Recall fallout and the road ahead–Taiwan News Brief transcript

Coronavirus updates

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) will end its daily COVID-19 press briefings and instead give briefings once a week starting next week.
That likely means that soon I won’t be starting every show with coronavirus updates!

Business updates

The consumer price index (CPI) last month declined 1.19 percent from a year earlier, the fourth consecutive month of drops, as lower oil prices and recreational costs continued to offset increases in the prices of food and miscellaneous items.
Taiwan’s imports fell unexpectedly by 3.5% year on year in May after rising by 0.5%YoY a month ago, while exports contracted 2%YoY after the contraction of 1.3%YoY in April.

Subsidies updates

Taiwanese citizens will get subsidies for travel starting on July 1 through a stimulus package launched to boost the economy as the COVID-19 outbreak eases, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Monday.
From July 1 to Oct. 31, group tourists traveling within Taiwan will get NT$700 (US$23) per person per night at a hotel, while group travelers to the offshore counties of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu will get NT$1,200 per person per night.
Note that doesn’t cover non-citizen taxpayers and residents.
Separately, more news on the stimulus subsidies.
The Taiwan News is reporting that when Taiwan’s stimulus vouchers go into effect next month, residents of Taiwan will have the option of converting them to cash by using ATMs from three Taiwanese banks.
Taiwan citizens and foreigners with Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs) can pre-order the vouchers on July 1 and they will be issued on July 15.
This contradicts all other reporting recently, which specifies only foreign spouses will be eligible.
However, let’s hope this report is indeed correct.

Dajia Jenn Lann Matsu pilgrimage back on

Organizers of the Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage, the largest annual religious procession in Taiwan, said Monday that the event will be held this year from June 11-20, nearly three months later than the original date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, all participants in the procession will be required to wear masks at all times.
They also called for followers of Matsu to follow the procession online rather than in person this year.

Should office-holders resign if they run for another office?

In the wake of the successful recall vote of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the New Power Party’s (NPP) legislative caucus and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) have each proposed amending election laws to ban elected officials from simultaneously running as a candidate for another election.
The NPP’s proposed amendment targets all elected officials, while Lai’s is aimed only at elected government heads.
The most commonly heard complaint about Han was that soon after being elected Kaohsiung mayor, he started running for president.
Lai’s proposal, while more self-serving, makes more sense–lawmakers aren’t in session all the time, and have more time to campaign.
Also, no administration relies on them.
That being said, I’m against both proposals.
Being able to run for office is a basic right of a citizen, any citizen.
It’s also logically inconsistent–incumbent office holders run for re-election all the time, and their administrations rely on them.
In practice it is already quite common for politicians to resign their existing post if they campaign for another.
If they don’t they run a risk with voters, which this weekend’s recall vote has vividly demonstrated.

Post-recall suicide sparks protests and rally

I hope you checked out our Current Affairs Taiwan Han 666 Recall Special to get the rundown on the recall vote.
While we recording that show, news broke that Kaohsiung City Council speaker Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源)–a strong Han supporter–committed suicide, falling to his death from his residence.
Police aren’t confirming if the Han recall loss was the reason, but a UDN report translated on the official KMT website reported this:
“According to informed sources, the accident happened not long after Hsu felt downtrodden about the passage of recalling Kaohsiung City Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) earlier on the same day, telling his wife, “What is the meaning of being alive if there is no right or wrong in society?”
Hsu appears to have become something of a martyr to Han’s hardcore fan base.
Several protests broke out on Monday expressing displeasure with the recall, but also in mourning of Hsu.
Two of the protests targeted two DPP city council members–one in Taipei and the other in Taoyuan–who posted insensitive comments on Facebook about the suicide.
Both have since removed the posts and apologized.
Local news reports have confirmed that police have already given a permit to Han fans for a rally this Saturday, the 13th at 2:30 pm in front of the Presidential Palace in Taipei.
The theme is both opposition to the recall and to mourn the passing of Hsu.
Watch how many people show up.
It will be an interesting measure of Han’s continued support.

Political reactions to the Han recall

Within the first few hours of the recall results coming out, a quick scan of top headlines in a local media news aggregator showed three headlines speculating on Han running for KMT chair.
There was also a long TV news segment on it.
Another early report speculated on Han running for Taipei Mayor or “another major administration.”
I’m working on an article on Han’s response, and what it means, for Ketagalan Media, so I’ll go into that subject more after that piece comes out.
KMT Chair Johnny Chiang has been trying to juggle three competing messages.
One is the need to be humble, after all Kaohsiung voters delivered a serious rebuke to the party.
Conversely, he also needs to project some confidence and defend the competence of the party in order to rally the party for the coming by-election.
Third, he has to throw some red meat to Han’s fan base, which remains a force in the party.
He can’t afford to lose them.
In English on Twitter–in other words in a language and on a platform not widely used by Han fans–he posted this:
“Be humble to learn from every choice that people make. But being pessimistic is not an option. The KMT will continue to fight!”
However, CNA quoted him as saying:
“We are disappointed, and we condemn the ruling party’s use of the administration’s power to manipulate this recall. Such actions will retard Taiwan’s democratic progress and any cooperative efforts between the administration and the opposition to deal with the post-COVID-19 global situation.”
KMT Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) of New Taipei City implored the public and the media to give Han some space to think about the next move in his political career.
“I wish Han and his team all the best and hope they will continue to work hard, if given another chance to serve the country,” Hou said.
That is clearly pandering to the Han base.
Former KMT lawmaker Apollo Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖), a close friend of Han’s, said Han will remain “a major political asset to the KMT, and he has a role in its future development.”
I’m not sure I’d use the word asset, but he most likely will have a role in its future.
CNA also reported this:
“A KMT lawmaker, who asked not to be named, told CNA that Han is still the most competitive KMT candidate in any election, including the KMT chairmanship next May.”
That says a lot about the depth of their field.
I’ll have a lot more to say on this in coming days.

Speculation mounting on who will run in the by-election

It is looking like the by-election race in Kaohsiung will be dominated by the DPP and the KMT, unless a significant independent appears.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is also Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) chairman, yesterday said that his party does not have any plan to nominate a candidate for the by-election.
He realistically noted that the TPP might have a chance of winning if it runs a candidate for Kaohsiung city councilor, but it has little chance of winning in the city’s mayoral by-election.
New Power Party (NPP) Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said that his party would support a non-KMT candidate in the election, and if Chen represents the DPP he would likely win the NPP’s support.
The one party that I’d be curious if they run a candidate is the Taiwan Statebuilding Party, which is Kaohsiung-based, though their one national lawmaker represents a district in Taichung.
On the DPP side it is looking like they will run Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), the same guy who lost to Han in 2018.
He is a wooden candidate, but he’s fairly popular and is widely considered a knowledgeable, well-meaning wonk.
In a poll held five months after Han was elected, it showed that if the election were re-held then Chen would have won.
On Current Affairs Taiwan we talked about potential KMT candidates, so I won’t repeat that, but there have been some developments.
As I mentioned on CAT, I didn’t think KMT Chair Johnny Chiang was likely, and the KMT has now confirmed that he won’t.
According to a UDN report about the KMT’s plans translated on the KMT’s official website–which is very meta–they reported that the KMT Central Standing Committee would hold its regular weekly meeting in Kaohsiung, instead of Taipei in the runup to the election.
That’s a smart move by Chiang, it will help focus the mind on the task on hand.
Also in the report, it said that “party central” had decided the following:
“The KMT would field someone suitable from the local younger generation.
The party central has targeted a few suitable candidates.”
That’s also a smart move.
The party is desperately short of up-and-coming political stars with national recognition.
Whoever they pick, regardless of whether this person wins or loses, will gain national prominence.
These moves suggest Johnny Chiang is a smarter operator than previous chair Wu Den-yih, who almost certainly would have picked yet another geriatric man as reward for party loyalty.

Photo courtesy of the KMT Facebook page

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