former presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu
Han Kuo-yu

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has announced that a mayoral recall election will now be held on June 6th, after more than 377,000 citizens signed a petition seeking Han’s recall.

So how did Han rise from relative political obscurity to his position as a KMT presidential candidate in 2020, and now face recall?

Right Place, Right Time?

Han has limited experience in politics.

He was a one term Taipei County (now New Taipei City) Councilor in 1990, and a two term legislator from 1993 to 2002, before participating in the general election in 2018, as a Kaohsiung City mayoral candidate.

Over time, Han created his public image as being of plebeian origin by emphasizing his experience as the manager of Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation.

Astonishingly, Mr. Han defeated the DPP candidate Chen, Chi-Mai in the 2018, Kaohsiung mayoral election, in a city dominated by the DPP for more than 20 years.

Many citizens of the city expected the new mayor to bring a new atmosphere to the local government.

KMT followers also regarded the political newcomer as something of a party saviour, and by extension as someone to lead the Republic of China to ‘salvation’.

At the same time in Hong Kong where a massive protest against the extradition law was taking place, Han claimed ignorance of the situation and the extradition law being protested.

And although he showed a lack of awareness of Hong Kong’s domestic issues, when Han stepped into the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in March of last year, arguments on the unification of Taiwan with China and the ‘One Country Two System’ concept soon became a focal point of his next nine months in national politics.

Just one year after his inauguration, the mayor was elected as the second most unpopular head of local government by Global Views Monthly, in large part because of his inefficiency and the lack of effect his policies were having.

Despite his falling support, Mr. Han then announced his participation in the presidential election as a KMT candidate after beating four other possible competitors in the party primaries.

The results aroused doubt over the credibility of the poll among KMT followers.

Nevertheless, Han still officially joined the election by registering to run for the presidency last November.

Come election day, however, President Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide victory

Subsequently, over 70 % of Taiwanese citizens do not now expect the Kaohsiung mayor to run for the presidency in 2024.

Life After The Election

After his complete and utter failure in the presidential election, Han has returned to his office in Kaohsiung but there is another great challenge to be faced,; his possible recall as Kaohsiung mayor in June this year.

The recall could be the final election of his political career.

During his two years of ups and downs in the political arena, he has been criticized for his usage of vulgar language, and jokes on formal occasions such as the presidential debates.

His so-called plebeian origin ‘represented’ by his vulgar speaking style might have scared off potential supporters, thereby losing him the advantage of the collective community of common people, especially as his opponent, President Tsai is herself from a rather rich family.

Han’s family was also reported to have abused their political influence to obtain personal interests in Yunlin County while he was still a congressman.

This scandal destroyed his image as a champion of the common man.

His attitude toward the Chinese government will now be another concern for voters.

The opposition KMT has never attempted to maintain a distance of any credibility from the Chinese Communist Party whereas Mr. Han hasn’t tried to explain his behavior in visiting the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government.

His inability to make a clear statement about his relationship with China, and his attitude on unification or the One Country Two Systems concept was considered to be one of his weaknesses during the election. That lack of clarity remains unchanged.

Han Kuo-yu will thus face the greatest challenge of his political career on a day much of the free world remembers D-Day three quarters of a century ago. Han is now facing his own D-Day.

Regardless of the result of the recall election, Han has become the first mayor to witness the diplomatic development of Taiwan since the transformation of the Taiwanese politics – and when the dust settles it has been his undoing.

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