Hung Hsiu-chu’s Problem with Mass Appeal

The KMT’s likely presidential candidate has no record of winning voters from across demographics or ideologies, which is precisely what she would have to do to win the presidency
Photo: United Daily News

When putative Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) received 13% of KMT party members’ votes in a failed campaign against Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) for the KMT chairmanship in 2007, that was a higher percentage than she’d ever received in a race. While she has been a legislator since 1990 and is undefeated in campaigns, she has never won a head-to-head race before.

In 1998, 2008, and 2012, Hung won office by getting her name on the party list, meaning that she obtained her seat because of the number of votes the KMT won nationally. In other words, she didn’t have to campaign personally. Her winning campaigns in 1989, 1992, 1995, 2001, and 2004 were all in multi-member districts, and her base was among deep-blue KMT supporters, particularly those from Yonghe, one of the nation’s “bluest” districts. She was especially appealing to women and feminists because almost all the other candidates, KMT and otherwise, were male.

In fairness, part of being a good partisan multi-member district legislator is dividing votes evenly with your fellow party members, so it would have been unseemly for Hung to win far more votes than her counterparts. However, if the party had thought Hung had mass appeal, it would have nominated her for a local or national executive election by now.

Hung is nevertheless currently winning the presidential nomination for the KMT unopposed, and there is good reason to believe that she was named deputy legislative speaker in order to balance out the light-blue, Taiwan-centrist standard-bearer Wang Jin-pyng (王金平). She simply has no record of winning voters from across demographics or ideologies, which is precisely what she will have to do to win the presidency. Perhaps she can do it, but she has never had to yet. For example, in her best year ever, 2004, her vote shares in the three greenest districts of her longtime constituency were 3.55% in Gongliao, 2.69% in Pinglin, and 3.86% in Shiding, far below her 10.80% for the electoral district as a whole.

Hung’s 1989 and 1992 election results aren’t in the Central Election Commission (CEC) database, but can be summarized as follows: She won a party nomination in 1989 after a hard-fought battle against her local chapter, succeeding by winning over party members and the media with her soaring oratory. In 1992, word has it that she won a hard-fought victory, a particularly strong challenger for her voters being future New Party leader Chao Shao-kang (趙少康). Chao is on the far right of the political spectrum, as his 1994 debate performance proves, and he is now a Taiwanese equivalent of Rush Limbaugh.

Below are Hung’s results from 1995, 2001, and 2004, gathered from the CEC. In 1995 Taipei County was a single district. In 2001 and 2004 it was split into three, and Hung ran in the southern one (No. 3), which includes some of the nation’s bluest districts. For reference, here is a simple color-map of New Taipei district results from the 2014 mayoral election.


Hung earned 3.50% of the vote (49,563 votes), good for 12th place out of 50. A total of 17 candidates won seats. The 17th got 3.08% of the vote; the 18th got 3.06% and was out of luck. Those two were both New Party men ironically.

Eight seats went to the KMT, four to the DPP, three to the New Party, and two to independents. The KMT and New Party combined for 55.3% of the vote, compared to 28.5% for the DPP.

Only four of the 50 candidates were women. The other woman elected was Chou Chuan (周荃) of the New Party with 5.0%. The two female losers were Chen Wan-chen (陳婉真) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with 2.67%, and independent Chu Lei (朱蕾) with 0.18%.

The KMT ran 13 candidates in this district but its only female candidate was Hung. She was 5th among KMT candidates; only eight won seats.

Hung’s support correlates with how blue the district is, and she was clearly strongest in Yonghe (12.5% in a very populated area — her 13,447 votes there are 27% of her total). However, she earned respectable averages across the map, befitting an incumbent with ideological rather than local-faction-based appeal. District by district, she won:

12.51% in Yonghe City, 3.88% in Zhonghe City, 3.64% in Tucheng City, 3.40% in Shimen Township, 3.28% in Tamsui Township, 3.23% in Banqiao, 3.23% in Shulin Township, 3.06% in Yingge Township, 3.02% in Wanli Township, 2.96% in Wulai Township.2.82% in Xindian City, 2.63% in Shenkeng Township, 2.57% in Ruifang Township, 2.32% in Sanzhi Township, 2.29% in Sanchong City, 2.29% in Sanxia Township, 2.15% in Taishan Township, 2.12% in Xinzhuang City, 2.10% in Jinshan Township, 2.04% in Bali Township, 1.99% in Linkou Township, 1.87% in Shiding Township, 1.72% in Pingxi Township, 1.61% in Luzhou City, 1.55% in Wugu Township, 1.24% in Xizhi Township, 1.17% in Pinglin Township, 1.06% in Shuangxi Township, 1.03% in Gongliao Township.


In the new, smaller district, Hung received 6.62%, or a total of 38,884 votes, good for 7th place out of 27. A total of nine candidates won seats; the lucky 9th was Lo Ming-tsai (羅明才) of the KMT with 5.93%, and the unlucky 10th-place finisher was Lu Hsueh-tu (呂學圖), also of the KMT, with 5.62%. If you put all three districts of the county into one pool, Hung finished 18th out of 69.

Three seats went to the DPP, three to the People First Party (PFP), two to the KMT, and one to an independent. The PFP, KMT, and New Party combined for 58.5% of the vote, compared to 32.1% for the DPP and TSU.

This time there were five female candidates out of the 27 total. They were, in order, Chou Ya-shu (周雅淑) of the DPP with 8.22%, Hung with 6.62%, Joanna Lei (雷倩) of the New Party with 5.56%, Chou Chuan (周荃), this time independent, with 1.21%, and independent Li Shu-wen (李淑文) with 0.11%. Thus, Hung was again the only KMT female candidate in this district.

The KMT ran only four candidates, and only two won; the other two just missed. Hung was the best performer among them; the other winner was Lo Ming-tsai.

Hung’s performance by district: 10.12% in Yonghe, 6.98% in Zhonghe, 5.67% in Xizhi, 4.91% in Shenkeng, 4.89% in Xindian, 4.12% in Ruifang, 2.95% in Pingxi, 2.33% in Gongliao, 2.24% in Shuangxi, 2.20% in Shiding, 2.12% in Wulai, 1.60% in Pinglin.


Hung got 10.80% of the vote, with 57,389 votes, good for 2nd out of 20, her best-ever result. She lost only to Joanna Lei (雷倩), now of the KMT, who earned 13.64%. Again there were nine winners. The lucky 9th was Chen Chao-lung (陳朝龍) of the DPP with 6.72%. The unlucky 10th was the PFP’s Cheng San-yuan (鄭三元) with 5.89%. If you put all the districts in the county into one pool, Hung finished 3rd out of 53.

Four seats went to the KMT, three to the DPP, and two to the PFP. The KMT and PFP combined for 63.4% of the vote, compared to 35.9% for the PFP and TSU.

Among the 20 candidates, four were women: in order, Lei, Hung, the DPP’s Chou Ya-shu (周雅淑) with 5.67% (just short), and independent Su Hui-chen (蘇惠珍).

Again the KMT ran only four candidates, but they all won this time. They were, in order: Lei with 13.64%, Hung with 10.80%, Lo with 8.54%, and Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) with 8.31%.

By district, Hung’s vote totals were: 14.45% in Yonghe, 12.13% in Xizhi, 10.61% in Zhonghe, 8.95% in Xindian, 8.74% in Shenkeng, 8.54% in Ruifang, 5.84% in Pingxi, 5.29% in Shuangxi, 4.39% in Wulai, 3.86% in Shiding, 3.55% in Gongliao, and 2.69% in Pinglin.

By now you may be curious whom the KMT ran in Hung’s old districts in 2008 and 2012 while keeping her on the party list, itself a sign the party didn’t think she was the best choice for head-to-head races. Taipei County 3 was split into Taipei County 8-9 and 11-12 (New Taipei City in 2012), though #12 had some districts Hung hadn’t seen in a while:


#8, most of Zhonghe: Chang Ching-chung (59.6% of the vote)
#9, Yonghe and the rest of Zhonghe: Lin Teh-fu (林德福) (69.6% of the vote).
#11, Xindian, Shenkeng, Shiding, Pinglin, Wulai: Lo Ming-tsai (羅明才) (69.7% of the vote)
#12, Jinshan, Wanli, Xizhi, Pingxi, Ruifang, Shuangxi, Gongliao: Li Ching-hua (李慶華) (52% of the vote)


#8: Chang Ching-chung, 48.2%
#9: Lin Teh-fu, 48.8%. Hung’s old rival Joanna Lei ran here as an independent and got 23.3%.
#11: Lo Ming-tsai, 66.6%
#12: Li Ching-hua: 42.1%. Blue gangster Lo Fu-chu (羅福助) ran as an independent here and received 21.1%.

The four KMT candidates all won these districts every time. All four representatives are men.

The district where Hung would have run is #9. Instead the party chose Lin Teh-fu. Like Hung, Lin had won elections there in 2001 and 2004. In 2001 he got 7.62% of the vote and in 2004, he got 7.76%. Both times Lin was a PFP candidate. So the KMT brought Lin into the party and gave him this seat in order to prevent a race between him and Hung that would have split the blue vote. It helped that Lin’s support base was far more concentrated in Yonghe than Hung’s: he got 21.21% of the vote there in 2001, doubling her, and 19.35% of the vote there in 2004, 34% more votes than her.

In the coming presidential election, Hung’s chief rival, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), is also a woman, partially neutralizing the uniqueness of Hung’s appeal during her legislative days. Even more importantly, Tsai, unlike Hung, is a veteran of big executive races where she had to appeal to a broad swathe of voters, including many with different ideological beliefs and personal backgrounds than her. In 2010, Tsai ran for New Taipei City mayor against former Taoyuan county commissioner Eric Chu (朱立倫), losing 52.6% to 47.4%, and in 2012 she faced incumbent Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the presidency, losing 51.6% to 45.6%, with 2.8% going to James Soong (宋楚瑜). Each time her opponent was more famous and heralded, but Tsai still performed relatively well. On top of that, having already served two stints as DPP chair, Tsai has had to work hard to close the party’s infamous factional rifts while overseeing legislative campaigns all over the nation and being the face of the party for years.

To perform her political duties well, Tsai has had to bring people together and find the nation’s political center. In contrast, Hung has made her career on being an ideologue. That will not work in this election, with surveys showing this is the most unfavorable ideological climate ever for the KMT and that Hung’s natural voter base is shrinking. One hopes for the party’s sake that its presumed candidate is a fast learner!


The author is an American translator based in Taipei.

One Response to “Hung Hsiu-chu’s Problem with Mass Appeal”

July 30, 2015 at 12:12 am, Kharis Templeman said:

I agree with the overall thesis here, but the inference from election returns is misleading–especially the focus on Hung’s vote-total “rank” out of all candidates. Hung’s vote shares in LY races don’t indicate her overall appeal because of the KMT’s vote-distribution system. Also, Hung running on the party list is not “a sign the party didn’t think she was the best choice for head-to-head races,” it’s a reward for not being a trouble-maker and toeing the party line.


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