Daily Shorts Nov 21

The presidential campaign is still young, but there have been numerous mis-steps already. Haven’t been keeping count? Ben Goren has, and he reckons its KMT 7 : DPP 1 (but remember that incumbents get lumped with anything that goes wrong in government). Ma is also unhappy with Tsai being labelled “robin hood”: “The Robin Hood that I know was chivalrous and robbed the rich to give to the poor. He did not tell lies to blacken the name of others.” Tsai’s response “Only a person who wants to oppress the people would be afraid if Robin Hood appeared. Robin Hood would be a thorn in his side” I feel another KMT misstep coming…

The BBC‘s Chinese service will interview Tsai Ing-wen on November 24, and Soong the day after. Bloomberg is on the case too; here’s their interview with Tsai. Michael Turton attended the opening of Tsai’s campaign HQ in Taichung, and comments that “the little rally was strictly by the numbers, professional, bland, but effective, like the campaign. Very pleasing to witness. The DPP is running a much better campaign than the KMT this time around, so far.” I totally concur. And if it were an even playing field, I’d say that it augurs well for Tsai. But it isn’t an even playing field. As an incumbent, Ma has substantial campaign advantages, some of which are true of all incumbents, others particular to the situation in Taiwan. Tsai’s demeanour is the perfect antidote to those who would fear DPP “extremism” or “ideologues”. But is the quiet, rational approach sufficient to make the case for a change in the status quo (i.e. Ma as president)? Maybe this is why the DPP plans 30 mass rallies in the run up to the election.

Zaoshi is important, but if the KMT keeps running Ma’s campaign the way it is, it won’t be necessary. I wrote the other day how KMT presidential candidates are always getting sidetracked. I don’t have an explanation for why, but there are a few potential factors. The KMT is a catch all party with fingers in many pies and DPP candidates are able to draw on a substantial history of KMT governance. The DPP is effective at using this in its attacks, frequently inducing the KMT to respond (indeed, one of the outcomes of Taiwan’s intense media coverage, is the high level of “responsiveness” that one sees during campaigns). The problem for the KMT is that with so many interests and so much media coverage, an effective opposition can quite easily force them off message. There are already numerous examples for this campaign (see KMT 7: DPP 1 above), to which we can add the rumours that Ma met with a gambling tycoon. Tsai of course demands that Ma comes clean over his meeting with said tycoon while one KMT official offers $10 million for proof. These rumours and rebuttals are another example of how “shit happens” to KMT candidates, and how it forces them to spend time and money addressing issues that it doesn’t want to.

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com