Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chu on that, DPP

This December brings the most important elections here on The Beautiful Isle since the Presidential election of 2008: the year end elections for the municipalities, new and old.

In the ROC government system, a municipality is more or less equal to a province in clout. Under the current Act Governing the Allocation of revenues, 43% of revenues go to special municipalities (currently two, Taipei and Kaohsiung, plus the three new ones) and 57% to everywhere else. This unequal allocation means that the reason Taipei is such a nice place to live is because the rest of the island is impoverished to make it so.

The new upgraded New North City (what a lame name!) is the focus of a political chess match between the DPP and the KMT. This week the current head of the Taipei County government, the much-maligned Chou Hsi-wei. Chou, widely thought of as incompetent, tearfully announced that he would not seek re-election, something KMT insiders had been trying to dissuade him from doing for the last two years.

Instead, current Vice-Premier Eric Chu, one of the KMT's few rising stars, looks to be selected to run for the seat. In the China Times poll, Chu crushes Tsai Ing-wen, Frank Hsieh, and Yu Shyi-kun... but look at the numbers for Su Tseng-chang, formerly a chief of Taipei County, popular in the north after his excellent work (link):
February 4th

Chu: 36.0%
Su: 40.6%

February 22nd
Chu: 28.8%
Su: 39.8%
UDN, another pro-KMT paper, has similar spreads. Su's popularity has put the DPP in an apparent bind, as KNN describes:
However, with the KMT’s candidate now all but certain, Su Tseng-chang may be forced to make up his mind ahead of schedule. This places Su in a pickle. If he were to win in Xinbei Municipality, he would have to serve out his term. If he were to lose, he might also be kicked out of the 2012 Presidential race in advance. According to the DPP party charter, anyone who participates in the municipality elections will not be permitted to run in other elections for public office within one year. This is the biggest reason Su has been delaying his announcement.
Basically, the KMT is trying to force the issue so that Su can run for President, or for the chief of New North City, but not both. Su is quite popular, competent, and clean, and would make a formidable foe in 2012 for Ma, whose satisfaction ratings remain low (see link below). UDN offers the same "prisoner's dilemma" here. Thus the lowball poll numbers for Chu may be part of a campaign to get Su to run against him for New North City mayor.

Apple Daily editorialized on President Ma's remark that he had only learned about Chou Hsi-wei's refusal to run from the paper:
It is strange for President Ma Ying-jeou to say Monday that he only learned about the bowing out of Taipei Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei from the mayoral election in Xinbei City, the name by which the county will be known after being upgraded to a special municipality, after reading about it the newspaper.

When Chou, with tears in his eyes, announced his withdrawal, he said he talked "twice" to both Ma, who is also Kuomintang (KMT) chairman, and KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung. Is it not bizarre, therefore, for Ma to claim he only knew about it after reading the paper? If Ma knew in advance but professed to have no knowledge, it would be a pretense, but if Ma really did have no knowledge, it would be even worse.

We are worried about whether the president is indeed stupid, or whether he thinks it is everyone else who is stupid. We would prefer it to be the latter, because if not, then it means he is being kept in the dark.

If a president rules the country by reading the newspaper, then it would be better to seek a newspaper chief to serve as president. Some have mocked Ma on the Internet that he only knew he was elected president after reading about it in the paper and that the first step when China invades Taiwan will be to destroy all newspapers so that Ma will know nothing about it.
Ma is both President and Party Chairman. He didn't know that Chou wouldn't run?
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Thomas said...

My own thought on this is that the DPP should not run all of its heavyweights at once. They need to make sure that there is someone who is competitive and with charisma in the 2012 race. The three names that I constantly see as potential challengers for Ma are Su, Chen Chu and Tsai Ing-wen.

Having Su in Taipei County would be very beneficial if he won whether the DPP could reclaim the presidency in 2012 or not. If a DPP candidate loses against Ma, but Su is installed in Sinbei, Ma will have a royal, leg-dragging pain in the ass to deal with for his entire second term. If Su loses, might the DPP consider amending its charter if it has no other option? This would open Su and the DPP to some ridicule, but in light of the many pledges that Ma has broken, I don't see how this would critically wound the DPP for that election alone. The bad thing would be the precedent it would set. A big question here is this: What are Su's ambitions? How badly does he want to be president?

As for Chen Chu, I know that Yang Chiu-hsing is interested in running for the same mayoral position as she is. Would she have an interest in bowing out gracefully by taking some kind of advisor's position? Yang, the weaker candidate, is polling ahead of Jason Hu in Kaohsiung, who claims he only wants to run in Taichung anyways. The DPP can pit someone young and promising, who needs name recognition, to run against the KMT in Taichung. They will probably lose, but they might be well placed to run in other elections in the future.

This would free up Chen Chu to run in the 2012 election against Ma. The killer of a question is over who could garner more votes in the North, Chen Chu or Su? Something tells me Su would.

Alternatively, there is Tsai Ing-wen. In the above case, if Chen Chu were available and Tsai were willing, Tsai might run in Taipei City. She probably would not win against Hau. But there is a slim chance that she might. She doesn't strike me as having Chen Chu's charisma regardless, although she is a smart cookie. Regardless, to keep the party on an even keel, it might be best to keep the same chairman at least through the 2012 election.

Again: What do these people want and can they be selfless when it comes to doling out candidacies AND build up a clear vision of a bright future under a DPP administration?

Anonymous said...

USC not UC Davis...

jerome said...

Michael, your capture of the day is gorgeous. Your use of light reminds me of Joseph M. W. Turner's landscapes.

Watch a lot of his work and John Constable's, too, to deepen that romantice feel.