Blue on Blue: Friendly Fire
Today the the Taipei Times discussed the split in the pan-Blues camp with a hopeful tone:
However, history also shows that once there is a split within a camp, the third party is likely to become the sole beneficiary.
When he was the DPP mayoral candidate in 1994, Chen Shui-bian (
陳水扁) won mainly because of the split in the "pan-blue" vote between New Party candidate Jaw Shao-kong ( 趙少康) and KMT incumbent Huang Ta-chou ( 黃大洲). But the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou ( 馬英九) beat Chen in the 1998 contest when another New Party contender, Wang Chien-shien, stood for election. In the latter case, pan-blue voters gave their votes to Ma despite a nominal split in the blue alliance.
Ethnicity and the unification-independence debate used to determine elections for Taipei. Now, however, it comes down to the candidate's character, because Taipei residents are more politically informed and independent-minded.
It is too early to predict the impact PFP candidate James Soong (
宋楚瑜) will have on KMT candidate Hau Lung-bin ( 郝龍斌 )via the "dumping effect."
In this regard, Hsieh should not take the pan-blue camp's split for granted.
Rather, he must apply his experience as Kaohsiung mayor and present a platform on how he would crack down on the re-emerging sex industry, address deteriorating traffic conditions, stir up the bureaucratic machine and make Taipei a better and safer place in which to live.
Is the Times overly optimistic? Chen in 1994 did not carry Hsieh's baggage -- he was not widely despised in the north, like Hsieh is, and was not coming off a scandal involving foreign labor and the local metro, unlike Hsieh and Kaohsiung (although the real scandal is that no abuse of foreign labor continues unchecked, a problem neither party is willing to tackle).
Last time around, when the DPP fielded Lee Ying-yuan against Ma Ying-jeou, Lee never really climbed above 20% in the polls, but polled 37% of the votes, as one analyst pointed out a few weeks ago. It is tempting to conclude from that fact that there is a silent majority of sleeper voters who will put Hsieh into power. Don't. That was in 2002. The DPP had not aliened the bureaucracy at that point, the scandals had not occurred, and the DPP legislative agenda was not held up by the Blue-controlled legislature. Don't expect a big crop of sleepers for Hsieh.
Hau is vulnerable, because Ma has not done much for Taipei, aside from the excellent wireless internet program. The sex industry, which Chen Shui-bian evicted from the city during his tenure as mayor, has returned in force, and represents a weak spot that Taipei's middle class voters might respond to. Whether the DPP might go for the jugular is questionable -- they seem to have a knack for missing it -- and Taipei's population, predominantly pro-Blue and consisting of a much larger proportion of mainlanders than the nation at large, cannot be mobilized by appeals to independence and Taiwan consciousness.
The split between the PFP and the KMT has had other consequences, with the PFP this week voting to support the bill to strip the KMT of the assets it had stolen from the people of Taiwan during the era of one-party rule. The papers are explaining the stunning PFP volteface on the asset bill as Soong, currently running for Taipei mayor as an independent -- he asked himself for a leave of absence, and then granted it to himself -- revenging himself for remarks by Taipei Mayor and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou earlier
The PFP's actions have been interpreted by some as a revenge attack after the reputation of Chairman James Soong (
宋楚瑜), was allegedly "damaged" by KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou ( 馬英九), who supposedly leaked a story about Soong to a foreign news outlet.
What does Soong want? (Taipei Time asks if China is backing Soong). With his popularity in single digits and still falling ... anything is possible, although the PFP sent the bill back to the committees for review on Friday, signaling the end of its move to throw a scare into the KMT. Now that the Shih Ming-teh campaign against President Chen has pretty much shot its bolt (all talk of Shih staying there until either he or Chen is finished seems to have disappeared), Soong's Blue rival Hau Lung-bin, the KMT mayoral candidate, has rebounded in the polls. Soong may have well past his sell-by date, and whatever leverage he has as a viable third party candidate is rapidly dwindling. The good citizens of Taipei are probably not going to be willing to split the Blue vote this time, leaving Hau with a clear shot and Soong with nothing. I don't think he'll stay in the race to the end.
[Taiwan] [KMT] [Democracy] [DPP] [PFP] [Shih Ming-deh/Shih Ming-te] [Chen Shui-bian] [media] [James Soong] [Ma Ying-jeou]