taiwan, the general electorate had no influence over candidate selection.  In a sense, the “democratization” of nominations is a failure of party politics.  (By “democratization,” I simply mean the enlarging of the electorate.)  Parties could not make their nominations stick for two reasons.  First, the voters didn’t have strong enough party identifications to vote for whoever the parties put forward.  To use a term from the old one-party American South, there weren’t enough “yellow dog Democrats,” people who would even vote for a yellow dog as long as it was the Democrat nominee.  Second, the losing candidates (seeing that voters might still vote for them in the general election) often refused to withdraw.  Instead, they often ran as independents.  Even if they didn’t win (and a significant number did), they might cause the party nominee to lose by splitting the party vote.

The DPP was the leader in institutionalizing the nomination process.  In the 1980s and early 1990s, the DPP central executive committee decided nominations.  In 1992 (I think), they tried a two tier nomination process, with party cadres deciding part (30 or 50%, I’m not exactly sure) and the general party membership deciding the rest.  This was a disaster.  The cadres formed voting alliances along factional lines instead of choosing candidates on their individual merits.  The general party membership was even worse: faction leaders registered huge numbers of new party members.  They often paid their membership fees and listed their contact info at the same address.  In other words, the party had no access to these members.  The party image suffered from all the dirty stories caused by this nomination procedure, and losers had no reason to withdraw since the primaries weren’t really a test of general popularity.

My favorite episode was the 1996 presidential nomination.  The DPP ran a two stage primary.  In the first stage party members and cadres voted, narrowing the field from four to two.  (Lin Yixiong and You Qing were eliminated; Peng Mingmin and Xu Xinliang went on to the next round.)  Then Peng and Xu went on the road for a month.  Each night, they held a debate in a different county or city.  After the debate, the audience voted.  The voting was really fun.  Each person was given a specially minted coin, which they could deposit in either the Peng slot or the Xu slot in a specially designed vending machine.  At the end of the voting, the coins for each candidate were counted up.   The DPP was trying to expand its primary electorate so that (a) mobilization wouldn’t be the determining factor and (b) the nominee would get a mandate from a primary electorate that was like the general electorate.   They succeeded on the first goal.  Xu mobilized every night, and almost every night his supporters were outnumbered by  Peng’s self-mobilizing supporters.  However, Peng’s supporters were mostly the die-hard Taiwan independence fundamentalists, so the nomination was essentially decided by a small, radical slice of the total electorate.

In the late 1990s, the DPP started experimenting with telephone surveys, and it quickly became apparent that this system accomplished nearly everything they wanted.  They don’t corrupt the party membership, it’s hard to manipulate a survey (when done by a neutral organization), and the sample can mirror the general electorate.  Best of all, they give a “clear” result that losers find very hard to defy.  (I will probably discuss at a later date how ludicrous it is to use surveys in multimember districts, and even in single seat races the winner does not always win by a statistically significant margin, but these are points that seem lost on candidates and voters.)  Since then, telephone surveys have been used more and more by all parties.  Nowadays, they are generally (but not always) the determining factor, not simply one element of a complex nomination process.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the Kaohsiung primary has been a rousing success for the DPP.  There were two very strong candidates, either of seems capable of winning the general election.  With only a bit of rancor, they have conducted an intense contest that resulted in a clear victory for one and a concession of defeat by the other.  Given that the KMT’s best chance to win the election seems to be a split in the DPP, this is no small achievement.

Thanks for the defense … I think

April 14, 2010

Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 complained about all the empty storefronts in Kaohsiung.  Legislator Chen Qiyu 陳啟昱, who apparently is on Chen Ju’s 陳菊 side, decided that this was unfair.  He held a press conference and argued that Kaohsiung had no problem.  Here is his evidence.  If you look at vacancy rates, the worst three counties and cities are Taichung City (26.0% vacancies),  Jilong City (23.8%), and Taoyuan County (23.2%).  All three are KMT governed cities, and Kaohsiung City doesn’t even make it onto that list.

Well, ok.  But what is Kaohsiung’s vacancy rate?  If it is 23.0% and Kaohsiung ranks #4, is that really very good?   Has it gone up more than the vacancy rate in other places?  Should we compare the vacancy rates in urban areas like Kaohsiung City and rural areas like Hualian County?  Are these vacancy rates for businesses, residential housing, everything, just 1st floors, or what?

The net effect of Chen Qiyu’s very weak defense is to make me believe that there really is something to the KMT’s (and now Yang’s) argument about the lousy real estate market in Kaohsiung.

campaign talking points

April 10, 2010

Here are a few campaign stories that involve what the various mayoral candidates are talking about.

In Kaohsiung, KMT hopeful Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順 had a campaign event yesterday in which she stressed the need to develop Kaohsiung’s economy.  She pointed to all the For Rent signs, Kaohsiung’s high unemployment rates, declining incomes, and the large numbers of factory closures as major problems.  Former city council speaker Chen Tianmao 陳田錨 and former legislator Wang Tianjing 王天競 spoke in her support.

Also in Kaohsiung, DPP hopeful Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 called for former president Chen Shuibian 陳水扁 to be released.  Chen has been detained for over 500 days.  However, since Taiwan is an island and there is nowhere for Chen to escape, Yang argued that it was not necessary to continue detaining him.

In Tainan, DPP hopeful Xu Tiancai 許添財 received an anonymous threatening letter.  The Tainan City party chair has forwarded it to the party headquarters and noted that if one candidate is found to have threatened another, the former candidate can be disqualified.

odds and ends

March 30, 2010

A few unrelated thoughts.

Premier Wu Dunyi 吳敦義 seems to have settled into his job.  During his first couple of months with American beef and the like, it seemed to me that he wouldn’t last a full year.  The last two or three months, though, he seems much more in command.  I’m moving him from zombie status (effectively dead but still stumbling around) up to vampire status (he has arisen from his coffin, dressed up nicely, and has an outside shot at seducing the beautiful electorate).  (Maybe I should lay off the analogies.)

I watched an hourlong one on one interview with Yang Qiuxing 楊秋興 on TV last night.  I came away with the impression of Yang as a sincere, hardworking, and simple guy who knows everything about agriculture and not much about anything else.  All he could talk about was farmers, farming, growing up on a farm, marketing farm produce, and how ECFA would be bad for farmers.  Fine, but aren’t there a few people in Greater Kaohsiung who are not farmers?  (It reminded me of Bob Kerry running for the Democratic nomination for president in 1992: his answer to every question, from nuclear arsenals to education policy to tax reform was health care, health care, health care.)  The other thing that struck me about the interview was the three minutes in which he talked about how intense the primary campaign has been.  He downplayed it completely, saying he didn’t think it was that bad at all, that he was just providing information to the party central office about all those abuses, and that he and Chen Ju 陳菊 would certainly cooperate to support the winner.  There must have been a serious backlash against his earlier tactics.  Also, Cai Yingwen’s 蔡英文 gambit — telling him to cool it — has paid off.  I think he is changing courses because the strident strategy didn’t work, but she will get some credit for refereeing and keeping the competition under control.

Liu Quanzhong 劉銓忠 has announced he is running for Taichung mayor.  Liu is a legislator with decades of political experience, the younger brother of former legislative speaker Liu Songfan 劉松藩, and, most importantly, one of the most senior leaders in the Taichung County Red Faction.  This means that both the Red and Black factions have someone contesting the nomination.  It is still nearly unthinkable that anyone other than Jason Hu 胡志強 is going to win the nomination, so why are they fighting an unwinnable fight?  I think I have overlooked how becoming a direct municipality is going to affect local factions.  Control of budgets is the lifeblood of local factions.  Currently, they prosper when they control the county executive, and they build grassroots strength by winning township mayors, agricultural and irrigation cooperatives, and county assembly seats.  The two biggest pillars, county executives and township mayors, will be disappearing after this year.  Of course, if they could win the Greater Taichung mayorship with its enormous budget, all would be peachy.  So even though the odds are slim, there is probably tremendous grassroots pressure to try.  From that angle, Ma would be foolish to give in.  He has a chance to end the Faustian bargain with Taichung local factions.  There might be a cost in votes in 2012, but he will never have a better chance to deal the local factions a fatal blow.