Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Hidden Factor in Local Political Faction Struggles =UPDATED=

Some excellent work in the Taipei Times recently on the Yunlin by-election victory of the DPP over a split KMT. Chen Chao-chien wrote the other day:
The two major KMT factions in Yunlin County are the Chang (張) and Hsu (許)families. No doubt a split between independent candidate Chang Hui-yuan (張輝元) and KMT candidate Chang Ken-hui (張艮輝) from the Chang family, which is led by former Yunlin County commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味), was a key factor behind Liu’s victory. Meanwhile, the Hsu family, which was first headed by another former Yunlin County commissioner, Hsu Wen-chi (許文志), and is now led by his son Hsu Shu-po (許舒博), boycotted the Chang Ken-hui campaign to express their discontent with the KMT’s decision to backtrack on the nomination of Hsu Shu-po as chairperson of Taipei Financial Center Corp in June amid speculation that the nomination was political payback for Hsu Shu-po’s withdrawal from the KMT’s Yunlin County commissioner primary.

In other words, it was the Hsu family’s passivity that contributed to the low voter turnout (45.55 percent) and the low number of combined votes garnered by the two Changs (52,025 votes), which accounted for just 70 percent of the number of votes garnered by Liu (74,272 votes). Neither supporters of the Hsu family nor a majority of voters in general wanted the Chang family to control all political resources in the county. Moreover, given tensions between senior KMT officials and Hsu Shu-po, there was no need for supporters of the Hsu family to back KMT candidates to prevent the party from being defeated in the by-election.
This loss was followed by ranking KMT politician Wu Po-hsiung's visit to Yunlin to attempt to mediate between the six factions to see if they can agree on a candidate for the Yunlin county commissioner. If the faction splits continue the DPP candidate for county chief could be a major winner in Yunlin. At the same time, the party dispatched another heavyweight to see if it could solve the problems in Hualien, where Ma Ying-jeou's handpicked County Magistrate, Yeh Ching-chuan, basically sent down from Taipei, was soundly beaten in the KMT primary as voters opted for a local. Mediation by KMT HQ became necessary when disgraced legislator Fu Kun-chi announced he would probably be a candidate for commissioner as well.

The Taipei Times manfully strove to argue that the recent thumping in Yunlin, the Penghu Casino Referendum defeat, and the loss in Miaoli back in March show that the KMT brand has been damaged by the Ma Administration's loss of popularity. As the Da-an by-election shows, there is probably an element of this involved, but I am wondering if there is a neglected structural factor at work as well.

The common link between the three cases is that in each case the KMT split because a powerful local politician didn't get the party nomination. In Miaoli the party cynically nominated the wife of Lee E-tin, the legislator who had lost the seat in the first place due to vote buying. The winner was another KMTer who had left the party to run against him, and who promised to vote with the DPP in the legislature -- the DPP didn't even have a candidate in the race.[UPDATE: Commenter below says he caucuses with the NPSU]. In Yunlin the KMT again split, handing a crushing victory to the DPP. In Hualien the losing candidate in the primary will probably also run a separate race. Finally in the Da-an by-election held back in March when Diane Lee was found to be a US citizen, the Blue vote was split, although the New Party did not affect the outcome (and the DPP candidate did relatively well).

I am wondering if what we are really seeing in such splits is the longterm result of the reduction in the size of the legislature, from 225 seats to 113 -- meaning that basically half the faction politicians who used to be able to get seats must now toil in the wilderness. As a resource becomes scarce, its value rises, and individuals will go to greater lengths to obtain it, whether it be petroleum or legislative positions. In this case, I wonder if more and more politicians who used to prosper in the bosom of the KMT may well consider that their livelihood depends on greater....independence.

UPDATE II: The CNA published this news on similar splits in many areas:
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Wu Cheng-tien (吳成典) yesterday ignored possible disciplinary action from the KMT and established campaign headquarters to announce his candidacy in the year-end Kinmen County commissioner election. Wu lost the party primary to Kinmen County Councilor Lee Wuo-shih (李沃士) earlier this year. The KMT nominated Lee in June....

Lee’s announcement created another pan-blue split for the KMT in local government elections scheduled for Dec. 5, with the party scrambling to handle splits in Hualien, Taoyuan, Taitung and Hsinchu.
UPDATE III: Add Chiayi, where sources say the Hsaio faction, in the person of Hsiao Teng-piao, is peeved at the KMT and may also mount an independent candidacy.
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Anonymous said...

problems in Hualien, where Ma Ying-jeou's handpicked County Magistrate, Yeh Ching-chuan, basically sent down from Taipei

Ma is very condescending and I don't think you could emphasize enough the "down". He doesn't respect aboriginals, he doesn't respect Taiwanese, and he hella sure doesn't respect local bosses. Unfortunately, corrupt as local bosses are, they have lost any iota of respect for Ma. An uncaring, incompetent, spineless central government that wasted billions (USD) on broken projects (lightweight MRT, Maokong Gondola, etc) on his own turf (Taipei) is way worse than local bosses that have to share the largess to maintain their power.

Ben Goren said...

That last thought .. let's hope so but that still doesn't guarantee that the 'new independents' will be promoting any substantive or fundamental shift on policy or ideology. And btw, I think the Miaoli candidate, though he promised otherwise, caucuses with the pan-blue camp in the legislature.

Dixteel said...

that is a very interesting observation...if indeed this is partially the result of cutting legislature in half, it is certainly unexpected, as most people think that change was a lot more disadvantageous to DPP (and it was actually...40% votes but much less than 40% seats).

In any case, it looks like the KMT is breaking apart to some extent. I hope those local politicians can break apart from KMT for good...not just break now and return later.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this was part of what was in Lin Yi-hsiung's mind when he pushed to halve the number of legislative seats. It did lead to a short-term gain by the KMT but will it ultimately be better in the long run?

Anonymous said...

"And btw, I think the Miaoli candidate, though he promised otherwise, caucuses with the pan-blue camp in the legislature."

That's incorrect. He caucuses with the Non-party Union. His ideological inclinations may not really be incompatible with the DPP, but his main constituents, the Hakkas, are very hateful towards Minnan sometimes, and they consider the DPP to be the standard bearer for Minnan. They hate them so much they don't care about KMT killing of Hakka, corruption, or unifying with China over their hatred for the DPP. So he owes the DPP (and he's publicly stated that he does), but he probably has to keep some distance.

Anonymous said...

DPP is facing same question in Tainan where the handpicked candidate is way behind Mark Chen.

Anonymous said...

All this raises the question of what will happen when Ma officially takes over as KMT Chairman. Part of his aim is to control the party from the centre and eliminate the influence of the factions. He has already failed to install his man from the centre in Hualian. I can't see him doing any better elsewhere.

Ma has failed as the leader of the central government. He will do the same as the leader of the party. The question is will this lead to the party breaking apart, or will the centre become increasingly dictatorial punitively punishing (or charging with corruption) those local factional leaders that step out of line.

Thoth Harris said...

Great post, MIchael. Nice, very nice.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to hear any more bullshit from AmCham. Taiwan needs to ask for and the US needs to give assurances that an FTA (ECFA) with China will quickly lead to FTAs with the US, the EU, and Japan. Everyone forgets the whole premise of these negotiations was that an agreement with China would lead to all sorts of other agreements. In fact, just plain three links was supposed to have done that, but what is the US/Amcham/AIT saying about that now? They want beef imports into Taiwan and that's it? Ridiculous! Taiwan isn't the US lackey and with the current administration, it's not even much of an ally, and the US is doing nothing to improve this situation.

Speaking of short-term memories, does anyone else see what's going with S. Korea since Ma has been in office? S.Korea's economy has been doing very well relative to Taiwan's and their China investments are going gangbusters, esp. in northern China. Even if preferential treatment for Taiwanese businesses was desirable, it doesn't seem to be happening; so even the supposed advantage that Taiwanese are supposed to have when doing business with China is vaporizing. What happened to all those promises, Dr. Ma?

Anonymous said...

"DPP is facing same question in Tainan where the handpicked candidate is way behind Mark Chen."

Where are these uninformed comments coming from? Tainan isn't even having an election because Tainan City and County are merging.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, Thoth. It's good to see the KMT splitting, but it doesn't seem like a net gain for the DPP, yet.

Anonymous said...

Someone should slyly float the idea of a new political party to them: PFP II.

Atoq said...

Tainan's MVD "Most Valuable DPP'
Wang Ting Jy could not even be nominated for Legislator or Mayoral considerations despite his very outstanding service to anyone.


Thomas said...

"will the centre become increasingly dictatorial punitively punishing (or charging with corruption) those local factional leaders that step out of line."

No. "The centre" can afford to be dictatorial towards the greens because the greens lie outside of the blue power base. On the contrary, the local faction leaders make up, to a large extent, the blue power base. If Ma goes dictatorial towards the blue power base, he will just end up with a lot of independent candidates and split votes, and will probably eventually find himself out of a job. He needs the support of factions in order to facilitate his reelection campaign AND fend off potential challengers from within the party.

I am guessing that if the splits do damage to the KMT locally at the end of the year, Ma will be in a very precarious position.

In my opinion, while I think the greens will need a more suitable platform to really gain in voter estimation, any KMT splits can be beneficial as they have the potential to distract the party from the China-at-all-costs agenda -- unless, of course they lead to the installation of someone at the top who is even more pro-China than Ma. Imagine a Taiwan where Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung were pulling ALL the strings instead of some of them.