Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Taipei Mayoral Election Roundup: last call for polls

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A tiny hunting spider waits on a flower. Since I haven't been riding much this last month, you'll just have to put up with bug pics.

UPDATE: UDN has nifty poll tracking page.

I was discussing the likely outcome of the elections with Courtney Donovan Smith, the central Taiwan ICRT guy who runs the incredibly useful Taiwan News in English group on Facebook. The group is having its first get-together Nov 24 (venue to be announced) and we're all going to talk about the elections and then get really drunk and discuss the Sean Lien campaign and laugh til we puke. Because, as Frozen Garlic notes in another stupendously excellent and minutely detailed analysis of the Taipei race, the Sean Lien campaign is like the worst campaign in human history. This post from Froze was uber informative and perceptive and hilarious, read it all:
...That’s an impressive list of incompetency and clueless blunders, but Sean Lien’s effort beats them all. His braintrust has consistently failed to understand one of the most basic concepts in campaigning: framing. Every graduate student (and many undergraduates) in political science for the last quarter century has read News That Matters, a study in which scholars used fake news clips to show that people responded differently when different topics were presented. Heck, you don’t even have to read a book to understand this – most people know it instinctively. You will do better if voters are thinking about issues that they think you are better on than if they are thinking about issues that they think your opponent is better on. The Lien campaign has pigheadedly insisted on repeatedly forcing us to think about Lien’s privileged birth, his wealth, corruption, honesty, personal achievements, and character. The stupidest instance of this was a couple of weeks ago when the Pingtung County government was found to have leaked documents about a surprise inspection for a cooking oil factory. Up to that point, the DPP had completely owned the cooking oil issue. However, this was a perfect opportunity for the KMT to scream that the DPP was actually the one at fault and blur responsibility. Lien should have shut up and let this story dominate the media for a week. Instead, he changed the topic by telling reporters that the Buddha had come from a rich family. How could the media resist such an invitation? Ko responded with a sarcastic “a-mi-to-fo,” a monk came forward claiming that he had advised Lien but that Lien had completely missed his point, talk show hosts had another round of debates about whether a fortunate birth should disqualify someone from public service, and no one talked about cooking oil for a few days...
For weeks I have been having the same problem Froze has been having: when you look at the numbers, it is impossible to imagine Lien losing. And yet, the polls and the slapstick silliness of his campaign seem to suggest that he is going to burn his own house down and then wonder where all the ashes came from... or perhaps not even notice that the house burnt down, and start preparing for his 2016 Presidential run. O Lord, if you ever loved your people, send us Sean Lien in 2016.

Ben Goren also checked in with great stuff at the China Policy Institute blog. Describing watching the debate between Ko and Lien, he writes:
As I watched Ko face questioning about his “hatred” of the Republic of China and Lien try to explain how his policies would be beneficial, the smartphone of the Taiwanese voter at my side exploded in a storm of social media notifications, mostly along the lines of “OMG!”, and “Not fair”. When Ko was asked to convince the public he wasn’t guilty of fraud and graft at NTU Hospital, and Lien was asked how he could be so brave as to risk his life to serve the public, said smartphone almost melted in an tsunami of “LOL!” and, a perennial favourite where Lien’s campaign is concerned, “WTF?” It might not be the most elegant or detailed form of opinion sharing, but it is nevertheless instant feedback. Almost immediately Ko won the debate, just for being a victim to a sly trick. When the Lien camp later shrugged and said that that particular rule wasn’t discussed beforehand, it gave the public a glimpse of the dark win-at-all-costs underbelly of the party. For a candidate seeking to convince the public to trust him, letting this happen was a serious error in leadership. The public were then justified in asking, “If Lien couldn’t even lead his campaign team, and make wise decisions, how could he be trusted as Mayor?” Following this slow motion car crash, Lien had a lot of work to do just to sound plausible again, and to his credit he performed fairly adequately in the second part of the debate. Then he mentioned Chen.
The whole thing is great, of course.

The awfulness of Lien is hiding another issue that needs to be brought out into the light. Lien ran in the KMT primary against Ting Shou-chung. Ting is exactly the kind of politician any party would want, a hard working devotee of the party with many years toiling in its ranks, competent, respected, and policy oriented. He deserves a shot at stardom. But the KMT is an ethnic ruling party and Ting is not of the caste that is considered the ruling caste. He can't rise to Taipei mayor because the KMT sees the mayoralty as the fief for the children of members of the mainlander ruling caste, to carry on control of the KMT's colonial capital and the continuation of the ruling caste's power. Hence Ma, the son of a general; Hau, the son of longtime heavyweight Hau Pei-tsun, and now Sean Lien, the son of honorary chairman Lien Chan, parachuted into Taipei to win by right of caste inheritance. This caste-based perception of who should rule may come back to haunt KMT New Taipei Mayor candidate Eric Chu, who will likely beat the hapless DPP ideologue and former premier Yu Shyi-kun in New Taipei city (which, in case you've forgotten, is more populous than Taipei) when Chu attempts to run for President in 2016 under the KMT banner.

A lawyer on the campaign team of Kaohsiung KMT candidate Yang Chiu-hsing called on Ma to step down. Will Ma step down as Chairman if the KMT is blown out in the election? I don't see that as very likely. No one immediately jumps to mind as a possible successor to Ma if he steps down, except perhaps the aforementioned Chu. Readers may recall that Ma has appointed a passel of KMT heavyweights as vice-chairman, insuring a nasty succession struggle between the many vice-chairman. Hence he may be permitted to stay on simply to prevent that struggle from rending the KMT to bits. After he steps down as President, though, all these problems may quickly come to a head... Ma's vicious, lame performance in office has not only harmed Taiwan, he's badly damaged the KMT as well.

Because the KMT is a caste-based party at its heart which has traditionally ruled by preventing local factions and politicians from operating on a regional and national scale and challenging its power, it can't bring in new talent from the hinterlands to regenerate the party like the US parties can. It can only continue its caste-based ruling system by having caste members give birth to new caste members. But so many of that caste have kids who are citizens of foreign countries, a class privilege marker... and one that has reduced the number of the next generation available and willing to carry on the KMT caste system...

Getting back to Ting, not running Ting in Taipei was just stupid. Not only would Ting have won handily, since he is a credible human being in many ways, but had they run Ting, the DPP probably would have been forced to run a credible candidate of its own and expend vital party resources in a losing cause. Instead, Ko Wen-je ran on a shoestring, has ceased taking new donations, and run an increasingly competent and low key campaign that is actually looking like it is on the verge of a historic victory. And it has cost the DPP very little.

A piece by Anonymous at Thinking Taiwan argues that a fundamental re-arrangement is occurring with the Ko campaign.

Meanwhile, there was another set of truly insensitive and silly remarks today from Sean Lien. He's a totally creative candidate, constantly unveiling new facets of blithering ignorance and blundering offensiveness from angles you never would have imagined. The man has depths.

Premier Hau, just 96 years old but came of age in the 14th century, once again called down the curses of the KMT gods on Ko Wen-je, saying that Ko is Japanese (more or less). Jason Hu in Taichung never says anything that colossally stupid in public, which is probably why his poll numbers are much better than Sean Lien's. O Lord, if you have ever loved your people, give us Sean Lien in 2016 with 99 year old Hau as his attack dog.

Today was the last day polls could be published. The KMT news organ rounded up a bunch.
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15 comments:

an angry taiwanese said...

Ting's family isn't nobody in the KMT ranks. His father in law was the general (溫哈熊)in charge of arm purchasing the U.S. and earned a nickname of '10% kick back mister' among the Americans.

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, and I don't understand how people get into the ruling caste, and others don't. But there is a dividing line.

Michael

TaiwanJunkie said...

I thought the election was pretty much over with the debate last week. Lien basically served up the balls for Ko to spike down over and over again.

It is truly unfortunate that there has been so little news in regard to the rest of Taiwan's elections. Is the DPP lead in Penghu secure? Is Changhua really going to turn green for the very first time? What about Nantou, is vice pres Wu's home county actually contestable? Is Chiayi city a lost cause despite the cleaver kmt sign adjacent to Chen-i-zen? Can the DPP at least bring the race in New Taipei a bit closer just for respectability's sake?

So many more questions, all completely lost over media sensationalism over our favorite whipping-god-pig.

an angry taiwanese said...

Senior Hau is the true caste Don. Sean Lien got the Hau's support to win over the military faction during KMT nomination. I think it's because the Haus want a piece of Lien's China cake.

Anonymous said...

Lien is merely an honorary member of the mainlander caste. Lien's family is from Tainan and is as local as A-bian. Strange that Lien's supporters are critical of the fact Ko's grandfather worked for the Japanese when Lien's grandfather also worked for the Japanese. Lien's grandfather Lien Heng only became a Taiwanese nationalist after his efforts to get closer to the Japanese was rebuffed.

Anonymous said...

I see you're as frustrated with Yu Shyi-kun as I am. Why isn't he even trying to hold a debate where he can challenge Chu directly? The DPP needs to find many more interesting candidates to run in 2018, which fortunately should be quite doable.

an angry taiwanese said...

How KMT forms their caste ranking is a very interesting topic. There are 'muscles'(generals), 'ears'(secret agents), 'teachers'(such as Ma and Jiang), ...and etc. The power struggle behind sorting to the top is 7-11, 24/365. The rest is beyond my limited angry taiwanese IQ.

Anonymous said...

Would the KMT be so stupid as to push aside Chu when he appears to be their only viable candidate?

Anonymous said...

>>I see you're as frustrated with Yu Shyi-kun as I am. Why isn't he even trying to hold a debate where he can challenge Chu directly?<<


Because Eric Chu refuses to have a debate. News link below:

http://www.ettoday.net/news/20141027/418482.htm

Michael Turton said...

Would the KMT be so stupid as to push aside Chu when he appears to be their only viable candidate?

LOL. They pushed aside Ting for the sure win in Taipei, didn't they?

I think Chu will have problems both with the ruling core and with youth. People might not feel he has paid his dues, that he should wait and let older people go first.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Anon@10:52 AM: thanks so much, that's an important find.

les said...

If the decisions on who got to run for office and who didn't were simple, honest or fair, they wouldn't be made in secret, away from the oversight of the members themselves. These are decisions made by the elite, for their own benefit. KMT is run like a family business, it's not a meritocracy.

Anonymous said...

The DPP should prepare for Chu, but I still think it's very possible the nomination goes to Hau Lung-bin, who's just as blue-blooded as Lien and must be spending these last months and coming vacation shoring up his support base.

TaiwanJunkie said...

Obviously whatever figure Lien publishes on his campaign expenses will be grossly under reported. Do you know if any effort might be underway to estimate the actual figure by counting up all of his commercials and ads?

Brian Castle said...

As I watched Ko face questioning about his “hatred” of the Republic of China and Lien try to explain how his policies would be beneficial, the smartphone of the Taiwanese voter at my side exploded in a storm of social media notifications, mostly along the lines of “OMG!”, and “Not fair”. When Ko was asked to convince the public he wasn’t guilty of fraud and graft at NTU Hospital, and Lien was asked how he could be so brave as to risk his life to serve the public, said smartphone almost melted in an tsunami of “LOL!” and, a perennial favourite where Lien’s campaign is concerned, “WTF?”

I'm in America and I'm so jealous.