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Jul 30, 2009

Round up 7/30

President and soon to be KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou has once again called for a meeting with DPP chair Tsai Ing-wen, ostensibly aimed at hashing out a common domestic approach to cross-strait foreign policy. She also points out that the KMT has sent no formal invitation or indication of the full scope of talks to the DPP for serious consideration, but rather has just gone to the media a few times over the last year.

Tsai Ing-wen has responded by calling for President Ma to first end the KMT-CCP platform, a murky party to party communications mechanism that pre-dated resumed semi-official negotiations. Forums held as part of that KMT-CCP platform have been widely criticized in pro-Taiwan media.

Meanwhile, here's a good round up by Taipei Times of the dueling reports on the impact of the ECFA. I believe both sides are distorting likely effects to advance their argument and make the ECFA more or less popular. If all it consists of is reducing tariffs, as long as enough key sectors are protected, I'd probably be happy. I find the prospect of relaxing rules on Chinese investment in Taiwan to be much scarier, and that is already allowed. So I am not sure much damage the ECFA can really do.

Meanwhile, with the KMT still insisting the the ECFA is not a political agreement and will not include the words "One China," the DPP points out that the whole deal is still being discussed in a "One China" framework and on the pre-condition that Taiwan accepts "One China," making KMT denials rather absurd.

Jul 27, 2009

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu called for Taiwanese to “fight in unity for the dignity of our country” at the World Games' closing ceremony yesterday.

This was seen as a political strike against accusations that she's getting China friendly, and most stations covered at such, with TVBS calling it "an injection of political flavor" or something like that.

But as President Ma himself told us not so long ago, "nobody thinks Taiwan is not a country." So what is the controversial part which normally helps define what is called "political" and what is called "common sense? "

Re: Support for sovereignty and DPP no longer tied

This editorial, published in the Liberty Times a few days ago, was so good I was going to translate it myself. Thankfully, Perry Svensson of the Taipei Times did the hard work for me. A concluding point:

The fact that support for the DPP is slipping while support for Taiwanese independence is increasing shows that while the public wants Taiwanese independence, it is displeased with the DPP’s approach.
To extract itself from these difficulties, the DPP must either find ways to persuade the public that its approach is the right one or come up with a new approach.
It doesn’t look like the DPP will act any time soon, but the party can no longer afford to put off addressing its troubles.
As I have said the before, the party seems to me to be out of sync with both its message and messengers, rather than differing from Taiwanese voters on core values. The question is, can the DPP make themselves palatable again? They must. And sooner rather than later.

But like Lin Cho-shui (林濁水), who wrote the piece linked above, I don't anticipate the DPP will act any time soon.

Jul 22, 2009

And for the record ...

Global Views Monthly has a new survey out showing a whopping 82.8 percent of respondents agree Taiwan and China are two separate countries (full results here [pdf]).

So make no mistake: more than ever before (and we have covered this before), the public is overwhelmingly in support of the DPP's most sacred core principle, and in direct opposition the the KMT and Ma administration's rarely trumpeted but clearly stated view that Taiwan and China belong to the same country.

But we also see that over 80% of the respondants consider themselves members of the Zhonghua Minchu, that modern invention which Ma has used so well as a blanket to cover his "One China" policies.

Further, the voters are overwhelmingly in favor of using cross-strait negotiations to accomplish the following goals, in this order of popularity: reduce China's opposition to Taiwan's participation in international affairs, remove the missles pointed at Taiwan, signing a peace treaty and "increasing freedom and democracy in China." That last goal is newly added to the survey and is something we all wish for in an ideal world, but which I see as a KMT talking point that isn't going to happen.

The only thing to make of this result is issues other than cross-strait terminology are more important to the voters, including "reducing hostilities." If the DPP wants to sell people on the idea that peace treaty = capitulation, they've got a lot of work to do and it could well backfire.

The people of Taiwan are not voting for the KMT because of the One China principle, and the DPP will not repulse voters by saying "one side, one country." The public wants nothing to do with unification but doesn't mind being called what is probably best translated as "ethnically Chinese."

And this is not just a matter of blue-media brianwashing, though people are undoubtedly poorly informed about the DPP, CCP and KMT's position on these issues by blue-leaning media.

If the DPP wants to win, they must get out of the echo chamber and give the public what it wants, as I have been trying to emphasize. That doesn't mean they become KMT Lite; it means coming out swinging with a constructive policy, capable spokesmen and not sounding so paranoid -- even if there is good reason to be paranoid.

The public will not buy it. The island is not going to suddenly "wake up" to the CCP's ongoing threat as long as the CCP stays quiet. Like it or not, believe it or not, the public agrees with the KMT on one major point, which is that there are ways forward in cross-strait issues that don't involve unification or declarations of de jure independence. The DPP must present their version of that middle way to achieve domestic policy goals and constructive relations with China, even if Beijing threatens to boycott it.

Some more advice to the DPP

One thing I don't make a lot of friends with is my habit of telling the DPP what to do. But I can't help myself, since I really want them to win, and really don't see how they're going to do it using their current strategies. Not long ago I outlined my platform advice to the DPP. So today I'm going to focus on the ground game. Get more people on the ground, get a better message on the air. That would be the gist of it. Here are the details.

  • Make the "shadow government" a real shadow government. So far, 2008 presidential candidate Frank "I'm retired from politics" Hsieh has been using his weekly radio show on GreenPeace 97.3, his blog and his shadow government website to push back against KMT policies -- without actually forming a shadow cabinet or coordinating with the DPP party apparatus. This is a tremendous waste of resources. A shadow cabinet that had the party's backing would get more air and print time, presenting coordinated views on the range of topics. The shadow cabinet should draw credible scholars and professionals from the Taiwan Thinktank, Taiwan Society and professional organizations. Such a shadow cabinet would help the DPP present a set of faces that would offer voters a measure of continuity even in the event of a transfer of power, and give people a better idea of what they'd be getting with a DPP administration. This is especially important since the DPP's cabinet during it's 8 years were frequently replaced and sometimes picked for ideological loyalty over competence (see Mark Chen, a hero of the democracy movement who made a lousy foreign minister).
  • Figure out what people actually want. Not everyone is as obsessed with cross-strait issues as the DPP Central Standing Committee or I am, and the party must take that lesson to heart. After the Democratic Party's 2004 election loss in the United States, Howard Dean won the election for DNC chair. One of his first acts was to send out a mail survey far and wide -- my Republican grandfather in Indiana filled it out, as did my Democratic parents in Texas and some friends in California. The survey asked people questions about their positions and priorities. The two page survey gave the Democratic yet another tool to see what voters of different ages and in different regions wanted.

    Some of this data was redundant -- exit polls in the US are very long sets of questionnaires and included not only the DNC's questions, but a great many others. But exit polls are filled out mostly by very motivated & excited voters (few others have the patience), and telephone surveys put pressure on respondents to reply quickly and sometimes thoughtlessly. The DNC's survey was designed to complement these other data sources and helped serve as a starting point for Dean's 50-state strategy. That leads us to...

  • Take a page from Howard Dean's book. Dean's "50-state strategy" involved pumping money into the local party apparatus in places that the DNC had long given up on, like Texas, Kansas, Alaska or Indiana; paying field workers and organizers on the ground in every congressional district in every state; running at all levels in every state; expanding advertising; and backing locals to run in a district whether that meant producing "blue dog Democrats" or "left coast liberals." And Obama's strategy was Dean's strategy on steroids.

    The DPP, which has virtually no party apparatus or activity in huge swaths of the country, ought to consider just how significant this strategy was to the change in Democratic fortunes between 2004 and 2008.

    To get an idea of the significance of that change, see The Dean Legacy, The Howard Dean Nominee, and Kamarck, Elaine C. (2006) "Assessing Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy and the 2006 Midterm Elections," The Forum: Vol. 4 : Iss. 3, Article 5.

  • Co-opt the independents. At some of the lower levels, there are more independent office holders than DPP candidates. The DPP ought to make efforts to recruit those independents who can agree with the party's core principles. This is no small task; these candidates don't need the DPP's money to win (what money?), so the party is going to have to attract them with an improved image and, perhaps in some cases, tactic threats of backing their rivals. There are promising signs the DPP has realized the value of tactically backing independent rivals of KMT candidates; let's see them take it to the next level.
  • Clean up the website. It's easier to find past election results than current candidate information on the DPP site. Come on people!

Jul 19, 2009

Still bad

When you're wrong, you're wrong. And my comment on a recent Arthur Dent post at Letters from Taiwan, in which I imply that Ma was trying to justify martial law, is off the mark.

Forget Ma's implication that only "peace" across the strait (which apparently we didn't have before Ma saved us) can prevent the re-institution of martial law. That claim is ridiculous and borders on infuriating, and it reminds me that the KMT called for martial law during the Oust A-bian campaign. The KMT was hoping for a coup or revolt if they could goad A-bian into declaring it.

I cross-referenced the Central Daily News article about Ma's speech commemorating lifting martial law with both the pan-green champion Liberty Times and that bastion of pan-blue thought, the United Daily News. I think it's fair to say Ma's comment looked something like this excerpt out of the CDN article:

Martial law was declared because of the [Chinese] civil war. War is the reason why restrictions or even deprivation of freedom and human rights are rationalized.

So Ma is not justifying the declaration of martial law.

Still, I am not comfortable with Ma's tendency to conclude that getting closer to China is both the cure-all solution to all our problems and the reason for all good outcomes. For example, today's Taipei Times leads with this story:

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said his opening of the World Games as president of the Republic of China (ROC) was the result of improved cross-strait relations under his administration.
This is simply laughable. The Chinese boycotted the event and Ma came because the Kaohsiung mayor invited him. The games themselves were scheduled long before Ma was president. Ma's reasoning here is so deluded you have to wonder if he really takes us all for fools or if he is, perhaps, off his rocker.

Jul 8, 2009

We ought to discuss now...

... when the year end elections produce a map stacked precipitously in favor of the KMT, to some degree or another, there will be a public outcry from some DPP supporters about how the democratic system in place is simply unfair.

So we have to ask: at this level of elections, to what extent is the KMT's disproportionate victory a function of institutional flaws, and to what extent is it a function of politico-cultural habits or norms?

If you ask me, it seems to be mostly the latter. The KMT's political machine is a perfect tool for low level politicians who hope to get elected, move an agenda and move up the ranks; that alone attracts a lot of local talent, and most capable candidates that don't want to go with the KMT just run as independents at the township/village level or county council level of elections. The DPP does quite poorly in those elections, as we saw in last week's analysis. So the DPP brand at that level is damaged, and the party simply doesn't attract most of the people who are likely to win.

Theoretically there's no institutional reason that the party branding should remain so favorable to one side, but the KMT just has the momentum in a way you would think would have fallen apart in most two party systems. Still, this seems to be a function of candidate and perhaps voter habits more than anything.

The once carefully crafted and nefarious relationship between the Farmers/Fishermen's Associations and the KMT can probably be counted as an institutional flaw, but I'd let someone who knows more about it talk about it in comments.

I can't think of institutional reasons the DPP shouldn't be able to win more at the county commissioner level, as they are running in big districts with (until now, anyway) static borders and in which the voter count is high enough that vote buying is not very effective. But the KMT is likely to wipe the floor with the DPP (again) this year at that level too.

Is the KMT dominance at even the county commissioner level simply a function of the popular local talent pool the KMT can cultivate at the lower levels? Are there budgetary or business reasons that could be considered institutional?

All contributions welcome in comments!

Yunlin special election

Both parties are now going through the process of picking a candidate; the DPP will likely go with Liu Chian-kuo (劉建國), the candidate during the regular election, assuming his poll numbers look good. The KMT will pick a candidate by month's end, and announce a time table for picking the Taoyuan and Pingtung county commissioner candidates tomorrow.

The dangers of redistricting

Taiwanese blogger Richter, whose main focus is Taiwan-related maps of various kinds, has just posted about the redistricting that was implemented in October 1950, when Taiwan's administrative regions were redrawn from eight counties and nine cities into 16 counties and five cities.

These historic battles are a reminder of what may be in store for us as county and local government lines are redrawn!

There was quite a battle for where the seats of new county government's would be placed. Taichung's Fengyuan and Chinshui were pitted agianst each other, as were Douliou and Huwei in then Yunlin County.

Suspicions in Fengyuan that Chinshui was the favored location for the county seat caused Fengyuan leaders, such as village head Chen Shui-tan (陳水潭), to appeal to the Taiwan Provincial Senate. Chen praised Fengyuan's levels of education, hygine, beautiful weather and natural beauty before taking a swipe at Chinshui for being a coastal town subject to bad weather and akin to a coastal dessert.

Naturally, the Chinshui people were rather indignant, and put in their own appeal to the Taiwan Provincial Senate, which claimed the Fengyuan was full of it. They noted the coast's crucial importance both to the economy and the historic Han settlement of Taiwan, and also made note of that Chinshui was the true population center of the new county as well.

The Chinshui-Fengyuan competition is the root origin of the Red and Black factional struggle for control in Taichung County that has continued to this day, though this split is less pronounced than decades ago.

In the case of Yunlin, apparently most local representatives called for Huwei to be the seat of Yunlin's county government; it was established in Douliou anyway. That caused 5 districts in Yunlin's Beigang area asked to be integrated in Chiayi instead.

For those with a general interest in the problems of redistricting, consider the following books:

Bushmanders and Bullwinkles: How Politicians Manipulate Electronic Maps and Census Data to Win Elections

Redistricting in Comparative Perspective

How to Lie with Maps

Party Lines: Competition, Partisanship, And Congressional Redistricting

Elbridge Gerry's Salamander: The Electoral Consequences of the Reapportionment Revolution
Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America (Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation)

Jul 3, 2009

I had forgotten about this variable

Taipei Times reports...

The Executive Yuan set a goal of reducing the number of third-level local governments from 368 to between 100 and 150 yesterday, one week after approving the upgrade of Taipei County, the merger of Kaohsiung County and the municipality of Kaohsiung City, the merger of Taichung City and Taichung County, and the merger of Tainan City with Tainan County...

The administrative borders of townships and villages in the revamped areas will have to be redrawn because of differing regulations. The biggest difference is that districts chiefs in a municipality are appointed by the city mayor, while heads of counties and cities in counties and cities are elected by popular vote.

The central government, however, has not yet decided whether to apply the current regulations to the new municipalities.

Liao said that remapping the borders of townships and villages is a necessity in view of the significant population gaps in different townships and villages....

The government will also promote cooperation between the existing localities by grouping them into seven blocs: Taipei, Keelung and Ilan; Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli; Taichung, Changhua and Nantou; Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan; Kaohsiung and Pingtung, Hualien and Taitung; and Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.
So if the government decides to use the appointing method as in Taipei and Kaohsiung, we have a pretty boring remapping process that just creates a stronger patronage network for mayors in these cities; if the government goes with elections, we may end up with an intrigue-filled remapping as local politicians strive to get districts drawn in ways favorable to them. And again, regardless of what method is used, this means legislative districts in these areas will have to be remapped again.

Jul 2, 2009

Preliminary analysis on 2009 elections

Things are not looking good for the DPP at the county magistrate/mayoral level.

Worst case scenario would involve being completely wiped off the map. Success means holding on to their current count of three seats. Best case scenario for the DPP is winning 5 of the total 17 contested positions, picking up Yilan and Penghu.

First, keep in mind [pdf] that party I.D. tracking polls by Global Views Monthly show about 40% of voters consider themselves pan-blue leaning versus 20% who call themselves pan-green leaning. Another 35% consider themselves centrist. So, despite the current rather grim figures that the Ma administration and the KMT legislative caucus can show for their support, the DPP has a lot more work cut out for them in any election.

Second: County commissioner elections are local elections and, unsurprisingly, result hinge on local issues and individual popularity. That is why you can see overwhelming victories for candidates in some counties, with upward to 70% of the vote going to the winner; he's well known and well liked. More like a club president than a politician at that stage, really.

Third: the DPP positions in Yunlin and Chiayi county are likely threatened by the corruption charges pending against those incumbent county commissioners, who have already been renominated. Chiayi is probably a little safer. Pingtung seat could be lost if the KMT holds down the number of popular blue-leaning candidates to just one. Losing those three seats could mean the whole map is painted blue.

On the potentially positive side, The DPP's Penghu candidate, Cai Chien-hsing (蔡見興), is native to the offshore islands and was a former KMT member who went rogue and then flipped to the green side in 2004. He's been on the Kaohsiung City Council, and a personality like his may be able to win in Penghu, especially considering the KMT incumbent there did not win by much last time around.

The DPP's Ilan candidate Lin Tsong-shyan (林聰賢) is a former Luodong township chief (that's an urban township) who won by large margins. He is also an ancient rival of the current incumbent. He seems like a reasonable choice by the DPP to run and has some shot at winning a seat.


You can expect similarly abysmal results for the DPP at the city council and township chief level, where the KMT and non-partisans have dominated since the days of martial law. Here are the percentage break downs of seats won the level last time elections were held, based on CEC data:

Township/village chiefs54%
City/county councils45%

Although redistricting will have some effect on exactly who runs and wins in what areas, we can't expect the over all numbers to change a great deal.

So, there you have it! And having taken a hard look at the numbers, I will now go cry a little bit.

Jul 1, 2009

Yunlin is just the tip of the iceberg

You knew I would get all hot and bothered by this story:

The Tainan branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday annulled the election victory of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文).

The ruling is final. Chang may not appeal....

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said that the party would choose a candidate for the by-election in Yunlin within a week, adding that the party was confident of winning the legislative seat.
Several people within the KMT are interested in the seat; the Liberty Times reports two people are gunning for the DPP nomination, namely Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and Yunlin County Deputy Commissioner Lee Ying-yuan (李應元).

Expect infighting; Yunlin is a faction-ridden place, like most districts in Taiwan. This particular district is the coastal district, so fisherman's organizations will be at least as important as farmers' organizations.

Meanwhile, preparations are underway to begin radically re-mapping Taiwan's townships, villages and cities thanks to the redrawing that will be triggered by the creation of more special municipalities. That will probably in turn trigger redistricting at the legislative level, which will create new opportunities for gerrymandering.

The redrawing process will be messy and full of intrigue, folks!

And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for ...

... presenting the 2009 County magistrate and mayoral elections map guide! Updated to reflect the recently approved mergers in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Taichung as well as Taipei County's upgrade!

View 2009 County Magistrate/mayoral elections 第十六屆縣(市)長選舉 in a larger map

I know you've just been dying to see it!

Not much data yet; as far as I know, all polls so far have been internal party polls, none of which have been publicly released. As more info comes in, the map will continue to be updated!

Note: this map does not reflect that at the same time, county/city council and township/village chief elections will be held at the same time (Dec. 5, 2008). Frankly, I feel there's little point putting that on the map for now. There will be almost no polling, I imagine, and those results are probably better studied in spreadsheet form. But we will be watching and analyzing those results as well!