Han Kuo-yu’s Last-Ditch Gambit Against Recall Election

Han Kuo-yu’s Last-Ditch Gambit Against Recall Election
Photo Credit: Reuters/ TPG Images
What you need to know

Han Kuo-yu faces a recall election on June 6. His play is to heighten contradictions, forcing voters to choose a side.

Kaohsiung will decide on June 6 whether to recall its mayor Han Kuo-yu, the former presidential candidate for the Kuomintang (KMT). This will be the first municipal recall election in Taiwan’s history. Han’s legal team has filed a lawsuit against the recall motion, but there are not any plans to delay the referendum.

Civil society groups leading the recall movement’s main contention is that Han neglected his duties as Kaohsiung for long stretches to campaign for president in 2019.

According to current legislation for recalling politicians in office, at least a quarter of the voting population has to cast a vote in favor of proceeding with the recall motion, and that vote count must surpass that of votes against the motion.

Kaohsiung has a voting population of around 2.29 million, which means at least 574,890 voters have to cast their “agree” ballot on election day.

Recent polls from Apple Daily show that 65 percent of Kaohsiung voters agree with the recall. But Han’s office is not simply sitting back to watch its world burn.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG Images
Supporters of ppposition Nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu celebrate as Han won from local elections, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan November 24, 2018.
The only way to ignite another Han wave is to remind Kaohsiung residents of 2018

The opposition to Han has well-reasoned arguments on its side, including Han’s failed promise of economic growth, the failure of the “Love Ferris Wheel” Port of Kaohsiung redevelopment plan, among others.

The only way Han’s office can save his mayoral position now is to rally his loyal Han fans to cast a larger number of votes opposing the recall.

And to achieve this goal effectively, Han would have to remind Kaohsiung people of the DPP in 2018 by inciting their anti-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sentiment again.

What are the objects of their scorn? In the words of Han fans, these are “tyrannical governance, countless corruption cases, and taking Kaohsiung for granted.”

These grievances were less apparent because the outstanding Covid-19 prevention efforts have earned public approval. However, it may be easier to arouse grassroots anti-DPP sentiment again as complaints about the inefficiency of the economic recovery package start piling up.

Kaohsiung legislators have also questioned some of the administration’s rumored Cabinet appointments. Chen Chu (陳菊), who might head Taiwan’s government watchdog agency Control Yuan, had over a hundred corruption cases related to her underlings while she was the Kaohsiung Mayor. Some of the cases are still under investigation by the Control Yuan.

The controversy over Chen is only one of the examples that Han can use to remind Kaohsiung residents of the disappointment they felt towards the DPP in 2018.

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Photo Credit: CNA
Han Kuo-yu rally, September 8, 2019
The louder the anti-Han groups are, the less chance Han will get recalled

Han’s gambit is to convince the citizens of Kaohsiung that the ruling DPP stands for chaos.

His strategy is to let the recall groups heighten their rhetoric and scolding to a fever pitch, to the point at which it becomes unpalatable to the average voter. Let the Han voters be reminded of the distaste they felt in 2018.

In the last few weeks leading to the recall voting day, the louder the anti-Han groups are, the more they can convince the undecided voters to stay home and encourage the pro-Han voters to get out and vote against the recall.

Taiwan’s liberals seem to be the loudest voice within their echo chamber, but we shall never underestimate the influence of the “grassroots Taiwanese” who value “stability.” It was exactly those people who were part of the unstoppable Han wave.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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