JR’s Scientific Taiwan Municipal Elections Analysis

Yes, dear pan-blue reader, the KMT has won the municipal elections – because the China Post and Cindy Sui, apparently a freelance journalist based in Taipei, have said so.

And yes, dear pan-green reader, the DPP has won the municipal elections – because it got a lead of more than 5 per cent over the KMT in the popular vote, even if three out of the five municipalities that voted on Saturday will still be governed by KMT mayors.

Can we get past this discussion now? Great. Then let’s turn to something you will hardly find in the mainstream media: a scientific approach to the election results. Obviously, JR can’t be too comprehensive and has to be choosy. So the following will be Taipei and Kaohsiung City’s mayoral election results of the past twelve years. Think of it as a beginning of JR’s research which will grow gradually.

There’s a nice little data mine online, published by the Central Elections Committee (中央選舉委員會). I hope I’ve copied and calculated them correctly. You can compare it all with the original CEC stats yourselves, through the datamining link mentioned above. So here’s a bit of history…

Taipei & Kaohsiung Mayoral Elections, 1998

Share in popular vote of both cities combined - KMT 50.09%; DPP 46.88%; New Party 2.22%

The New Party, or 新黨, split away from the KMT in 1993, accusing KMT chairman and Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui (李登辉) of de-emphasizing the KMT’s “pro-unification” [with China] position. It should therefore count as a pan-blue party – probably even more so than the KMT itself at the time, in terms of leaning towards “re-unification”.

A Pan-Blue / Pan-Green count would spell 52.31% : 46.88%.

Taipei & Kaoshiung Mayoral Elections 2002

Share in popular vote of both cities combined - KMT 57.85%; DPP 41.01%

When looking at these numbers, it is hard to see how then president Chen Shui-bian (DPP) would win a second term in 2004 (as he indeed managed to do) – especially when bearing in mind that he would face one rather than two competitors in the 2004 elections. In 2000, Chen had won 39.3 per cent in the presidential elections – the traditional KMT vote had basically been split between the KMT candidate Lien Chan (23.1 %) and independent (but originally KMT) candidate James Soong (36.84%).

Now it will depend on how you want to look at municipal elections: as a rather local affair, or as something indicative for national trends. One can  safely say that Chen Shui-bian’s performance wasn’t rated too postively by the Taiwanese public, in 2002. And as David M. Lampton and Travis Tanner pointed out in a paper for the Nixon Center in 2005, the KMT had strong arguments in the presidential elections two years later:

Frequently during the election campaign, the Pan Blue candidates pointed out that during Chen’s first term in office foreign direct investment (FDI) in Taiwan fell from $7.61 billion in 2000 to $3.58 billion in 2003, Taiwan faced record 5.17 percent unemployment in 2002, and Taiwan suffered its first ever recession in 2001.

Two years after Chen was re-elected after all, there came the 2006 municipal elections:

Taipei & Kaohsiung Mayoral Elections 2006

Share in popular vote of both cities combined - KMT 52.11%; DPP 44.08%; Taiwan Solidarity Union 0.49%; Taiwan Defense Alliance 0.09%

In Taipei, the KMT was down from 64.1 per cent in 2002, to 55.7 per cent in 2006. That however could be attributed to the fact that Hau Lung-pin (or Lung-bin) was the KMT candidate, rather than Ma Ying-jeou, who had been the party’s candidate (and highly popular incumbent mayor) in 2002. In any case, the DPP kept trailing in the mayoral elections in Taipei, and won only narrowly in its Kaohsiung stronghold (by 0.15 per cent on its own – if  TSU and Taiwan Defense Alliance votes would be added to the DPP’s share, the pan-greens in Kaohsiung would have led by a margin of 1.23 per cent over the pan-blues.

Taipei & Kaohsiung Mayoral Elections 2010

Share in popular vote of both cities combined - KMT 37.37%; DPP 48.49%; Independents or others 14.14%

Looks ugly for the KMT in Kaohsiung. Neck-on-neck with the DPP in 2006, and trailing them by 32.27 per cent now.

Things look better for the KMT in Taipei – Hau Lung-pin gains 6.38 percdentage points – but Tsai Ing-wen doesn’t fare badly either, with gains of 2.92, when counting merely the DPP votes of 2006.The DPP’s gains in percentage points are still 2.66 when comparing its 2010 performance with the share in votes of the DPP and the TSU (counts as pan-green) combined, in the 2006 elections.

Some spontaneous conclusions

Voters in the 2002 municipal elections had beef with then president Chen’s DPP because of the troubled economy, but still re-elected Chen in 2004.

The economy looks good at the moment – and the fact that the KMT lost the popular vote by more than five per cent should be a warning to the KMT. The mere fact that president Ma Ying-jeou’s party had to struggle during the campaign period should count as a warning, according to Shen Zewei of Singapore’s Morning Posta commenter who may be seen as leaning toward the KMT. Shen’s article shortly before the elections quoted a Taiwanese academic as saying that the economic data and economic agreements the government keeps publishing hadn’t been converted into the economic benefit of the public.

But his article also quoted an academic who suggested that the DPP, rather than the KMT, now stands for the status quo – the KMT appears to be to close to China, while the DPP keeps its distance.

And the status quo is what comes closest to consensus in Taiwan – or, in Bruce Jacob‘s words,

[r]epeated surveys show that the vast majority of Taiwanese agree on ideology. They value Taiwan’s democracy and they agree that Taiwan should maintain the “status quo,” which means it should remain de facto independent.

If I were Taiwanese and subscribed to this consensus, the idea of president Ma winning a second and last consecutive term in 2012 would probably make me nervous. Convincing the public that he won’t enter political talks with Beijing. Will he be convincing enough? This is probably Ma’s greatest challenge – as for the economic outlook, Beijing will probably throw him as many lifelines as he’ll need.

For the DPP, the challenge is different. On the one hand, too much emphasis on having Taiwan’s independence internationally recognized may be seen as “radical” by a crucial share of voters. On the other hand, as the above charts are showing, splits through political camps are nothing unfamiliar in the history of Taiwan’s democracy. The DPP will have to keep its core activists assured, too.

6 Responses to “JR’s Scientific Taiwan Municipal Elections Analysis”

  1. Nice. The numbers shown in your tables are for the cities only, those of counties are not included, right ?


  2. That’s right – only the cities. I tried to keep this as consistent (and therefore limited) as possible, for keeping up to my time limits and because I’m not sure about if and how boundaries of constituencies may have changed during the past twelve years.


  3. Actually in ’04 I didnt think Chen would win, but then the DPP ran a brilliant campaign while Lien Chan mailed his campaign in. The razor thin margin was an illusion of stricter vote counting methods that began in that election — 300,000 votes were disqualified, and the vast majority of those were green. You also don’t factor in the reality that Lien Chan is the least popular national-scale politician on the island — in fact in the 2000 election KMT supporters accused Lee Teng-hui of a conspiracy to prevent the KMT from winning because he ran Lien Chan on the KMT ticket (Lien came in 3rd). The Lien-Soong ticket blew a 20% advantage in that election. But if you were here in Feb, you could feel the electricity as the electorate came alive.



  4. Also, the Beeb produced that article relying on Cindy, who is usually not bad. The BBC is totally pro-China, however.


  5. I think some of the explanation for this KMT-leaning global coverage lies in the impact of “Don’t be too CNN”, a Chinese campaign in 2008 – after that, the BBC sought some kind of dialog with its Chinese listeners, especially during a period where its – English-speaking – webpages were accessible from China without jumping over the firewall. I’m wondering if there is self-censorship at work. Talking human rights is one thing. Talking “splittist” may be another. After all, China is a big market.

    Groundless suspicions? Maybe. But when a correspondent, or some staff at the central editorial department dump the information that one party lead another by 5 per cent, they should explain as to how that “boosts” the party that trails the other by 5 per cent, if they want to count as a trustworthy source.

    They used to say that “a story that the powerful don’t want to be published is the story. I’m not so sure about that when it comes to coverage about China. The VoA coverage you mentioned on your blog is, umm, puzzling, too.



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