Posts Tagged ‘Zhu Lilun’

thoughts on the Taipei County campaign

October 8, 2010

[note: I apologize for the rambling nature of this post.  However, it does reflect the muddled nature of my thinking on this subject.  And I feel the need to post something, since I have been quiet for such a long time.]


I’ve been trying to think about the mayoral race in Xinbei City, and I think I have some ideas about what each side is trying to do and what assumptions underlie those strategies.  I also think I don’t buy most of those assumptions.

Taipei County is something of an urban city overlaid on the foundation of a rural society.  Like Taipei City, there is a highly dense and fluid population.  Mobility is important, because when lots of people are moving in and out, they don’t have as many ties with local organizations and can’t be mobilized by traditional networks.  The best way to reach these unattached voters is through the media campaign.

However, Taipei County also has a different side.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Taipei County was a relatively small county, with a population much smaller than Chiayi, Yunlin, or Changhua Counties.  Its politics were arranged around local factions.  However, unlike most counties, Taipei County never developed county-wide factions.  Instead, the factions were all based at the township level.  So Banqiao had the Liu, Guo, and Haishan factions, Danshui had the Mai and Chen factions, Zhonghe had the Jiang-Lin and Lu-You factions, Yonghe had the Big Chen and Little Chen factions, and so on.  Even the small towns, like Wugu, Ruifang, and Shulin had their own local factions.  The critical point is that these factions never formed permanent alliances with each other, so that Taipei County developed a bewildering array of largely independent factions.  When the Taipei County population boom started in the 1970s, some of these factions faded away, their local networks swamped by the huge numbers of outsiders.  Others managed to survive and even thrive by somehow building ties to all these new immigrants and incorporating them into the factional networks.  So even today, urban Taipei County rests upon this more rural architecture.

In the past twenty years, most of the county executive races can be explained by reference to what the local factions did.  In 1989, the KMT nominated a NTU professor, and many of the local factions were not pleased.  The DPP’s narrow victory was attributed to the lack of cooperation from local factions.  In 1993, the KMT nominated a Sanchong faction member, and, again, many other local factions refused to support him.  He lost badly.  In 1997, most of the KMT factions supported the KMT nominee, but two local faction candidates ran independent campaigns and took just enough votes away for the DPP to eke out a narrow victory.  In 2001, Su Zhenchang won his re-election campaign in part because he had spent much of his first term building up good relations with lots of local organizations.  I wouldn’t say that he made friends with the factions per se, but he did steal away a significant amount of the support that the factions would normally be able to mobilize on behalf of the KMT.  It didn’t help that his opponent was Wang Jianxuan, a politician with a reputation for incorruptibility.  Factions probably didn’t see too much benefit in going all out for him.  In 2005, the KMT finally unified all the various factions around its candidate, and won easily.  Of course, there are other explanations for all these outcomes, but the faction-centered explanations aren’t easy to dismiss, especially from the KMT’s point of view.

So I think that the central assumptions of the KMT campaign are these.  First, Taipei County has fundamentally a blue-leaning electorate.  If everyone votes their party identity, the KMT should win.  The DPP only wins when it steals some KMT votes or the KMT vote is split.  Zhu Lilun does not need to win any DPP votes; he just needs to turn out his base.  Second, the way to turn out the base is to maintain good relations with all the local factions and various local networks and organizations.  There really is no need to engage the DPP in a media campaign.  He just needs to protect all the local networks, and he will win.  As a result, the Zhu campaign to this point has been all about meeting with locally important people.  And since the Cai Yingwen campaign hasn’t showed much inclination to try to horn in on this territory, Zhu has to be feeling pretty good right now.

I don’t like these assumptions very much.  The factions collectively matter, but I don’t think they are sufficient.  My guess is that they can turn about 10% of the total votes in one direction or another.  The KMT needs all or almost all of that 10%, but I doubt that this will be sufficient.  The KMT also has its base of loyal party voters who will turn out for the KMT regardless of what the local factions do.  However, I’m concerned that the KMT is ignoring a vital part of its potential coalition.  There are many voters who lean to the KMT and would probably vote for the KMT if they bothered to vote.  However, unlike the Zhu campaign, I would not assume that you can turn out all of them through local organizations.  Taipei County still has lots of people who are not plugged into any organizational networks.  The way to get these people to the polls is by raising the temperature of the campaign.  You have to get them excited so that they will mobilize themselves.  Zhu doesn’t seem to be doing anything for them.  I wonder if his campaign will be undone by a low turnout rate.  He might get all the loyal KMT votes, all the faction votes, and still lose.


The DPP campaign is hard to figure out.  Cai Yingwen seems to be spending all of her time visiting traditional markets.  (Note: exaggeration.)  She doesn’t seem to be trying to attack any of the local networks that Zhu Lilun is working so hard at cultivating.  I’m also getting a distinct feeling that she just isn’t working very hard at all, at least by the standards of most candidates.  I’ve traveled with a few candidates for a day, and the pace they keep up is generally stupendous.  I’m exhausted by mid-afternoon.  I’m getting a general impression (and I can’t cite anything in particular) that Cai Yingwen simply isn’t willing to live that kind of all-consuming campaign life.  Look, politics is difficult.  The winners are akin to professional athletes; they are at the very pinnacle of their profession.  This is Cai Yingwen’s first real campaign test, and she simply might be out of her league.  (And for those who think she is really concentrating on the 2012 presidential election, don’t imagine that that campaign would be any less demanding or that she also wouldn’t have to cultivate lots of grassroots power brokers.)

I’m also wondering about Cai’s media strategy.  She hasn’t gotten much press coverage at all, partly because she has decided to run a positive campaign.  Positive platitudes just aren’t very interesting, and policy positions in the middle of a campaign are cheap.  Of course the media is ignoring her.  This would be ok if she were cruising to an easy victory, but most polls show that she is losing.  One problem is that she isn’t winning enough of the swing voters because Zhu has an image as a capable administrator.  Now, I don’t have any idea whether Zhu is or is not a capable administrator, but I am sure that he will retain this image unless Cai decides to challenge it.  Zhu has a track record of about eight years from Taoyuan County, and I wonder if the Cai campaign has decided that voters in Taipei County don’t want to hear about Taoyuan.  The thing is, all these images are very shallow and could be changed dramatically with a bit of information.  We really don’t know anything about the Taoyuan experience (and Zhu isn’t trumpeting his triumphs there either), so one or two clear examples of bad administration might severely damage his reputation as a capable administrator.  I think that would go a long way to reducing his appeal to all the independent voters (who he isn’t courting very energetically anyway).


So right now I’m not terribly impressed with either candidate.  Both are courting their base almost exclusively.  Neither is projecting much of a dynamic image.  If nothing changes, turnout will probably be quite low.  The KMT will probably win because its base is slightly bigger than the DPP’s (though the margin is smaller than they seem to think).  However, both are leaving themselves wide open to defeat.  By ignoring the floating voters, Zhu is betting everything on the idea that his base will carry him to victory.  (Hey, it isn’t 2006 or 2008 anymore!  The gap between the parties is a lot smaller in 2010.  It’s a lot closer to the 2004 balance.)  Cai seems unwilling to follow Su Zhenchang’s strategy of ripping away some of the KMT’s organizational strength, and she doesn’t seem willing to engage Zhu directly in the media.

This will probably change over the last six weeks of the campaign.  Sooner or later, we will start seeing big rallies and appeals to all the undecided voters.  And maybe I’m missing a lot because I haven’t seen it reported in the news.  But so far (and so far as I can tell), I don’t like the choices that either campaign is making.



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.

KMT nomination contestants

April 6, 2010

The KMT finished accepting applications for its mayoral nominations on April 3, and it will hold telephone surveys on April 14.  These surveys are not decisive; the KMT can choose to ignore the results or nominate someone else entirely.

In Xinbei City, only Zhu Lilun 朱立倫 filed for the nomination, so there will be no survey.  Technically, the party could still draft someone else, but they won’t.  The contestants in the other cities are as follows:

Taipei City:  Hao Longbin 郝龍斌 (incumbent mayor), Yang Shiqiu 楊實秋 (city council).

Taichung City:  Jason Hu 胡志強 (incumbent Taichung City mayor, former foreign minister), Liu Quanzhong 劉銓忠 (legislator, brother of former speaker, Taichung County Red faction), Ji Guodong 紀國棟 (legislator, Taichung County Black faction).

Tainan City:  Guo Tiancai 郭添財 (former legislator), Li Quanjiao 李全教 (former legislator), Xie Longjie 謝龍介 (Tainan City council).  Both Guo and Li are based in Tainan County.

Kaohsiung City: Huang Zhaoshun 黃昭順 (legislator), Hou Caifeng 侯彩鳳 (legislator), Zhang Xianyao 張顯耀 (legislator), Su Yinggui 蘇盈貴 (former Taipei City Labor Affairs Bureau Chief), Lai Fengwei 賴峰偉 (deputy secretary general of presidential office, former Penghu County executive), Lin Yishi 林益世 (legislator, Kaohsiung County Red faction).  The first five are based in Kaohsiung City, and Lin Yishi is from Kaohsiung County.

In Taipei City, Hao will win easily and Yang will end his quixotic campaign and turn his focus back to retaining his city council seat.  This was probably his purpose anyway.  By spending his money now, he doesn’t have to compete for attention with a dozen other candidates.

I have no idea who will “win” in Tainan City.  They all look weak to me.  The prize is the right to get slaughtered in November.  I’m not sure any of these three can manage 35%, much less a majority.

In Taichung, one possibility is that Liu and Ji will drop out before they get to the polling stage.  I think what they are doing is negotiating the best deal possible for their respective factions.  They don’t have a lot of leverage right now because there is no way either can win the telephone survey segment.  However, an independent campaign by one of them that splits the KMT vote is the most realistic scenario for a KMT loss in this race, so look for the KMT to buy them off.  I expect this to happen earlier rather than later.

In Kaohsiung, the two stage polling plan seems to have disappeared.  Five of the six candidates are from Kaohsiung City, so it would be rather awkward to have a Kaohsiung City poll to determine who would meet the Kaohsiung County winner.  However, they do seem concerned that six candidates is too many.  They might try to convince someone to withdraw, or they might only take the polls as advisory.  If I were them, I’d eliminate three or four candidates, perhaps with a first round of polling, and then use a survey to figure out who the strongest finalist is.  I still think Lin Yishi is the best of the field.  But they don’t ask me.