Twofish's Blog

March 22, 2008

Notes on Taiwan elections

Filed under: china, politics, taiwan, tibet — twofish @ 4:49 pm

It seems that all of the talk about Tibet affecting the Taiwanese elections turned out to be wrong.


China Tensions Could Sway Elections in Taiwan

Ma won 58% to 42%. It’s interesting one factor as to why the newspapers got it wrong. Newspapers usually deal with “spin” by interviewing multiple people that try to spin in different directions. So when the NYT interviewed someone from the DPP, it was about how they thought that Tibet would cause the elections spread to narrow. When the interviewed someone from the KMT, they probably got the same story about how they thought that Tibet would cause the election spread to narrow.

However what the real situation was was that Tibet didn’t change people’s opinions. If people’s opinions don’t change then you win by turnout, and if you are ahead, your big danger is that people will think that you will win and stay at home, and telling people that the election spread is narrows gets people to vote.

This is different from the typical US primary election. In this case you want to argue that you are winning, because if people doubt that you are winning then the money starts running out.

This statement shows a lack of background

Both parties’ polls showed an increasingly close race in the final days of campaigning, in contrast with the last polls by media organizations nearly two weeks ago, which showed Mr. Ma ahead by 20 percent.

This is likely true but misleading.  Media polls in Taiwan are always biased toward Blue candidates.  There are a number of reasons why this could be.  Language plays a part.  If the poll taker speaks in Mandarin or Taiwanese this greatly affects the degree to which the respondent is willing or able to answer questions about their politics.  The likelihood that you reach someone with a phone also affects the numbers.  Finally because the DPP started out as an illegal party in a one party state and the KMT started out as the ruling party in that state, people who support the DPP are just less likely to tell strangers that they are voting for DPP.

The formula that I use is to subject 10% from the lead of the KMT.  The formula which ESWN uses is to assume that 70% of people that are undecided will vote for DPP and 30% will vote for KMT.

My theory as to why the internal polls indicated a narrowing spread is that as you get closer to the election, people who vote DPP are more likely to admit that they vote DPP.  I’m sure that both the DPP and the KMT knew that this was happening, but they weren’t about to tell the New York Times this, and they both had reasons to talk how Tibet could be affecting the elections.

The other issue was Tibet has been a high priority for Western reporters last week, and it’s natural (and wrong) to assume that if you care a lot about something, someone else will care a lot about it. People mentioned Tibet, but it wasn’t a large factor in the elections, because most people in Taiwan care about Taiwan and they don’t care that much about events in Tibet. You can get them to care about Tibet if you link Taiwan and Tibet, but that takes more than a week.

What was interesting is how politically adept the KMT was. Over the last few weeks there were some character attacks against Ma Ying-Jeou, and the KMT dealt with that by saying that they were worried about a “last minute dirty trick”. This caused people to remember the events of 2004 when President Chen was shot a day before the election. One fun game was “guess the dirty trick” and people were guessing about the last minute revelation that would throw the election. Ma Ying-Jeou was gay. He had a mistress. He had a secret son. He was getting money from the CCP. Etc. Etc. It was actually a very fun game. This had the effect of neutralizing any of the attacks against Ma, specifically the idea that he was a permanent resident.

The DPP was handicapped by several things:

1) Martial law is over. The KMT was a nasty and somewhat brutal one-party state, and most of the core leaders of the DPP started out as rebels against the authoritarian KMT. The trouble for the DPP is that anyone who is less than 20 was born after martial law, and lived at the time in which the DPP ran the government. Thus while martial law is an emotional issue for people within the DPP, it means absolutely nothing to younger people.

2) Beijing is not run by marketing idiots. The DPP would have loved to run against Beijing, but over the last few years Beijing has learned to keep its mouth shut. The other significant fact about younger voters in Taiwan is that they were born or raised Tiananmen. Increasingly, the Mainland is “the place you make money” rather than “evil, nasty dictatorship threatening the homeland.”

The big person responsible for the mess was Chen Shui-Bian. He was running a very, very bad campaign. He stopped after the massive defeat in January, but that didn’t leave enough time for the DPP to develop a new message. In fact, I really have no idea what the DPP message is.

Frank Hsieh however was much more graceful in losing than Soong was.  One good thing about Taiwan is that as time passes, both sides are learning that losing an election is not the end of the world.  I know what people in the DPP are feeling because I felt exactly the same thing in 2000 and 2004, and I will no doubt be on the losing end of a campaign many, many more times in my life.

At some point the KMT will be hopeless corrupt and will need a stern reminder of who is in charge.  My role as a KMT support is to make sure that this happens in 20+ years rather than in 20 days or 20 months.

This is why a constitutional democracy is different from a revolutionary democracy.  In a revolutionary democracy, you overthrow the bad, evil guys and then hold power forever.  In a constitutional democracy, you win or lose an election, and you adapt for the next election.  The people on the other side of the aisle, aren’t bad or evil, they just think that they world should run in a different way than you do, and you have to deal with them.

Anyway enough about the election, now comes the hard part….. Governing….


1 Comment »

  1. 看到馬英九大勝,從頭頂爽到腳指甲!

    Comment by Faye Wong — March 23, 2008 @ 4:52 am

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