After weeks obfuscating over whether he intends to stand for president, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Monday last week finally offered some clarification: He said that if he wins the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) primary and is elected president, he would work out of Kaohsiung.
What prompted him to speak up? For one, the KMT primary is approaching and time would no longer indulge his prevarication.
However, that is not the only reason.
His recent behavior in the Kaohsiung City Council might have pleased his supporters, but his performance under questioning by New Power Party Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) and Democratic Progressive Party Kaohsiung City councilors Kang Yu-cheng (康裕成) and Lin Chih-hung (林智鴻) has been found wanting: He has shown anemic grasp of the issues, has been arrogant and gives the air of someone who has better things to do elsewhere.
These run counter to the principle of the council’s role of oversight over the city government. Han treated the councilors’ right to ask pertinent questions with contempt in the interest of fanning the flames of his fans’ support by fabricating tensions.
Han has little knowledge of the Kaohsiung City Government, nor any idea about how to answer questions. Neither the notes handed to him by his advisers and deputies, nor the oversized tablet computer sitting on his desk can divest him of the “country bumpkin” image he has been given. This has damaged his image and his apparent blase attitude to this is no more than a front.
One case in point is an opinion poll conducted two weeks ago by the news site Formosa that had Han trailing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former premier William Lai (賴清德) by 3 percentage points in Kaohsiung, and the level of confidence in Han among Kaohsiung residents was 44.1 percent positive, 48.2 percent negative: Overall confidence in him has fallen into negative figures.
Indeed, according to figures from the Quickseek public opinion database, Han’s online popularity has plummeted from 65 percent — prior to his April 23 five-point announcement declining to participate in the primary — to 38 percent. This trajectory south certainly suggests that Han’s negative assessment is catching up.
By category, the figure in the news media stands at minus-4.77 percent; on the Professional Technology Temple online bulletin board system, minus-10.73 percent; and in online forums, minus-11.48 percent. The total popularity positive/negative quotient is just more than 1, standing at 1.0245, meaning that it might soon go into the red.
On Monday last week, Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), who had previously supported Han’s mayoral campaign, was quite explicit in where his support lay. Not only did he accompany Han’s rival for the primary, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), to the latter’s meeting with KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), he made clear that his initial support for Han was for Kaohsiung mayor, and not for president, “otherwise that would make me accomplice to a fraud.”
Han’s comments during an interview in CommonWealth Magazine, in which he said he would set up camp in Kaohsiung if he was elected president — as if this were some way to bridge the divide between Taiwan’s north and south — was his attempt to cover up his country bumpkin image with flowery words.
Han has shown his ineptitude by choosing to simply repeat his catchphrase “Kaohsiung will become rich,” as in so doing he underestimates the intelligence and discernment of Kaohsiung residents, and their ability to disassemble the “Han myth.” If he thinks diversionary tactics will turn back his fortunes, he is going to be disappointed.
Charlie Huang is a former director of the Central News Agency. He also works for the Democratic Progressive Party.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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