Dajia River, Taichung.
The election is two days away and observations are descending on me in all directions from eyes sharper than mine own. Come along for the ride...
On Taichung, a longtime watcher of Taichung politics observed the other day that the amalgamation of city and county, which hurt Hu in 2010, is helping him now. The local factions (note: I did not say gangs) in the city and county have worked out understandings, the powerful local factions have made their peace, and above all, money has been committed to them and their patronage networks. Integration of city and county appears to have strengthened the KMT's grip on the county, according to my friend.
Another longtime observer, who was on the beach when Koxinga's infantrymen waded ashore, said that he thought Lin Jia-lung giving up his seat was a signal of desperation, not confidence, a stunt to pull out a few more votes.
Don't see a win here for the DPP. Lin is nowhere near the candidate Su Chia-chuan was. Still going for him: Hu fatigue. People are tired of Hu. I only wonder why it took them so long.
Meanwhile in Taipei, things are moving faster than humans can track them. Sent around on Facebook, this video of CCP-associated buffoons beating up people in front of Taipei 101. The police do nothing about it, of course. Too bad the foreign media won't report on it -- then it would be cleaned up. But you can imagine the free rein these people will have if the China-allied party wins.
As the 29th approaches, a political commentator friend of mine and former election strategist from Canada commented that in 10 years of witnessing elections in his New Taipei City neighborhood he'd never seen the KMT mobilizing so many paid "volunteers" to greet the morning traffic in. "Maybe it's because they see the latest polls which are banned from publication..." he opined.
Austin Ramzy hilariously identified Ko Wen-je as "also one of the island's elite" along with Sean Lien, in an otherwise excellent article on the election for the NYTimes. Sorry Austin, Ko worked for what he got, unlike "investment banker" (ROFL) Sean Lien whose Daddy gave him everything. Don't miss the great comments of the well-known Taiwan scholar Jon Sullivan, who manages to squeeze an academic career into the cracks of running the ever more excellent China Policy Institute blog. Great stuff there which I will get to in a moment. But the race will not tip the balance of power in Taiwan -- the KMT will continue to control the major sectors of society. Only the generational change slowly eroding its position will tip that balance. The strong support of the young for Ko -- I spotted my students all week long watching videos from his walks of the weekend with approval -- is a harbinger of the coming change.
The Ramzy report with its desperate struggle for (false) balance in labeling Ko an elite and noting Ko's early gaffes also highlights a feature of the last few weeks that a lot of people missed: Ko hasn't said anything stupid in weeks. He's obviously learned from the criticism and he and his campaign team have reformed, unlike the Lien campaign which continues to signal its wealth and privileges and faux victim status in each communication. Ko appears as what he is: an authentically honest, flawed human being.
The idea that the Taipei election is some kind of harbinger of the future was reviewed and found wanting at Ketagalan Media by Kharis Templeman, who reviews elections around the nation in a useful piece.
Sean Lien was crying this week -- one of the key moves of local politicians is crying. One of the themes of his campaign is victimization -- the poor KMTers are victimized all the time. Lien has been pushing the shooting incident in the 2012 election for all it is worth. Watching the campaign for me is a dizzying introduction to the limits of the discourse. Lien can talk nonstop about the shooting incident yet no one ever mentions that he was shot by a gang-banger and rescued by a made guy in another gang (who was on stage with him (!)). The way the basic facts of Taiwan's political economy disappear in election discourses is both fascinating and frightening.
That shooting has been endlessly milked by the Lien campaign which says that he was obviously saved for some higher purpose by god himself. Humility is not one of Lien's character strengths.
Lien's inept campaign has been the subject of brutal mockery on the internet. A recent one panned by netizens shows a woman with an iPhone 6, a Macbook, and a nice house as a representative citizen of Taipei (video here). It's actually an interesting look at what the Lien campaign considers a representative person: one who can afford the latest gear and a nice house -- upper middle class is the lowest common denominator in the Lien mind. If Lien runs for president I'll have enough blogfodder for the next thousand years.
The KMT has attempted to capitalize on the loud rowdiness of the internet generation by appealing to the "silent majority" (video ad). The ad says that you don't shout on the internet, you just work. You're not one of the loudmouth set. It refers to "Taiwan" repeatedly...
The best thing to come out this week is a lengthy Reuters report on China's unification strategies for Taiwan. Despite its numerous problems don't miss it, it shows what we're up against.
David Reid looks at how the DPP is winning on the social media in Taichung. With numbers! Ben looks at an ad for K-town mayor Chen.
Julian Baum, longtime reporter here whose stuff is always top-notch, says the election is "partly" a referendum on China.
WantWant China Times thinks the wiretap affair may hurt Ko. The Ko office was cleared of any involvement in the tap, which the private detectives they hired said they had planted themselves in a bid to drum up business.
Deb Wu in the Nikkei Review covers Thomas Picketty's visit to Taipei where he argued for progressive income taxes and implicitly, against the KMT's pro-1% policies. Terry Gou of Foxconn also said that he'd invest more in Taichung if KMT mayor Jason Hu was re-elected.
The KMT has also been attempting to make the Taipei election about cross-strait politics and economics, things the mayor of Taipei has little to do with. Hence this week saw an entertaining but essentially meaningless discussion on the 1992 consensus.
CPI blog is hosting John Keane's series of pieces on Taiwan's election, a piece saying don't judge the Sunflowers by the election results, a piece by J Michael on militant civil society and elections, and a piece by D Fell on Third Parties in Taiwan's elections. Don't miss 'em, CPI stuff is always quality.
The always awesome Donovan Smith cogitates on the Changhua county chief election:
In a further sign of the intra-KMT split between the current county commissioner and the party's candidate to replace him, Commissioner Cho Po-yuan is calling on the party's candidate Lin Tsang-min to copy his DPP counterpart's resignation of his lawmaker position ahead of the election. Lin has already emphatically ruled that out. The current commissioner had supported his Deputy Commissioner Ko Cheng-fang in the primary, which Lin ended up winning, but with Ko contesting the result claiming Lin had effectively stolen it with dirty tricks. Finally, Ko was convinced to drop the claim and publicly (and obviously grudgingly) support Lin, and in exchange to concentrate on a future run for legislator. That, it smells like, is the underlying game here. Ko, by the way, as of a couple of weeks ago I'd noticed, had still not taken down his 'candidate for county commissioner' billboards in Changhua, effectively confusing the electorate and reminding Lin he's still upset. Ko had also previously threatened an independent run, or to call for his supporters to boycott Lin. He's backed away from that threat in theory, but in practice the tepid support of Cho and the clear animosity between Ko and Lin suggest that KMT turnout will be depressed this time around.
Greatest. Headline. Ever: Taiwan Seeking Better F-CK with Possible Longer Term Aspirations.
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