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Jan 14, 2008

Unmitigated Disaster

Well, maybe not, but I've been saying those two words all weekend.

Well, as you can see, I did not have a chance to get to a computer over the weekend, so I couldn't do any blogging about the election results [great .pdf from Taipei Times]. However, here are my general impressions.


Not even the KMT's rosiest predictions foresaw their overwhelming victory Saturday. The devastating DPP loss can be attributed to three main factors: the electoral system that favored a few constituencies that are KMT strong holds despite very small populations (although otherwise, the districts were drawn pretty fairly); an absolutely horrible campaign run by the DPP that focused on nationalism and the KMT's history while virtually ignoring the stagnant salaries and uncivil/incompetent cabinet members that are on people's minds; and a national focus on the irate President Chen Shui-bian as opposed to the legislature itself.

I agree with the general feeling that this is a repudiation of Chen more than a real expression of support for the KMT, although the anger is about domestic issues, not China policy (as the international media would like you to believe).


The destruction of the smaller parties is very sad news, and a third force will have to split itself along fewer lines to get any seats ... four years from now. Only one PFP member has a seat in that party's name, and he got elected under the old multi-member system which is still being used to select aboriginal legislators. The TSU and New Party failed to garner any seats, while the KMT has 81 seats; the DPP 27 seats; the blue-friendly NPSU 3; the PFP 1; and a single independent. As Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), chief executive officer of Citizen Watch, pointed out:

Ho said it may be "exaggerated" to compare the results to the monopoly the KMT enjoyed in the 1990s, but the party now does have the power to determine the fate of all bills.

"We are worried that the KMT will propose bills to benefit itself between March 22 [the presidential poll] and May 20 [presidential inauguration]," he said....

Ho said he was willing to believe in the KMT's resolution to push reform, but that Citizen Watch would still seek promises by the KMT and the DPP to make the legislature more "transparent" ahead of the presidential election.

This includes making the legislature's video-on-demand system -- which records the proceedings of all open-door committee meetings -- available to the public, he said.
Although the legislature provides the full archive of the recordings, the system can only be accessed within the network of the Legislative Yuan....

"Expecting the KMT to exercise self-restraint would be a little bit like fishing in the air," [George Tsai (蔡瑋), a professor at Chinese Culture University's Sun Yat-sen Graduate Institute] said.

So get ready for some C-SPAN like action. Hot!

As Michael Turton pointed out, the numbers weren't actually all that bad for the DPP, but they won only about 25% of the seats despite getting about 35-40% support in most districts and 40% of the Blue camp's vote total in at large seats. Let's see how people react before the presidential election.

Now what?

So what comes next? The bad news is that I expect this new legislature's incumbents to be close to unbeatable and unlikely to push much-needed reforms such as eliminating the government funded 18% savings rate for civil servants, further banking reform and systematic oversight over government pork and graft. They'll also be able to try recall the president at any time, although the referendum condition attached to that will probably discourage them from using this provision lightly now that they can actually win.

I most fear Ma actually signing a peace agreement with China that eliminates any Taiwan independence option (think "no independence, no attack" clause) in the future and causes a domino-effect which sucks away US and Japanese support, who may see unification as an inevitable result. That would not mean the island would be eaten up right away. But some things are very hard to undo once they're done (like a peace agreement), and I don't like the idea of looming future unification.

On the other hand, the KMT could actually use its new found and stable power to push for a more clearly parliamentary system (and that could happen no matter who becomes president). That would be very good news in the long run. But other than this, I find myself at a loss to think of anything else they might do that would be very good.

And on every one's minds is the presidential election. But I think we're going to have to see how Hsieh campaigns in these two months before deciding what his odds of victory are, or what the fallout would be. No predictions on that quite yet, but let's hope the DPP shows a new face.

Will update the map soon. Maybe it can be converted to something that keeps track of legislators in some way and provides details on the strength of their support. I'll think about it.


Eli said...

One thing that should be kept in mind: people keep saying the legislature would have the power to recall Hsieh if he becomes president. As far as I remember from reporting on last year's recall attempts, they would only have the power to pass the first stage, but the public would still have a chance to vote. I'll have to check what percentage of the public would have to support the recall for it to pass, but it is not just something the legislature can do on its own. On the other hand, could they make Hsieh's job difficult? I think yes.

On another subject: do you think there will be any debates between Hsieh and Ma?

阿牛 said...

Yes, there would be a referendum if the KMT tried to recall Hsieh, and that is in and of itself a reason for the KMT to contain itself. It's one thing to run the campaign when you know it won't pass; but when you know it will be put to referendum, there's a strong possibility of backlash if you fail or are perceived as a troublemaker.

There should be one debate, but Ma has been very hesitant to commit to anything concrete so far.