Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blindsided: 藍天變綠地 UPDATED X 3

Liyu Reservoir in Miaoli, way below full. Taiwan is in the midst of drought, worsening the haze and smog.

Wow. Everyone went to bed last night stunned. Many people thought Lin might win Taichung (not me, pessimism overcame me, I think), and of course Ko seemed a shoo-in for Taipei and Keelung no contest as well. Changhua was in the polls too. But nobody saw Taoyuan flipping, or Hsinchu City by a nose. Penghu seemed like a surprise, because I read complaints that planes back had all been booked and no one could come home to vote. But it turns out Ko's wife is from there, and she had a coattail effect on things, I heard. But You's fantastic performance in New Taipei City was unforeseen by all as well, except my friend and ICRT reporter Donovan Smith, who warned me that he was going to surprise everyone. I didn't listen.  What a fantastic night!

Out with the old, in with the new, see maps below...

...where, on the left, is the pre-election situation, on the right, the post (map source). Look clearly. The KMT controls -- barely, with a split city council -- New Taipei City. Aside from the built-up areas around Hsinchu city and the science park, the KMT controls a set of underdeveloped rural counties with small and declining populations. Everywhere voters lived in urban settings with strong, deep links to the modern global economy, they stayed home and rejected the KMT. This means, as the Economist noted, 60% of people now live under a DPP mayor.

Frozen Garlic took a first pass at the numbers (I'll discuss those tomorrow), and there are a lot of them. Go and look at his numbers, but I want to comment on his major observation.
Why? Again, these are all guesses at this point. I wonder if this has to do with urban labor forces. I think this pattern is compatible with the idea that the crucial group withdrawing support from the KMT is the lower income, renting, predominantly younger, wage labor or low-salaried labor force.
Froze interprets this as largely an anti-KMT vote, which it seems to most observers, including my very pudgy self.

I don't think we need analyze Taipei, where Sean Lien ran a beautifully awful campaign. But Taoyuan was really a shock. Last night everyone saw the DPP candidate up 30K and said "That's nice, but it won't last." Ha! A night when being wrong was sweet. But why?

Two major factors. The first, my man Frank M pointed out to me, is the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, a KMT construction-industrial state giveaway to China and to big development firms, which is a giant tumor that is swallowing ever more lumps of land. It's deeply unpopular. The week before the election a Taoyuan District Court judge wrote a blistering expose of it for Apple Daily. A while back J Michael Cole wrote a blistering expose of the mainstream media's failure on it. There were also other land scandals, like the Farglory mess, that were damaging to the KMT candidate, John Wu, son of Wu Po-hsiung, longtime KMT heavyweight.

A second issue is the internal migration/demographics that Frozen Garlic alluded to. There's been a massive movement out to Taoyuan and New Taipei City of people who can't afford to live in Taipei. This floating population is shut out of social mobility in the KMT's finance-driven, China-dreaming 1% looter economy, symbolized by the Taipei Housing Bubble, which, like the Blight from A Fire Upon the Deep, is slowly engulfing the known universe. That housing bubble, like all bubbles, exists to rob the middle class of its savings. It is inexorably re-arranging living patterns as people move out of Taipei in search of cheaper housing elsewhere. Moreover, Taoyuan is growing fast and sucking in young people from all over Taiwan. I talked about these demographic changes on the blog before, I think, but I didn't really expect them to be a factor for at least another election cycle.

It was the land issues and that demographic shift, coupled with a congealing of support for the KMT in this very anti-KMT election that I believe brought about a flip in Taoyuan. Now let's hope that the new guy can stop that Aerotropolis.

Kerim Friedman of Savage Minds sent this around. Map by Zhen Hong-lai.

Geographic, Generational Gaps Yawning in the KMT
Haha. Early in the vote count, as it became clear that all those KMTers who said they were staying home really did stay home, Luo Shu-lei, Sean Lien's Taipei attack dog, called on Ma to resign. Ma has promised a major speech for Wednesday, and there is a KMT central standing committee meet the following Wednesday. Get out the popcorn, boys, because the top of the KMT is about to become a snakepit, with all those vice chairman competing for the top position (Taichung loser Jason Hu says he won't resign his vice chairmanship post).

Major local papers are saying Ma will resign as KMT Chair, with Taiwan News reporting in English that both he and current Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin will resign their party positions. Most everyone said/thought on Saturday he wouldn't resign as did I, I just figured he go into his usual Saruman in Orthanc mode. But when Premier Jiang Yi-huah resigned, I assumed Ma was setting Jiang up to become the KMT's Chairman if/when he stepped down, so Ma could run things from behind Jiang.

If Ma succeeds in levering Jiang into the KMT chairmanship, we can settle back and watch Ma do more grievous harm to the KMT. Remember his vicious campaign against Wang Jin-pyng. That was Ma the Pragmatic Technocrat at his best.

Yes, I can't resist another laugh at the international media. Ma the Pragmatic. Bwahahahahaha!

The DPP's easy victories in the south are horrible news for the KMT. I think not many people have realized their implications for the national races.

Let's consider Su Tseng-cheng, the DPP stalwart. Su was County Chief in Pingtung and then went up north and became County Chief of Taipei County. Or Su Chia-chuan. He was County Chief in Pingtung and then went up to Taichung to barely lose an election for Mayor to Jason Hu.

If you are a DPP politician and want to acquire a national power base, you can run anywhere in the country and can acquire personal contacts and name recognition in heavily populated areas. If you are a KMT politician, however, you are locked out of the big southern mayorships and county chief seats. You can only win in less populated marginal counties like Miaoli and Taitung, outside of the north, assuming the DPP's victories hold up over time. Taitung's population is a mere 230,000, lower than in 1980, in fact. That's about as many people as in some apartment buildings in Taipei...

That means that, for probably a decade, no national level KMT politician can gain a large power base in the south of personal contacts, or develop administrative experience, or become nationally prominent, via the south. At the national level -- if the DPP can make some of these victories hold up -- the KMT is going to be a mere northern party with a few mountain appendages for some time to come. Where are they going to get seasoned politicians with broad national experience from? Worse, running places like Nantou and Miaoli doesn't exactly leave one with a reputation for clean politics... ditto even if they retake Changhua, whose politics are so dirty they can be used to generate topsoil.

This is seriously bad news because the KMT, unlike political parties in the US, has no system for making local politicians into national figures. In the KMT local faction politicians can never rise above that level to national prominence, the national party run by the mainlander core does not permit it. The only way to become a national figure is to make your way into the ruling caste, or be born into it. Hence those faction politicians in the south will never make it above the legislator level. Any KMT political talent born in the south dies there.

So to that shrinking caste presence which I have already discussed, add this contraction of KMT positions for grooming new talent. The loss of Changhua, Taichung, Keelung, Hsinchu City, and Taoyuan were disasters, reductions in the places where the KMT can groom new talent. If the DPP can retain one or two in the next election, especially Changhua, Taichung, and Taoyuan, then it can really hurt the KMT's talent base and further pen it up in the north, where demographic change will finally kill it.

The election was also a disaster for KMT up-and-comer Eric Chu, who barely beat You Shyy-kun in New Taipei City, a shocking outcome few foresaw. Chu has affirmed that he will not step down in 2016. It's easy to see why. As a longtime observer pointed out to me, just as the 1997 DPP victories helped pave the way for Chen Shui-bian in 2000, so these victories will make it that much more difficult for the KMT to win in 2016. If Chu comes out as the candidate, his chance of losing has palpably increased. Why risk it? He'll likely wait til 2020.

He might wind up as Chair, though. But then again, he might not -- the 2016 DPP advantage means that if the KMT loses the 2016 election, the Chair will likely have to resign. That will figure into the calculations of politicians seeking that office. If Chu does not run, the likely candidate will be someone much less popular, and thus, even more likely to lose, like current veep Wu Den-yi, current Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bin, or not-current premier Jiang Yi-huah. Which means it is even more likely that the Chair will have to resign. The DPP victory has avalanched a cascade of hurts on the KMT.

The selection of Yang Chiu-hsiung to run a hopeless race in Kaohsiung was another signal of KMT problems. Yang was a traitor, foredoomed to lose badly. Why not get someone down there to run a real campaign and maybe pull up local politicians' chances? Get some new guy some practice, out in front of the public. Despite the fall in turnout in Kaohsiung Chen Chu actually increased her total vote count from 2010, the public there was so un-enamored with the KMT. Yang was a giant middle finger to everyone who has served the KMT loyally down there, just like Sean Lien was a giant middle finger to the KMTers in Taipei, especially to longtime loyalist Ting, who would have won the mayorship handily against Ko.

My friend Drew Kerslake joked that in 2016 candidates from both the DPP and the KMT will be running on "I was opposed to Ma before anyone else was" platforms...

Now the pressure's on the DPP to produce...

UPDATE: Taiwan observer extraordinaire Michal Thim responded to me in chat:
i think that Chu is still in play for 2016, for simple reason, who else? and one possible explanation of his underperformance is that many of his voters stayed home, being confident their guy will win anyway...also, he under-performed but in the larger context, he excelled just by keeping his seat... also, if Tsai wins, she will be incumbent in 2020, and so far every incumbent got re-elected
Good remarks. I wasn't clear. I think it is a disaster for his presidential prospects, since he was the frontrunner. mea culpa.

UPDATE 2: Josh Ellis remarked on Google+
Another factor that caused John Wu to be defeated here in Taoyuan was his prince-like attitude when discussing the skyrocketing housing market. His statement: "If you can't afford a house, then don't buy one" (”覺得房貴不要買“) infuriated a lot of people in the county and Cheng the DPP candidate pounced all over it and used it to his advantage.

UPDATE 3: Ha forgot this. KMT amended Charter last year in Taichung meeting to say President must be Chair and when KMT President is sworn in s/he automatically becomes chair. From the KMT media organ:…
1. An Amendment to Article 17: In order to coordinate the KMT and its ruling presidency more closely, Article 17 was amended to mandate that any KMT President elected in the future doubles as KMT Chairman. In the future, whenever a KMT member is elected as President of the Republic, he/she will automatically assume the party chairmanship when he/she is sworn in as President.
It's the excuse Ma needs to remain as Chairman.
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Jerome Besson said...

I am perceiving an "empty trash" rumble. And that includes the DPP file.

Taiwan president's party post at risk after election trouncing

My comment:
Remember when Lee Den-hui anointed "Kept Mummified on Taiwan" stalwart Lien Chan to run in the 2004 "you-know-what" CEO elections? Allowing the Lien "camora clan don" to enter his son in the Taipei mayoral election assured devastating trouncing for the Chinese "Kept Mummified on Taiwan" mafia.

Mark Ma is on a mission to scuttle once and for all the long-decommissionned "you-know-what" moored on Taiwan. Ma is eager to complete that mission by 2016 and move on to a well-deserved retirement, states-side or in Europe. Providing the Ma family with a US Federal Witness Protection Program is highly advisable.

Ben Thompson said...

I was incredibly disappointed to see the widespread talk about how the KMT would see to it that Sean Lian would win. Honestly, it feels like expats are, way more than Taiwanese, stuck in the 90s.

In truth, this election was damning in many ways on the DPP. It goes to show that the KMT can be beat fair and square, which makes all of the excuses that have been made for years now for DPP election losses ring very very hollow in retrospect.

Judy Linton said...

Awesome analysis, best I've read. We are all just as stunned, but happy!

Readin said...

Once again Taiwanese politics seems to echo American politics with the fascists lead by a deeply unpopular president in Taiwan losing in the mid-term just as they did in America.

In America, the defeat of the President's party was followed by a strange turn in the mainstream media - they finally started challenging him the way they should have been doing for the previous six years.

Do you think the same will happen in Taiwan? Will Ma finally get the kind of scrutiny from the press that DPP politicians do?

In America the election had a lot to do with (though I wouldn't say it dominated by) the influence of our overpopulated neighbor whose culture and political system we don't want to have dominate our own. In Taiwan it seems a similar issue played a big role in the elections. In America the press has continued to support that growing influence despite the election. I assume the same will happen in Taiwan.

Anyone see any other parallels and wonder about the implications?

Unknown said...

In the past I've read complaints that the tax money from the rest of the country gets spent on Taipei. Now that Taipei is out of the hands of the KMT but the KMT still controls the national goverment, do you think that taxes monies will be shifted away from Taipei and spent on development approvements for New Taipei to make that mayor look good or perhaps just to reward the voters there?

Unknown said...

That means that, for probably a decade, no national level KMT politician can gain a large power base in the south of personal contacts, or develop administrative experience, or become nationally prominent, via the south. At the national level -- if the DPP can make some of these victories hold up -- the KMT is going to be a mere northern party with a few mountain appendages for some time to come. Where are they going to get seasoned politicians with broad national experience from?

This is seriously bad news because the KMT, unlike political parties in the US, has no system for making local politicians into national figures.

With the control the KMT has of the press, won't this be easy to change? The system for making local politicians into national figures is simply to give them a lot of favorable press. How did Obama rise from junior senator with no legislative accomplishments from a midwestern state into a national candidate? Good press. The KMT can do the same. If the KMT is as focused on hereditary leadership as has been reported here then they'll make sure the right family members get the press.

On the other hand, the structural change you describe caused by this loss could be a good thing for the KMT future if it forces them to reform and allow locals to become popular based on their own political skills rather than their nepotistic (is that a word?) contacts.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Ben - not really. Plenty of my Taiwanese friends and acquaintances have said they also thought the KMT would "see to it" that Lien would win. They all went home determined to vote for Ko, knowing Ko was the more popular candidate, but that there would be some last minute "dirty tricks" by the KMT to bring Lien to power. Their words. It's not true at all that the Taiwanese didn't think that - enough people said it to me that clearly, plenty did.

I'm also not sure I agree that this win makes previous reasons for DPP loss "hollow". Is it not possible that in the past, those reasons were valid, as the DPP was an upstart, hardscrabble 'opposition' party to a ruling party with formidable resources, gang and crony networks and political machinery at its disposal...but that this election is the harbinger of the gate opening and a truer 'level playing field'? Thinking Taiwan thinks so, and I agree. I don't think there's any "in retrospect" to be gained here vis-a-vis the DPP's past. But it's handy to think that if your goal is to cast them in as unflattering a light as possible...

Anonymous said...

Chu is still the KMT's best bet in 2016, but will he even want the nomination now? It'd be best to save him for post 2016 and not risk a by election in the only significant region the party has clung on to.

STOP Ma said...

I truly hope that this is a paradigm shift for attitudes in Taiwan.

Will the Taiwanese finally be wary of the nefarious goals of the KMT after 8 years of PandaMa?

Are the KMT unable to re-brand themselves?

Time will tell.

But it is hard not to be encouraged, nonetheless.

Jerome Besson said...

Ludahai@JB: Lee had nothing to do with Lien in the 2004 elections. He was already out of the KMT by then.

Right. It was in the 2000 election. Thanks to Ludahai who pointed out the error to me.

Michael Turton said...

Do you think the same will happen in Taiwan? Will Ma finally get the kind of scrutiny from the press that DPP politicians do?

I think he has been, since Morakot revealed the true Ma.

Michael Turton said...

at taxes monies will be shifted away from Taipei and spent on development approvements for New Taipei to make that mayor look good or perhaps just to reward the voters there?

That's a fascinating question. There's already tons of money flowing in for the metro construction. I'm very interested to see the answer.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Taiwan voters for finally making a stand and rejecting the KMT path to national elimination.

Strange that S.Lien talks about "losing the battle, but winning the war" I have to ask, What war?? You guys are all Taiwanese and on the same side. Even in his last official candidate statement he has to make an ass of himself.

It was a bit of a disappointment though not to see Sr and Jr sitting on the pavement together sobbing "Its not fair, Its not fair"

poseidon206 said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for another great analysis.

The result really was a shocker to me. I was worried that Taichung would become the permanent playground / rehab recenter for Jason Hu. Taichung, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu city, Changhua, Penghu, and Chiayi city were staggering shockers to me. I expected a close race, I didn't expect such a huge landslide. Even the close race on New Taipei was a pleasant surprise.

Somehow I got a feeling that Chu didn't really wanna win, he wanted to lose in tight margins so he can gun for 2016; but things didn't work out as he won by a tight margin. So when he learnt that he won, he didn't seem happy.

I was sleepless the night before the election, I was just worried about the outcome. Now that the results had presented itself, my worries have renewed themselves:

- I pray that Ma doesn't resign, or like you said put Jiang in the chair and run things from behind him. He needs to stay in power as Ma is an asset to the DPP now. He deals more damage to the KMT than anyone ever could (except maybe Mao circa 1947 ~ 1949).

- The DPP needs to bring out new mayoral candidates for Tainan and Kaohsiung. These two cities had supported them so well, they owe it to their people.

I have not been so happy about election results since 2008.

an angry taiwanese said...

"losing the battle, but winning the war"
That reveals what the KMT caste perceive Taiwanese as - the enemy, or more exactly the house-slave of the Japanese enemy, worse than the Japanese enemy.

the KMT caste won't think WWII has ended until they bring all the Taiwanese into total submission.

an angry taiwanese said...

I truly hope that this is a paradigm shift for attitudes in Taiwan.
I hope so as well. But this is not. A comment seen in Forumosa: "putting personal connections ahead of merit." And "yep, that is still one of the most entrenched issues here for politicians and voters alike."

As long as Chinese language is still spoken and written on this island, Taiwan's value system would not have paradigm shift in the root level.

Ben Thompson said...

"But it's handy to think that if your goal is to cast them in as unflattering a light as possible..."

An unnecessary comment, particularly given my history observing Taiwanese politics.

Anonymous said...

TaipeiTimes has a good Parris Chang article today ~ worth reading I think:
Elections hold lesson for Beijing

Anonymous said...

What is interesting is what will happen since a lot of China's ability to subvert Taiwan has been coming from agreements at the local level.

Judy Linton said...

I'm with Jenna - and I'm not sure what Ben means by 'fair and square.' Obviously, the KMT has a thousand-fold more resources. Who in the world, has the money and power to buy two hours of two network's prime time on the eve of elections to show a Lien family documentary? I'm Taiwanese and my friends would overhear co-workers and people in the park discussing just how much they were offered by the KMT for their votes. The going rate in Taipei seems to be 500NT in Taipei and 2000 if traveling back to the countryside. I can assure you the DPP has no money to buy votes. And tycoon Gou pledging 6 billion USD to Taichung if the KMT retains its power there. Ha, who can compete with 6 billion? And not to mention the 60 plus years of KMT propaganda in the education system which I and my friends had to be indoctrinated with. Some of my friends never knew that they were taught pure fiction until they were in their thirties! And I'm sure most of our classmates are still clueless. The list goes on... so any DPP victory means they beat the odds.

an angry taiwanese said...

Citing Apple Daily




林欽榮(Lin Qin-rong) is one of the new vice mayors hired by Ko Wen-Je. To be honest, even as a staunch anti-KMTer, I am NOT confident that the new Taipei mayor, Ko, would be able to resist the temptation of land grabbing from citizens in the name of development.

It's for citizens' own interest to presuppose that all Taiwanese politicians get corrupt pretty soon.

Jerome Besson said...

@Angry Taiwanese
怒ってる? お一人だけじゃありません。言わせてくれれば:

台湾発行の日本語の日刊紙、雑誌 + ラジオやテレビネットワーク + インターネット·プラットフォームが要ること;


Mike Fagan said...

Politics is for assholes.

I will note that the KMT did not lose Miaoli County, despite the commissioner's campaign of legalized theft against people in Dapu township.

That is appalling.

As were some of the rationalizations I heard to excuse the eviction of elderly residents from their homes in Tainan city's Datong district. As I expected, it seems that legalized theft is alright when the compensation offered is widely perceived to be "fair" (by those unaffected) and when the mayor signing off on the compulsory purchase is a green rather than a blue.

les said...

Ironically, a situation where the electorate in southern and even central counties are turning against the KMT requires more than ever a mediator between local factions and the mainlander elite. Instead of using such a person to smooth things over, keep up the appearance that dialog is possible and that deals can be done, they are doing their level best to drive that person from the party and his job as Speaker.
Of course the dinosaurs will cling to power any way they can, but in the end they may destroy any credibility the KMT had in the process.

Anonymous said...

"Changhua, whose politics are so dirty they can be used to generate topsoil."

Best political analogy I've heard all year.