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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

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FT.com / World / Asia-Pacific - Taiwan's DPP braced for power struggle

Here are a few comments on Katherine Hille's latest in the Financial Times.
But the effort to demonstrate unity could not conceal the power struggle that is set to erupt among the DPP leaders who are jockeying for the party's backing as candidate in the presidential election 16 months from now. This makes Saturday's polls in effect the trigger for deciding the 2008 vote - which some hope could end the political deadlock that has dragged down the island's economy over the past years.
I don't think there is much doubt the political deadlock has been caused by the intransigence of the PFP/KMT in the Legislature. But this analysis makes it sound like if the DPP changes (read liberalizes relations with China) the deadlock will end. This is misleading because it unfairly puts the onus on the DPP for political stalemate and because it ignores the fact that the KMT/PFP coalition is a priori opposed to any proposal from the administration.



After more than a year of corruption scandals implicating Mr Chen, his family, members of the DPP cabinet and even members of the legislative caucus, the party appears to have lost the backing of all but its fiercest supporters.

This conclusion is far too broad. The DPP has a base of about 25% to 30% of the vote. There is no evidence so far that this base has been significantly diminished or that losses in Taipei and Kaohsiung will permanently weaken the party on the national level. Why not say that "it appears that the DPP may have lost support from swing voters."

"At this point it seems that the [opposition] Kuomintang is cruising for easy victories in Taipei and Kaohsiung," said Peter Sutton, head of research at CLSA in Taipei.
This seems preliminary. I suspect Sutton is correct about Taipei, but Hsieh has run hard in Taipei and has had a more active campaign than the KMT nominee Hau. Hsieh's organization is impressive and is putting in place the machinery for a serious run in 2008. Down in Kaohsiung I think the KMT candidate is probably slightly ahead but many Taiwanese friends think that Chen Chu is a sympathetic, charismatic leader. Also keep in mind that polls are notoriously bad at measuring working class DPP voters and are based on hopelessly antiquated technology these days. In these days when everyone has a cell phone or three, who is sitting at home to take calls from pollsters?

I'd also add that I have always heard that Gallup Taiwan is notoriously blue and in any event has had a very poor record of predicting elections. Anyone know more?


Mr Su has formed an alliance with one of the DPP's largest factions, the New Tide, which is expected to start openly fighting for power within the party once Saturday's vote is over. Mr Su and this group agree that the party needs to move towards more pragmatic cross-Strait and economic policies in order to enlarge its backing by garnering support from the middle class.

I think these assertions need support. No one is really certain what Su's views are. I think the DPP, including Su and the New Tide faction, are broadly in favor of better ties with China if they can be achieved without damaging Taiwan's and security. In any event, the real problem is how to improve relations with China when China won't talk to Taiwan's elected government.

The phrase "more pragmatic cross-Strait and economic policies" contains a hidden value judgment favoring 'pragmatic' policies over 'radical' ones. There is a real debate over how to manage Taiwan's economy in view of China's rise, and there are many very pragmatic people who think that suddenly allowing Taiwanese companies to invest as much as they like in China is not a good idea.

But while such a policy shift - including the abolishment of restrictions on economic links with China - is popular with investors and the wider electorate, it goes against the beliefs of the DPP's pro-independence core supporters.
The abolishment of restrictions on economic links is certainly popular with investors. The great question is whether is is popular with the wider electorate. Many voters are understandably worried that they will lose their jobs after their employers invest all their money in China and close down their Taiwan operations.

There are also plenty pro-independence investors who want independence but also want liberalized relations with China. This is a pocketbook issue, not an identity issue.




Lo Chih-cheng, director of the political science department of Soochow University in Taipei, believes that Ms Lu, who holds more radical pro-independence views, would run against Mr Su if he were to win the DPP's nomination.
Perhaps. But Crazy Annette mainly holds on to her dreams of power. I'm quite sure she would sacrifice her 'radical' pro-independence views in a second if she thought that doing so could help get into the presidency. And why not just say 'stronger' pro-independence views? Or more accurately, that she has made stronger pro-independence statements in the past.

More seriously, this whole view of Su the pragmatist misses the fact that Su's public image in Taiwan is very grounded in a strong Taiwanese identity, which is something that is very important not just to the DPP's core voters, but many if not most of Taiwan's crucial swing voters. His recent infomercial that shows him urging people to work hard at a stylized rural puppet show is a good example of how he is savvily positioning himself for a run in 2008.

4 Comments:

At 12:14 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Many excellent points, Feiren. Did you see that article when it still referred to the DPP as "Taiwan's LDP" in the headline. At least they fixed that much.

Anyway, I still have to take a few whacks at this myself.

The Gallup and Sutton bits look to be the kinds of things which the more they're said, the more they're supposed to become true. I truly hate that kind of "reporting" in the run-up to elections.

The FT has clearly made such "attempts to influence the future" before. If you look at the links beneath "Editor's Choice" at the upper right of that page, there's a link to an article from November 6 titled "Taiwanese pleas for president to quit may succeed" (also with a Kathrin Hille byline) which contains this wishful pan-blue thought about the soon-to-fail third attempt to recall President Chen:
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[T]his time it has a chance of succeeding.
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Funny how that didn't even come close to happening.

You wrote:
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Why not say that "it appears that the DPP may have lost support from swing voters."
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I prefer elections to polls, so I'd say wait until the election to find out. I think the redshirt crap has opened a lot of people's eyes, despite the media's all-around failure to report the perspectives of the greener side of the fence, and I hope that this election will demonstrate that.

Tim Maddog

 
At 4:11 AM, Anonymous Raj said...

I had a chat with someone else who writes for the blog, and he said he was very pessimistic about the DPP winning in the South.

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger Taiwan Matters said...

The polls are nuts. Who can trust them? \

Feiren, I've also heard that Gallup is pro-Blue as well.

Michaelvdqqedg

 
At 1:47 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Feiren wrote:
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[...] I have always heard that Gallup Taiwan is notoriously blue and in any event has had a very poor record of predicting elections.
- - -

I commented:
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The Gallup and Sutton bits look to be the kinds of things which the more they're said, the more they're supposed to become true.
- - -

And Michael Turton added:
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[...] I've also heard that Gallup is pro-Blue as well.
- - -

Guys, we're all right on the money about "Gallup Taiwan" -- except that they're not really who they claim to be, according to the December 23, 2006 edition of the Taipei Times. Check this out from Johnny Neihu's Mailbag (other than the title, the bold emphasis below is mine):
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Gallup vs Gallup Taiwan

Dear Johnny,

I just read your piece from last Saturday titled "You love farce? Send in the clowns." Toward the end you commented on Gallup and polling results from the recent election.

Gallup did not do this work. We are the only owner of the Gallup trademark in Taiwan and in 100 other countries around the world. We had a licensee in Taiwan who used the name up until 2002 when we revoked the rights. The poll that has used our name is a counterfeit. The individual [Dr. Timothy Ting Ting-yu, 丁庭宇] or his organization does not have any rights in the trademark Gallup and any unauthorized use is infringement of our registered rights. We respectfully request a correction.

Chris Stewart

Global Brand Manager

The Gallup Organization

Washington

Johnny replies: Interesting. And there was silly me blindly assuming that Gallup Taiwan was in all good faith a branch of The Gallup Organization. After looking at samples of the wisdom of Dr Tim, I notice that this pollster spends a lot of time barracking for political positions and telling Taiwanese what they should think about politics instead of measuring what Taiwanese think about politics. I've said before that sociologists are vulnerable to conflating cheerleading with science, but this former National Taiwan University faculty member takes the cake.
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Tim Maddog

 

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