New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) caused a stir on Saturday when he said he would not head the city’s campaign office for Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) presidential campaign.
Reading between the lines, Hou understands that the public detests the infighting between the pan-blue and pan-green camps and is pursuing a strategy aimed at dissolving the nation’s “color politics.” He thinks there is nothing wrong with sharing a stage with a pan-green politician if that could help boost the city’s budget and secure more infrastructure projects.
Hou was conspicuously absent from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) National Congress in New Taipei City last month, at which Han was officially nominated as the party’s presidential candidate.
Hou was bombarded with criticism by Han’s supporters, who accused him of discourtesy and pulling up the drawbridge. He continues to forge his own path, firmly believing that voters will reward him for prioritizing the efficient management of New Taipei City beyond tribal blue-green politics.
Those familiar with the election process know that being the director of a campaign headquarters is a formality: The campaign secretary-general and heads of local party chapters do the heavy lifting. That Hou was not prepared to even keep up appearances left observers wondering where his political sympathies really lie.
Although Hou won as the KMT’s New Taipei City mayoral candidate, his style is markedly different from that of conventional KMT candidates. This might be due to his background as a police officer, which installed in him an innate sense of right and wrong, and the importance of seeking truth from facts.
Although Hou gets on well with both sides of the political spectrum, he dislikes being pigeonholed as “green,” “blue” or any other color politician.
During last year’s local elections, Hou was criticized by some in his party as “blue-skinned, but green to the bone.” He responded that he had never been a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), although he had been approached by the party to run for Taichung mayor or Chiayi County commissioner, but he turned down the offer.
Hou understands that most people are fed up with blue-green politics. During the election campaign, he frequently attacked the “chaos” of blue-green politics and refused to accept even a cent in political subsidies.
When standing on a platform with KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and other prominent members of the party, he kept the interaction as brief as possible.
Before the elections, when he was at photo ops with then-Kaohsiung and Taichung mayoral candidates Han and Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), it was simply a matter of campaign strategy.
Hou won the New Taipei City mayoralty by 300,000 votes with only limited KMT assistance. Instead, he relied on his “strong-man” persona and capitalized on an anti-DPP mood, while positioning himself as neither blue nor green to attract swing voters.
Hou understands that people want a good job and a quiet life, and that they abhor venomous political attacks and mudslinging. His strategy has been to focus on running his municipal administration and to keep a relatively low-key online profile, while quietly delivering “frontline services.”
His accomplishments are borne out by polling data: His administration enjoys an approval rating of 75 percent. This should encourage Hou to continue to chart his own course.
Lai Hsiao-tung writes for the Liberty Times.
Translated by Edward Jones
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