Chen Po-wei, the sole elected member of the pro-independence Taiwan Statebuilding Party, was recalled from office today. Chen, who represents Taichung’s second electoral district, conceded in a speech this evening. With all voting stations reporting, votes to recall stood at 77,899, while votes disagreeing with the motion to recall stood at 73,433.

The recall is the second successful campaign of its kind this year, following former Taoyuan City Council member of the governing DPP Wang Hao-yu’s removal from office in January. A similar campaign failed against independent Kaohsiung City Council member Huang Jie.

As Brian Hioe and Lev Nachman have pointed out, the rise of recall campaigns arose as a strategy from post-Sunflower movement activists in Taiwan, with the goal of removing entrenched Kuomintang (KMT) politicians. The reforms were enacted after DPP President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, lowering the various thresholds to propose a recall, advance to a vote, and pass.

The opening up of recall campaigns has not gone as expected for the pan-Green camp. The first recall campaign was directed at Huang Kuo-chang, The ouster of Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu in June 2020, the KMT officeholder with the highest profile at the time, was a notable success. But Han, who ran for president against Tsai in 2020, did not precisely fit the mold of the kind of politician the recall reforms were designed for, having been elected mayor less than two years prior. Regardless, his decision to campaign for president soon after becoming mayor left him vulnerable in his home electorate, and he was removed in a landslide.

“Revenge” recall campaigns have been embraced by the pan-Blue forces after Han’s fall, targeting younger pan-Green politicians seen as outspoken on Taiwanese nationhood, perceived to be disconnected from local, kitchen table matters.

Chen was thus an ideal target for such an effort. A former movie producer, Chen is media savvy and has made waves throughout his term as a legislator with proposals to invite Hong Kongers to enlist in the army as a pathway to citizenship, and reforming the name and structure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Most recently, he dominated the political talk shows by speaking Taiwanese Hokkien at a question session in the Legislative Yuan with the Minister of National Defense, Chiu Kuo-cheng, necessitating simultaneous translation and visibly angering Chiu at what he viewed as a stunt. In Taiwan’s parliament, these sessions in general have been conducted entirely in Mandarin.

The KMT also seized on Chen’s support for lifting import restrictions on pork from the United States, an issue highlighted by the KMT’s recently elected chair Eric Chu at a rally before the election.

By law, a by-election that Chen is prohibited from participating will be held within three months.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)