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Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Ma to Drop Hau? Be Serious

It was an odd thing to see those two faces—the golden face and the dead-white face—so close together. Not that the Witch looked Aslan directly in the eyes; Mrs. Beaver particularly noticed this.

“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking of himself after all he’d been through and the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.

“Well,” said Aslan. “His offence was not against you.”

The Taipei Times ran a front page story yesterday on the negotiations between Chairman Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT, and Chairman James Soong of the PFP:

A Friday night meeting between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) continued to spark intense speculation over the possible impact on Saturday's polls.

At the heart of the conjecturing was the possible "dump-save effect" among pan-blue supporters.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers continued to interpret the meeting as evidence of a scheme by Ma to "dump" KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and get Soong elected, which they said would benefit Ma for the 2008 presidential election.

"The Ma-Soong meeting proved that abandoning Hau and saving Soong has become the KMT's key strategy," DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said.

DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said that Ma could "kill two birds with one stone" by helping Soong win on Saturday -- to divide the DPP and to unite the pan-blue camp ahead of next year's legislative election and the presidential election the following year.

Soong's appearance in the Taipei mayor race was purely about keeping his name in the media, keeping his party together, and gaining leverage against the KMT. "Dump-save" refers to the notion that one Blue candidate will leave the election, giving his votes to the other candidate in order to save him, as actually happened in 1998 in the Taipei Mayor elections, which were neck and neck until the New Party candidate pulled out and gave his votes to Ma Ying-jeou. I've thought all along that Soong might do a similar thing, pull out at the last minute, shifting his votes to Hau, since he's been polling in the high single digits throughout the campaign. However, Hau's lead of 20 points is so large that it is unlikely he will need Soong's votes, which gives the wily PFP Chairman little leverage.

Whatever happens, the KMT isn't going to anger its base by dropping Hau for Soong, and Soong won't accept that, since he wants to be President. Nor do I understand why the DPP doesn't want Soong in the presidential race in 2008 -- he'll split the Blue vote significantly, since he still has strong support within the KMT. Recall, though, that Soong's friends within the KMT are Ma's enemies from within, and that Hau was not Ma's choice for mayoral candidate for Taipei. Sure wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that talk....

The Taipei Times read this as a gross blunder on Ma's part, skirting the law that forbids pressuring political opponents to drop of races, to meet with Soong (the two detest each other) and dicker over the fate of Hau. The editorial noted:

Regardless of what the two talked about, the KMT has clearly come out the loser as a result of Ma's blunder.

The subject of their talk remains unclear. Discussion probably focused on strategic voting among pan-blue voters, the high-profile Lafayette frigate scandal surrounding former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) -- the father of KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) -- and post-election cooperation between the KMT and the PFP.

Soong is the leader of a political party, but he is also a mayoral candidate. For Ma to meet him within a week of the election could put him in danger of violating Article 89 of the Election and Recall Law (選罷法), which prohibits electoral candidates from attempting to bribe opponents or use other inappropriate means to make them withdraw their candidacy. If Soong announces he is withdrawing, suspicion will mount that Ma has violated the law. The situation would be similar to that of the 1998 Taipei mayoral election when New Party candidate Wang Chien-shien (王建火宣) had to end his campaign to make way for Ma's candidacy.

The Ma-Soong meeting is an even more controversial move politically. Polls show Hau as the front-runner, so barring major changes, there is no need for the KMT to invite suspicion. News of a secret meeting at night between the KMT chairman and the PFP candidate has already stirred up rumors in the pan-blue camp of a plan to abandon Hau to support Soong. And with Soong talking about "Ma in the Presidential Office, Soong in City Hall" just two days after the meeting, the imaginations of pan-blue supporters are running wild. Ma's actions have only hindered Hau and the KMT's election prospects.

If Ma and Soong talked about the Lafayette frigate scandal, outsiders might guess that Soong, who was KMT secretary-general at the time, could have some evidence proving where the bribes ended up. The most convincing argument for this theory is that if Hau were to be dragged into the Lafayette controversy, it would be difficult for him to extricate himself in the critical period right before the election.

The Lafayette scandal, in which a US$400 million kickback was paid by the French to the KMT through the "secretary-general" -- who at the time was James Soong -- might be an issue for the Greens, but it does not seem to be one for the public. The prosecutors office wound up their investigation of it shortly before they went after Chen Shui-bian, after questioning some of the older leaders of the KMT, including former premier and minister of defense Hau Pei-tsun, the father of current mayoral candidate Hau Lung-bin. The senior Hau was defense minister when the abrupt decision was taken to switch to purchasing the French frigates. Hau has attempted to cast the blame on former President Lee Teng-hui. It is highly unlikely that Soong will use the scandal against Hau, since he is far more deeply implicated.

There doesn't seem any reason to see a big hit for Hau, and it isn't showing up in the poll numbers either (ESWN here). The polls, which are all done by Blue media organizations, all have Hau with a lead of at least 40%-20% over Hsieh, and Soong at roughly 8%. Taipei voters are thoroughly pro-Blue, regardless of their party affiliations, and even if Hsieh gets a large portion of the independents it is difficult to see how he'll top 35%. Even Lee Ying-yuan in 2002, who was a much better candidate than Hsieh, polled only 37% of the vote in Blue Taipei.

Meanwhile, just to reminder us that the Blues aren't the only ones split, loonytunes TSU mayoral candidate Clara Chou was out in front of DPP candidate Frank Hsieh's headquarters protesting against him yesterday, as she has been in recent weeks. Why the TSU doesn't shut her down and put the Greens out of their mystery is beyond me. She can't win, and she can only cause trouble.

Only three days left....and anything can happen. The polls are unreadable -- the Blue polls all have the KMT Kaohsiung candidate with a huge lead over the DPP's Chen Chu (anywhere from 10-20 points), while the Liberty Times poll has the two candidates neck and neck. Taiwan's polling is notoriously unreliable, the Blue polls particularly so. Anything can happen...and probably will.

Delicio: DPP KMT Ma_Ying-jeou Taiwan James_Soong Taipei


At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Patrick Cowsill said...

I've been talking to locals about this idea of Ma backing Soong in the upcoming mayoral election. One of my friends (a Soong supporter and kind of distant relative) claims that Soong doesn't expect to win. He just needs to keep his name in the news so that the PFP can continue to be relevant. Ma might be worried about Soong running in the 2008 presedential election, and peeling off 5-10 percent of the KMT vote in doing so, giving the DPP the presidency again.
On LaFayette kickbacks, my political science prof at Chengchi University thinks that Lee Tung-hui threw his hat in with the DPP in return for protection from prosecution.

At 6:48 AM, Blogger Taiwan Echo said...

Even Lee Ying-yuan in 2002, who was a much better candidate than Hsieh, polled only 37% of the vote in Blue Taipei.

How did you figure that Lee Ying-yuan is better than Hsieh?

To my understanding, Lee Ying-yuan couldn't be a better candidate than Hsieh. No way !.

Hsieh's achievement in his more than one term Kaohsiung Mayor has turned Kaohsiung into a brillient city which not only makes Kaohsiung citizens proud but also amazes citizens from other cities and made them envy. His management on Love River has turned it from a dirty river, which was a shame of Kaohsiung, into a beautiful recreational river park that make Kaohsiung citizen proud. This is something that previous KMT mayors promised to do but never did. Ma ying-Jeou promised to manage Tam-Shui River in his mayoral canpaign but until now KMT's mayoral nominee Hou Long-Bin still promised the same thing, meaning Ma failed to fulfill his promises.

Hsieh has such a brillient experiences of administrating a big city, and most importantly, did it successfully and made her citizens proud. What does Lee Ying-yuan have ?

IMO, Lee Ying-yuan isn't even qualified for such a comparison.

Meanwhile, just to reminder us that the Blues aren't the only ones split, loonytunes TSU mayoral candidate Clara Chou was out in front of DPP candidate Frank Hsieh's headquarters protesting against him yesterday, as she has been in recent weeks. Why the TSU doesn't shut her down and put the Greens out of their mystery is beyond me. She can't win, and she can only cause trouble.

To my knowledge, Clara Chou has already been kicked out of TSU, due to her insisting on supporting the 3rd president recall, which TSU originally supported but changed their mind later on. Chou didn't follow TSU's party decision resulting her being expelled. The official title still says that she is a "TSU nominated candidate" because it cannot ne changed in the middle of a compaign, but TSU and Chou have gone separate ways.

She has less than 1% supporting rate, even lower than the relatively unknown candidate Ko Shih-Hai.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Taiwan Matters said...

Thanks, Taiwan Echo. Probably I'll have to eat my words!


At 9:46 AM, Blogger Michael Turton said...

You know, I thought she had been kicked out, but then I thought I had remembered it wrong.


At 2:31 PM, Blogger Taiwan Echo said...

I have no idea why Clara Chou insists on going against the entire pan-green.

She was once a speaker in blue camp, but in the middle of Chen's terms she changed sides and became a speaker for green camp. It's good to have her in green camp because she came from the blue environment and more or less inherites the truculent nature of pro-blue politicians, unlike the softness you often find in general pro-green pliticians.

But, I've heard hearsays that she (and her TV show partner Yang, Hsien-Hong 楊憲宏)represent the interests of Vice President Lu and is sort of a non-official speaker of Lu. Whatever she and Yang say or do, people seem to connect it to "what Lu wants or intends." I have no idea how true it is.

No matter what, IMO it's extremely unwise of her to get herself involved in this Taipei Mayoral election. Her support base is so slim, the only outcome of her insistence is getting her supporting base even thinner. For example, what if Hsieh loses this election, and it turns out that (her votes+ Hsieh's votes) is enough for Hsieh to win ? In that case Taiwanese will never forgive her.


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