In 2018, Han Guo-yu (“Korea Fish”) of the Kuomintang (KMT) prty won the mayoral race in Kaohsiung. The south has traditionally been the KMT’s stronghold, their presidential candidates from there. After Terry Guo (owner of Foxconn) was forced to withdraw from the federal election for January 2020, Han became the KMT’s golden boy for those who want reunification with China.
In early 2019, Tsai Ing-wen (“vegetable English”) looked like a final year president, ready to lose gracefully. Then Hong Kong happened, and attitudes changed. What looked like an easy return to power for the KMT became an uphill slog. Worse yet, Han’s campaign was plagued by his own and his party’s blunders (e.g. openly referencing the 921 earthquake). Tsai ended up winning the election handily (56% in a three way race), and her currently approval rating is in the 70-75% range, a reflection of how the government has handled COVID-19 and the economy.
Along the way, Han forgot to do something very important: his job. In his year long campaign for the presidency, he largely neglected his duties as mayor of Kaohsiung. Residents were so upset that a recall campaign began. (There were also claims of corruption and incompetence by his office, but I don’t have the full details.)
The recall vote happened on Saturday night, June 6th. For the recall to succeed, as least 25% of registered voters (575,000) would have to cast a recall ballot. Nearly a million votes were submitted. Han was elected with 890,000 votes in 2018, in a two way battle. Over 939,000 voters on Saturday chose to get rid of him, the highest ever recall turnout in Taiwan. Only 25,000 supported him.
A total of 42 percent, far more than the required minimum 25 percent of eligible voters (574,996 people), showed up to cast a valid ballot, and the final number of votes agreeing with the recall motion exceeded the number of those opposed by 939,090 to 25,051, CNA reported. Never before has such a high elected government official been targeted by a recall vote.
In November 2018, Han received about 890,000 votes to make him mayor, fewer than the number of votes kicking him out of office Saturday. The complete turnaround in public support followed his failure to turn grandiose promises into real achievements, reports said. Several of his projects, including a Ferris wheel and a United States-backed amusement park, never materialized.
More below the fold.
This was a hopeful story all day Saturday, and people celebrated at sunset when the first totals came in. It should have been a happy ending (e.g. people’s jokes about “canned fish”). Instead, the weekend turned to tragedy and the country in mourning.
Hsu Kun-yuan, age 63, was a longtime Kaohsiung city council KMT member and supporter of Han. Within two hours of the vote and Han’s concession speech, Hsu died by suicide, jumping from his apartment balcony. He said nothing to his wife who only found out when police came to the door.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Kaohsiung City Council-Speaker Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源) jumped from his apartment Saturday evening (June 6) two hours after Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) admitted defeated in a recall election.
Media reported that Hsu, 63, committed suicide at 8:45 p.m. at his building and was soon pronounced dead.
[. . .]
Despite being ill before the recall vote, the KMT council speaker managed to record a two-minute video expressing his strong support for Han, citing his good leadership and management.
Both the KMT and ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP) accused the other of tampering in the recall vote. The KMT accused the DPP of scheduling more trains to allow more voters to travel to Kaohsiung. (Voter registration and voting districts in Taiwan requires its own explanation.) The DPP accused the KMT of employing Taiwan’s criminal gangs to intimidate voters.
Han’s plan to save his job was to tell people not to vote. If the 25% minimum wasn’t met, he would not be recalled.
Al Jazeera, June 1: Taiwan recall vote brings new problems for pro-China Kuomintang
Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu faces June 6 recall after being accused of neglecting his duties when he ran for president.
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Taipei Times, May 27: DPP slams KMT on recall vote boycott
ZERO TOLERANCE: National Police Agency Director-General Chen Ja-chin said that he ordered Kaohsiung police to investigate reports of planned voter intimidation