Friday, November 18, 2011

Dawn breaks over the election: Is Tsai trending past Ma? =UPDATED=

Here's the latest TVBS poll. Readers will all know TVBS' crazy pro-KMT bias, which I'm convinced is in their data collection methodology rather than in their editorial office, because of its consistency. Look at these numbers: Tsai (DPP) and Ma (KMT) now neck and neck. That simply never happens in a TVBS poll. If this result is real and not a creation of their editorial office to motivate KMT voters through fear, then it is truly revolutionary. This is consistent with lots of other data bouncing around the media and internet, and with the now-dead Global Views polls whose private, properly analyzed numbers showed Tsai with a 4-6% lead a few weeks ago. Tsai is trending past Ma.

Those of you who are skeptical can take heart in the China Times poll, which once again has Ma up by 5-6%. As usual.

I was chatting last night with my friend Michael Fahey, one of the sharpest observers of Taiwan politics I know, about the KMT's campaign, which both of us agreed has been poorly handled, to this point. Ma's inane "peace accord" knocked the campaign back a few points, reminding voters that he is too close to China. The KMT seems to lack any clear forward-looking policy, and spend much of its time responding to the DPP's policy stances. Tsai's rapid capture of the high  ground on nuclear energy, whatever you may think of nukes as an energy alternative, was an example of a decisive and competent political move that has been lacking on the KMT side. The piggy bank fiasco has also energized the DPP voting bloc and I suspect bandwagon effects are slowly taking place: Taiwanese love to back a winner.

Instead of Ma's slick 2008 campaign with its moving "Ma Ying-jeou, we are ready" TV ad, what we've been getting is klutzy moves like the one by KMT heavyweight Wu Po-hsiung, who the other day labeled the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen a "fake Hakka":
Leaders from local Hakka groups yesterday slammed former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) for calling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a “pseudo-Hakka” and demanded that the KMT apologize for what they called its past policy of “linguistic genocide.”
Tsai is Hakka (and one-quarter Paiwan aborigine). This attempt to claim that "we" are the real X and "they" are the fake X reminded me forcibly of the complaints about the DPP's 2008 and 2004 campaigns that "loving Taiwan" or "being a real Taiwanese" meant you voted KMT. Many light blues and independents were offended by such comments. Now the shoe is on the other foot as the KMT offended another community that is conventionally perceived to vote KMT by trying to define who and who isn't a Hakka. Wu himself is a major Hakka politician.

Wu could have affirmed Tsai as a Hakka and left everyone with warm fuzzies, including potential Hakka KMT voters. But instead....

Even worse, though, Wu's attack on Tsai reminded voters of why people in Tsai's generation don't speak Hakka -- because when Tsai was going to school, the KMT banned languages other than Mandarin in the schools and on TV. Ouch! Let's remind everyone of our authoritarianism! Great move.

I also wondered whether the KMT is being hurt because the legislative and presidential elections were being held at the same time, and thus, its excellent local networks are focused on getting their local people elected. Comments, anyone?

Another thing Fahey pointed out to me is that Ma is looking old, especially to young voters. Since he doesn't look old to me, I guess that makes me....old. Damn.

And of course, whenever you raise the KMT's apparent incompetence with pan-Greens, they all say the same thing: expect some major dirty trick in the run-up to the election....

On the other side, the DPP is quietly running a very effective campaign. No major screw ups. No bombast.  Moderation is the order of the day. Once again, I heartily thank the KMT for gagging Chen Shui-bian for the last several elections, so that he has completely failed to be an issue despite sporadic KMT attempts to run against Chen Shui-bian. Tsai has a wholesome, moderate, competent image that is very effective and has been steadily chipping away at Ma's lead.

Also, in the 2004 and 2008 elections the major international media was perfectly awful. This time it has really been much better. This week Bloomberg interviewed Tsai. Look how they emphasize her moderate image and her competence (don't know where she was born, though).

Still, sixty days to go. Anything could happen. Brrr....

Also...

Academics from all over are reporting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has canceled their usual practice of bringing in academics from all over the world to witness the elections. They say that they are simply inundated with requests and since they are unable to service them all, they have decided it is only fair not to  do any rather than pick and choose. Don't get visions of nefariousness into your heads, this explanation may well be true, especially in this era of tight budgets.

ADDED:
Stock market expectations: remember how there was what appeared to be an organized effort to pimp Taiwan's stock market? Up it went throughout the election run-up, and then the day after Ma swore in it began a downward slide. There's nothing like that now, nor the absurd lies about the economy that one heard in the media during the 2008 campaign.

UPDATED: TT today reports on Ma's reversal on elderly farmer subsidies. Originally he supported an NT$316 per month increase -- $10 US dollars, enough for half a tank of gas if you own a small car. After criticism from the DPP and warnings that the low increase would cost the KMT 80-150K votes, it has been tripled to NT$1000 a month. Badly handled, again.....
_______________________
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! Delenda est, baby.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I don't support Wu calling anyone a "pseudo-Hakka" because they don't speak Hakka, and I understand that the KMT has a history of suppressing non-Mandarin languages, I don't think this argument would convince my Hakka parents-in-law. They are around Tsai's generation, and they speak Hakka. My wife and brother-in-law, who both grew up during Martial Law, also speak Hakka.

Anonymous said...

One thing I find quite interesting is that how the PRC will continue talks with Taiwan if DPP wins. There must be something in principle that both sides see beneficial. Certainly PRC sees steps closer towards unification as something they desire, what can Tsai or DPP offer that can bring PRC to the table? The only thing I can think of is if something on an international scale can be addressed and believable to the PRC, then steps forwards might be possible.

Taiwan high tech is getting close to a bottle neck between labor vs innovation. This is going to be also difficult on whomever takes office.

George

Anonymous said...

Looking at the polls, it seems that Ma is pretty much the same, whereas Tsai is soaking up the supporters of Soong. The undecided seem to remain quite the same. Since there definitely will be a portion of Soong's supporters that will not vote for KMT no matter what, we can expect that portion is likely to stay with Tsai. However, it would be interesting to see how the legislature nominees will change that.

Now, if at the later time some information and educational material becomes available showing how unrealistic her nuclear policy is, this could also have some effect.

George

Rust said...

Do you remember the last TVBS poll, where they did a vote projection? Tsai lead Ma by exactly 1.5% in the vote while trailing Ma by 1% in the support. This time they didn't do a vote project, & Tsai tied with Ma in support, so Tsai should have an even greater lead in the vote!

Also, if you look at their regional number, Tsai's number for the north & central Taiwan are impressive. But I think they severely underestimated Tsai's support in southern Taiwan, where she only lead by a few points. Considering all these facts, I can't help but be very optimistic thus far.

Taiwan Echo said...

"Don't get visions of nefariousness into your heads, this explanation may well be true, especially in this era of tight budgets."

Don't tell voters that the gov is tight in budgets, man. They will get mad, really mad -- knowing that the Ma gov has spent 215 million dollars (~ 7 million US dollars) on an opera that performed for only 2 nights and was of very poor quality -- the melody of main song in the opera was stolen from a pop song written 8 years ago by a folk song writer who already passed away. They replaced the lyric and then used it as their creation and received huge amount of gov's $. The organizers were the same group of people who also took the bids for several several multimillion dollars projects in the past, during Ma's mayor of Taipei and after Ma's got the president seat.

At the mean time, the milk subsidiary to the kids of the poor, 10 million a year - a social benefit established by the DPP gov before, was canceled due to "tight budgets."

So, Ma gov might be tight in budgets when it goes to the poor and the weak. But not when it goes to the people who are close to the KMT elite group.

Taiwan Echo said...

"I also wondered whether the KMT is being hurt because the legislative and presidential elections were being held at the same time, and thus, its excellent local networks are focused on getting their local people elected. Comments, anyone?"

You are probably right.

The KMT legislative candidates are fighting furiously against the messes Ma created. The most serious one being the old farmers subsidiary. Whenever they want to campaign, they were asked by the voters about Ma's 316 dollars OFS policy.It was predicted by several sources (green, blue included) that the OFS along costs Ma 800,000 to 1500,000 votes. It seems that the Legislative candidates don't have much leverage to run for themselves, let along Ma.

Ma has just put out a change of policy to raise the OFS to 1,000 from 316 dollars yesterday. But the wound is probably not gonna heal soon.

Anonymous said...

Not knowing exactly what all polls mean, but up to know, I still see Tsai just attacking but not generating ideas that contribute to her own plans and goals. The time frame on the nuclear issue is unrealistic as I have mentioned before, and we have yet to see some more practical goals.

But what I see as a whole in Taiwan, more aggressive visions combined with a good top down execution plan is needed, but it is really necessary get the right combination of people working at the detailed level as well as the capable officials. This is what not only Taiwan, but also other countries have difficulty acquiring; especially when Government departments are reluctant to lay off the 3% bottom performing employees to provide a sound flow of new talent to come in. I think this would be the difficult regardless which candidate takes office.

George

Taiwan Echo said...

George:"what can Tsai or DPP offer that can bring PRC to the table? The only thing I can think of is if something on an international scale can be addressed and believable to the PRC, then steps forwards might be possible."

What can Tsai bring to the table for the PRC? Tsai has mentioned it several times: a model that ensures continuous co-existing would benefit both.

The PRC will, and have to, deal with Tsai, because if they don't, they will be on the fault side. In the past, Chen SB was seen as radical so it's easy for the PRC to put blame on Chen. This trick will no longer work with Tsai. The PRC has no choice.

Michael Turton said...

Taiwan high tech is getting close to a bottle neck between labor vs innovation. This is going to be also difficult on whomever takes office.

Yes, that's one reason why ECFA was so bad for Taiwan. it's essentially an agreement to try and keep things the same for as long as possible. Especially Taiwan's SMEs need to innovate...

I'd really like to interview you at length, tape, transcribe, and post it on my blog. What are you doing monday the 21st?

Michael

Anonymous said...

"What can Tsai bring to the table for the PRC? Tsai has mentioned it several times: a model that ensures continuous co-existing would benefit both."

And what is that? If that can be outlined in a way the the PRC feels it attractive, then they will win.

George

Taiwan Echo said...

George:"Not knowing exactly what all polls mean, but up to know, I still see Tsai just attacking but not generating ideas that contribute to her own plans and goals."

I still believe that you are either reading different news from what I read, or we pick different part of the same news to believe in. Tsai talks about her ideas and practical approaches in probably every single speech she gave. In fact, her practical approaches are well fine tuned to fit local needs whereever she goes. But most news media was not interested in that. Instead, attacking, even it is only a small part of her campaign, is blown out of proportion and gets all their attentions. The real plan of hers are rarely shown by them.

I could have filled in that vacuum by providing news usually not available to Enlish readers. However, I don't have enough time for that, which always makes me feel a sense of guilt.

Btw, I don't think her nuclear plan idea will have any negative impact on her campaign. There are just too many topics coming out rapidly (or to be precise, too many messes Ma created), each replacing the previous one by taking the spotlight. The nuclear plan stuff is now way way in the bottom of the "already dealt with" topics. It will never beat the damaging effect of what Ma is going to deliver to himself next.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, that's one reason why ECFA was so bad for Taiwan. it's essentially an agreement to try and keep things the same for as long as possible. Especially Taiwan's SMEs need to innovate..."

Closing doors does not work. In the past 裕隆 was heavily protected. They never advanced. When the protection was taken away, they thrived.

If there is no competition and change, Taiwan industries will go down and there is nothing any treaty can do to save it. Taiwan has advanced way beyond the point for the need for protection. During a conference, I asked "Since everyone likes to you Steve Jobs as an example of innovation and creativity, knowing Jobs as written in the biography, is there any company that can embrace a person like Jobs?" The answer was "No, Steve Jobs would never be able to make it in Taiwan" Coming from someone in a high level of a well known high tech company, there is no doubt in my mind that it's a mentality problem.

"I'd really like to interview you at length, tape, transcribe, and post it on my blog. What are you doing monday the 21st?"

Getting a new steering mechanism in my car. It takes a few hours and there is free coffee. I wish someone would interview me about audio stuff. But I guess this might also be fine. I also found a squirt bottle cap while I was cleaning up.

I will mail you the location in a while.

George

FOARP said...

I think it's still pretty close, but, frankly, until the emergence of Tsai, I didn't see the Pan-Greens having much of a chance against Ma.

I also honestly thought it might be a little longer before Taiwan was ready for a female president. Would she be the first head of state or government in North-East Asia - at least in modern times?

I don't think Japan or Korea have had female heads of state or government - either in Imperial times or modern. Same goes for Mongolia.

Obviously China had Wu Zetian and Cixi, but none of their post-1911 paramount rulers have been female. The possible exception to this is Jiang Qing during the one-month interlude before the Gang of Four were overthrown after Mao's death.

For now-defunct states, neither Manchuria nor Inner Mongolia were ever presided over by a female ruler, but there are too many former petty Chinese kingdoms to check.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan Echo,

Basically I just browse through whatever papers that are available in a MacDonald's, coffee shop, in the MRT stations, and whatever appears in front of me when I pass a TV. So if I don't see it much from Tsai, then it may be she tries to say things that are only local, it's easy to sooth the feathers of locals, but it's much more difficult to realize it when you consider things on an national and global scale interaction.

I will gladly read anything you can point out that is very practical. Maybe you can show me something freshening.

George