Summary: Welcome to the Kaohsiung mayoral byelection pre-election special. I watched the rallies so you didn’t have to, and the KMT’s turned out a mess. I also go into what to watch for in the results in Saturday’s byelection. But, up first, some headlines.
Taiwan’s official statistics bureau has lowered its forecast for the country’s economic growth in 2020 to 1.56 percent after Taiwan registered negative growth in the second quarter.
The latest growth estimate by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) on Friday was 0.11 percentage points lower than its forecast of 1.67 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth made in May.
Express maritime shipping service between Taiwan and China keeps booming due to the rise in the e-commerce business, Taiwan Ports International Corp’s (TIPC) said this week.
The Executive Yuan on Thursday passed a central government budget plan for 2021, which projects a deficit of NT$201.5 billion (US$6.83 billion) for the year.
It includes a proposed 4.4% increase in defence spending, and if the F-16 special budget is included, it would mean defence spending will hit 2.4% of GDP.
The budget plan has to be reviewed and passed by the Legislative Yuan before being officially approved.
We’ll come back to this topic when it passes in the legislature.
The Executive Yuan passed a proposed amendment to the Civil Code on Thursday to lower the legal age of majority to 18 from 20, and to set the engagement age at 17 and the marriage age at 18 for both men and women.
The current law states that males and females cannot marry before they turn 18 and 16, respectively, and they cannot be engaged before 17 and 15, respectively.
The current age of majority was set 91 years ago.
DPP, KMT hold final rallies ahead of Kaohsiung mayoral byelection
Both the DPP and KMT held major rallies ahead of Saturday’s Kaohsiung mayoral byelection, while the TPP held more subdued events.
Both of the rallies were big, though a rough estimate from the TV suggested that the DPP rally was a bit larger.
It rained sporadically throughout the day, but the crowds mostly held on, huddled in raincoats and under umbrellas–DPP followers an ocean of yellow and green, the KMT a sea of ROC flags.
Of the two, I paid less attention to the DPP rally.
All the clips I saw on the TV showed a highly professional, tightly crafted affair with clever use of inspirational music.
The great and the good in the DPP spoke, including the president, the vice president and the premier–overall a powerful lineup.
DPP candidate Chen Chi-mai tried mightily to be charismatic, but as usual wasn’t terribly good at it–but he did manage to project competence and dedication.
It appeared that the DPP wrapped up their event earlier, which turned out to be a good thing for them.
The KMT rally was professionally organized, but didn’t come across as slick and tight as the DPP rally.
During the day there were separate appearances for speeches by former President Ma Ying-jeou, former KMT chairs Wu Den-yih and Eric Chu, and former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
Notably absent were Taiwan’s most popular politician New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih, as well as Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen, though she recently had surgery and is largely confined to a wheelchair or propped up on a cane–so her absence may be due to that.
I tuned in to watch the grand finale in full.
And waited…and waited…as the MCs launched endless rounds of call-and-response with the audience.
It was pretty clear the grand finale was being held up for some reason, which was indirectly confirmed when the final stage holders showed up when the MC referred to waiting.
Up front-and-centre were party Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍)–though he didn’t speak, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang, KMT mayoral candidate Jane Lee and former Kaohsiung Mayor–just ousted in a recall vote in June–Daniel Han Kuo-yu.
Interestingly, none of the bigshots who’d spoken on stage earlier in the day stuck around for this–possibly suggesting they didn’t want to appear on stage with Han.
As these four took to the stage along with a gaggle of city councillors the MCs called out “long time no see” and the crowd responded enthusiastically.
It was clear they were referring to former Mayor Han, who has kept a low profile since being ousted.
It was about this point the rain started up again, though not too heavily.
Han took the mic first, giving a fairly typical Han speech, some specifics, some platitudes and some humour–but as always a bit rambling and at least in part off-the-cuff.
He shared his memories of City Councillor Jane Lee from when he was mayor, praising her for her dedication and hard work, especially on issues like getting air conditioners in schools.
Then, speaking of children, veered off course into one of the weirder tangents he’s gone off on–and that’s a high bar with him.
He spoke of Lee telling him she wanted to have another child, and said she asked him how to do it–which seems dubious, considering she’d already had kids before.
This is also a bit tactless, because Lee’s mother-in-law decided to bring up the rather private subject of Lee previously having a miscarriage at a recent rally.
But–you guessed it–it gets weirder.
Han said he told Lee that he didn’t know how to do it, which as a father also seems rather dubious, but he told her that after his wife ate a goose egg, his wife almost immediately got pregnant.
He then proceeded to tell the rally that after that Lee ate tons of goose eggs, and then turned to her and asked her how many.
She looked a little flustered and said “over 100”, an answer which seemed to please Han immensely.
It is hard not to feel sorry for Jane Lee at this juncture.
This is private issue, but not only had her mother-in-law brought it up, here at her final campaign rally, during the crowning moment of all her hard work, the world is being told about her fertility issues and the weird way she tried to deal with it.
Awkward to put it mildly, and very tactless on the part of Han.
It’s nobody’s business and has nothing to do with her ability to be mayor.
Chairman Johnny Chiang took the stage next.
It was then that the rain turned into a heavy downpour.
It’s at this point that the clothing they were wearing became an issue.
Johnny Chiang was wearing a dark blue shirt, and aside from constantly having to wipe the water from his face, he gave an energetic speech.
The other three were wearing white shirts.
In a torrential downpour.
Han was wearing a campaign vest over his shirt, so he was lucky.
But Secretary-General Lee’s vest was pushed aside by his rather large belly, and Jane Lee only had her white shirt.
The two of them looked like losers in a wet tee-shirt competition.
Secretary-General Lee seemed oblivious to the fact that we were getting a very detailed look at his less-than-stellar physique, but Jane Lee was looking increasingly uncomfortable.
Fortunately, just before she was to take the mic, a thoughtful soul in the KMT handed her a campaign vest.
Jane Lee, considering she was being drenched and water was pouring down her face, gave an impressively poised and energetic speech.
She did a good job under the circumstances, and showed some grit in the face of challenges.
From what I could understand of her speech, alas my Taiwanese is pretty spotty, it sounded pretty good–connecting with the common people on issues that impact their lives.
But there was no getting around the fact that the grand finale was a bit of disaster.
When they finished speaking a group of middle-aged women managed to surge past security and mob Han, showing that at least some of his “Han army” is as loyal ever.
Most likely within the KMT there will be some resentment at who held up the grand finale, which put in smack in the middle of torrential rain–which the DPP managed to avoid.
It also begs the question, why weren’t they better prepared?
What to look for in the election
There are several things I’ll be looking for in the election results.
While it may be tough to gleen from the numbers, I’m curious about how much support Han added to Lee’s campaign.
Strategically I think it was a good move, she was languishing way down in the polls.
Han showing up likely turned away few if any of the voters who were planning to vote for her, but Han’s fans are known for their enthusiasm–and many of them were first time or generally only sporadic voters in the past.
Lee will need as many of these as she can get to avoid a totally humiliating loss.
As for what would constitute a humiliating loss, that brings me to the number 31.
In both the main pan-blue newspapers, UDN and China Times, there have been articles suggesting that Chairman Johnny Chiang would come under pressure to resign if Lee’s support falls below 31% in the final tally.
That number is based on the KMT candidate’s share of the vote in the 2014 election.
So, it is possible that Johnny Chiang’s fate–and that of the reforms he’s trying to enact in the KMT, and because of that possibly the future of the party–will depend on her meeting or beating that target.
Another number to watch is the support for Taiwan People’s Party candidate Gene Wu (吳益政).
The TPP is now the third most powerful party in the legislature, and is trying to become competitive with the two main parties.
While it is unlikely he’s going to win, and he’s no superstar candidate, their share of the vote will be illuminating about how much interest there is about a third party in Kaohsiung.
If he manages to surprise and to outpoll Jane Lee, then the pressure on Johnny Chiang will be even higher to resign.
Finally, the DPP is explicitly aiming to beat the turnout of nearly 940,000 votes that came out to vote in support for the recall of Han Kuo-yu.
If they get that, that would be a considerable mandate for both their candidate Chen Chi-mai, and the party as a whole.
If not, that would suggest that the recall was more about dislike of Han and/or the KMT than an indication of support for Chen and/or the DPP.
Screengrab of video courtesy of Johnny Chiang’s FB page