Since his meteoric rise to fame last year, which culminated in his election win in November, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has been anointed the “savior” of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Many KMT members expect him to work his magic again in next year’s presidential election, regardless of his plans.
The party’s presidential primary is already expected to be a fierce competition, with several pan-blue heavyweights having announced bids and more expected to follow.
Even so, many KMT members still regard Han as the only hope the party has to regain power. Some are doing whatever they can to press party headquarters into nominating the mayor, even if it could disrupt the primary mechanism that its leadership has pledged to adhere to.
In a radio interview, Han revealed that next year’s election is not part of his plans.
Although it is unconvincing that the mayor has never been tempted to just ride the wave of support and contest the presidency, the questions people should be asking is whether it would be wise for him to enter the race and, more importantly, if he would make a good leader of Taiwan.
He has only been Kaohsiung mayor since Dec. 25 last year and there are more than three-and-a-half years left in his tenure. It is true that many politicians have treated local government offices as a mere stepping stone for a higher position, but abandoning a constituency after serving for only a few months would reek of irresponsibility and opportunism — an image that would likely shadow Han for a long time.
Another thing he would have to consider carefully is whether his newfound popularity is built on solid ground — personal strengths and competence — or on sand — in this case, support that stems mainly from voters’ growing distaste for traditional politicians and aspiration for change. If it is the latter, it would be unwise for Han to put his popularity to the test so soon after an election, especially as failure could put an end to his fledgling political career.
Doing so could also be seen as a betrayal of the nearly 900,000 Kaohsiung residents who voted for him in November.
A more important question is whether Han has what it takes to be a good president.
Since taking office, Han has complained about being tired and canceled several public appearances as a result. Although exhaustion is understandable, given his often packed schedules, his perceived lack of stamina is nevertheless alarming, as the job of president would be far more demanding.
Another thing that has also raised doubts about Han’s ability to handle larger responsibilities is his naiveness, as shown by his oft-touted campaign platform of “economy 100 percent and politics zero percent” — which basically means he believes he can forge closer economic ties with China without ever having to think about the politics.
Everyone with a sound mind knows that economic integration is one of China’s tools to compel Taiwan into making compromises on its sovereignty, with unification being the long-term goal.
Han’s thinking suggests that he is a politician incapable of seeing the bigger picture and who has the tendency of sacrificing long-term benefits for short-term gains.
It would not bode well for Taiwan if voters elect a president like Han. Unfortunately, it seems to be a likely scenario if the mayor does enter the race.
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