Wow. Everyone went to bed last night stunned. Many people thought Lin might win Taichung (not me, pessimism overcame me, I think), and of course Ko seemed a shoo-in for Taipei and Keelung no contest as well. Changhua was in the polls too. But nobody saw Taoyuan flipping, or Hsinchu City by a nose. Penghu seemed like a surprise, because I read complaints that planes back had all been booked and no one could come home to vote. But it turns out Ko's wife is from there, and she had a coattail effect on things, I heard. But You's fantastic performance in New Taipei City was unforeseen by all as well, except my friend and ICRT reporter Donovan Smith, who warned me that he was going to surprise everyone. I didn't listen. What a fantastic night!
Out with the old, in with the new, see maps below...
map source). Look clearly. The KMT controls -- barely, with a split city council -- New Taipei City. Aside from the built-up areas around Hsinchu city and the science park, the KMT controls a set of underdeveloped rural counties with small and declining populations. Everywhere voters lived in urban settings with strong, deep links to the modern global economy, they stayed home and rejected the KMT. This means, as the Economist noted, 60% of people now live under a DPP mayor.
Frozen Garlic took a first pass at the numbers (I'll discuss those tomorrow), and there are a lot of them. Go and look at his numbers, but I want to comment on his major observation.
Why? Again, these are all guesses at this point. I wonder if this has to do with urban labor forces. I think this pattern is compatible with the idea that the crucial group withdrawing support from the KMT is the lower income, renting, predominantly younger, wage labor or low-salaried labor force.Froze interprets this as largely an anti-KMT vote, which it seems to most observers, including my very pudgy self.
I don't think we need analyze Taipei, where Sean Lien ran a beautifully awful campaign. But Taoyuan was really a shock. Last night everyone saw the DPP candidate up 30K and said "That's nice, but it won't last." Ha! A night when being wrong was sweet. But why?
Two major factors. The first, my man Frank M pointed out to me, is the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, a KMT construction-industrial state giveaway to China and to big development firms, which is a giant tumor that is swallowing ever more lumps of land. It's deeply unpopular. The week before the election a Taoyuan District Court judge wrote a blistering expose of it for Apple Daily. A while back J Michael Cole wrote a blistering expose of the mainstream media's failure on it. There were also other land scandals, like the Farglory mess, that were damaging to the KMT candidate, John Wu, son of Wu Po-hsiung, longtime KMT heavyweight.
A second issue is the internal migration/demographics that Frozen Garlic alluded to. There's been a massive movement out to Taoyuan and New Taipei City of people who can't afford to live in Taipei. This floating population is shut out of social mobility in the KMT's finance-driven, China-dreaming 1% looter economy, symbolized by the Taipei Housing Bubble, which, like the Blight from A Fire Upon the Deep, is slowly engulfing the known universe. That housing bubble, like all bubbles, exists to rob the middle class of its savings. It is inexorably re-arranging living patterns as people move out of Taipei in search of cheaper housing elsewhere. Moreover, Taoyuan is growing fast and sucking in young people from all over Taiwan. I talked about these demographic changes on the blog before, I think, but I didn't really expect them to be a factor for at least another election cycle.
It was the land issues and that demographic shift, coupled with a congealing of support for the KMT in this very anti-KMT election that I believe brought about a flip in Taoyuan. Now let's hope that the new guy can stop that Aerotropolis.
Kerim Friedman of Savage Minds sent this around. Map by Zhen Hong-lai.
Geographic, Generational Gaps Yawning in the KMT
Haha. Early in the vote count, as it became clear that all those KMTers who said they were staying home really did stay home, Luo Shu-lei, Sean Lien's Taipei attack dog, called on Ma to resign. Ma has promised a major speech for Wednesday, and there is a KMT central standing committee meet the following Wednesday. Get out the popcorn, boys, because the top of the KMT is about to become a snakepit, with all those vice chairman competing for the top position (Taichung loser Jason Hu says he won't resign his vice chairmanship post).
Major local papers are saying Ma will resign as KMT Chair, with Taiwan News reporting in English that both he and current Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin will resign their party positions. Most everyone said/thought on Saturday he wouldn't resign as did I, I just figured he go into his usual Saruman in Orthanc mode. But when Premier Jiang Yi-huah resigned, I assumed Ma was setting Jiang up to become the KMT's Chairman if/when he stepped down, so Ma could run things from behind Jiang.
If Ma succeeds in levering Jiang into the KMT chairmanship, we can settle back and watch Ma do more grievous harm to the KMT. Remember his vicious campaign against Wang Jin-pyng. That was Ma the Pragmatic Technocrat at his best.
Yes, I can't resist another laugh at the international media. Ma the Pragmatic. Bwahahahahaha!
The DPP's easy victories in the south are horrible news for the KMT. I think not many people have realized their implications for the national races.
Let's consider Su Tseng-cheng, the DPP stalwart. Su was County Chief in Pingtung and then went up north and became County Chief of Taipei County. Or Su Chia-chuan. He was County Chief in Pingtung and then went up to Taichung to barely lose an election for Mayor to Jason Hu.
If you are a DPP politician and want to acquire a national power base, you can run anywhere in the country and can acquire personal contacts and name recognition in heavily populated areas. If you are a KMT politician, however, you are locked out of the big southern mayorships and county chief seats. You can only win in less populated marginal counties like Miaoli and Taitung, outside of the north, assuming the DPP's victories hold up over time. Taitung's population is a mere 230,000, lower than in 1980, in fact. That's about as many people as in some apartment buildings in Taipei...
That means that, for probably a decade, no national level KMT politician can gain a large power base in the south of personal contacts, or develop administrative experience, or become nationally prominent, via the south. At the national level -- if the DPP can make some of these victories hold up -- the KMT is going to be a mere northern party with a few mountain appendages for some time to come. Where are they going to get seasoned politicians with broad national experience from? Worse, running places like Nantou and Miaoli doesn't exactly leave one with a reputation for clean politics... ditto even if they retake Changhua, whose politics are so dirty they can be used to generate topsoil.
This is seriously bad news because the KMT, unlike political parties in the US, has no system for making local politicians into national figures. In the KMT local faction politicians can never rise above that level to national prominence, the national party run by the mainlander core does not permit it. The only way to become a national figure is to make your way into the ruling caste, or be born into it. Hence those faction politicians in the south will never make it above the legislator level. Any KMT political talent born in the south dies there.
So to that shrinking caste presence which I have already discussed, add this contraction of KMT positions for grooming new talent. The loss of Changhua, Taichung, Keelung, Hsinchu City, and Taoyuan were disasters, reductions in the places where the KMT can groom new talent. If the DPP can retain one or two in the next election, especially Changhua, Taichung, and Taoyuan, then it can really hurt the KMT's talent base and further pen it up in the north, where demographic change will finally kill it.
The election was also a disaster for KMT up-and-comer Eric Chu, who barely beat You Shyy-kun in New Taipei City, a shocking outcome few foresaw. Chu has affirmed that he will not step down in 2016. It's easy to see why. As a longtime observer pointed out to me, just as the 1997 DPP victories helped pave the way for Chen Shui-bian in 2000, so these victories will make it that much more difficult for the KMT to win in 2016. If Chu comes out as the candidate, his chance of losing has palpably increased. Why risk it? He'll likely wait til 2020.
He might wind up as Chair, though. But then again, he might not -- the 2016 DPP advantage means that if the KMT loses the 2016 election, the Chair will likely have to resign. That will figure into the calculations of politicians seeking that office. If Chu does not run, the likely candidate will be someone much less popular, and thus, even more likely to lose, like current veep Wu Den-yi, current Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bin, or not-current premier Jiang Yi-huah. Which means it is even more likely that the Chair will have to resign. The DPP victory has avalanched a cascade of hurts on the KMT.
The selection of Yang Chiu-hsiung to run a hopeless race in Kaohsiung was another signal of KMT problems. Yang was a traitor, foredoomed to lose badly. Why not get someone down there to run a real campaign and maybe pull up local politicians' chances? Get some new guy some practice, out in front of the public. Despite the fall in turnout in Kaohsiung Chen Chu actually increased her total vote count from 2010, the public there was so un-enamored with the KMT. Yang was a giant middle finger to everyone who has served the KMT loyally down there, just like Sean Lien was a giant middle finger to the KMTers in Taipei, especially to longtime loyalist Ting, who would have won the mayorship handily against Ko.
My friend Drew Kerslake joked that in 2016 candidates from both the DPP and the KMT will be running on "I was opposed to Ma before anyone else was" platforms...
Now the pressure's on the DPP to produce...
UPDATE: Taiwan observer extraordinaire Michal Thim responded to me in chat:
i think that Chu is still in play for 2016, for simple reason, who else? and one possible explanation of his underperformance is that many of his voters stayed home, being confident their guy will win anyway...also, he under-performed but in the larger context, he excelled just by keeping his seat... also, if Tsai wins, she will be incumbent in 2020, and so far every incumbent got re-electedGood remarks. I wasn't clear. I think it is a disaster for his presidential prospects, since he was the frontrunner. mea culpa.
UPDATE 2: Josh Ellis remarked on Google+
Another factor that caused John Wu to be defeated here in Taoyuan was his prince-like attitude when discussing the skyrocketing housing market. His statement: "If you can't afford a house, then don't buy one" (”覺得房貴不要買“) infuriated a lot of people in the county and Cheng the DPP candidate pounced all over it and used it to his advantage.
UPDATE 3: Ha forgot this. KMT amended Charter last year in Taichung meeting to say President must be Chair and when KMT President is sworn in s/he automatically becomes chair. From the KMT media organ:
1. An Amendment to Article 17: In order to coordinate the KMT and its ruling presidency more closely, Article 17 was amended to mandate that any KMT President elected in the future doubles as KMT Chairman. In the future, whenever a KMT member is elected as President of the Republic, he/she will automatically assume the party chairmanship when he/she is sworn in as President.It's the excuse Ma needs to remain as Chairman.
- Taiwan law Blog: What is the legal basis for Ko appointing three deputy mayors?
- Ben looks at District 2 in Taipei
- FocusTaiwan: Government suffers heavy electoral defeat
- Taiwan election results inspiring to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong protests and the Taiwan political changes are about identity.
- US pundits ok with election results.
- China Times discusses reforms the KMT needs.
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