Monday, October 02, 2017

No, Ko Wen-je is not a viable presidential candidate.

How hard can it be to get the English done properly?

Financial Times, which I generally don't link to since they decided to intervene in the 2012 presidential election on behalf of China, published an interview with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je which caused a stir in Taiwan. Taiwan News reports on the FT piece:
Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is a potential future presidential candidate thanks to his blunt style, the Financial Times of London wrote in a profile this week.
It's very unlikely, unless a major party adopts him, that Ko will ever be a presidential candidate. I hope the DPP does not challenge him in 2018, but lets him run the city for another few years so that the demographic trends that are undermining KMT strength in Taipei can continue. The FT story is largely a fantasy -- no one takes him seriously as a presidential candidate, nor is Taipei always a springboard to the presidency (see case of Hau Lung-bing. Quick, who was mayor before Chen Shui-bian?).

Those of us who follow these things know how transient and illusory such popularity is and also, that the poll the FT ran with appears to have nothing to do with Ko's actual performance. March of 2016 report of Taipei Times:
A survey conducted on Tuesday by — a Web site analyzing the latest trends among Internet users — showed that the approval rating of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has plunged to 35 percent, with the site saying that the Taipei City Government’s slow progress on its probe into the “five cases” and its transportation policies are the main factors behind Ko’s decrease in popularity.
In Dec 2016 Ko's popularity stunk as Taiwan News observed:
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s approval rating is the highest among six major cities’ leaders in the latest opinion poll conducted by Taiwan Brain Trust, while Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je comes in last.
In July of 2016 Taipei City's internal policy department, its RDEC, released a survey showing that his disapproval ratings had reached new highs.

Most importantly, a more reliable survey, the Commonwealth survey of the performance of city/county leaders, came out two weeks ago. The description in it noted:
The just concluded highly successful World University Games (Universiade) in Taipei, the largest international sports event ever held in Taiwan, greatly boosted the popularity of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, catapulting him up seven places from rank 21 to 14.
That's right. Ko was nearly dead last the previous year, but this year he has clambered all the way up to.... the top of the bottom third. The FT story was likely inspired by this poll but nothing in that poll or pollster's background suggests that it is reliable, and the Commonwealth poll suggests that the poll the story relied on is specious. At least it suggests that Ko is popular only where people don't know him yet, which does not bode well for a presidential run.

The FT story, in addition to sexing up something out of nothing with Ko, missed the real story, which is the rise of Taoyuan's Cheng Wen-tsan. Commonwealth again (whole piece is excellent as always):
That constant exposure has already paid dividends. In CommonWealth Magazine’s 2017 Local Leader Approval Survey, Cheng ranked fourth among the chiefs of Taiwan’s 22 cities and counties. He also became the first Taoyuan mayor to receive the highest rating of any of the mayors of Taiwan’s six major metropolitan areas (Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung).
Cheng is an increasingly viable alternative to William Lai, and in many eyes, looks very presidential. But he governs Taoyuan, which is a vast distance from Taipei, maybe as much as 40 minutes on the airport metro....
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