According to the Central Election Commission, a motion to recall Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟 also known as 3Q) of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party has been approved, and a vote has been tentatively scheduled for Aug. 28.
This is the third so-called “revenge recalls” launched by supporters of the recalled former mayor of Kaohsiung Dan Han Kuo-yu.
So far, they have won one and lost one–but both were of city councillors.
This is a far bigger fish.
Focus Taiwan included this gem of a sentence to describe him:
“Since taking office, Chen has gained a reputation for being vocal on hot-button issues related to Taiwanese identity and national sovereignty.”
That’s putting it mildly, he most famously tried to once fight off a whole group of KMT lawmakers single-handedly.
He’s also been willing to take stances on unpopular issues, such as supporting legalizing marijuana.
In 2020 he won against then-incumbent Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆) of the KMT’s Black Faction (and yes the guy who lost 10 kg), and son of repeatedly jailed Yen Ching-piao.
Unlike most, I wasn’t terribly surprised when Chen won–Yen’s two margins of victory in the by-election that got him in, and in the 2016 election weren’t high, and 2020 was a year of support for Taiwan in the face of bullying from China.
In order for the recall vote to be successful, it must gain the support of at least 25 percent of eligible voters–72,781 in Chen’s case–and 50 percent of the ballots cast.
In spite of Chen’s recall being held on Aug. 28, citing the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak’s impact on preparations for a national vote on four referendum questions scheduled for Aug. 28, the CEC moved the voting day back to Dec. 18.
Apparently recalls have to be held within 60 days of certification, which explains the discrepancy.
Taiwan News succinctly summarizes them: “the four referendum questions deal with allowing plebiscites to be held on the same date as general elections, the legalization of the import of pork containing residues of the leanness drug ractopamine, the revival of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City, and the protection of a coastal algal reef in Taoyuan City against plans for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving station.”
Of course the KMT insinuated that the DPP was playing political games with the referendums by changing the date, which seems odd as the KMT itself delayed their own chair race indefinitely for the same reason.
And it is unclear which side this will benefit.
For the KMT, it offers more time to make their case.
Plus, the turnout could be higher in the cooler December than in the sweltering August heat.
Polling suggests that the majority of voters will vote the way DPP opponents want them to–but they’re going to struggle to get high enough turnout for them to pass.
On the other hand, this also gives the DPP more time to make their case.
Plus, on the ractopamine case, if Taiwan makes more progress on US relations–especially trade–it may bolster the DPP’s hand.
However, much of the progress on trade won’t likely happen then: Taiwan and the US just held their 11th Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council meeting, and it would be unprecedented to hold more than one in a single year.
Though, if they did, it would be a strong show of support from the Biden administration.
All this talk of voting has revived the issue of absentee voting.
Taiwan currently doesn’t have an absentee voting system, meaning voters must cast their ballots in person in the areas where their households are registered.
That can be a major and expensive hassle to people who have moved to another part of the country or overseas without changing their household registrations.
Youth, in particular, tend to be working or studying away from where they are registered.
The KMT is pushing hard on this, and without giving much detail, Focus Taiwan states that both the New Power Party (NPP) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) are also pushing for absentee balloting–but I would bet the NPP’s ideas are quite different than the KMT’s on the issue.
However, the shock sentence in the Focus Taiwan article was this: “The Cabinet is reviewing a draft absentee voting bill and will send it to the Legislature after its summer recess, said (an) Executive Yuan spokesman.”
I am extremely curious as to what their proposal will be, because the implications of whatever it is could be huge.
There are two big complications with absentee voting as regards to Taiwan.
If they open up a system for absentee voting within Taiwan that uses an online system, that would open it up for potential hacking by the PRC.
To get around that, presumably they can use paper ballots that are mailed, which would be harder to interfere with.
If they can come up with a secure voting system within Taiwan for this, it would most likely benefit the DPP somewhat, as younger voters tend to vote for them.
The bigger worry is absentee voting from overseas.
Both the diaspora in China and overseas is widely assumed to be more pan-blue than the local population.
This is especially true of those in China, as many have business interests and family ties there–and may be stuck in the PRC’s propagandistic media bubble.
In fact, Chinese airlines offer discounts to Taiwanese around elections because the Chinese government assumes this to be true.
The problem is, if people can vote from China, what is to stop the government there from requiring Taiwanese to show their ballot before mailing it?
Larger companies in China are required to have Communist Party cells, and no doubt they would be active on this.
Plus, the government there has all the tools it needs to manipulate Taiwanese into doing their bidding–and would no doubt use it on a mass scale.
So what will the Executive Yuan’s proposal include?
My guess is it will be limited to voters inside Taiwan, and won’t include overseas voters.
If they do allow overseas voters, it will probably exclude China–and the KMT will have a field day with that claiming that the government wants to suppress voter rights.
I’ll definitely be paying close attention to this issue.
Image courtesy of Wonda Chen Po-wei (3Q) FB page