This came with the latest Nelson Report: Shelly Rigger’s observations on the recent LY election, mine in brackets.


A few quick observations in response to Kirk and Hans. There’s no question that the new system really hurt the DPP in terms of seats, but to say that this doesn’t matter, and they’re still in okay shape overall, does not sound right to me. For these reasons:

[Yup. The DPP is in deep doo doo]

1. The DPP really didn’t increase its vote share much at all. This election was similar to EVERY other election the DPP has competed in, save one (the presidential in 2004). They just can’t seem to break that 40% barrier. The percentages go up and down marginally, but they are really stuck at about 40%. This makes 2004 look more and more like a fluke, and not an indicator of a trend.

[Yup. 2004 is an anomaly. And the DPP numbers are a structural feature.]

2. Eight years ago, when CSB got 39% of the vote, people were genuinely afraid to vote for the DPP — many feared the PRC would do something extreme if Chen was elected. But the sky didn’t fall after all, so voting for the DPP should be getting easier. But the party vote this time was not quite 37%. So given a chance to endorse the DPP, fewer people were willing to do it in 2008 than in 2000. This is really bad for the DPP: Despite their (and CSB’s) frantic exertions over the past 7 years, they have made no progress in expanding their share of the electorate.

[Alas, Dr. Rigger is confused here. National and local elections cannot be compared -- in 2000 CSB garnered 4.97 million votes, in the recent LY election, the DPP got 3.6 million. Those were two very different levels of "40%"]

3. The DPP lost districts it shouldn’t have lost. They were at or close to 50% of the vote in about 25 of the new districts in the past three elections; they should have won those under the new system, but they got only half of them (13). This is another very bad sign for the DPP. It’s losing in places it should win. The same thing happened in the municipal elections in 2005. Also, where they did win the margins were narrow.

[It's not surprising, actually, that they lost in Kaohsiung. People think that the south is automatically DPP territory, but the Kaohsiung mayor and city council elections are always split.]

4. The DPP may not have lost a lot of votes, but the KMT gained a lot. They got 51% of the party vote — that’s the strongest endorsement they’ve had in years. The PFP is dead as a doornail, as is the New Party. Humpty Dumpty has been put back together again. Yes, there are cracks. Not everybody loves everybody. But compared to a year ago, the KMT is way, way stronger.

[The KMT did gain a lot -- by swallowing the PFP and gathering all the Blue votes unto itself, as I noted already.]

5. Although there are divisions in the KMT, the DPP is even more divided. The party primaries were extremely damaging, mainly because the other factions — including Frank Hsieh’s — declared war on the New Tide faction. There was extreme ugliness — eleven long-time party activists were declared “traitors” and “friends of China” — and the victims blame Hsieh, among others. I am pretty convinced he’s not going to win them back between now and March. I think calling them “pro-China” crossed a line. Without the enthusiastic support of New Tide activists, Hsieh is in trouble. It’s true that they don’t want Ma to win, but how hard are they going to work? Everyone is already exhausted …


6. The KMT is likely doing much better than the DPP is for funds — and not because of party assets, which is really a red herring at this point. The KMT clearly was spending more in the LY campaign, and with the momentum in its direction, the money is going to pour in. The business community has to be able to taste victory at this point.


7. The pitiful performance of the referendums suggest that voters know they’re being gamed on that, and they don’t want to play. The UN referendums might be different, but they very well might not. If the DPP referendum loses, that’s another big setback. My conversations in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung last week make me think there’s a lot of panic around that possibility.

[The referendums will certainly lose.]

8. I see no reason to assume that any particular group of voters turned out at a low rate. What is the evidence that it was the “light greens” who didn’t vote, and what is the evidence that they WILL turn out in March? The DPP is spinning it that way (there will be another 20% turnout, and it’ll break our way), but I think that’s pure wishful thinking. If Hans has evidence, I’d like to see it. I didn’t see any, and the logic doesn’t make much sense to me. Why would people be more excited about Hsieh than about their local legislative candidates? And why would KMT voters be MORE excited about legislative candidates than Ma? If anything, I’d guess the light blues didn’t turn out. When they do, they’re going to vote for Ma. And as for the local factions: They have to be thinking that if Ma wins, given the KMT’s LY majority, trough will be overflowing with swill. If Ma loses, not so much.

[Exactly what I said. Can anyone name the evidence for who didn't turn out and who did? UPDATED: One thing Rigger is massively wrong here on is the legislative and national elections. "Why would people be more excited about Hsieh than their local legislative candidates?" The answer is that people are, as shown in the numbers, that DPP voters are far more willing to come out nationally than locally. Further, many who vote Blue locally vote Green nationally. Voters treat the elections as different.]

9. So, I’m not counting Hsieh out — he does have one good argument (don’t let the KMT have total control over everything), and the KMT could stumble. But I think the situation looks very grim for Hsieh and for the DPP.