Saturday, May 19, 2018

Taipei Mayor Race Heats Up

Betel nut flavorings.

It's official: the DPP is running its own candidate in Taipei. That means there will be three candidates: current mayor Ko Wen-je, KMT retread Ting Shou-chung who has run for mayor several times before (Taiwan News has a bio), and whoever the DPP runs. Nathan Batto at Frozen Garlic opines:
I’ve consistently underestimated Ko Wen-je over the past five years. I may be doing so again, but this looks like the beginning of the end for him to me. I expect the DPP to start attacking him, and these attacks will take their toll on his popularity. Right now the DPP is in third place in the race, but if they can knock Ko down to third place, strategic voting will eviscerate him. Right now, my guess is that he will end up between 10% and 15%, far behind the KMT and DPP candidates.
The whole thing is excellent and this conclusion is quite interesting. Batto thinks Ko could be presidential if he can pick up support from an existing party, something Ko himself has observed. I am skeptical that any party will want to support Ko Wen-je for president -- the KMT will never do so, and the DPP already many politicians interested in the job. The NPP's Huang Kuo-chang is said to harbor presidential ambitions, and the PFP is a fading power. Who will back Ko?

The DPP wants to run a candidate because the DPP city councilors are nervous that if the party does not run a candidate, they won't have someone to push votes in their direction, and will lose their seats.

This puts the DPP in a bind. It could stick with one of the two current candidates, former Veep Annette Lu and longtime Taipei mayor aspirant Pasuya Yao. Both are weak candidates who do not attract much support, won't boost the turnout for the DPP, and won't help the DPP councilpeople. However, they will not threaten Ko so much that he will lose the race to the KMT's Ting, producing the gross failure of a KMT mayor back in Taipei.

A few posts ago I put up some aggregate polls that showed that if the DPP ran a weak candidate, it drew support from Ting, probably because protests votes from DPPers for Ting returned to the DPP. The DPP could chose to run a weak candidate and protect Ko anyway.

Or, the DPP could run one of the two hugely popular candidates it has on ice, current Premier William Lai, late of Tainan and often seen as presidential material, and former Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, probably the most popular politician in Taiwan. At present she is secretary-general to the President. Chen Chu has indicated that she is reluctant to take up the baton, but would do so if ordered.

Vote proportion? In 1994, the DPP grabbed 43% of the vote. In 1998, 45%. In 2002, 35%. In 2006, 40%. In 2010, 43%. The DPP's likely best performance falls between 40 and 45% of the vote. By contrast, the total Blue vote has always fallen between 50 and 55%, except in 2002 when the DPP fielded a locally unknown candidate, and in 2014 when the KMT decided to commit suicide and run Sean Lien.

Running a powerful and popular candidate would increase DPP turnout. But, it would then become a three-way race in which Ting might well slink into office. Ko is popular among the young, a key DPP constituency, which does not like the KMT much. Ko the spoiler appears to impact the DPP more than the KMT.

It is hard for this writer to see how Ko can poach votes from the KMT -- Ting has served the KMT and Taipei city for decades, and is acceptable to all KMT groups from old soldiers to the wealthy. He might not get people excited, but they will vote for him dutifully, especially if it means removing Ko, whom all KMTers correctly understand is pro-Taiwan.

And the DPP already trails the KMT in likely voter turnout, even at its peak. Taipei's demographics are changing, but not that fast. Running a strong candidate will likely hand Taipei to Ting and the KMT.

(The stupidity of the DPP's attacks on Ko over the "we are all one family" remarks is that everyone in the KMT knows he is pan-Green and won't shift support to him. What are DPPers thinking? Well, read this attack on him in TT.)

Ting Shou-chung has been running for mayor for over twenty years, failing each time. Last time around he lost the candidacy to Lien Chan's son Sean Lien. The backstory to that was that Lien Chan had been Ting's teacher at NTU and so many traditionalists felt Ting's attacks on Sean Lien were a betrayal.

Ting is not a scion of mainlander elites but the son of an old soldier, which means he has that vote locked down. A longtime KMT who has toiled in the party trenches, he has held many positions in the party and government. He helped institute the Party's polling apparatus in the 1990s so it could develop credible internal polls. He has long been in Taipei. However, he is a lackluster candidate from the previous generation, who lacks a national following like Ko.

Why is the KMT running a lackluster candidate in Taipei, a key symbolic city? Two reasons. One, because they lack decent candidates. Look around -- where is there a KMT candidate untainted by dirt or defeat, with the right mainlander background, a strong local power base, and popular in Taiwan? Nada. Note that if they had such a candidate, they wouldn't put him in Taipei where they would just have to remove him again in 2020 to run him for the presidency.

The second reason is that Ting, as a lackluster, aged, retread candidate, will probably never be in position to run for president, leaving the 2020 candidacy to one of the KMT higher ups, perhaps a princeling like Hau Long-bin or the latest incarnation of the Chiang dynasty or even Taiwanese KMTer Wu Den-yi, who has long coveted the presidency. Ting is a very strategic candidate if your goal is to remove the mayor of Taipei as a potential competitor for the presidency at some point in the future.

What will happen? Your guess is probably better than mine...
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Anonymous said...

This isn't relevant to the topic, but I have to ask - whatever happened to the 50% defense budget increase that was supposed to bring Taiwan's number from 2% of GDP to 3%?
"But it fell far short of a proposed 50 percent increase in the budget proposed by the government in March to bring defense spending to 3 percent of GDP, from about 2 percent at present."

Michael Turton said...

the legislature doesnt want to spend the money, i guess.