Under some trees behind a toilet block a few makeshift tables worth of older local men were avidly playing a popular local card game Da Lao Er (Big 2), “betting” with go chips and enjoying a cigarette or two out of the way of any families that might feel inclined to report them for breaking the no smoking policy.
We asked the elderly men what they thought of their mayor, Han Kuo-yu 韓國瑜, who may become Taiwan’s first mayor to face a recall vote.
“Ba mian!” [Recall!] announced Xiao Qi. The rest of the players at his table quickly chimed in in agreement. “We’ve all signed the recall petition,” they declared. “Tai lan le!” (He’s rubbish!) added Xiao Qi. Everyone nodded. “We hate him!”
Han’s mayoral tenure, however, quickly became mired in controversy as the projects he had promised saw little to no progress. This was compounded when, just six months after taking office, Han was officially nominated as the presidential candidate for the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), despite having assured Kaohsiung citizens that he would not run.
Robert, 67, gave a more nuanced picture, being careful to speak in English. “If you ask around here, it’s quite a Taiwanese area. But there are two sides to this,” he said. “Some people around here voted for him for mayor. But once Han upped and left and went to run for president, they didn’t approve of that. So that was his mistake.”
Over on the other side of the park Xiao Ming, 45, was relaxing on a bench with her 67-year-old mother. Xiao Ming, who works in the computer industry, said she supports Han. “I think he’s an earnest and serious politician,” she said. “He’s doing a really good job.”
Both Xiao Ming and her mother believe that Han is performing well, is suited to being mayor and has kept his promises, especially in terms of infrastructure in the city. Indeed, Han has highlighted his focus on issues such as fixing potholes and improving street lighting.
Xiao Ming’s mother, eyes sparkling above her facemask, was dismissive of the recall effort. “Some people are being so boring!” she said. “They want to recall Han! Han is very selfless and really thinks about us citizens. Clear-sighted people can see that he is the right mayor for Kaohsiung.”
“We support Han because we have clear minds,” she continued. “But the other people … their minds are not so clear. He is working through the promises he made one-by-one.”
She added that all her friends support Han: “We all see him as someone who represents our voice.”
According to Article 83 of the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, the election commission must assess the validity of the recall petitions within 40 days of submission. While WeCare initiator Aaron Yin 尹立 has expressed misgivings about the neutrality of the Kaohsiung Election Commission which is headed up by Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Chen Hsiung-wen 陳雄文, should the threshold for valid petitions not be met, a 10-day grace period may be granted to obtain further petitions.
If the recall is established, Han is legally entitled to a 10-day period to present a statement of defense, after which the election commission has five days to set a date for a recall vote. At least 25% of the electorate, or around 570,000 people, must vote in the recall for it to be valid, and a simple majority must vote in favor of the recall motion for it to pass.
Results must be announced within seven days and if Han is recalled he must step down on the day the result is made public. Although there is a possibility of launching a recall lawsuit in the case of alleged mishandling of the recall by the election commission, this is unlikely as Han’s deputy mayor heads up the Kaohsiung election commission. If the recall is unchallenged, a by-election must be held within three months.
Should Han be subject to a recall vote, even if he resigns before it takes place, he will be legally barred from being a candidate for a similar level civil servant position for four years. However, should the recall fail to meet the 25% threshold, or a simple majority vote against the recall, no further recall action may be proposed against him for the remainder of his term in office.
Read full report by Cat Thomas: