Thursday, November 23, 2017

NPP, DPP, KMT: An Eternal Golden Braid

Hittin' the road again this weekend after a week struggling with the flu.

Watching corporate power gut the US economy and in the latest piece of predatory success, internet neutrality, would make me cry, if it didn't make me laugh. Americans will soon be paying even more for less service, while here in Taiwan, we get unlimited internet for peanuts, stable and fast. My friend and sharp observer Aaron Wytze used Taiwan's superior internet service to tweet:
1. NPP released their 2018 party strategy: party plans to run candidates in 19 of Taiwan's 23 electoral areas. Big pushes in Central, South, and East Taiwan. #Taiwanpoli

2. oops. 22 electoral areas (municipalities and counties)

3. First observations: No surprises, NPP fielding a lot of candidates in big urban areas like Taichung, Kaohsiung, Taoyuan, New Taipei, Taipei, and Hsinchu.

4. Surprising to see NPP run candidates in rural counties like Yunlin, Changhua, Taitung, and Pingtung.
5. HUGE push in Hualien. NPP perhaps looking to pick up young indigenous votes? Any truth to rumors that Kawlo Iyun for Hualien mayor?

@Rusted_Van Replying to @aaronwytze
DPP's recent labour standars act revision push is resulting in a lot of livid young ppl (including yours truly); the timing is ripe for NPP's picking. I'm curious how this dynamic will play out with the 本土陣線 the SDP is forming tho.
IMHO the NPP is aiming at traditional DPP areas like Yunlin and Pingtung because it wants to cannibalize DPP votes, or even more likely, to threaten to cannibalize such votes and cost the DPP seats, so that the DPP is forced to make a deal with to give it at least some safe seats in exchange for withdrawing some candidates. This wide action is about leverage. Note that the NPP did well in traditionally KMT areas last time, which may account for its taking a shot a Hualien.

Word has it Su Tseng-chang is considering running for New Taipei City position. He did well when he was county chief of the area. But he is old... meanwhile everyone has agreed that air pollution will be the next big issue for the 2018 elections in Taiwan's no.2 city, Taichung. Hahaha. That won't end well for the DPP. In K-town Chen Ching-mai, leading the polls, declared his candidacy for Kaohsiung Mayor. That should end very well for the DPP.

The DPP must knock out the KMT or else it risks being squeezed between the NPP and KMT. More on that in a moment....

The labor issue took an ugly new twist this week, with labor groups protesting outside the Executive Yuan this afternoon as I write these words.

The NPP filibustered the law by grabbing the podium. Huang Guo-chang, the NPP politico target of a recall whose stupid law is explained in a great post by Frozen Garlic here, complained that the Ministry of Labor gets 1000s of complaints but only investigates a tiny handful of them. Companies in Taiwan operate with impunity (as do individuals, a foreign maid fell to her death this week attempting to escape her employers). The NPP seems determined to make this its issue for the elections, since the KMT has no credibility on labor issues and the DPP seems determined to screw labor once again, having learned nothing from the history of the last two decades.

While he was at the podium blocking things, NPP legislator Hsu Yung-ming made a startling and saddening claim:
While at the podium to delay the review, Hsu also criticized the DPP for what he said was a secret deal with the KMT over the legislation.

The DPP has agreed to shelve a draft act on the promotion of transitional justice if the KMT does not obstruct review of the amendment to the labor law, Hsu said.
Selling out transition justice in order to pass anti-progressive labor law is a double whammy of betrayal and inhumanity, if true. I contacted someone close to Hsu, and they said that they had no idea whether he knew it to be true or not. So I am tentatively going with misreported/exaggerated claim. New Bloom has extensive coverage of the filibuster here. If the DPP trades away transitional justice, it relaxes pressure on the KMT, which it must have if it is going to keep that party squelched...

New Bloom also observes that despite the occurrence of the Ching Fu contract award under the Ma Administration, the KMT is attempting to pin the scandal on the DPP. Brian notes:
Ching Fu stands accused of dispersing its money in a suspicious manner between accounts in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, leading to suspicions that Ching Fu may have used the money to invest in development projects in China. Given its ties with Chinese development projects in the past, some have even made accusations that Ching Fu may have leaked navy technology to China. However, Ching Fu claimed that it needed the 20.5 billion NTD loan provided to it to pursue a shipbuilding project with Tuvalu, one of Taiwan’s few diplomatic allies. The contract was originally awarded under the Ma administration. 
With 24 officers being censured for their shady dealings with the the award of the contract this week, and the company's headquarters impounded by prosecutors, the Taipei Times had a couple of stories showing how the story, pushed by the KMT as a DPP scandal, is now blowing back on the KMT.

DPP pushback on the KMT has forced KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih, who was Veep when the contract was awarded, to issue a denial that he had any influence. Wu's defense was the classic one that the Vice President has no clearly defined function so he couldn't have had any influence on the award. This is an appealing defense since his claim is true. Unfortunately, things work on personal influence in the KMT and Wu's influence was immense. So his many meetings with the head of the firm could well have meant something given his unofficial clout. The DPP noted...
DPP spokesperson Ho Meng-hua (何孟樺) said that Wu’s denial and deflection betrays his concern about the incident and that he cannot give a straight answer about his involvement with Ching Fu.

[Ching Fu head] Chen was the only person from the private sector to attend four state banquets that the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) held for foreign dignitaries, Ho said, adding that Chen and his wife shared a table with Wu at one of the banquets.

Chen visited the Presidential Office Building twice when Chien was Cabinet secretary-general, Ho said, adding that the visits coincided with Chien’s meetings with banks on the syndicated loan and its amount.
The salience of these points should not be lost: Wu himself argued elsewhere  that Chen's ability to get close to Tsai Ing-wen signaled that he was well known either to her or her guards. Yet here is Chen in close proximity to Ma, repeatedly.

The strange and suggestive nature of Ching Fu's success in getting money out of the government...
DPP Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) pointed to flaws in the tender process and subsequent program management by the Ministry of National Defense, which “revived” Ching Fu from potential disqualification.

Ching Fu, which in 2014 was awarded the NT$35.8 billion (US$1.19 billion at the current exchange rate) contract to build six minesweepers as part of a domestic warship program, secured the contract after the ministry lowered the minimum asset requirement for bidders from one-10th to one-200th of the contract’s value.

That year, a ministry tender review committee — without its convener and deputy convener present — drew lots to pick a contractor for the minesweeper program, with Ching Fu securing the contract over CSBC Corp, Taiwan.

In 2015, Ching Fu failed to acquire export permits from its subcontractors, Italian shipbuilder Intermarine and US defense firm Lockheed Martin, but the ministry did not dissolve its contract, despite the failure.

State-run banks approved a syndicated loan of NT$20.5 billion to Ching Fu, even though the company was determined to be financially unstable, Wang said.

DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) questioned how Ching Fu, which has registered capital of about NT$500 million, was able to secure a tender worth NT$35.8 billion.
When you hear complaints about Tsai Ing-wen and Ching Fu, remember, all this happened under the Ma Administration....
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