Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 20 2007

Primary games

Taiwan should ensure its international reputation with a show called “Who Wants to Be President?” I’m wondering if anyone does. Both parties seem to be tripping over their own feet, making colossal mistakes even though the race is still in the primary stage. Su Zheng-chang and Frank Hsieh have been at each other with such animosity that it will hard to believe they could ever share a ticket. Hsieh, in any case, has made it clear that he has chosen Yeh Chu-lan as his running mate, with the whole “Say Yes!” campaign slogan all picked out (“Hsieh-Yeh” sounds like a Taiwanese person trying to say “Say Yes”). Su has wasted no time in pointing out that he is “cleaner” than Hsieh, who has been involved in several corruption cases in Kaohsiung concerning the MRT and the city council elections. Hsieh says Su is a bad premier, and Su says he would be a better premier if the last premier (Hsieh) hadn’t left such a mess behind him.

One of the interesting things about this mess is that Su is favored by the New Tide faction of the DPP, which has historically supported every winner the DPP has had (including Chen Shui-bian, who is from the Justice Alliance faction) while Hsieh belongs to the less influential Social Welfare faction. Su has all the resources of the premiership available, yet Hsieh, who doesn’t have the experience Su has, remains more popular in the polls (Su threw a fit when the pan-green camp published polls suggesting Hsieh was more popular, and the party has passed a rule that candidates cannot publish polls in the future). Su also successfully dodged Losheng-related accusations that he did nothing to obstruct the plans to tear down the leprosarium when he was Taipei County magistrate by deciding as premiere that it should be saved. We’ll see how that works out.

The main reason for Hsieh’s popularity, which many say was exhibited in the Taipei mayoral election, is that he is simply more charismatic than Su. Another is that he panders more to the moderates and undecideds. He recently caught flack from deep greens when he suggested that he didn’t have a problem with the constitution’s China policy. I suspect he isn’t actually that moderate, but he does recognize that he needs those votes to win an election. The reason I say this is because Hsieh’s GIO minister appointment, Pasuya Yao, was a lot more aggressive about controlling the media than Su’s man Zheng Wen-tsang, who is scheduled to leave his office soon after being caught suggesting that TTV should be sold to the pro-DPP Liberty Times Group.

The way the DPP primary works, however, is 30% party vote and 70% opinion polls. Hsieh is favored to win the opinion poll, while current party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun has an advantage in the party vote, though he is last in the popular polls (being bested by Lu has to hurt). Where does this leave Su? Something tells me that Chen Shui-bian, though he would prefer to see his man Yu take over his job, he knows that Yu is not as electable, and that Su is the next best choice. Chen and Hsieh have been rivals for a long time, and I can’t see him supporting Hsieh if Su is still in the race. Chen’s influence is waning, however, so there may not be much he can do at this point. In the spirit of the tradtional DPP male/female tickets, I’m guessing that Su would most likely choose vice-premier Tsai Ying-wen as his running mate. Everyone’s waiting to see what happens in the primary. When that’s settled, many things will be able to proceed, e.g. the budget will have to be settled before a potential new premier takes office, requiring a new budget review, and a new GIO minister, presumably hand-picked by the new premier, as is the usual custom. The new powergrid will affect things like the current power struggle about who gets to control the CEC and the NCC. The opposition is trying to gain the upper hand by pushing a bill to make membership of the CEC party-proportional, rather than being entirely picked by the ruling party. The fact that the NCC’s makeup was chosen in such a fashion rankles the DPP to no end, resulting in a ruling that such a method was “unconstitutional.”

Meanwhile, back at the equally disorganized opposition camp, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng was apparently not content to just wait for Ma Ying-jeou’s corruption trial verdict, and came out a few days with a bizarre set of comments straight out of the DPP’s campaign book. He said, all but pointing to himself as he did do, that a “majority” candidate should lead Taiwan rather than a “minority” candidate (guess who that’s directed at). Imagine if Rudy Guliani said people shouldn’t vote for Obama because he was a minority (or just wait; you might not have to imagine it). In any case, it was a poor choice of words. But Ma couldn’t be graceful about it and hinted that Taiwan would be “lucky” to have a minority leader, when he should have quoted Chiang Ching-kuo and proclaimed himself Taiwanese. Which he later did. Though I have to admire the man’s pure testicular fortitude in saying he’ll run even if he’s judged guilty of corruption, I wonder how much of it is balls and how much of it is cluelessness. Perhaps we’ll find out. Similar investigations into the special funds of all four DPP hopefuls has just begun, but I can’t believe that after seeing what happened to Ma they haven’t made moves to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to them.

The KMT, fearing a guilty verdict, has moved its primary up to later this month, but the DPP is trying to push through a bill effectively barring Ma from running by making candidates found guilty in the first trial ineligible to run at all. Their only hope to pass such a bill lies with the disaffected members of the PFP, who want more autonomy in elections from the KMT.

Wang won’t participate in the primary, because Ma is still much more popular than he is, corruption allegations and all. Are there any other KMT candidates worth mentioning? There’s former Kaohsiung Mayor Wu Den-yi, who is a bit past his prime. Wu lost the position to Frank Hsieh after Hsieh accused him at the last hour of having inappropriate relations with a reporter (later proven false, but Hsieh was in power already. It’s a common political tactic here). Health concerns rule Taichung Mayor Jason Hu out. Taoyuan County Magistrate Zhu Li-lun is a rising star, popular with younger voters and might have a chance for running mate status this time around. But it seems to me that the KMT is just waiting for the trial verdict, just as the DPP is waiting to see who wins its primary. Once we have real candidates to play with, it will be another game altogether.

posted by Poagao at 3:53 am  


  1. Good analysis, TC. I’m quite curious about Ma’s running mate, since I don’t see Wang doing it either.

    Wang’s ethnic comments simply reflect the reality: that Wang won’t be selected because he is a Taiwanese. As a DPP supporter I think it is great to see the KMT tie itself to its colonial identity ever more tightly. It still can’t decide whether it is the Church of the Mainlander Identity or a political party with a program that it is dedicated to implementing.

    What about Soong? Is he dead? Or will we see a Wang/Soong ticket to undercut Ma? People often underestimate the power of revenge as a motivator….


    Comment by Michael Turton — April 22, 2007 @ 1:08 am

  2. I wonder how much of it is balls and how much of it is cluelessness. Perhaps we’ll find out. Similar investigations into the special funds of all four DPP hopefuls has just begun, but I can’t believe that after seeing what happened to Ma they haven’t made moves to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to them.

    LOL. If only I had a nickel for every time I had that thought. “I can’t believe that ____ hasn’t cleaned house.” I couldn’t believe the DPP had been dumb enough to put the maid on the payroll after already being scrutinized for problems. Then I couldn’t believe Ma hadn’t scrubbed himself clean prior to launching an assault on Chen’s finances. I mean, I knew he was totally corrupt, but I didn’t think he’d be dumb enough to get caught so obviously.

    But then I recall that grand justice who has continued to download the special funds into his account even after they caused a scandal last year.

    So I’m not sure that the DPP candidates WILL scrub themselves clean. Each side seems to want to hand the election to the other side. Each person is convinced that bad things only happen to other people.

    As I’ve always said, we need a general amnesty — one that includes Ma — and an end to all special funds.


    Comment by Michael Turton — April 22, 2007 @ 1:09 am

  3. It’s to believe someone so supposedly politically astute as Wang sticking out his tongue and calling sour grapes. I suspect his statement was more to present himself as The Candidate if/when Ma is declared guilty.

    I do agree with you about the special funds: the reality is that using them has been SOP for a long time; they should just stop the witchhunt, reform the system, and get on with things. But who am I kidding? If it can be used as a political weapon, it will be. I’m not optimistic about a clean election this time around.

    Comment by Poagao — April 22, 2007 @ 1:15 am

  4. I don’t see a clean election either coming up. This one is going to be particularly nasty, especially if it is Ma vs. Hsieh, who is a bulldog.

    I understand Wang’s sentiment, but I don’t understand why he said it aloud either. Is he playing to his Taiwanese KMT base? Or what?


    Comment by Michael Turton — April 22, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  5. Would you please define “Taiwanese”, Michael? My dad was from the mainland and my mom is a Hakka. I was born and raised here, and now I am 37. Am I a Taiwanese? How about the aboriginees? Are they? And those Vietnamese and Indonesian who got married with “Taiwanese”?


    Comment by Anonymous — April 22, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

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