Sunday, August 17, 2014

Polls and Politics in Taipei

Another Lanyu pic, because I miss it so much.

Over on Twitter the very useful FormosaNation has tweeted round the lastest WantWant poll. Independent and former DPPer Shen Fu-hsiung has withdrawn from the Taipei mayor race, leaving independent Ko Wen-je and KMT scion Sean Lien facing off. WantWant has a new poll out which looks a lot like most of the other polls, giving Ko 39.5% to Lien's 30.1% among those likely to vote. Undecideds are at 25%. When asked who they thought would win, voters had Ko over Lien, 32.5% to 30.1%. Interestingly, these are almost the same numbers for Ko/Lien as the Apple poll from exactly a month ago.

Looking at the numbers as they currently are, less than 90 days from the election, Ko need only pick up another 8% of the voters to exceed the DPP's/pan-Green's highest total of 45% in 1998. That leaves 17% for Lien, all of which he will have to pick up to win a narrow victory in that case. But if Ko only gains 1 or 2%, Lien will only have to pick up half of the remaining undecideds (23% left!) to win. It's early, and money still hasn't been showered on the precinct captains, nor has the harrowing last election month with its hit pieces and mounting character attacks arrived. Nor has Ko ever broken the 40% mark in the last few months. Is 38-39% his ceiling? Could well be. I see no reason why Lien won't win at the moment.

Ominously, as if reflecting Ko's flat numbers, this recent poll on the elections shows that the KMT is slowly gaining on the DPP in local surveys, while DPP numbers, still high, remain flat. Neither party is well-liked and both have high dissatisfaction ratings. As is conventional in media explanations, this is attributed on the DPP part to Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's lack of announcement of new policies.

I would bet that most of the undecideds in Taipei are light blues, because Ko's numbers are just a few points off the limit of DPP votes in Taipei. Light blue voters, as I've noted before, flatter themselves that they vote on merit and what a coincidence, KMT candidates are the most competent. This is an important self-perception in this election, because the candidacy of Sean Lien spits in its face.

The classic justificatory regime for colonial governance is racism -- the "racial inferiority" of subject peoples was justification for white European colonialism. In authoritarian regimes the parallel justification is meritocracy -- they deserve to rule because their people are better trained, more competent, etc. Colonial regimes also justified themselves this way, as exporting "rational" and "scientific" methods to the "irrational" and "traditional" regions they ruled. As an authoritarian, colonialist state the KMT has deployed both the ethnic superiority (Han/Mainlander chauvinism) and the "competence" claim in justifying its control (recall Ma's election claim of "clean, capable" governance. LOL). My experience with light blues is that they dip into the well of both these claims -- feeling themselves superior as Han/Mainlanders and also feeling that they merit the privileges of their existence, since they are so competent and hardworking. One feeds the other.

Sean Lien in one stroke cuts the feet out from under both these claims. Instead of providing an outstanding example of the superiority of education and breeding, Lien actually reveals that the light blues are all dupes, their self-justifications hollow, since the only reason Lien is in the running is that he is the son of Lien Chan. Indeed, all that he has, he has because he is Lien Chan's son. He shows with total clarity that the KMT isn't about the self-serving delusions of the light blues, but that in fact, the KMT and its justificatory ideologies are merely vehicles to ensure that certain powerful families maintain their grip on the flow of resources and power to the center, and the function of the light blues and their tribal identity is to provide the support for that control.

Will the light blues vote Lien? Vote Ko? Stay home? It's on them that this election will swing. Wish I could see some poll numbers on them....
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Anonymous said...

If the DPP was able to get 45% of the vote in 1998, I think now, 16 years later, there are many more younger voters in Taipei who have pro-Taiwan awareness.

If Lien wins, it will be one more nail in the coffin for a free Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

Many northern Taiwanese like to pretend to be uninfluenced by party ideology, while at the same time criticizing southern Taiwanese who are presumed to be blind followers of an ideology. The absurdity of their pretense is revealed by the candidates they support--Ma, Hao, Lien, Hu, Zhu, etc.--not one of whom would be where they are today without having reaped the benefits of special political and financial privilege. Really, who would look twice at a job application from any one of them, had they not been the beneficiaries of KMT privilege? The Greens have their share of fools, but for the Blues it is the norm. The pampered, mumbling, draft-dodging, Sean Lien, who has never held a real job in his life, is just the latest example. What is worse, since Ma is now irredeemable and since no one takes Sean seriously, the media is concentrating its efforts on Zhu, trying to make him appear to be a younger, more open-minded, sharper version of Ma. Pitiful.