Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu will find out tomorrow what becomes of his mayorship – his political career, even – in a recall vote.
Mr Han has faced a recall before: he was one of four Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers whom Taipei residents voted to recall for supporting the construction of the island’s fourth nuclear power plant. All four motions were unsuccessful.
Taiwan’s track record for recall elections might indicate a positive outcome for Mr Han, because no legislator, municipal mayor or county magistrate has ever been removed from position since Taiwanese citizens could vote in recall votes starting 1975.
But this time, a good number of people seem to have changed their minds about Mr Han.
“His decision to run for president really turned off a lot of voters in Kaohsiung. Before the presidential election, there was a vast amount of anti-Han sentiment in Kaohsiung,” said Professor Shelley Rigger, the Brown Professor of East Asian Politics at Davidson College in the US.
The Covid-19 outbreak appeared to have successfully diverted the attention from Mr Han at first, but “it’s looking pretty likely that he will be recalled”, said Prof Rigger.
“(The outbreak) is so well controlled in Taiwan, the voter turnout might just be high enough to have a valid result – then it’s very likely to go against him.” She predicts it would be unlikely that the KMT would continue championing Mr Han for future elections should he lose his seat.
A simple majority is needed to pass a recall motion in Taiwan, with a voter turnout of at least 25 per cent required for the vote to be valid. There are 2,299,981 eligible voters in Kaohsiung.
The recall effort has so far been spearheaded by WeCare Kaohsiung, a civilian group that collected the signatures needed for Mr Han’s recall petition to be approved.
According to the group, the citizens are pushing to remove the Kuomintang mayor primarily because he had abandoned the city he promised to serve, after barely a year in office, to run for president.
Mr Han was also accused of failing to deliver on his campaign promises to make improvements in Kaohsiung. “There are hardly any Taiwanese politicians who can keep 100 per cent of their promises, but Han Kuo-yu must be the first in the Republic of China’s history to break all of his promises,” said WeCare Kaohsiung founder Aaron Yin on Wednesday.
On May 5, however, Mr Han released a statement listing some 15 goals his administration has achieved, including pushing for investment to increase jobs in Kaohsiung and boosting the tourism industry in the city.