Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-Yu Loses Recall Vote: CNA

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Bloomberg

6th June 2020 – (Kaohsiung) Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City Mayor Han Kuo-yu lost a vote to remove him from office Saturday, Central News Agency reported.

More than 37% of the 2.3 million citizens eligible to agreed to recall Han after 18 months in position, while 1% voted against it, according to CNA reports. Han conceded defeat in a TV broadcast.

Civil groups initiated the campaign to oust Han after he accepted the opposition Kuomintang’s nomination to run in the presidential election just months after being elected mayor in November 2018, breaking a previous promise he would see out his four-year term. He has been mayor of the city for 18 months.

Han suffered a landslide defeat to President Tsai Ing-wen in January’s presidential election.

Han’s removal ended a political career that in 18 months saw him emerge from relative anonymity to compete for Taiwan’s highest office before having to fight for his position as mayor. For the recall to succeed, a simple majority needs to back his ouster, with more than a quarter of the city’s 2.3 million eligible voters turning out to polling stations. It would make him Taiwan’s first city mayor to be recalled.

Early last year, Han was riding high. His unlikely victory in the race for mayor of Kaohsiung — Taiwan’s third-largest city — made him a top contender for the 2020 presidential election. A straight-talking, no-nonsense political outsider who put the economic needs of Kaohsiung’s blue-collar workers and farmers first, he pledged to boost the city’s economy by attracting more Chinese tourists and selling more agricultural produce across the strait.

His more ambitious plans included persuading Walt Disney Co. to build a theme park and Formula One to host a grand prix race in the city.

His grandiose goals, unrefined, populist rhetoric and his background in business rather than politics led to comparisons with President Trump. Han’s willingness to accede to Beijing’s conditions for direct talks, including accepting the notion that Taiwan is part of China, set him apart from President Tsai, who views the island as a sovereign state.

Han’s fortunes began to change after a controversial closed-door meeting with China’s powerful Liaison Office in Hong Kong, the first time an elected official had stepped foot in the office. His slide in popularity was exacerbated by his initial response to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests last June when he claimed — to widespread incredulity in Taiwan — to not know much about them.

Tsai, meanwhile, made vocal support for Hong Kong’s protesters a key pillar of her ultimately successful re-election campaign.

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