Saturday, February 16, 2008

2008 Legislative Election Observation Trip--Day 2

Day 2--1/12
  • 9:45
We teamed up in groups of two, with Professor Phillips and I heading for one of the polling booths in North District, which was nearby my Tainan home, while Professor Dittmer and Wei-Chia headed for the polling booth close to his house in An-nan district.

Before arriving at the polling booth, which was a few minutes walk from my house, I thought it would be nice to stop by and introduce Professor Phillips to my parents. They got to know each other and had a wonderful conversation. My parents were curious of the reason why Professor Phillips picked China studies as one of his concentrations; they were also interested in knowing what he was expecting to observe on this trip.

Professor Phillips told us there were no Asians where he grew up, but he simply just picked the field and started to learn Chinese in undergraduate school. THAT was pretty cool! He also told us foreign scholars participate in election observation trips for a few reasons: One, to observe the legitimacy of the election or the government. Second, to get a closer look at the progress and outcome. Specifically, because we were using a whole new voting system, the two-vote system, they were interested in its' effect. In addition, he also told us that scholars usually don't accept continuous observation sponsorship invitations from the same party. In the case of Taiwan, they alternative between both sides, namely green coalition and blue coalition, to avoid being tagged as a "green" or 'blue" scholar. I think our whole family learned a lot from that conversation.

My parents also contributed to the observation trip by giving Professor Phillips one of the government issued election brochure, which has the names of the candidate, party, and candidate or party platforms. We did some quick research with it and it was quite useful.

By the way, I need to make an apology and clarification because I found out later on that apparently Chu-Yu Soong(Chinese link), the representative for the Hakka party, wasn't James Soong--even though they had exactly the same Chinese characters. Well, kind of misunderstood you here, Mr. Soong!

  • 10:30
After a short walk, we arrived at the polling booth. Cell phones and photos weren't allowed, so I can't show any pictures here. I planned on asking the polling officials to let Professor Phillips have a closer look, but since they rejected, my dad and I went inside to cast our votes while Professor Phillips and my mom stayed outside to watch--they got to ask the booth policeman a few question instead. In the end, we got our chance to have a sneek peek on the inside from the exit, so Professor Phillips could have at least a clue of the process.

From my experience, the table where you get your legislative vote and the table where you get your referendum vote were directly next to each other. In addition, people in line in front and behind of me all took referendum votes. This is completely different from what I eventually heard from my friends in Taipei. They said the tables were far from each other, namely, situated across the the room at different corners, and no one would remind you to get your referendum vote. I think this contributes a lot to the results of the referendum.

  • 11:30
After voting, all we could do was to wait for the results, so we went to An-Ping to meet with the others and have lunch.

An-Ping is an old harbor full of historical sites and delicious food(Here are some examples from the link. Starting from the top, shrimp rolls, marinated pork with rice, Dan-zai noodles, fish meatballs and shrimp meatballs soup, milkfish belly soup). They all taste great, but we didn't get to try them. But we got oyster omelets and shrimp omelets instead, which is also quite famous. Anyways, from all the food mentioned above, you can figure out that An-Ping is famous for seafood, especially shrimp and oyster.

By the way, although it was January, my guess was that the temperature was at least 30 degrees Celsius, so Professor and I got some shaved ice. This also reminds me of the preserved fruit that they sell at the "old street." Well, we had a tight schedule, so maybe next time!

Next, we took a tour around An-Ping Fort, which was built by the Dutch in 1624. Here's some pictures.

We were trying to find someone who would take a picture for us.

Professor Dittmer and Wei-Chia studying the history.

A picture of the old cannons--rebuilt models, not the original ones

After that, we went to see the An-Ping Tree House, which use to be a warehouse that stores salt for the Japanese. Eventually, the warehouse broke down and banyan trees grew on top of it. It was redesigned during the time I was studying in Taipei, and I haven't gotten to see it yet. Friends told me it was great for sight seeing--and for dating, too! Here's some excellent photos of it from another blog. And below are the photos we took walking through it.

Professor Phillips took a picture of me... and Professor Dittmer!

My secret photo shoot of Professor Phillips!

... and Professor Dittmer!

  • 15:00
We were tired after all the site seeing under the hot, baking sun, and still had to wait until 16:00, which is the time voting booths start to count votes. So we went to Noah's ark for tea time and to kill some time.

We talked a little bit about our plans for the future, and a little more about the US presidential elections. We also tried to do some predictions on the results of the legislative elections. On the number of DPP seats, Professor Phillips guessed something closer to forty; Wei-Chia and I guessed forty to fifty, with me closer to fifty; Professor Dittmer was pretty optimistic and predicted a number in the early fifties. What would shock us later on was that we were all too optimistic! But right now, I'm going to save the results for the end.

In the case of electoral district redistribution, we all suspected some sort of gerrymandering. Geographically, the way Tainan electoral districts were distributed was awkward--although population distribution was quite even compared to other cities, with 378,000 vs 376,000. The Middle district and West district, which traditionally leans toward "blue" coalition because the population is constituted mostly by civil servants and veterans, were combined and included with the North and An-Nan district. This makes the First district(North, An-Nan, and Middle-West, ) more likely for KMT to win and the Second district(East, South, An-Ping) more likely for DPP to win. Whether this was a compromise made between both coalition requires further district tendency analysis.

  • 16:00
We visited two vote counting booths in the East district. Both were situated near public housing, which is normally residence for veterans and their family, thus tend to vote for the KMT.

At the booth, there were representatives sent by both parties to supervise the process. While we were watching the counting, Professor Phillips did some quick predictions of the total amount of votes --by timing votes counted per minute multiplied by predicted counting time--and came up with approximately 1,200, which was pretty accurate. Wow, learned something here!

The first booth had Su-Po Kao (KMT) in first place when we left, and the second booth came up with him winning also, which was expected. We didn't see the first booth's results for the party vote, but the second booth also, as expected, came up with KMT winning.

Then we decide to see the election from another side of view, so we visited Su-Po Kao's opponent, DPP candidate, Ching-Te Lai's campaign HQ.

Outside the HQ, they were having this little vote-counting activity. Every once in a while, some booth would turn in their results, the host would then announce it, and if Lai won, even by the slightest votes, the crowd would explode in applause. See below:

Vote-counting activity for Lai supporters.

A closer view of the counting update.

A inside view of the HQ, with Lai's picture on the background.

Professors with DPP city counciler, Tsung-Yen Chen.

  • 18:00
The professors had other plans for Sunday, so we took them to the bullet train station.

On the way, Professor Phillips joked around and said that we should give a reward to the person who most accurately predicted the result, and a penalty to the person who was way off. Fortunately, Wei-Chia and I picked a "safe" prediction, which was right in between both professors. And as later results showed, KMT grabbed 81 seats, while DPP could only manage 27. Therefore, I think I can formally declare Professor Phillips winning the bet!

Concluding my personal observations of the whole election, I think the DPP lost due to a few reasons(reasons other than that the DPP has been ruling for 8 years). First, they weren't solitary enough. They should of won a lot more in the south, but because of party fractions, they couldn't unite and play their "rally game," which they were so good at. Instead, the KMT made some improvements in rallying techniques. This, adding that they were so solitary compared to the DPP, helped the KMT gain a lot of ground in the south. The intense competition in Tainan is a great example because the KMT has never come so close despite losing.

Second, I'm still quite suspicious of the electoral district redistribution. As results turn out, the KMT got 51% of the party vote and the DPP got 37%. Either some of the voters voted for the DPP and didn't vote for their candidates or somehow the seats couldn't reflect the votes.

Both conclusions are equally interesting. I did find a few people that resulted in the former condition--voting simply for someone that could get things done or personal preference--but they were really a few. This then points to the latter condition. Without further research, I really can't be sure. It might not be gerrymandering in all electoral redistributions, but there might be in some. But again, without further statistics, I can't be sure which is true or has a greater effect.

I guess this observation trip is officially at it's end, and I want to thank all the people who has contributed to it. I also welcome further comments, especially if you have findings or explanations for the results of the election.

1 comment:

Chih-Hsiang Liao said...

Wow! That's a lot. It must take you the whole day to finish Day 2.