KMT's 5-City Campaign Strategy: Admit Incompetence on All Fronts

In the year-end election of Five Cities (五都選舉), the common perception was that the KMT will take the 3 on the north (Taipei, New Taipei City, and Taichung), and DPP will secure the 2 to the south (Tainan and Kaohsiung). KMT's original estimation was 3 easy victories, with the possibility of winning 4 or even 5.

The recent development, however, displays a dramatic twist of trend, indicating that the possibility of "KMT losing all 5" might not be too far fetched.

The signs are showing up on a daily or even hourly basis (see how exciting Taiwan's politics is). Public opinion polls from various sources -- including those from KMT's own, and that from blue media -- say DPP reaches a tie or even winning significantly in New Taipei City and Taipei, and is catching up quickly in Taichung. In Taiwan's politics, a tie in polls so early would mean that KMT will lose by ~20% in the real elections.

The alarming sign forced KMT to call for an emergency meeting on June, 19 (北北都選情拉警報 馬今密商).

At the mean time, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), who was considered Ma Ying-jiou's last life-saving card and was hired to manage KMT's election campaigns in December, 2009, losing every single election since then, starts to spread news that he is not the one in charge (金溥聰自認非操盤手 只是總協調), paving the way for "it's not my fault" for the elections 5 months from now.

On the other side of aisle, DPP's candidate for Taipei Mayor, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) is said to already leading KMT's candidate, the incumbent Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍彬), by an undisclosed large margin in KMT's internal poll. DPP's chairperson and candidate for New Taipei City, Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) is on an unstoppable speed train to a wider and wider popularity. People are saying that DPP's "Tsai Era" has come (蘋論:民進黨蔡英文時代來臨) or Taiwan's "Tsai Era" is here (台灣的蔡英文時代來臨). She is ranked #1 in the popularity in Taiwan's facebook in the category of political figure (蔡英文臉書facebook政治人氣榜奪冠 ). Some say that they would move to New Taipei City such that they can play a role in this era by casting a vote to Tsai (小英效應). Positive comments are coming from both green and blue camps, including some blue media that used to avoid positive news of green camp.

In contrary, her counter part, KMT's chairperson Ma Ying-jeou, whose degree of extraordinary incompetence is still deeply impressed in the mind of Taiwanese (in spite that he is still the favorite of many international media), is very very quiet from all these heating developments. Not very much spotlight is focusing on him, as though that he has disappeared. In previous local elections, Ma was seen as a plague of election (票房毒藥) many KMT candidates chose to avoid.

Now, among all these down turns, KMT hired Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) as the campaign adviser on June, 22 (BCC boss to serve as KMT adviser for year-end polls).

Jaw is one of the cofounders of New Party - a party that is categorized as "red" in Taiwan's "green-middle-blue-red" political spectrum. That is, it is even more pro-China than KMT in the blue camp is.

In a fast evolving political environment, people quickly learn that a common ground in the middle that fits most of the people is the best way to go. Forces on the extreme sides of the political spectrum would quickly fade out from the political battle field.

It was the fate of New Party, and that of Jaw's, too, who retired from the political arena after he lost to Chen Shui-bian in Taipei Mayor election in 1994.

Therefore, the re-appearing of a New Party heavyweight like Jaw to advise KMT on campaign indicates a desperate need of KMT to secure its own - and often extreme - supporters. It is a sign that KMT is losing blood in an unimaginable scale on all fronts, to an extent that they can hardly secure their own traditional base, let alone to spare attention on the middle ground.

The extent of KMT's desperation might be even much deeper if we take into account Jaw's past relationship with KMT. In the 1994 election mentioned above, Jaw insisted in competing with KMT's then incumbent Mayor Thomas Huang (黃大洲) and DPP's Chen Shui-bian even he was warned that he could split blue voters. Shortly prior to the election, that possibility suddenly came into his mind, so he asked his supporters to vote for Huang instead. But it was too late. Chen won (Chen 44%, Jaw 30%, Huang 26%, from here), in an election that marked the first in Taiwan's history in which the split of blue camp directly contributes to blue's loss.

That is, Jaw's act practically sabotaged the election and caused the KMT to lose. At least that's what people have in mind, and possibly that's why he had to retire.

Now, KMT is asking a guy who sabotaged their victory before to run the election for them. This shows how desperate KMT is.

With their history, the outcome of this desperate move might be in serious doubt. Jaw announced that he would "use his experience running in Taipei mayoral and councilor elections" to plan KMT's campaign. Again ?

Lets see ... on 6/24, two days after his appointment, he announced his campaign plan for the KMT (趙少康:蘇郝民調打平 郝就是輸). He started with a statement that according to the current opinion polls, KMT already lost in New Taipei City and Taipei.

He then pulled out his 3-step rescue plan for KMT's Taipei candidate Hau Lung-bin:

1. Tear down the bicycle path on Dunhua North Road and the bus path on Zhongxiao East East Road (拆除敦北自行車道、忠孝東路公車專用道).

The bus path on Zhongxiao East Road is one of the things Ma Ying-jeou bragged about for his "achievement" in his 8-year Taipei Mayorship prior to Hau. The path is badly and carelessly designed like most, if not all, of Ma's major management plans are, and has turned into something that brought inconvenience to and complaints from citizens.

So the first thing Jaw suggests Hau to do is to tear down Ma's "achievement", in a way showing how incompetent Ma is, hoping to reflect that Hau's current bad performance is not entirely his fault.

The indication in his statement might not be far from the fact. In an earlier interview, DPP's Taipei city councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) revealed that Hau's team in Taipei city was very angry about Ma. She described that Hau and his team couldn't do any thing forward because they have to spend full time cleaning up all those messes Ma created and left.

But for a KMT-hired strategist to put "trashing Ma" as the first step of campaign plan ?

2. Hau should admit that he didn't do well in the past 3 years so he can beg people for the second chance (承認過去三年做得不好,要選民再給一次機會).

Urrhh ... just how on earth is that gonna sell ?

3. "Effect of chicks-boost-hen" -- asking for the endorsement from the city councilor candidates in order to boost Hau's popularity (尋求議員候選人支持,以達到「小雞帶母雞」的效果)。

In Taiwan, when we apply the term "hen-boosts-chicks" (母雞帶小雞) to the politics, it means that a candidate of higher level elections (the hen, like city mayors, etc) is so popular that he/she can boost the popularity of lower level candidates (the chicks, like city councilors). In that case, lower candidates would fight for the spotlight of having a photo with "the hen".

On the other hand, higher level candidates who are so unpopular will be considered "plague of election", or "toxin of voting" (like Ma ying-jeou is now if he chooses to be a candidate) so the lower level candidates will avoid him/her at all cost.

What Jaw suggests now is to reverse the process to "chicks-boost-hen", asking lower level candidates to endorse an unpopular high level candidate whom they would otherwise avoid.

The meaning is clear: Hau is so disliked by the people, not only can't he play the "hen" role but also he has to rely on lower level candidates to risk their own elections to win.

Again, just how on earth is that gonna work ?

So, a summary of Jaw's plan:

1. Emphasize how incompetent Ma is in order to argue Hau is not that guilty;

2. Emphasize how incompetent Hau is in order to bag for the 2nd chance;

3. Admit how unpopular Hau is so he needs to ask KMT's lower level candidates to sacrifice in order to save his own ass.

Interestingly, this strategy of "incompetence admissions" is announced to the public, not delivered in an internal meeting.

Similar observations came up today. Both articles (in Chinese) cover much broader range of "phenomena" than mine :

(Five City Election: KMT's momentum is gone)

五都選戰--金馬指揮部亮紅燈 國民黨可能兵敗五都
(Five City Election: Red Alarm in King-Ma Commanding Center, KMT Could Lose All Five)


阿牛 [26/6/10 04:07] said...

Well written!

Carlos [26/6/10 07:42] said...

Wow. I'm not going to get my hopes up, but that's very, very interesting news. To be honest, I'm skeptical because the KMT has usually been able to maintain support without working hard for it. Is the atmosphere really that different now?

That's a pretty funny strategy for Hau's campaign. What if Tsai Ing-Wen does win? Would she really be unable to run for president, or is that just talk? If the only consequence is some criticism for quitting the mayoral position, I think she should still do it.

Taiwan Echo [26/6/10 10:45] said...

Thanks, 阿牛.

@ Carlos,

What I and some of my friends observe is that the entire situation is flowing toward DPP. This has been going on slowly for months, with a turning point after Tsai IW was re-elected as DPP chairperson with > 90% of the votes. She then announced her willingness to be the candidate of New Taipei City. The move then picks up the speed quickly.

It's probably why the English community hasn't sensed this flow. It just comes too fast, hard to imagine the difference between now and 2 months ago.

In contrary to DPP's rising popularity, KMT behaves headless, looks like none of them know what to do next, let alone laying out a vision and long term plan like Tsai EW has been doing.

The drama has just began, though. There's no free ride for DPP. Although they are gaining momentum on the north, the integrity on the south 2 cities are facing tremendous challenge now. Although the situation is not clear now, there are some signs showing that green camp could split in both Tainan and Kaohsiung.

I do believe that Tsai agreed to campaign for New Taipei without thinking the chance of presidency. No matter what, it's still too early to make conclusion. When we reach there, we will have a solution.

Thomas [26/6/10 12:51] said...

I agree with the overall lines of what you are saying, but I caution you to not count your chickens yet (to use another overused poultry metaphor). DPP candidates still need to do a better job at presenting a compelling vision for the future. I have read a few articles about Su and Tsai in the Liberty Times (not so much in the other papers) in which some very positive comments are being highlighted. But it is very early in the election season. Then, there is the problem with the South that you bring up. We will see what happens.

Michael Turton [28/6/10 10:41] said...

Man, the vote buying has not begun, and in Taichung Hu still has a 14 point lead. I'm optimistic about Taipei, though. I think in the end Chu will beat Tsai, however.

Didn't Jaw run with Hau Pei-tsun as the New Party Veep in 1996?


Taiwan Echo [28/6/10 12:01] said...

Yes, Michael, it's still 5 months from now. What we are talking here is some signs to show some possibilities that we wouldn't have thought possible before.

For New Taipei, I believe Tsai will beat Chu in a landslide.

1996 Pres. Election:

中國國民黨: 李登輝/連戰
民主進步黨: 彭明敏/謝長廷
無黨籍: 林洋港/郝柏村
無黨籍: 陳履安/王清峰

KMT: LDH/Lian Chan
DPP: Peng Ming-min/Frank Hsieh
nonparty: LIn Yang-gang/Hao Pei-tsun
nonparty: Chen lyu-an/Wang Tsing-feng

Taiwan Echo [28/6/10 12:04] said...

Btw, there's some sign showing that KMT might try to focus the North 2 city on ideology, 'cos they just didn't have anything positive on the city management level.

Anonymous [29/6/10 14:35] said...

Whether this report is true or not, Taiwanese need to hear hopeful words to generate motivation to vote and encourage others to do so, too.

The DPP has demonstrated skill in positively marshaling people--they are a party of change and hope.

If they can sustain the message of hope, and STAY on that message, then I'd predict things would turn out very well indeed for them.