The government shall establish plans to gradually achieve the goal of becoming a nuclear-free country. The government shall also strengthen nuclear safety management and control, protections against radiation, and the management of radioactive materials and monitoring of environmental radiation to safeguard the public from the dangers of radiation exposure.As the Taipei Times noted today in its editorial, DPP policy has always been to oppose nuclear power, and it was the DPP that added the nuclear-free homeland clause to the Basic Law. Recently DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen, battling former Premier Su Tseng-chang for the DPP presidential candidacy, called for a nuclear-free homeland by 2025, in the wake of the disaster at Fukushima. These are easily accomplished plans, as sensible as clinically insane contract law permits. The TT says:
Tsai’s suggestion for a nuclear-free homeland does not call for an immediate halt to construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant or closure of the three plants that are in operation. Instead, as halting construction would be more expensive than completing it because of breach-of-contract costs, Tsai proposes that construction should be completed, but that the plant not be operated commercially after completion. Also, the three existing plants would not have their operations extended when they reach the end of their operational life by 2025.Tsai's bold call appears to have caught her rival Su Tseng off guard; he came out a more conservative position, without a timetable. But the swiftness and surety of her thrust shows that she has smart advice and is not afraid to take the right position.
With the two emerging as the leading candidates as observers had long felt would be the case, more than just a primary is going on. Su is really the last lion of old martial law generation, along with former Vice-President Annette Lu, who hopefully will fade from politics soon, and the DPP Mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu, who will never operate at the national level. Su helped co-found the DPP and was one of the lawyers for the Kaohsiung 8. Tsai represents the next generation of DPP leaders. Generational transition is symbolized by this primary.
Bruce Jacobs, the well-known academic who has made a career out of studying local politics in Taiwan argued in the Taipei Times earlier this week that Su was the ideal candidate. He points out that (1) Su is a proven election winner; (2) Su is a proven and able administrator; and (3) polls have Su doing better against KMT President Ma than Tsai.
Jacobs also says that Su will do better with swing voters, whom he claims constitute a fifth to a quarter of the electorate. In 2008, the DPP vote total fell from 50 to 42% as swing voters switched away from the DPP. Maybe 20-25% of the voting population claims to be a swing voter -- though I suspect a lot of those "independents" are simply DPPers being quiet about allegiances. The fact is that in the 2008 only 8% of voters "switched", accounting for Ma's 16 point victory. Perhaps the other 12-17% of the swing voters canceled each other out switching back and forth, but my own suspicion is that the swing vote is roughly half what Jacobs says it is. Consider that the DPP's Chen Shui-bian took 39% of the vote in 2000, with KMT Lien Chan and PFP Soong Chu-yu taking 61%. Do the math -- it took only a 11% swing to bring the election to Chen at 50% in 2004. The 2008 swing was just 8%. The "swing" vote masks the larger, very longterm trend of voters becoming Green over time as people become more comfortable voting for the DPP.
Jacob's arguments for Both (1) and (2) are certainly true. For (3), things are slightly more equivocal. The Taipei Times rounded up some polls earlier this month:
According to cable news station TVBS’ survey, if the election were held now, Tsai would receive 34 percent of the vote against 41 percent for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Su would take 36 percent against Ma’s 37 percent.In most polls Su is ahead or tied with Tsai.....
A poll by the Chinese-language China Times showed that Tsai would lose by 6 percent with 30 percent of the vote, with Ma taking 36 percent. Su would get 32 percent to Ma’s 38 percent.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily suggested that both Tsai and Su have higher ratings than Ma. Tsai would receive 49.4 percent against Ma’s 34.3 percent, while Su would get 51.6 percent to Ma’s 29.8 percent.
The China Times poll went a step further, comparing Tsai directly with Su. The newspaper said 32 percent felt Su was better suited to run for president, while 27 percent backed Tsai.
Meanwhile Sophia Solivio fired off a riposte against Jacobs' position in the Taipei Times, arguing that Tsai was the better choice. She contended that the flip side of Su's able administration is a remarkable lack of imagination and leadership in policy initiatives.
During the announcement of his bid for the DPP presidential nomination, Su insisted “Taiwan has been floating in the open sea” and “we need a strong leader during times like this, a helmsman who is of strong will,” but on cross-strait issues, Su also mentioned, “there is no need to advocate new and novel ideas or policies.” Will Su’s lack of innovative ideas transform Taiwan into a country “where everyone has a smile on their face”?Silvio also argued that Tsai has repaired and reinvigorated the DPP, and appeals across generational and class lines just as Su does. Tsai is also endorsed by oldtime independence activists like the awesome Su Beng.
Despite the polls, Tsai might actually be the better candidate, for several reasons. It is quite true that Su is a proven administrator, but as the election of Ma himself shows, the public cares little for that qualification. Moreover, Su's long experience as County Chief of Pingtung and Taipei County -- note that he is popular in both the North and the South -- actually counts against him, for he could easily be spun in campaign propaganda as a wheeler-dealer with a finger in every pie. Having been in charge of many infrastructure projects, no doubt KMT operatives could dig up an alleged failure or two to throw at him. Tsai's lack of experience in this area actually helps in this regard, she has no skeletons, real or imagined, rattling around her non-existent administrative closet, although her lack of experience could become an issue. We're not into the election season yet so the KMT has not opened up on Su.
Further, voters in Taiwan respond strongly to social class issues. They like to vote for people from the class that they consider fit to run the nation. Chen Shui-bian's roots in a farming town in Tainan were always used to demonstrate a lack of class, at least to KMT voters. Tsai, on the other hand, comes from a wealthy family and has an overseas education, something many educated voters in Taiwan can identify with. Su has a strong Taiwanese flavor (which I love, along with his basso profundo speaking voice) that many light Blues will find offputting and "low class." He was educated at NTU, impressive to be sure, but lacking the social class markers that a foreign education conveys.
Tsai is nearly a decade younger than Su -- elections are endurance tests, and relative youthfulness is an asset.
Finally Tsai has another crossover appeal: she's of Hakka origin, born in Fangshan in Pingtung County. Hakkas are an important pro-KMT voting bloc, which the DPP is trying to pry from the KMT grip.
The DPP primary will give Tsai good practice in the rough and tumble of electoral politics at the national level. It will also be a test of party unity. Let's hope everyone passes.....
- Manila gets KittyHawked (DEF): serve Beijing by handing over 14 Taiwanese for prosecution? Thanks, and now we'll execute three of your nationals, even though you said you could prove them innocent. The sad thing is Manila is unlikely to learn any cogent lesson from this.
- China also buzzing Japanese ships with its helicopters again. Way to keep that goodwill up in Japan!
- Taiwan's GDP to fall marginally from Japan's troubles.
- Is Taiwan ready for the coming tourism boom? You bet! The government isn't, however.
- Lao Ren Cha with another great look at the low marriage rate among femmes here.
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