Nine in One Elections: A Blue Camp Debacle?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 4, 2014
Summary: Tomorrow is the registration deadline for the Nine in One Elections. The
main contenders have largely been decided. The ruling and opposition
parties face split tickets in several counties and municipalities. They
have yet to finish regrouping. Especially blue camp comrades, who are
loggerheads with each other in several counties and municipalities. Add
to this the top priority Five Cities Mayoral Elections. Except in New
Taipei City, the blue camp trails. This has inspired commentators to
predict that the year end Nine in One Elections could be a blue camp
rout. Several popular TV talk show hosts are predicting the same
outcome. In the face of these dire predictions, all we have to say is,
wait and see.
Full Text Below:
Tomorrow is the registration deadline for the Nine in One Elections. The main contenders have largely been decided. The ruling and opposition parties face split tickets in several counties and municipalities. They have yet to finish regrouping. Especially blue camp comrades, who are loggerheads with each other in several counties and municipalities. Add to this the top priority Five Cities Mayoral Elections. Except in New Taipei City, the blue camp trails. This has inspired commentators to predict that the year end Nine in One Elections could be a blue camp rout. Several popular TV talk show hosts are predicting the same outcome. In the face of these dire predictions, all we have to say is, wait and see.
Some think the blue camp will be humiliated in the Nine in One Elections. Some of these are biased green camp sympathizers. But others are basing their predictions on current reality and historical experience.
Consider the current political atmosphere. Anyone with any sense can see that it is detrimental to the blue camp. President Ma's approval ratings are low. The turnover of political appointees is high. Policy implementation takes one step forward and two steps back. Several counties and municipalities have split tickets. Under the circumstances a small loss would count as a win. But will this situation lead a total debacle? It is probably too early to say.
Many people cite historical experience. They think a major debacle will befall the blue camp in this year's Nine in One Elections. They base this on the results of two previous county and municipal elections.
The first was the 1996 county and municipal elections. The KMT faced charges of black gold corruption. Factionalism divided the party from within. That year's election was a debacle. The ruling Kuomintang won only counties and municipalities in the mountain regions and outer islands. The election result was too embarrassing for words. This led to a situation in which local opposition governments besieged the ruling party in the nation's capital. It also led indirectly to the first ruling party change in 2000.
The second was the 2005 county and municipal elections. That year the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was mired in cross-Strait tensions. It refused to alter its policies. Embarrassing scandals erupted one after another. Ma Ying-jeou led the blue camp from the capital city. A coat tails effect won all of northern and central Taiwan. The DPP barely held on in southern Taiwan. This "watermelon effect," indirectly contributed to the second change in ruling parties in 2008.
This has happened twice in history. Many commentators think therefore that the year end election may replicate the experience of 1997 and 2005. They think the blue camp will be humiliated in the county and municipal elections of 2014, and will face a third ruling party change in 2016. Set aside those with subjective expectations for the moment. Those who predict a blue camp debacle can indeed cite these two elections to support their argument.
Before concluding that this scenario will play out again however, one must first clarify several issues. One. History has norms, but it also has empirical rules. Nothing in history is preordained. In other words, can the experience of 1997 and 2005 be applied directly to 2014? That is debatable. Two. The biggest and most controversial issue is whether Taiwan has undergone a tectonic shift in public sentiment. Three. Have the ruling and opposition parties' public image and political momentum significantly improved or deteriorated?
Examine these problems one by one, and one may reach a more balanced conclusion. One cannot simply take the experience of 1997 and 2005 and apply them directly to this election.
The situation this year is unfavorable for the blue camp. But the situation cannot possibly be worse than it was in 1997, when the blue camp was divided by factionalism. Nor is it as bad as it was in 2005, when a DPP leadership scandal touched off a chain reaction. Control of the capital during these two elections was in the hands of the opposition. This gave them an advantage when choosing a leader. That is why no matter how hard Tsai Ing-wen might try, she cannot benefit from the coat tails effect enjoyed back then by Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou. On the contrary, the blue camp's Eric Chu may be the one who can benefit from this effect.
Has there been a tectonic shift in public sentiment? Some say the blue camp has been weakened, and the green camp strengthened. But recent data by major pollsters indicate a situation that is constantly fluctuating, but no tectonic change in public sentiment. In other words, blue and green camp supporters may have say that they have reversed their positions, overtly or covertly. But that is a long way from a tectonic shift in voter sentiment.
The same is true for the parties' public image and political momentum. As we have hinted at before, both the ruling and opposition parties have performed poorly. Blue camp momentum has not increased. But the green camp has not benefitted from blue camp weakness. To say that this year will be a replay of 1997 or 2005 is either emotionalism or blind optimism.
Given internal and external pressures, the blue camp's prospects in this year's Nine in One Elections are not good. But will the green camp come on like gangbusters? That is probably an exaggeration.