Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) yesterday officially launched his election bid for Greater Kaohsiung mayor, a move seen as intensifying a crisis for the opposition party in a traditionally pan-green stronghold.I like to ride a century ride -- 100 miles -- each month. I was so peeved at missing a century on Saturday that today I rode from my house up to Toufen and back, 161 kms, 100 miles. This gave me a lot of time to think. I also had a chance to gather up opinions from lots of smart people who share a common love of The Beautiful Island.
Yang, who lost the DPP primary in May, launched his campaign in the afternoon, telling dozens of supporters it was his “duty and responsibility” to run as an independent for mayor of Greater Kaohsiung.
“It's a very conflicting decision for me, but now I have made up my mind,” he said. “I have been asked to run by business and religious figures as well as local residents who worry about Kaohsiung falling behind. I have the determination and will to make this city a better place.”
However, more than a dozen consultants with the Kaohsiung County Government resigned in protest upon learning of Yang's decision, saying they could no longer support Yang because the move went against Taiwan's interests and popular opinion.
“How could Yang make this decision when Taiwan's fate hangs in this critical [election],” said a statement signed by 13 senior consultants, including doctors, pro-independence stalwarts, a university president, a company chief executive and a radio producer.
All 13 had been handpicked by Yang, sources close to the county government said. Representatives from the group said more resignations were expected.
First, Yang quits, and what do we see? Mass resignations among his advisers and appointees. Withdrawals of support from DPP councilpersons in Kaohsiung. Ok, so Yang is a problem -- but his entry into the race was met with a strong show of DPP strength and unity. That should also put the fear of god into others who might want to split from the DPP and go it independent.
What are his chances of winning? He has to know: apparently nil. A DPP poll released the other day said:
If the elections were held tomorrow, the DPP’s candidate, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), would win by a more than 30 percent margin, with 53.7 percent of the vote, against 22.6 percent for Yang and 15.3 percent for Huang.An Apple Daily poll similarly said:
While Huang would still obtain 38.5 percent support among pan-blue voters, Yang would follow a close second with 34.2 percent. On the other hand, the county commissioner would only receive 15.8 percent support from pan-green voters against 80.8 percent for Chen.
A survey conducted on Aug. 3 by the Apple Daily showed that 43.7 percent of the respondents in Kaohsiung favored Chen, while only 27.18 percent and 20.49 percent would vote for Yang and Huang respectively.Another way to look at it is to note that in the last election held at the county-wide level, the DPP challenger, Yang himself, won by over 100,000 votes. On the other hand, in the last legislative election in 2008, the KMT outpolled the DPP by 30,000 votes. However, much of the anger at Chen Shui-bian that helped fuel the 2008 results has dissipated over time (thank you, once again, KMT, for locking him up so that Tsai could repair the DPP). Also, it was a different level of election. It is hard to see anything other than Chen Chu cruising to victory at this point. Back in May a UDN survey ranked her as the most popular mayor in Taiwan.
What else is going on? Yang has gathered support from Master Hsing Yun, the head of Fuoguangshan, a former KMT central standing committee member, solidly pro-China. In addition, bosses of several large firms have allegedly backed him, including Terry Gou, head of Foxconn/Hon Hai, according to TV reports. These firms expect to benefit from ECFA. It is interesting that when Yang left the DPP, he immediately began spewing KMT talking points, as reported by the KMT news organ:
During yesterday’s interview, Yang said, “The rising of Mainland China’s economy is a fact. Therefore, it is necessary for the DPP to readjust itself. The DPP should not think that both sides of the Strait are still in a state of hostilities and object to everything for the sake of objection merely based on twenty-odd-year-old ideas.”In another strange echo of KMT ideals, he also said he wanted to make Kaohsiung like Singapore. It was all uttered as if Yang had never signed off on an anti-ECFA pledge or made other expressions of support for DPP policies. Yang's credibility with DPP voters is probably blown.
Yang went on to say, “Small countries should have wisdom in dealing with large countries. On the other hand, big countries have to treat small countries with kindheartedness and magnanimity.” Yang was paraphrasing words by ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, which are often quoted by President Ma Ying-jeou during talks on cross-Strait relations.
Yang stressed yesterday that the disputes between the Blue and the Green camps had lasted for several decades and they had greatly impacted Taiwan’s economy. Yang said that he had gradually changed his mind and chosen “a third way” in the hopes that the Blue and the Green camps could reduce conflicts so that society would become more peaceful and progressive.
During the interview, Yang said that he supported the recently-signed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on the condition the number of agricultural products imported from the Mainland not be increased and the government ban the entry of Mainland laborers. Yang said, “If we don’t support the ECFA, Taiwan will become an islolated island.”
Possibilities? Perhaps the KMT will quietly make its own candidate, who can't win, disappear or drop out, thinking maybe it can get its voters to vote for Yang and gather in some DPP votes and maybe get enough votes to lever Yang into office instead of Chen Chu. Or maybe Yang is thinking he can drop out at the last minute and then ask everyone to vote for Chen Chu in exchange for some political deal for a position in the 2012 DPP administration.
Or maybe Yang is just fed up and frustrated and wants to lash out at the DPP. Rumblings of serious trouble have been ongoing. Back in March, for example, Yang accused Chen Chu of using White Terror spying and harassment tactics against him. Stories have circulated that Yang says he ran as independent because he was angry at Chen Chu's treatment of him. Yet there are many ways to respond to such problems, and he chose the worst one of all.
It's a sad loss. Yang had been a competent county magistrate who had garnered much praise from the public. He might have continued as a competent manager in some other post.
Meanwhile in Tainan Mayor Hsu continues to criticize the DPP's primary process, which has caused much division within party ranks, and talk of an independent run.
UPDATE: Yang himself had this to say about his own experience, which he dates to Morakot, according to an interview yesterday on CTI, the pro-KMT cable network:
Kaohsiung County Executive Yang Chiu-hsing yesterday granted an interview to CTI television and stated that he hoped that the DPP would reexamine the course it had chosen to chart, adding he had already done so. Yang said that he had previously been a member of the deep-Green camp, but added, “I would like to apologize to society for my past views and words.”The Liberty Times also ran a piece today saying that Yang Chiu-hsing had changed during Morakot. During the discussions about what to do with the aborigines Yang had adopted the KMT line that they should not be returned to their villages. Big money was backing that position, as I wrote at the time.
Moreover, Yang said that, previously, he had indeed suspected that President Ma Ying-jeou would “betray Taiwan,” however, after having spent time with President Ma in the aftermath of the 8/8 Flood, he changed his mind. Consequently, Yang said that he would be remiss if he didn’t publicly correct his past doubts about Ma’s intentions as well as apologize to society for his past ideology.
Yang added that “Taiwan is already an independent country and no one could really sell out Taiwan.”
Read that second paragraph there. The entire island watched Ma Ying-jeou say one stupid, ignorant, obnoxious, arrogant, rude thing after another, and watched the indifference of himself and his government in handling that disaster. Yet Yang Chui-hsing became a Ma convert after that.
Yeah right. It had nothing to do with the Big Money that was backing the KMT's position.
But note the date -- this was August of 2009 -- at that time Yang basically says he changed his commitment. Folks, that was a year ago. This whole thing about Chen Chu being arrogant is looking like simply another way to attack and split the DPP, like his adoption of KMT talking points and repudiation of everything he has ever stood for. The litany of complaints dating back months are smoke and mirrors. It also sheds a new light on Chen Chu's behavior if indeed she was arrogant and dismissive of Yang. Perhaps she knew something other observers missed.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Yang formally announced his bid on AUGUST NINTH. One year to the date that he woke up to the blasted landscape of Morakot and KMT leaders crawling all over his turf. What a coincidence that he announced his flip-flop on the anniversary of the day he developed his man-crush on Ma Ying-jeou.
He's been planning this for a year.
What a vicious little joke the date of the announcement is.
- US and Vietnam conduct joint military exercises
- A scholar argues in WSJ that the correct historical analogy for US-China is UK-Germany prior to WWI.
- Buy land, save the dolphins.
[Taiwan] 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!