When Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, announced on Tuesday that he would take a three-month leave of absence to concentrate on his campaign, he sang a military song called I Am Going to War Now.
His announcement has left critics wondering whether the military campaign metaphor is accurate.
Political commentator Huang Chuang-hsia (黃創夏) asked whether Han’s “long march” was like going on a campaign or if it was closer to going AWOL.
Han is calling his campaign his “listening tour” of Taiwan. If anyone had decried the mayor’s presidential ambitions as an abrogation of responsibility to the residents of Kaohsiung, they must be doubly troubled by this latest news.
In the short time that he has been mayor, Han has been criticized for his absences from Kaohsiung City Hall. In many cases these have been tied to his presidential ambitions, even before he had announced his intention to join the KMT’s presidential primary. His visit to the US, in particular, had nothing whatsoever to do with his responsibilities as mayor.
Han last year outlined a glowing vision of economic regeneration for Kaohsiung’s residents during his mayoral campaign. At the very least they deserve his undivided attention now.
To add insult to injury, the mayor, speaking to the media on the first day of his long march, called on President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to follow suit and take a break from the presidency during the campaign.
This way, the two of them could campaign as equals, in what he called a “fight between gentlemen,” without her having the full power of the state behind her, he said.
In other words, he wants the president to take a leave of absence to be fairer to him.
There are two broad interpretations of this call: The first is that he meant it. This would certainly be consistent with what seems to be his idea of governance, that it is acceptable for a leader to put their duty on hold to cater to a changing situation more advantageous to them.
The second is that Han was mocking Tsai. Neither interpretation reflects well on a man who aspires to be the president.
Tsai, of course, is to continue to attend to her presidential duties and campaign at the same time, as is the normal procedure.
Han is talking nonsense. It is an obvious diversionary, obfuscating tactic, suggesting that he, too, is aware of the dubious reasoning for his “listening tour” and of how unfair he is being to the residents of Kaohsiung.
If Han wants to be president, he should quit his job, not hedge his bets. If he wins, the people of Kaohsiung lose. If he loses, they lose, too.
New Power Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) yesterday said that Han was making the same mistake that then-New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) made in 2016 as the KMT’s presidential candidate.
If politicians did not have the self-awareness and self-discipline to know that it is not appropriate to campaign for the presidency when they have just started in an elected position, then there should be legislation to prevent them from doing so, Huang said.
Such regulation would apply to all potential candidates, which would introduce consistency and fairness into the system.
It is as difficult to argue with that logic as it is easy to argue with Han’s.
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