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Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Taiwan legislative election 2008 -- yet another look at the numbers

Trying to explain the inexplicable and fathom the unfathomable

Michael Turton had a long letter to the editor published in Sunday's Taipei Times about the oft-misguided "analysis" of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the aftermath of the January 12, 2008 election. His second paragraph particularly caught my eye:
To understand what actually happened on Jan. 12, it is necessary to first grasp some simple numbers. In the 1998 legislative elections, the total pan-blue vote exceeded 5.3 million votes. In 2001 it again exceeded 5 million. In 2004, 600,000 pan-blue voters stayed home and the pan-blue vote total plummeted to 4.5 million. This year, it once again exceeded 5.0 million. Similar figures for the DPP were 2.9 million, 3.4 million, 3.4 million and 3.6 million respectively.
Perhaps a tabular view of those figures -- with the change in the number of votes between December 1998 and January 2008 appended to the bottom (*Michael's corrected 2008 figures of 3,765,222 for the DPP and 5,209,237 for the pan-blues are reflected below) -- would be helpful:

19985.3 million2.9 million
20015.0 million3.4 million
20044.3 million3.4 million
20085.209 million*3.765 million*
Change in number of votes over 9 years  - 90,763  +865,000

Spot the (arithmetical) difference
As you can see, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and their allies -- AKA the "pan-blues" (now all rolled into one semi-solid ball) -- lost over 90,000 votes over the 9-year period, while the DPP picked up 865,000 in the same period.

Now tell me, what sort of trend does that look like to you? What I see is that as more people come out to vote, the number of KMT votes declines, but the DPP votes increase steadily. Doesn't the distribution of seats as a result of this legislative election somehow differ vastly from that trend? Does this really look as though voters were "disappointed" with the DPP?

* Go back and read what I wrote in 2005 about how incomprehensible the new system was going to be and about not deciding where to put the goalposts until after the game is well underway. I still think it's incomprehensible.

* Last Tuesday, Michael Turton posted what he called "One Last Election Analysis." ("Last"? Who's he kidding? I'm sure there will be more!) The content is from Shelley Rigger via the Nelson Report. Michael adds his own observations.

* Read the rest of Michael Turton's letter to the editor for lots more juicy analysis.

* See another of Michael's "last look[s]" from this past Sunday for another detailed analysis with links to the Central Election Commission where he got the numbers.

* Read Jerome F. Keating's piece from 2004, "Taiwan's Missing Millions," also available as a PDF.

Math(s)ema(n)tics: , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

Labels: , , , , ,


At 5:29 AM, Anonymous cctang said...

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

To put it mildly, there've been revolutionary changes in the landscape of Taiwanese politics over the past 10 years. Focusing on vote totals alone only obscures, rather than revealing, the truth.

The biggest change came in 2000. After the presidential election, former ROC president and chairman of the KMT, Lee Tung-hui leaves the party for an ideological position that's basically *entirely* opposite the party charter.

Millions of Taiwanese who were previously willing to support the KMT were seduced away in an instant by the pro-localization positions of Lee Teng-hui.

Think about it: the KMT which is now regularly assailed as being a "foreign" party had been led for more than a decade by a Japanese-speaking, native Taiwanese leader. The KMT under Lee could've been considered a unity party... but after 2000, Lee made it clear he no longer thought of it that way.

Take a closer look at the statistics. Almost all of the "lost" legislative votes came in the gap between 1998-2001. From 2001-2004, the numbers remained fairly even, and the legislative balance didn't change substantially. See the numbers at the bottom of this post.

2008 election results, needless to say, are a very meaningful and significant change from the previous election.

(Analysis of "DPP" only vote shares are completely disingenuous.)

Blue / Green
2001: 51% 45%
2004: 48% 45%
(+3% pan-Blue "independents")..
2008: 56% 39%

In other words, blue/green vote shares have changed from a 6% gap to a 17% gap.

But really, don't take my word for it. Don't do any soul-searching, don't implement any reforms. The DPP is doing juuuuust fine. I sincerely hope the DPP maintains its party platform faithfully laid out by Chen Shui-bian. I hope Hsieh and all DPP faithful remain focused on the many monuments/businesses named after China or Chiang waiting to be renamed.

I can't think of anything else that would please me more.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Michael Turton said...

Ordinarily I wouldn't bother replying to longtime pro-China trolls like yourself, cc, but other people read this blog, and they may not realize that you operate in bad faith and hate Taiwan intensely. So I set this here as a warning.

Nobody here has said "don't reform the DPP." Rather, we all worry that the reforms proposed won't help the DPP because they don't address the underlying problems.

As for your numerical "analysis" don't make me laugh. It's raw vote numbers, not percentages, that count. Looking at raw votes, the Blues got over 5 million in 1998, 2001, and 2008, and 4.5 million in 2004. The difference was the lack of PFP in 2008, which means the KMT for the first gathered all the Blue vote to itself.

The real key to KMT dominance is that it was able to swallow the PFP, and then the combination of the new at large seat rules, the gerrymandering, and winner take all seats insured that even the greater DPP raw vote (+300,000) wasn't enough.

DPP problems are don't lie at the level of message, but in the party machine at the local level, where voter mobilization and education programs are lacking. Pithily put, the DPP has too many academics and lawyers, and not enough machine politicians and voter mobilization geeks.

Not that it matters to you, cc. I often wonder what drives you to serve the authoritarian side. And as I've warned you before, be careful -- authoritarians have a way of shooting their friends and supporters.


At 3:01 AM, Blogger channing said...

To imagine that the KMT wants to usurp power and shoot dissidents in 2008 is, in my books, a fairly extremist view. KMT has the sympathies of many administrative levels including the police and military, and to this day there has been no ROC coup. The KMT also controls a majority of the administrative districts within Taiwan, and since the democratic reform there have been no screams coming from Reports without Borders, Human Rights Watch, etc. regarding abuses in Taiwan. They're too busy with China and Africa, where detentions and killing actually happen. It is in these smaller districts that most corruption and human rights abuses occur in countries like China.

While I have some concern with the KMT potentially controlling both the presidency and the legislature, supporting Ma and presenting statistics do not remotely make someone a pro-China troll. I fail to agree with the complete dismissal of percentage points in evaluating election performance of the two major parties.

Unlike the pan-green circles, my biggest concern with Ma is not his loyalty, but his underdeveloped character. As pop-starry as the media want to portray him, he needs to form solid ideas, speak with force and reinforce his stances with strength. He wavers too much when defending himself, and the DPP exploits this in its relentless attacks against Ma's loyalties. Ma needs to solidify his platform and tackle Hsieh head-on in a debate.

Moving on from cctang's sarcasm, I sincerely hope for reform within the DPP so that it can compete to provide what's best for governance in Taiwan at the national level. Democracy is competing to be the best, and so far the DPP and many of its supporters have failed to acknowledge that. Rather, it promotes the image that democracy is "good versus evil," going to no end to paint its enemies as heartless traitors and online trolls.

The disdain between political opposites shown in these blog circles perfectly demonstrates the intra-spectrum hatred displayed in Taiwan politics. This is the bane of democratic development, not the shining beacon of democracy that the DPP lays claim to. I took my side for the 2008 elections, but that is irrelevant here. I look forward to political and social reform in Taiwan, and the formation of a genuine multiparty democracy with productive dialogue over relevant issues.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous cctang said...


Don't kid yourself. You refuse to believe the DPP's issues are at fault for one simple reason: the dogma espoused by the extremist wing of the DPP happens to coincide with your own views.

Thus, you continue on your vain quest to find confirmation that the DPP didn't do so poorly.

No logical, objective observer can possibly believe that DPP retained all of the voters who voted for their candidates from 2004, while simultaneously voters for TSU candidates in 2004 simply chose to stay home en masse because they failed to work out an agreement for political cooperation.

The truth is much simpler: 45% of voters supported pan-Green in 2001/2004, but only 39% of voters did so this year.

This is not a "political machine" problem... if it was, why did the Blues lose 1 million votes from 1998 to 2004? Machine got rusty? How did the vote sharing Greens get 4.1 million votes in 2004, when 1 million fewer voters voted in 2004 than in 2008?

(By the way, your math is wrong. The pan-Blues got 5.5 million votes this election, not 5.2. You apparently chose to leave off of the Blue-affiliated "Non-Partisan Solidarity Union".)

Anyways, the discussion is somewhat moot. I don't really care whether Ma or Hsieh wins in March, because both will forward an agenda that conforms with my interests.

The assumptions that you hold dear have been proven false by these election results. There is a large population of moderate voters in Taiwan, and they responded to the party with a platform that focused on pragmatic issues rather than national identity.

As far as what drives me to the "authoritarian" side... it's probably what has apparently driven *you* to support a political position totally out of touch with the wishes of the democratic majority: I wish to see my countrymen in both the mainland and Taiwan thrive in mutual prosperity, bringing a new era of success to the Chinese nation.

A moderate Taiwanese government which compromises the mainland on political issues while working cooperatively on economic issues is the best way of achieving this goal.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

"Interesting" math. Thanks for all the "concern."

Tim Maddog


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