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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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Bullets and Elections in Taiwan

The popular China blog ESWN, discussing the recent bullets flying in Taiwan, observes....

(TVBS) In Taichung's District #3, DPP legislature candidate Hsieh Hsin-ni lost her primary election but she has filed an appeal on the grounds that one of the polling research companies had an improper business relationship with her opponent and this company gave her really bad numbers that resulted in her losing by 0.28%.

Yesterday, the office of Hsieh-Hsin-ni received a threatening letter which contained a bullet. The letter told her not to support DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh anymore.

Hsieh Hsin-ni had appealed to the Appeals Committee of five persons, of which three agreed that there was a procedure flaw in the selection of the polling research companies. But there was also no evidence of wrongdoing by that research company. The matter has been referred to higher levels. If the polls should have to be taken over again, then Hsieh Hsin-ni's current public campaign against the nefarious collusion between her opponent and the polling company will in fact be an unfair factor in the public's mind. That is to day, a poll taking back then and a poll next week will differ to the extent that the public has been exposed to blanket coverage of the public brawl. Oh, yes, it is also well-known that bullets can affect election outcomes in Taiwan.

That last sentence appears to refer to the assassination attempt on Chen Shui-bian by a disgruntled Blue supporter the day before the 2004 Presidential election. It's an article of faith among the pro-Blue crowd that Chen arranged to have himself shot, or dickered the surgery, or something, but anyway, it was all a conspiracy, and of course, it swung the election over to Chen. This theory is on par with alien abduction claims and spoon-bending and other claims of faith that fly in the face of reality -- those same people who constantly claim that Chen and the DPP are hopeless incompetents nevertheless argue that they pulled off a conspiracy involving a cast of thousands at several different locations. The one good thing about, however, is that it makes it easy to sort out who is pro-Blue: pretty much anyone who pushes this theory.

Reality is a bit different than the pro-Blue fantasies alluded to by ESWN, however. It is an article of faith among the Blues that the assassination swung Chen over the edge, giving him the election, but no evidence exists to support this claim. In fact, Agence France Press (AFP) reported on March 7, 2004, that the pro-Blue China Times had come out with a poll showing that the election was close and that Chen had a slight lead over Lien Chan on March 6, 40-38. DPP internal polls were also showing a very tight election with Lien Chan trailing Chen Shui-bian as well by this time. Two days later the pro-Green Taiwan Thinktank came out with a poll that showed results similar to the pro-Blue polls, putting Chen up 40-39.5. In other words, both sides had the election was tight with Chen leading two weeks prior to the assassination attempt.

Chen won by less than 1% of the vote, a number that would have been greater if invalid ballots had been counted, as they had in previous elections. In early March he was leading by up to 2%. Any way you cut it, there's no support in any numbers for a claim that the assassination gave Chen the victory. Instead, any rational analysis of the 2004 election results would have to start with the incompetence of the Blues, who thought they had the election in the bag, mailed in their campaign, and blew a 20 point lead from the 2000 election - a lead that shrank steadily from December of 2003 on. They also had no counter for the 2-28 rally three weeks prior to the election that brought together people from all over the island, and apparently pushing up Chen's support. The DPP government thoughtfully arranged for the Taipei-Ilan tunnel to open five days before the election, and several other things, such as a last-minute endorsement of Chen by Nobel Laureate Lee Yuan-tse, also fell the DPP's way. Fundamentally, if you start with a 20+% lead, and lose by 1%, then you're the one with a problem.

The full irony of the KMT selecting Lien Chan as its Presidential candidate in 2004 is that in 2000, when the Blue vote was split between Lien Chan (24%) and James Soong (38%), enabling Chen to win with 39% of the vote, Deep Blue conspiracy theorists blamed Lee Teng-hui for promoting the candidacy of Lien Chan as a way to split the Blues. Wikipedia records:

Though more popular and consistently ranked higher in the polls, the outspoken former Taiwan Governor James Soong failed to gain the Kuomintang's nomination. As a result, he announced his candidacy as an independent candidate. The Kuomintang responded by expelling Soong and twenty one of his allies in November 1999. It is a very common belief by KMT supporters that President Lee Teng-hui was secretly supporting Chen Shui-bian, and purposely supported the less popular Lien in order to split the Kuomintang, and this belief was given a great deal of credibility after the 2000 election with Lee defected to the pan-Green coalition. Soong, a mainlander, tried to appeal to the native Taiwanese by nominating pro-independence surgeon Chang Chao-hsiung as his running-mate.

In other words, the KMT conspiracy position on the 2000 election recognizes, explicitly, that Lien Chan was too unpopular to win. Yet in 2004 that very same KMT went ahead and nominated that very same Lien Chan themselves!

It is clear that the function of the Chen Asassination conspiracy claim is twofold: it exists to attack Chen Shui-bian, and to more importantly, to divert attention from the incompetence and venality of the Blues.

On a lighter note, in that same post ESWN observes that

Late today, independent legislator Li Ao's office received a threatening letter with a bullet in it. The author claimed to be the leader of a criminal gang and he used foul to language to call Li Ao a coward who is taking money from Frank Hsieh. The writer also said that only Ma Ying-jeou can save taiwan.

Li Ao is a pro-annexation mainlander who ran for President in 2000 on the New Party ticket, the first of the many parties to spin off from the KMT. Li Ao, you may recall, gassed the legislature last year. Li once brandished a knife during a legislative session and told Minister of Defense Lee Jye that he should castrate himself. He has also claimed that the CIA gave him information that Chen arranged his own assassination. Li, who was once a useful public intellectual, has become a clown who told the authorities in Beijing that he hopes they have another 1,000 years of rule....

This is not the first time for Li Ao to make a bullet claim. A couple of years ago he also reported that he recieved a bullet in the mail. Let's hope the police find the culprit, whom I suspect will not be very far from Li Ao's mailbox....

(cr0ss-posted from The View from Taiwan)

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