Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 22 2010

It’s that time again

It’s that time again…the five city mayor elections are scheduled for November 27th, and things have already gotten fairly interesting. The cities and counties of Taichung, Kaohsiung and Tainan are consolidating into greater municipalities, while Taipei County is being elevated to municipality status under the new name of Xinbei City, one of the few cities that surround another city, in this case Taipei.

The biggest upset so far happened a while back when two-term Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yang Qiu-xing took umbrage at the DPP’s primary methods and decided to run for the mayor of Greater Kaohsiung as in independent against DPP elder Chen Chu. Yang is a local boy, born and bred in Kaohsiung County, while Chen is from Yilan. Yang has always won handily, while Chen squeaked by after accusing her opponent of vote-buying in the media on election day. But Chen is big in the DPP, so that was the party’s decision, and she’s been leading in the polls so far. The KMT’s candidate is so far behind in the polls that it’s not even worth mentioning her.

Now, however, James Soong has come out of the woodwork in support of Yang, just to shake things up a bit. Whether this will give Yang a fighting chance or not is difficult to say, but Soong’s broadside isn’t hard to understand; the KMT has come out against candidates formerly of Soong’s People First Party, an offshoot of the KMT, campaigning for other PFP candidates. Soong also has little love for the Taipei mayoral candidate, Hau Lung-bin, whom he ran against and lost last time around. Hau’s status as a former New Party chairman doesn’t exactly endear him to Soong either.

The DPP candidate for Taipei City, Su Zhen-chang, took advantage of Soong’s anmity for Hau by announcing recently that “James Soong agrees with me” in his criticism of Hau’s administration. Although this is most likely just part of Su’s strategy, I wouldn’t rule out Soong openly endorsing Su if the KMT continues to piss him off. Between allegations of corruption on an overpass project and being on Soong’s bad side, I’d say Hau’s chances of winning are looking pretty slim.

The Xinbei candidate, Eric Chu, doesn’t have any problem with Soong, but his victory over DPP chairwoman and former vice-premier Tsai Ying-wen is less than certain. She is seen as a moderate and is lagging only slightly behind Chu in the polls. In Taichung, sadly, Jason Hu’s doddering figure still leads, as the DPP didn’t bother to put up a strong candidate there. Either Su or even Frank Hsieh could have handily beaten him, but Su is after bigger fish, and Hsieh’s been busy with his own political troubles lately. Tainan will almost certainly go to the DPP, as always, though for a while there was speculation that mayor Hsu Tian-cai would follow Yang’s lead and run as an independent.

If the KMT loses two of the five contested positions and Yang creates an effective tie by winning Kaohsiung, the KMT will call it a tie and move on. However, if they lose three, President Ma will be in a bad position, probably forced to step down as KMT chairman, and if they lose four of the elections, there is the possibility that Ma will be forced to decline to run in the 2012 presidential election. Of course, in this case, the KMT will be in a bad way, and whomever steps up will have to be ready for an election gift-wrapped for the DPP (if the DPP plays its cards right…Tsai has hinted that she plans to run, and Su Zhen-chang, though he has promised to serve out his term if elected Taipei mayor, is another possibility). Who in the KMT could possibly be up to the task? Premier Wu Den-yi would almost certainly have to shoulder part of the burden of the election losses, and is an enemy of Soong. Eric Chu, while friendly to Soong and half Taiwanese and half mainlander, is not yet 50 years old and doesn’t have enough leadership experience. Vice president Vincent Siew is probably not even well enough to accompany Ma on another election campaign, much less run himself.

My suggestion would be Wang Jin-pyng, the current legislative speaker. He’s got plenty of experience, has kept a careful distance from Ma, is Taiwanese, and knows how to delegate and share power better than Ma has done. Once in office, Ma appointed deep blue New Party people, all mainlanders and his people, to head most of the major government departments, stirring up not a little antagonism throughout both sides of the political fence, and taking the party in a direction with which not all the members are happy, particularly Wu Po-hsiung, whom he replaced as party chairman. Ma trusts only a small group of close associates, and decisions are far from transparent. Wang obviously anticipated this when he turned down Ma’s offer of the VP post in 2008; he didn’t want to go down with the ship.

If Wang, with the support of once-again-best-friends-forever Lee Teng-hui and James Soong, chooses Eric Chu as his VP candidate, the KMT might just have a shot at making a reality of at least some of the reforms it talks about making. It won’t be easy, though. And in politics, anything can happen at any moment. Something could happen tomorrow that turns this whole analysis on its head. But that’s all part of the game, I guess.

posted by Poagao at 10:14 pm  

4 Comments

  1. Excellent post, Poagao. I’ve been not as attuned to the situation as I have in elections past, so your analysis is much appreciated! I agree with your suggestion of Wang Jinping, too. I have no particular love for the KMT, but he’s the best guy they’ve got.

    Comment by maoman — October 23, 2010 @ 1:53 am

  2. Thanks, though it seems nobody reads blogs any more, and I am not a political expert. These are just some thoughts I had yesterday on the whole thing.

    Comment by Poagao — October 23, 2010 @ 7:27 am

  3. It is very unlikely that Ma would step down as chairman of the KMT. Holding the offices of KMT chairman and President simultaneously gives him a lot of power that is hard to challenge. If the KMT perform poorly in the five cities election King Pu-tsung is the one that will be sacrificed.

    I think there is a lot of discontent with Ma on the blue side of politics though. He will face a real challenge in getting re-elected in 2012 if his own party doesn’t fully support him.

    Comment by David on Formosa — October 23, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  4. I agree that Ma will resist doing such a thing, and also that King will be sacrificed in the process, but again it depends on the severity of any losses the party sustains: King’s stepping down might not be enough.

    Comment by Poagao — October 23, 2010 @ 10:04 am

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