Sunday, August 02, 2009

Just in Time for the Elections: Local Faction Follies

The China Post ran an interesting if highly exaggerated article on KMT worries about the local elections at the end of the year. It noted:
Despite President Ma Ying-jeou doubling as party chairman, the ruling Kuomintang is worried that it may lose control of at least five counties in the year-end nationwide local elections.

The Kuomintang may lose Hualien, Hsinchu, Taitung, Taoyuan and Yilan.

Voters will go to the polls to elect 17 mayors and county magistrates in December, but the ruling party can't field electable magistrates in the five counties.
First, the article discusses Hualien
Wu Poh-hsiung, Kuomintang chairman, gave Yeh Chin-chuan, minister of health, an ultimatum to accept a draft for the magistracy election in Hualien.

Yeh is still dithering, while Kuomintang Fu Kun-cheng vows to run, though he couldn't be nominated. Fu has been convicted of insider trading and sentenced to ten years in prison.
It's bizarre to nominate Yeh, an internationally recognized epidemiologist, for the position of Hualien County magistrate, especially since the KMT is such a lock in Hualien I don't think the DPP is even fielding a candidate. They could nominate a slab of beef and still get 60% of the vote. I think the article is a bit overwrought here. It claims that a DPP source says the DPP expects to get four of the five counties. I don't see that, but you never know. The article looks a lot like one of those pieces meant to rally voters against the Serious Threat.

The papers also reported today that the KMT is going to have a primary in Hualien. Yeh had said he would step down to run if there was no primary, since he didn't want to split the party (which might even be true). His chief rival, a local politician by the name of Fu, has corruption problems. The Taiwan News report says that Yeh is close to President Ma, which may explain the bizarre choice of an outsider for Hualien who is the current health minister.

In Taoyuan, which the China Post named as problematic, John Wu, the son of Wu Po-Hsiung, the Chairman prior to Ma, won the primary. Wu is a Hakka, and Taoyuan has a large Hakka contingent. Wu is not known for being close to Ma.

According to the China Post piece, the KMT has split in Hsinchu and in Taitung, where independent candidates have essentially spun off from the KMT to run their own campaigns. This is a recurrent problem for both parties but is especially serious for the KMT, with its longstanding links to rival factions in local areas that it must satisfy with patronage positions.

In the martial law era the KMT generally rotated local political positions between rival factions, which were permitted to carry on politics through their patronage networks, in the local area. The one rule was that no faction was permitted to operate at the national level -- that position was reserved for the Party-State created by the KMT.

The pattern of fissioning is also seen at the legislative level.For example, recently the KMT had a bit of politics as usual. Chang Sho-wen, the KMT legislator, had his election annulled after a conviction and lost appeal for vote buying. His father then decided to run for the seat in the by-election in September -- nepotism being the order of the day in local politics, the unusual thing being the move from son to father. Usually things go in the other direction.

Problem was that Dad also had a corruption problem and couldn't run under the KMT by-laws. The article put it very delicately:
Wu Den-yih, KMT Vice Chairman and General-secretary, visited Chang Hui-yuan and Chang Sho-wen on July 29, but failed to gain their acceptance of the fact that Chang Hui-yuan could not run as a KMT candidate
On July 30th the son announced that Dear Old Dad had quit the Party and would run as an independent candidate. The problem with local politics here is that local politicians frequently do not think of anything beyond the local area -- they often do not consider themselves to be members of the national party or national polity. They have patronage networks that must be fed and watered, and the only way to keep Eldest Brother's construction company and Second Uncle's Concrete Firm satisfied is keep that flow of public works funds coming to their faction.

Meanwhile in Chiayi local faction rivalries brought the DPP an advantage. The new DPP nominee for the County Chief position is Chang Hua-kuan, Chang is the widow of a former KMT legislator, who piled up big bucks from factories in Cambodia, and a key leader of the powerful Lin faction in Chiayi. She joined the DPP in 2001 when first elected as a legislator. She's obviously got the resources and the patronage base to win the magistrate's position in Chiayi, where there is a solid DPP voter base.

Plenty of days until September, and the only safe bet is on more faction splits, more patronage politics, and plenty of cash being spread around local patronage networks.

REF: Bruce Jacobs' magnificent book, Local Politics in Rural Taiwan under Dictatorship and Democracy.
Daily Links
  • In case you were worried, CWB says the recent spate of quakes does not presage The Big One.
  • Record heat, no typhoons, mean water levels in Taiwan reservoirs are plummeting.
  • Patrick Cowsill has some cogent observations on credit cards and train reservations. Things would be so much better if year after year, foreigners didn't face the same stupid, easily solved problems.
  • A new blog on being vegan in Taiwan. First step: get passport from Vega.
  • NYTimes with a nice piece on director Ang Lee.
  • UBS says housing prices to go up 20-30% here in next three years. That will make it so much easier for couples with stagnant incomes to afford housing.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

The question remains... where's the demand for all this housing with the population stagnating?

Anonymous said...

Way exaggerated. The DPP has a chance for a decent showing. It doesn't have a real chance of winning all five. It can win Ilan outright and win a couple maybe over KMT splits, but even that isn't really that likely.

Taiwan Echo said...

"In Taoyuan, which the China Post named as problematic, John Wu, the son of Wu Po-Hsiung, the Chairman prior to Ma, won the primary. Wu is a Hakka, and Taoyuan has a large Hakka contingent. Wu is not known for being close to Ma."

Wu might not be close to Ma, but his nomination was predicted for sometime, since right after his father Wu Po-hsiung agreed not to campaign for KMT chairman after a close door meeting with Ma.

It was said that it's all result of "exchange of benefits" to ensure that there wasn't any competition in Ma's road to the KMT chairman (who knows, Ma might have lost if there was, judging from his poor credibility and performance).

Not long after Wu Po-hsiung announced that he gave up the chairman campaign, Ma hinted to the public in a visit to Taoyuan that there were two magistrates from Wu family before and there won't be a surprise to see the 3rd one.

Ma's talk was followed by by a complaint from another potential KMT candidate in Taoyuan (I forgot his name). He claimed that before the Presidential election in March, 2008, Ma promised him to nominate him for Taoyuan magistrate, in exchange of his support in Ma's president campaign.

Obviously, Ma sets him up to pave his own road to the Chairman seat.

Michael Fahey said...

Wikipedia says that Yeh was a classmate of Ma's atJianguo High School and is one of Ma's closest advisers.

apple said...

The move to draft Health Minister Yeh for Hualien seems strange. However I think this is an attempt by Ma to install people loyal to him and weaken the influence of local factions.

Taiwan Echo said...

Feiren:"Wikipedia says that Yeh was a classmate of Ma's atJianguo High School and is one of Ma's closest advisers.

It's probably more than that. Yeh was Ma's vise Mayor in Taipei, and was originally said to be the priority to be nominated for Taipei Mayor after Ma. But Ma decided to replace him with Hou Longbin.

When the info of a sex DVD about Ma and a black guy started to spread, there's a rumor circulating that, in his Mayor term Ma and Yeh often spend very long hours together in Ma's office with the door closed, and the reason of Yeh being replaced by Hou is to prevent this kind of stuff from coming out.

Certainly it's all non-verifiable, and the DVD was soon suppressed by the authority.

It's a good observation by apple that it's an attempt by Ma to install people loyal to him and weaken the influence of local factions. It might well be a payback to compensate Yeh's sacrifice too.

Taiwan Echo said...

It seems that my previous statement "Ma decided to replace him (Yeh) with Hou Longbin" is incorrect.

According to this report (in Chinese), in the Taipei Mayor seat campaign, Ma strongly supported Yeh over the much more popular Ou Jin-der (歐晉德). Yeh resigned from his vice Mayor seat to campaign for the KMT primary (Ou later quit his political career), but withdraw from the campaign right after the primary began, leaving Hou to become the nominee.

In the current Hualian magistrate nomination process of KMT's, Ma strongly supports Yeh, even Yeh has no relation whatsoever to things in Hualian; He is a completely new person to Hualian. This is extremely weird, 'cos for a local election, you would think that someone somehow related to the area would better fit.

More amazing is, Ma made the decision of pushing and supporting Yeh to Hualien magistrate without even consulting KMT's current Hualian magistrate, Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山), as though he can install Yeh in Hualian without any help from KMT's local power in Hualian.

It shows how desperate Ma is to arrange a position for Yeh.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Thanks for the link Michael. I really care about this issue.