Sunday, January 10, 2010

By-election thoughts

Yesterday the DPP swept all three legislative seats in the by-election. The prediction market at NCCU had predicted a sweep, but it was still nice to see it in reality. The Taipei Times notes:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) scored a landmark election success yesterday, sweeping all three seats in legislative by-­elections in Taoyuan, Taichung and Taitung counties.

The victory in Taitung marked the first time the party won a legislative seat in the county.

Although the Central Election Commission (CEC) did not announce the official results until 6:30pm, all three DPP candidates declared victory before 6pm, while their rivals all conceded defeat.
Victory in Taitung was a big step forward, and rational leadership there will hopefully pave the way for future DPP advances in what has long been a territory of the KMT. Turnout played a big role:
Voter turnout was below 50 percent in all three districts, the CEC said in a press release, with only 38.42 percent turnout in Taoyuan, 45.09 in Taichung and 39.44 in Taitung.
The depressed turnout most probably represents Blue voters staying home in disgust. In the legislative elections in 2008, just two years ago, turnout was 48.57% in Taitung, above 54% in all five districts of Taichung county, and above 54% in every district in Taoyuan. Because Presidential elections have higher turnouts, and because Blues will turn out for Ma in 2012, it is probably dangerous to read too much into this.

The next election is another by-election for local officials, in February.

The Taipei Times continued:
Meanwhile, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) acknowledged the party’s defeat and vowed to learn from the lesson and continue with party reform.

“We will face the results with humility and learn from this lesson. The KMT will continue the efforts on party reform and move forward,” King told a press conference at the KMT headquarters.

King acknowledged that election bribery was a problem that plagued the KMT, and pledged to examine its nomination mechanism to nominate better candidates in future elections.

Two of the three seats were left vacant when former KMT legislators Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) from Taoyuan and Chiang Lien-fu (江連福) from Taichung County were relieved of their elected status after being found guilty of vote-buying.

The other was vacated when Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭) resigned as a legislator last year to take part in last month’s county commissioner election.

King, however, declined to comment on whether he or any KMT officials would step down to take responsibility for the defeat, repeating the party’s determination on party reform when asked for further comment.
King is Ma's handpicked hatchet man who ran his election campaign in 2008; the results are a slap in the face for both him and Ma. The comment on officials stepping down as a result of the election may well refer not to King, but to National Security Council head Su Chi, who has been the target of KMT legislators' ire. Su is a trusted right-hand man of Ma, and one way to view the anger directed at him for incompetence: the attacks on Su are essentially attacks on Ma.

Taiwan News carried the DPP remarks on its victory:
The DPP secretary-general said the sweep was due to three factors, namely voter disgust over vote - buying, the desire of citizens to bolster the DPP`s strength as an opposition party to "check and balance" the Ma government and unity within the party's ranks.

Su expressed special gratitude to former DPP legislator Peng Tien-fu, who paved the way for Kuo`s victory by pulling out of the race and urging backers to "support" the DPP and to DPP heavyweights who cooperated with the campaign strategy and support plans of the party headquarters.

Moreover, DPP Spokesman Chuang Suo-han told the Taiwan News that "this result is unmistakably a vote of no confidence in the administrative performance of the Ma government."

Su added that the result would show the world community that Taiwan was "a real democratic country with a two party system" in which the views of the opposition party cannot be ignored.

"I cannot predict how the Chinese Communist Party leadership will react to this election, but I believe the results will send a message to China that they must respect the DPP and the voices of the Taiwan people and cannot only listen to the KMT," said the DPP secretary-general.

The DPP secretary-general stated that the opposition party would use its greater clout in a responsible manner "for the benefit of the people" and "in line with the views of the majority of the Taiwan people" and stated that the opposition party had no plans to file a "recall" motion against Ma.

The DPP secretary general also expressed cautious optimism about four more legislative by-elections will be held February 27 in Hsinchu, Hualien, Taoyuan and Chiayi Counties.

With the exception of Chiayi County in which the DPP is fielding former DPP Chiayi County magistrate Chen Ming-wen, Su acknowledged that the other three races are in "difficult" areas but told reporters that "if we can win in Taitung, it should not be impossible to win in Hualien or Hsinchu."
The last two paragraphs show how the recent victories have been a big morale booster for the DPP. DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's cool hand at the helm has paid off as she has somehow managed to conciliate factions and keep the party focused, though the year-end election in Tainan is still a problem for the party. The KMT, with its indifference, incompetence and venality, has been a big help, as has its outrageous detention of former President Chen Shui-bian, which has completely silenced Chen's bombastic mouth, preventing him from making himself an issue in the local elections.

MEDIA NOTE: Both Reuters (below) and AFP channel Xinhua with their announcement that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) favours independence "from China". The irony of media error on this issue is simple: every entity involved in the cross-strait equation -- the DPP, the KMT, the ROC Constitution, the Treaty of San Francisco, the Treaty of Taipei, the protesters marching in Taichung last month, bloggers, activists, even Beijing -- all know that the status of Taiwan is undetermined and that the DPP does not want independence "from China" but independence, period. Everyone involved knows this -- except AFP and Reuters. The frustrating thing is that even though it is an obvious and easily corrected error, no amount of evidence and argument will get them to change their minds. And people in the media complain that bloggers don't fact-check..... ADDED: The DPP position is actually that Taiwan is already independent and sovereign. But let's keep things simple -- "from China" is completely wrong.
Daily Links:
  • China's new clout on Capital Hill
  • WSJ approves of arms sales to Taiwan. Fortunately the US has delinked them from the beef issue.
  • Government to commission report on effects of ASEAN+1. Yes, that's right -- the administration has been claiming Taiwan will be devastated by ASEAN + 1 and MUST MUST MUST sign ECFA with China, but it has no evidence to support that claim.
  • Proud Dad: Somewhere there is a Lego executive retiring because of me. My kids' latest Lego video.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with "independence from china". China regards and claims taiwan as territory, and the DPP wants independence from china. The simple claim of china is enough to demand independence from it.

Michael Turton said...

There is nothing wrong with "independence from china". China regards and claims taiwan as territory, and the DPP wants independence from china. The simple claim of china is enough to demand independence from it.

Ah, so the people of Arunachal Pradesh, by the magic of China's claim, also want independence from China. By your logic, any place that A claims, irrespective of reality, wants independence from A.

The claim is completely false. The DPP does not want independence "from China." The DPP does not believe that Taiwan is part of China (it's not). Hence Reuters engages in a double misrepresentation, both of the status of Taiwan, and of the DPP's position.

And that sucks.


無名 - wu ming said...

if there is a "china" that the DPP wants independence from, it is the republic of china 中華民國 that currently occupies and governs taiwan, not the people's republic of china 中華人民共和國, which has never had any control of the island other than on fanciful maps.

at least that's the impression i've got.

Thomas said...

But, Wu Ming, what gives the ROC the right to claim Taiwan? Despite what the ROC constitution says, the question of whether or not the ROC holds Taiwan's sovereignty at all is debatable.

As for the PRC/ROC distinction, remember that, according to the UN, there is just one China. That China has a capital in Beijing. And since Taiwan is clearly not a part of that China, then it is already independent. The root of the problem lies with the KMT, who muddies the issue with sentiments for the "ROC" and the fallacious claim that the ROC holds Taiwan's sovereignty.

Unfortunately, this view has become so pervasive that it is difficult for even greens to get away from at times.

A legitimate course of action for a Taiwan-focused government would be constantly stress that Taiwan's status is indeed unresolved and that Taiwanese, just as former colonial subjects in other areas have, therefore have a right to determine their own future.

The "ROC" is an anachronism. If it could only be replaced by a responsible successor government, a large hurdle for Taiwan would already be crossed.

Carlos said...

Thomas, that sounds like it’s technically right, but it doesn’t reflect reality at all. I have the same interpretation as Wu Ming.

Claims and legal status aside, the ROC undoubtedly administers Taiwan right now; it has Taiwan in its possession. When I’m having a bad day I think of it as an ongoing occupation. The same is true of Japan with the Senkaku Islands – there may be no legal basis for it, but the US handed the islands to Japan to administer and that’s de facto ownership.

The ROC is de facto a sovereign, independent nation because it runs itself and its population continuously validates its existence, usually under the belief that Taiwan=ROC. I would call that the mainstream, light-blue opinion, temporarily acceptable to pan-greens but not a belief shared by the most powerful of the pan-blues. To them, the ROC is still a government in exile and I’m not sure those can qualify for statehood under the Montevideo Convention (“permanent population,” “defined territory,” “capacity to enter into relations with the other states”).