So, Chen Po-wei (aka 3Q), the only legislator from the Taiwan Statebuilding Party got sacked in a recall vote in the Taichung 2 electoral constituency.
This is the third of the so-called “revenge” recalls launched by the pan-blue camp following the successful recall of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.
Chen was very active in that recall campaign, and has clashed repeatedly with KMT lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan, so he was kind of an obvious target.
The campaign was launched by a guy who claimed he had voted for Chen initially, but was disappointed in him.
That sounds a bit dodgy, as his reasons sounded suspiciously deep blue, but who knows.
Whatever the truth of that, the KMT quickly got behind it, claiming that Chen had neglected his duties–which wasn’t true and the TSP sued Eric Chu over it–that he was a tyrant and a hegemon, that he was all kinds of things that mostly defied all logic, though they were right that does support legalizing marijuana.
Chen won his seat in the Taichung 2, which is along the west and southern portions of Taichung over incumbent Yen Kuan-hung of the KMT, and the scion of the powerful Yen family that dominates the Taichung Black Faction.
District 2 has long been a Black Faction stronghold, though some parts of it lay in Red Faction territory.
It was long held by the infamous Yen Ching-piao, who has served jail time multiple times for fun things like weapons possession and corruption over spending millions in NT$ of taxpayer money on KTVs and presumably the girls in them.
Being so notorious, he had to leave the KMT and join the Non-partisan Solidarity Union, which at the time–at least in this part of the country–was basically a holding tank for overly corrupt KMT politicians that everyone knew were KMT, but the party didn’t want to officially be associated with.
He also took over as the head of the Dajia Jenn Lann Matsu Temple, which is the one that organizes the famous pilgrimage, and politicians of all stripes from the president on down regularly visit to pray.
Of course he took up that position because of his piety, and not for any tax or monetary flow purposes at all, and don’t you dare think otherwise.
So, he lost his seat to go to jail again, which was famously such a overwhelming hardship that he was only allowed out to go to big, important banquets, not the middling ones.
He did, however, come out looking fit and slim, so good for him on making good use of his time.
In the by-election, his son Yen Kuan-hung won–but a detail that many people missed was that he won by a surprisingly small margin.
He won another term by a mediocre margin, but in 2020 the not well-known Kaohsiung-based Taiwan Statebuilding Party decided to send a moderately well-known Kaohsiunger to run in the district.
The DPP apparently shrugged, knowing it was tough district for them, and said “sure, have fun, we won’t bother to run our own guy”.
And he won, defeating the candidate of the once-mighty Black Faction on their home turf.
For the Yens that had to hurt.
Apparently Matsu didn’t come through that time.
Chen won by 1.2 percent, not a huge margin, but still a huge win for him and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party.
Chen got 112,839 votes compared to Yen’s 107,766.
That brings us back to the recall.
The yes votes numbered 77,899, and the no votes supporting Chen numbered 73,433.
Chen lost by 2 percent.
There is a lot to unpack here.
First, note that the number of yes votes were only about ¾ the number of votes that Yen got when he lost in 2020.
That says something about how low the bar is, but I’ve gone into that issue previously–suffice it to say it is too low.
Second was the shockingly high turnout at 51.72 percent.
No recent recall, including the one that successfully booted out Han in Kaohsiung, has gotten past the low 40s.
Why was this turnout so shockingly high?
No doubt some of it was genuine passion, Chen was a guy who ruffled feathers, rocked the boat, knocked over apple carts, ruffled apple boats with feathers, you name it.
Some loved him for him, and some hated him for it.
Probably the high turnout for him, and a good chunk of those who wanted him out, were because of that.
There is probably another factor here, though.
The traditional patronage factions, like the Black Faction, are all about the get-out-the-vote.
While the factions aren’t as powerful as they once were, no doubt this played a factor.
How much of a factor?
Who knows, but the abnormally high turnout suggests there was some of that going on.
Chen himself in an interview said that the polling suggested that the “yes” votes were going to get 40-50,000 votes–and yet got nearly 78,000.
How accurate his numbers are I don’t know, but they are interesting as no doubt he knew the polling as well as anyone.
If the turnout had been like the other recalls and had been in the low 40s, he would easily have survived as the yes vote wouldn’t have surpassed the necessary 25 percent threshold.
OK, so now what?
A by-election is to be held January 9, and Chen can’t run–he’s barred for running for legislature for four years.
The DPP has announced they are running former party-list legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), who is currently a gynecologist at a local hospital and a DPP “ambassador-at-large,” working on Taiwan’s international initiatives.
She was also previously the head of the DPP’s international affairs and women’s affairs departments.
And of course the KMT is running Yen Kuan-heng again.
Haha, just kidding…
Turns out the Yen clan is in disarray.
Yen Ching-piao has announced they’re thinking about it, and the KMT has announced the decision will be made no later than November 17.
So, what is going on here?
It appears no one knows for sure.
There is speculation that they are debating whether to run Yen Kuan-heng or his sister, vice city council speaker Yen Li-min (顏莉敏).
The theory being they may swap roles, with Yen Li-min running for legislature and Yen Kuan-heng running in the by-election for her city council seat.
Another theory has it that there is some sort of outside plot by the KMT itself against the Yen family, with Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen’s strange quietness on the whole affair sometimes being noted.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for the party to move to curb the local patronage factions, which often reflect badly on the party as a whole.
All of this is speculation, of course, but there is no doubt something strange is going on.
So this brings us to independent lawmaker Freddy Lim, who is the next to face a recall.
This is a recall that shouldn’t happen.
His Taipei Wanhua District constituency elected him back in 2016 when he was still with the New Power Party.
Now, keep in mind this guy is a flamboyant death metal rocker and deeply principled and ideological, not exactly your typical candidate.
Apparently they liked him, and re-elected him in 2020.
All of the recent recall votes, from Huang Kuo-chang to Han Kuo-yu to Chen Po-wei were all first term office holders.
Lim’s constituents had a chance to turf him out if they didn’t like him, but chose to re-affirm their support for him in 2020.
What purpose does this recall realistically serve?
Well, other than vindictive political theatre.
The worrying part is that the threshold is so low, the yes votes need to outnumber the no votes, and the yes votes need to exceed 25 percent of the registered voters.
In other words, far less people than voted for his opponents in the last two elections could vote him out.
That being said, he has some advantages that Chen Po-wei doesn’t.
That he has been tested and re-elected is a good sign for Lim, and he is a Taipei native unlike Chen in Taichung, even if he is from a different district.
The yes campaign also won’t have the advantage of a local patronage faction like the Taichung Black Faction to rely on for the get-out-the-vote.
Another factor, which is also overlooked, is that unlike Chen and the Taoyuan city councillor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) who was also successfully recalled, Lim is a nice guy.
Chen is very combative, and Wang was notorious for being vicious to people online, to the point that frankly he was a total dick, even going after the Kaohsiung City Council speaker after his suicide before his body was even cold.
One failed recall, against former New Power Party and now independent Kaohsiung city councillor Huang Jie, shows the power of niceness.
In spite of her gaining fame for grilling Han Kuo-yu in the city council, outside of that necessary part of her job she’s known for her care for her constituents and she’s never mean to anyone online, in spite of all the vitriol that has been hurled at her.
Lim is a similar sort of person, in spite of his death metal screaming on stage, he’s nice to everyone and would much rather engage in constructive conversation than launch vicious personal attacks or get in fights on the floor of the legislature.
That goes a long way, he’s simply hard to hate.
So, while it is certainly possible he may be recalled, the recall campaign is going to have a tough time getting enough people to get up off their asses and go vote to oust him.
Image courtesy of the FB page 3Qi.tw 陳柏惟