It was registration week this week. Tsai formally registered her candidacy on Wednesday. "I believe we will win and we will win because we have you," she said to her followers. Ma registered a couple of days earlier, with he and Wu sporting white t-shirts with the KMT's ridiculous red Taiwan amulet that looks like something worn to ward off demons in a Hong Kong B-movie. Soong registered last. I find it hard to credit that he'll remain in an election he can't win merely to support his fading party and spite Ma; on the other hand, I can't see him leaving the election either. If the KMT had a lick of sense they'd have lived with a Soong presidency in 2000 and 2004, but they ran the unpopular and offputting Lien Chan both times. Thankfully.....
Last week when I stopped by the opening of the joint Lin Chia-lung/Tsai Ing-wen DPP HQ on the south side of The Chung, I was appalled to hear Tsai refer to an international media report that had framed Tsai as a "Robin Hood." This had fired up both her and the crowd. The DPP has now gone on, just as it had with the original donation case, to use this in its campaign materials. Above is a nifty pic from a sharp observer of local politics of Robin Hood Piggies. The little piggy is now an unstoppable symbol of the Tsai campaign. The report in question appears to be an AP piece by Annie Huang, and it makes it clear what a powerful challenge Tsai is offering to Ma:
The piggy campaign is a salient reminder that not all Taiwanese politics revolves around the issue of the island's complex relations with China, from which it split amid civil war in 1949. While that issue tends to garner the most interest abroad, Taiwanese themselves are usually more concerned with bread and butter questions such as wages, inflation and jobs.Unusual for the international media, it actual mentions that domestic concerns drive the campaign. Kudos to AP for making that clear. Moreover, the piece leaves the definite impression that Tsai is looking strong. I'd just like to thank AP for providing that little Robin Hood stimulus for the good guys.
Taiwan's economy has fared relatively well in recent years, avoiding the slow growth syndrome that has afflicted most of the West. But complaints over rising income inequality have been mounting, fueled by a residential building boom that seems largely reserved for high-wage earners and a shift in the labor market that appears to punish relatively unskilled or undereducated workers.
That has provided a big political opening for Tsai Ing-wen, the 54-year-old DPP presidential candidate, and the star of the suddenly trendy piggy bank campaign.
Of course AP still uses the asinine and erroneous "split in 1949" formula. This is sheer pig-headed obstinancy for the sake of being obstinate, as AP has been informed of reality many times and it would cost them nothing to write accurate representations of history. Sad, isn't it?
The piece also uses weasel words "supposed" "perceived" whenever it refers to Ma's weakenesses. For example, "incumbent Ma Ying-jeou and his supposedly capitalist cronies" is used. Huang has been reporting from Taipei for many years, presumably she must know that Ma is the favorite of Big Business and has Wall Street's support. You'd have to be living in a cave not to know that.
Moreover, the comparison of the two candidates' respective family origins as "privileged" is misleading -- Tsai's father was a businessman who made his money by working hard and investing smart, Ma owes his position to the fact that KMT murdered and imprisoned and exiled thousands of people in the 50s, 60s, and 70s to create and maintain the privileges of individuals like Ma. Yeah, I'm not going to let you forget what Ma comes from, since the international media has declared discussion of Taiwan's authoritarian past off limits in relation to Ma.
Still, it's good to see AP out there reporting, however reluctantly, that Tsai is running a powerful campaign.
TIME interviewed both candidates. Ma is totally on message, speaking to the foreign audience from its own perspective, China policy, weapons sales, etc. I like the way that Tsai mentions Taiwan is one of many nations facing the China problem (end of the interview). Ma seldom speaks as if he thought of Taiwan were a nation in the family of nations; for Tsai this is automatic.
Lots can happen in the next six weeks, but Tsai has positioned herself well. Ballots and Bullets has a nice piece by Dr Jon Sullivan on the ineptitude currently governing the KMT campaign that is partly responsible for her growing success.
Lately many of us have been privately discussing what sort of dirty tricks the KMT will pull in the last few weeks of the election. Frozen Garlic openly wondered if this election was going to get really nasty. As if in response, Dr Sullivan also wrote about one of them most common and important KMT smear tactics -- accusing the DPP of dirty tricks. However, Sullivan has actually written a paper on the topic, which he references:
Using empirical data derived from seven presidential and subnational campaigns between 1996 and 2008, our models provide a robust picture of campaign behaviour in Taiwan. Our findings simply do not support Ma’s (or many of his predecessors’) concerns about DPP skulduggery. In fact, our models show that after controlling for a range of covariates (incumbency, closeness of the race, time to election etc), there are no statistically significant differences between the two main parties in terms of their proclivity to ‘go negative’ or to engage in a certain type of negative campaigning.Go forth and read! J Michael Cole pointed to what he sees as a crucial story -- if Tsai is elected, there will be a four month interregnum before she takes over in which the KMT can do all sorts of dirty tricks. I don't know how ugly things will get in that event -- remember this is the party that has staged riots after election losses, so they don't take losing well -- but you can be certain that this period will be filled with massive giveaways of government assets to favored corporate backers, as usual -- but on a much accelerated basis....
There is, however, a statistically significant difference between the parties in terms of what we (euphemistically) call in the paper ‘negative strategic appeals’. This includes the type of claim that Ma made yesterday, and our models suggest this is true to form. Indeed, it is so spot on that I will simply excerpt the relevent paragraph from the paper’s conclusion:
- Russell Hsiao calls for recognition of Taiwan
- Frozen Garlic on the 34 party list seats for the legislature. And looks at the fairness of the legislative districting which I think inherently favors the KMT but which he argues is still biased toward the KMT but not too strongly.
- Pinyin Info with a look at Google's weird Chinese in its Taipei maps.
- Internet Meme hilarity: customer reviews of Lt Pike's pepper spray: "Don't be sucked in by the 1.3% pepper spray -- this is all you need to stop democracy in its tracks before it infects an entire society."
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