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Feb 29, 2008

Hsieh's campaign

A couple of notes on Hsieh's campaign:

He has recently shifted strategy. The month immediately following the legislative elections was characterized by personal attacks on Ma's integrity, "Mr. Clean" image and patriotism, specifically by talking about the green card, suggesting Ma may have US citizenship, and hinting it was illegal for Ma's sister's company got monopoly rights to sell medicine to a Taipei hospital during Ma's term as mayor. Next helped by showing Ma's sister meeting with a gangster while visiting China.

But starting with his closing remarks of the first debate, Hsieh shifted strategy to attacking Ma's policy positions. He is suggesting that Ma's "give everyone money" campaign promises are impractical and would bankrupt the country; claiming that Ma's policy of creating a "common market" with China would be "legal unification" and "economic unification; and warning that an all-powerful KMT would be a huge step backwards for Taiwan's democracy. He also reminded people of Ma's lackluster record as mayor.

At this point, there's just 20 days until the election. Frankly, Frankie, I think you have much time to focus media attention on your own policy plans.

I know some people believe that since negative attacks seem to work pretty well, it's smart for the Hsieh camp to use them. But I'd like to point out a few things about Taiwan's electorate. They elected A-bian in 2000 in hopes of reform, despite KMT warnings that it could cause a war; they re-elected him in 2004 despite more serious fears of potential violence because (a) Lien Chan is a shitty candidate and (b) there were still hopes that the DPP would improve things.

So what I'm arguing here is that the Taiwanese electorate do want a positive campaign and are looking for a candidate that brings hope. The Ma campaign has done a fairly good job of leaving negative attacks on Hsieh to media and attack dogs; making general remarks about how bad the last 8 years have been; and focusing on what the KMT hopes to improve if elected.

And trying to scare people into voting for you doesn't have a great record here, either. Threats that the KMT would quickly let China anex Taiwan are probably about as effective as threats that China would attack in the event of a DPP win (read: not effective at all).

And finally, let's face it: by talking only about Ma, Hsieh is making Ma the focus of the campaign. Whether you're hearing a KMT press conference or a DPP one, you're probably hearing about Ma Ying-jeou or his policies! Is that such a good idea?

So I'm quite worried that the Hsieh campaign has been uninspired and is very unlikely to have won many people over. And there's no question the KMT has managed to convince many voters, especially young people, that it's time for change even if the KMT is essentially unreformed and honestly offering very little substantial change outside of larger handouts (the KMT strategy is pretty close to 'extend the 18% preferential interest rate for military and civil servants to include everyone').

Sometime between 2004 and now, the KMT actually figured out how to run a campaign. And it looks to me like the DPP forgot. It's going to be close, but perhaps not close enough.


Raj said...

Sometime between 2004 and now, the KMT actually figured out how to run a campaign. And it looks to me like the DPP forgot.

Agreed. Although maybe the DPP worried that they would have no hope with a "positive campaign" because they'd had two terms and generally people don't think they went well, so they tried a negative one.

Hsieh's problem was that he could not blame Chen for any perceived failings, as that would alienate deep-Green voters. And he couldn't rely on himself as he's not a natural maverick. So in some respects he was doomed from the start - he would have had to rely on Ma running a bad campaign, which he hasn't.

N.J said...

Hsieh and Ma election policies and promises are quite similar. I do believe Hsieh wanted to open up the business links to China as shown previously by his Kaohsiung - Xiamen ideas.
but peoples don't really believe him, after all the empty promises Ah Bian and Govt had given the country the past 8 years.